Tips, Hints and Guidelines for working with SketchUp


#1

Hello!

I’ve been working as a software instructor and teacher for a number of years now, teaching SketchUp and other drafting and visualization tools to students, interior designers and architects.

I’ve been slowly building a list of general rules to abide to work proficiently and without problems in SketchUp.
I’d like to create a SketchUp reference card style sheet that would allow to gather a neat list of all the things to keep in mind.

I’d really appreciate some input.
I’ll be updating my progress and the uploading the final working file for easy translation to other languages.

Here is the updated list:
First 4 items would be supplemented with a visual representation of the problem

Camera clipping
To avoid camera clipping issues, model close to the axis origin. Clipping can also occur when working in parallel projection mode and if some geometry is located very far from the axis origin.

Face flickering
To avoid face flickering or z-fighting, try raising up, deleting or hiding one of the faces that is on the same plane.

Cursor trails
If you see cursor trails appearing when working with large models, consider turning off Fast Feedback in the OpenGL preferences or updating your video card drivers.

Disappearing faces
Very tiny objects should be modeled in an oversized scale to avoid face-creation problems.

Manage your objects
All Primitive geometry should be created and remain assigned to Layer 0. It should then be made a part of a group or component and assigned to a specific layer to manage their visibility.

Name your groups and components
Groups and component must have an appropriate name and IFC for easier work with Outliner, LayOut and BIM

Inserting objects
CAD data and 3D Warehouse models should be inserted in a new SketchUp model. These objects should only be inserted in the working file after checking their scale and deleting unnecessary layers and geometry.

Working with complex models
When working with complex models, individual parts of the model can be made in a new SketchUp file and then assembled or referenced in the working file as a component.

Keep it simple
Avoid using excessive arc and circle segment count to keep the model size down and unless needed- don’t model parts that won’t be seen in the final output.

Use scenes to improve workflow
Use scenes to control layer, shadow, fog and stylistic effect visibility and settings for faster performance and workflow while modeling. This also lets you free up viewport space from dialog boxes and toolbars.

Use components
Use components above groups when possible to reduce the file size, allow easier editing and more flexible use of objects.

Model maintenance
All components, materials and styles used in a model are still a part of the SketchUp file even after they have been deleted and left unused in the scene. This leads to an increased file size and lower performance. Use Purge Unused or the Cleanup plugin to purge, erase stray edges and merge faces regularly.

Working with materials
Materials should be applied to faces. Applying them to groups would paint the groups default colored faces in the selected color and prohibit you to change the texture coordinates. Every material needs a unique and logical name and only the largest necessary texture size.

Model with solids
Creating objects as solids lets you use and modify them easier. Get to know how to use the Solid tools for a faster workflow. Also remember to keep object front faces on the outside for easier use of stylistic effects and avoid problems when rendering.

Presenting your design
Use scenes to navigate between views, show section cut and shadow study animations and control layer visibility. The scenes will also be available for use in SketchUp viewers and embedded 3D Warehouse windows letting you present exactly what you want anywhere and anytime. Learn how to make great slide-presentations in LayOut to compliment the SketchUp presentation. Consider turning off auto-save to avoid performance interruptions when presenting complex models.

Saving your model
Use Save A copy As instead of Save As to keep the original file naming when making regular backups.

Sharing models
When sending SketchUp files to others, get to know what version of SketchUp they are using. Earlier version of SketchUp can’t open newer version files.

Using scenes from 3D Warehouse models
If you want to use the scenes from 3D Warehouse models open them separately instead of inserting them in your working file as a component.

Extra
Shortcuts to model faster

  • G - Group
  • H - Hide
  • H + Shift - Unhide last
  • Shift + Space - Hide rest of model

Final Image


#2

Other than softening the rules to be less black and white (eg replacing the "must"s with "should"s) there are a couple of things I don’t agree with:

[quote=“Speaker, post:1, topic:15067”]
Materials - Materials must be painted only on faces, not groups[/quote]
I work by grouping similar faces/materials together and just painting the one group -
For example. I have a window component that within it an outer frame component, an inner frame component, an outer sash and inner sash, a handle component and glass. The glass is one surface, painted with a transparent blue. The handle component (2 groups - lever and plate) is painted with a gold. The inside component is painted white. I select all the windows in the model and group them - this group I paint with a wood texture.
I can copy/cut/move any of the components into and out of the groups and they will automatically update with the correct texture.

