Although SketchUp mainly excels in the creation of geometric 3D models, it's also possible to create more organic shapes, and there are several tools available to do this.
Before creating more complex shapes, however, it's necessary to analyze objects, breaking them down into their basic components. One of the simplest and most effective tools for the creation of organic solids is the SketchUp's Follow Me tool.
The Follow Me tool is used in the creation process of a variety of different shapes, such as bottles, spindles and spheres. These are all lathed forms where a flat two-dimensional profile shape will be rotated around a central vertical or horizontal axis. Other examples are pipes, gutters or moldings, which would be created via the extrusion of a similar profile along a linear or curved path. Chamfers, fillets and dados can also be created using the Follow Me tool along a cutaway profile. So we see that almost any shape may be used as cross-sectional profile for the Follow Me tool to use as a path. Other examples would be guttering, skirting boards, picture rails, cornice moldings, and circular pendants.
The best way to observe the advantages of this tool is to create a simple profile and path. For example, should we wish to create some piping as in the image featured here, we would draw a path using SketchUp's Line tool. We would then add a flat circle at the base of the path. Note that it's best if the profile is perpendicular to, and joined onto the end of, the path. Next we select the path first, then the Follow Me tool. There is no keyboard shortcut for this tool, but it can also be accessed in the top Tools drop-down menu. And the final step is click on the circle, whereupon the 3D object is created.
Another example would be the creation of a sphere by first creating a circle. Note that it's possible to increase the number of sides making up the circle by then typing something like 20, thus producing a smoother result. We would then select the circle face, rotating and copying at the same time. We now have two circles perpendicular to each other. The same procedure is now followed: select the first circle, the Follow Me tool, and the other circle to create the spherical object.
A bottle shape is created by using the Line tool to create a bottle profile onto an upright rectangle. We then use the Arc tool to fillet the corners and the Eraser tool to clean up any extra lines. The next step is to create a circle under the profile - again it's at right angles to the upright profile. It's then a simple matter to select the circle, the Follow Me tool, and the bottle profile to create the 3D bottle shape.
In the same manner we could also create handrails, gutters and moldings using a path with the Line tool and a shape as a profile. Yet another application for the Follow Me tool is in the creation of complex roofs.
Tom Gillan has been training sketchup courses to corporate clients in Sydney for seven years. If you like to know more about sketchup, visit Design Workshop Sydney for more information.