Sketchup vs. Autocad

So I’ve been using Sketchup for a fairly long time. I love it. I loved it when I started using it, I love it now. I thought that I should take a 3D design class to professionally hone my skills. An Autocad class, maybe.

First impression, I love Autocad. There are so many tools, so much fidelity, so much potential. But the more I used it, the more I dislike it. Autocad feels unnatural and frustrating, and I’m tempted to go back to Sketchup to simply work around the tool limitations I’ve had.

So, please, express your opinion on the two. Which is better, and why?

At what?


That’s a loaded question, mon frere. You’re posting to a SketchUp forum…you may get responses that favor ACAD on a forum that promotes AutoCAD, but it is likely that most responses to this post, if any, will favor SketchUp.

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Hello @n_ian_raisbeck I would encourage you to check out G3Crowd’s comparison of SketchUp to AutoCAD here.

You can see SketchUp is rated higher, even with fewer reviews and information. Check out the SketchUp profile to also read more details on why people love using SketchUp.

Some of the main highlights:

  • SketchUp costs a lot less, and we have a free Make version for hobbyists
  • It takes less time to use, and to start using SketchUp (better usability)
  • It is a powerful and accurate program
  • It plays well with others and supports many extensions
  • We have better community and support!! AKA all the peeps that you can find on here :slight_smile: as well as the resources on the Knowledge/Help Center and the people behind it

We hope to have you as a fellow SketchUpper.

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Like people said before of course this is a SketchUp forum. I will just speak for myself. I started 25 years ago with autocad, worked a longtime with MicroSation, switched to Vectorworks and started with SketchUp. First combining Vectorworks with SketchUp using SketchUp only for quick 3D presentation. More and more shifting towards SketchUp and now for more then a year I only use SketchUp, Layout and Skalp. Why did I made this move? And the answer are just some simple keywords… Fun, generic, simple, powerful, natural and cheap. Did I already mentioned fun? The price is the less important but it’s the cherry on the cake. If I need to choose again today and the price for both was the same I choose SketchUp! No thats a lie. I look for an other one thats less expensive.

SketchUp is like a pencil. It’s just one simple tool, easy to use and you can draw anything with it!

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comparing Apples with Pears…

… AC is mainly used as a 2D CAD system for creating professional shop drawings w/ highly configurable dimensions etc. typically in combination with an add-on solution for the branch of business used for… at least in the professional area.

If 3D is required, AD provides 3D NURBS surface and volume modelers like Inventor (CAD) or AD Architecture resp. Revit (AEC/BIM)… which play in another league and therefore are not in a real competition w/ SU.

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SketchUp is still the best software for sketching. Its greatest problems are with what happens after sketching.

The AutoCad format is still the lingua franca used in exchanging information between design disciplines and applications.In AEC/BIM it has been supplemented with IFC, but the need still exists. DWG in/out support in SketchUp is still quite rudimentary and “lossy”.

The 3D modelling features in AutoCad are in theory very powerful, but SketchUp’s usability is superb. On the other hand, polyface modelling is starting to look rather aged, and limits severely the ability to exchange 3D information with other applications (try to import “organic” elements from SketchUp into Revit or Archicad).


An Architect friend of mine (AIA w/ 20+ years in AutoCAD) tells me it’s rather easy to recognize buildings designed in Revit.
The reason being it’s cumbersome to model complex architecture in Revit and so frustrated designers settle for building arrays of boxes ever more popular these days.


From sketch to construction all done with SketchUp!


I think that it is cumbersome to model complex architecture using anything, and even more cumbersome to build it. Most of all construction will always be mostly conventional, with complex “organic” shapes being out of the question because of their cost. I wouldn’t blame the recent “boxyness” of things on the software - it is just that this is what architecture looks like now, and this is what the buildings of 10-20 years ago would look like if the then popular (and mostly chillingly ugly) po-mo decoration was removed. On the other hand, prestige projects today seem to flourish those “organic” shapes more than they have been doing it in the recent past, even if the Gehry style seems to be rather passé already.

I have never heard of ambitious ideas abandoned because of software problems. If something doesn’t come out of the box in Revit or Archicad it can be modelled elsewhere, and to manufacture it, before buildings can be 3D printed, will require yet other kinds of software.


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I think there’s a lot to what Geo says. If you start with an idea, then search for software to design it, you can easily go through five digits worth of apps and their associated learning curves before you find the right one. You want to work in accurate complex curves? Ditch your copy of SU and pick up Rhino or Maya, upgrade or switch your computer to handle it, learn the OS, learn the software, and Bingo! You’re are all set!

