In this method of modeling in SketchUp we first import a set of floorplans and elevations into a new scene. If you have the Pro version of SketchUp you can import Autocad dwg files via the File menu, and they will come in at the correct scale. However, if you only have the free make version you would have to import the images as Jpegs. So in Autocad, or similar CAD software, you would have to export them as PDFs, then resave them as JPEGs.
If using this latter method the drawings will not come in at the correct scale, so we would have to use one of two methods to rescale them. The first is to use the Tape Measure (shortcut T) to measure something you know the size of, for example a roof length or a wall height. Note the figure on the bottom right field. If the figure is not correct, simply type it in and hit Enter. SketchUp will ask whether you want to rescale the model; confirm the rescaling. The second method is to work out the scale factor and use the Scale tool to scale the JPEGs up or down.
We then use the Move and Rotate tools to create a reference scene in which to build your model. The baseline on the side and front elevations will have to line up with the floor plan. We then simply build the scene using the drawings as references. You could draw half of symmetrical shapes using the Line, Circle and Push/Pull tools. Or you could take measurements off the DWGs or JPEGs.
It's important to remember to convert each major piece of the scene (walls, steps, roof, etc) into a separate group. This will ensure that you can easily move and modify them later. For symmetrical objects only create half of the object. Then copy it and right-click on it to Flip Along, Red Axis.
For some organic pieces (for example curved ramps, etc) we could use the Follow Me tool. There are several methods of using the Follow me tool, but the easiest is as follows. First we create a path, then a profile perpendicular to that path. We then select the path, then the Follow me tool, and finally the profile. This works also for stairways and spirals, cornicing, gutters and skirting boards.
Utilize the various visual styles in Window, Styles. The X-ray mode, for example, is useful for modeling whilst viewing the underlying CAD plans. The standard view can easily be accessed from the View, Toolbars, Standard Views.
You can also add shadows in SketchUp to show realistic lighting conditions. First we would geo-locate the model for our location using the Window, Model Info panel. We can either use Google Earth to automatically geo-locate the scene, or we can type in the Latitude and Longitude manually. We then change the date and time of day, as well as fine tune it for Daylight Saving. Views from any angle can be saved as Scenes. And we can create an animated fly-through also using Scenes.
For realistic lighting we should use a render engine like Maxwell, Artlantis or V-Ray. Stills can then be tweaked in Adobe Photoshop.
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 webpage for more information.