Sketchup is a quick 3D tool and provide fantastic presentation of models, for 2D autocad is much better and accurate.

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You are right. I use SU for building the house and displaying the house for clients, but then I export DWGs to AutoSketch (mini version of AutoCAD) and prepare the construction plans. I use Layout only to prepare color presentation of the model.

This really is a matter of personal preference. In the past I used AutoCAD exclusively for design presentations and condoc work. My small firm later moved to Vectorworks for a while. A little more than 10 years ago, we began to use SketchUp and several years after that, we adopted SketchUp and Layout as the primary tool for all design, modeling, presentation and condoc work in the office. Admittedly, this required some adjustment and we had to address a few minor translation issues with consultants, but we have never regretted this decision.


I think SketchUp is easier and is capable of producing better quality output than AutoCAD.

I’m just gonna pip in with my experience.
I took up SU in Jan 2017 so have about a year with it.

Wanted to find a way to make money out of it in my geographic area so, with only 2 models under my belt, appealed to architects to see if they needed any models made. Going one further, with the end goal of producing renders (marketing materials).

I am not getting many responses but there are probably good reasons for.that.

-the problem with no response is… like going for jobs… If u hear nothing back, u learn nothing, u just keep trying…

So next time, I sent out emails saying ‘work done for free’. I figured it’s more appealing.

– I think that for a lot of architects, the render and a model is only 5% of the start to finish of construction. They may have their own guys in house who already do this task, and so why even bother replying to a guy offering to do it for free.

  • from my perspective, it’s just useful for me to: try and aquire 2d floor plans, because it’s a fairly easy, (maybe lengthy) depending how much detail you add), process which build up real world examples of work, boost my portfolio, and they get something for free. Who’d say no? Well, a lot of em it turns out.

I’ve sent this offer to about 200 architects in south east UK. Only about 6 replied at the most.

Anyway anyway anyway.

In the meantime I applied to a construction firm to see if there were any mundane/junior tasks someone could do at any achitects on their books. I’m always up front and say, I’m not an architect, I haven’t studied it, I’m trying to learn by real/completed projects. (I have a little exp in building trade, I say that too).

I got one reply, but they are after someone who uses Revit.

That prompted me to look up ‘draughtsmen’ jobs in my area. And it looks like 95% use AutoCAD, Revit or Archicad.

So I took to Google 'sketchup Vs Revit’
results were bizarre… someone said ‘sketchup not as accurate as Revit or AutoCAD’

–what!!! A program which offers cm, inches, mm (naturally), feet. All kinds of formats is not ‘accurate?’ every ■■■■ computer comes with a calculator because they ARE a calculator! slightly different but do you get me?

depends, SU is obviously exact for the coordinates of the created geometry (besides very small entities not being able to be calculated by the SU kernel) but eveything in SU is made of lines and facettes (no ‘real’ curves), i.e. everything curvy is not accurate in the sense of being interpolated by lines and facettes as e.g. a circle gets slabbed to a polygon even if the SU kernel ‘knows’ analytic circles (midpoint, radius)… at least if not processed further.

Whereas ‘real’ CAD systems are calculating with analytic entities for curved elements as e.g. ellipses/circles/arcs and curves as well as the surfaces and solids based on them (further infos).

Well, almost all elements of the construction are composed of flat faces. I do not see this as a Sketchup problem, because you can make a “face curved” with more elements than it actually will be built.
The biggest problem in using SU for architecture is the production of documentation drawings. The layout is not fluent and few offices know how to use it productively (unless you’re self-employed). Most engineers (hydraulic, electrical, and structural) still use Autocad, and attempt to migrate to Revit / Archicad. I do not want to have to export the files to dwg, every time I need to send the project to another company.

what is not the claim of the OP…

Ok fair points. I’m glad to welcome some knowledgeable insight to my point.

Couple things I’m confused over though (i might just be ignorant/willing to learn). If SU ‘knows’ midpoints, radius, then… isn’t that accurate???

Other thing, how accurate do we need to be? I guess that depends on the task…? if it’s nano-millimeters! or something microscopic like chip design, I guess we require finer than mm. I can understand that.

About circles… you can add up to 256 sides to a flat-edged ‘circle’. In theory that looks circular enough, but for print? or maybe sending to a CNC Machine scenario, still not good enough?

Quick question to any SU developers then… or anyone else in the know… Why is it designed this way?