[quote]
Groups and Components - If a group is used repeatedly, it must be converted to a component[/quote]
I disagree with the reasoning behind making it a component; it should only be made a component if the entity and subsequent copies should be identical. (eg. stair treads, railings, etc.) However if the component will be edited often and may change, then it’s best left as a group (eg partition wall studwork, etc)
(and you should probably change the wording to If a group is going to be used repeatedly - it’s a pain in the butt to realise after you’ve duplicated and placed groups, but there is a plugin that can save you.)

I think that may be the wrong way round? You should use the largest you can get away with - no point in putting 100 faces on a 5mm bevel around a desk top when you are modeling a building.

? It depends on the end use; no point in creating faces that are never going to be seen or used - This would only hold true if the end product will be 3D printed. (eg create a table leg - if it will always have a top and will always be sitting on a surface it doesn’t matter if there are no faces where the leg joins the other surface.)

It might be good practice and allow re-use of parts for other things, but if the parts are solely for use within the model, I can’t see how it would benefit speed or model size? It is conceivable that different models could be used in a Layout file, but when you import a part, it’s loaded into SU - takes the same space.

Auto-save is there for a reason. SU is one of most stable programs I work with, but I would exhaust every other possibility before considering turning it off.

[quote]Extra Shortcuts to model faster[/quote] Every tool has a key assigned to it (or can have a key assigned to it) - the ones I use most are L - line, R - rectangle, M - move P Push-pull, S Scale… as well as [ctrl-X,C,V] for cut, copy, paste and I would include the arrow keys constrain.
It may also be worth mentioning that numeric keys enter values into the dimension box without having to click anywhere.


#3

A few thoughts.

[quote=“Speaker, post:1, topic:15067”]
Layers - All geometry must be created on Layer 0[/quote]
All PRIMITIVE geometry SHOULD be created AND REMAIN assigned to Layer 0.
(Edges, Faces, Curves, Arc Curves, Meshes/Surfaces.)

(Nothing is really “moved to other layers”. Drawingelements have a “layer” property that can be assigned to layer references. It IMHO, would help if newbs get the idea that SketchUp uses “shared visibility switches”, instead of “layers.”)

Section Planes, Cpoints and CLines can be and often are assigned to special layers used for visibility switching. (This in fact should likely be encouraged.)

… should be…, but it depends upon how complex the model will be. If it is a simple model, designed to be used as a component that will be inserted into other people’s models, then those people are likely to not like a bunch of funky named layers getting created in their model. Better to create everything on “Layer0” and let the inserter assign things to other layers.


#4

I agree about the wording. The meaning of the rules might have changed a bit in translation as well.

These rules are also usually given in the context of a learning curriculum and properly explained, so I guess a short description should be required for everyone of them if used outside of it.

Also we must keep in mind that these rules are for beginners and you can deviate from them when needed.

The list of these rules could be better organized by complexity - as starting from creating geometry to topics about model organisation and working with large models.

Thank you for the comments, I’ll try to phrase them better.


#5

from mussen und sollen?


#6

I don’t believe this should be a hard and fast rule. I think it depends on your work flow and what you are doing.

In my work flow I only use components and not groups. I leverage the many benefits components have over groups. And there a useful reasons to make a component instead of a group for objects which aren’t repeated within the model.

Sometimes I hear the complaint that it’s easy to forget that an object is a component instead of a group and the user doesn’t figure it out until they edited the thing and found all the others changed. Since I am consistent in my use of components, that’s never been an issue.

If nothing else, there is safety in components. I’ve seen several cases in which there was a crash and the user appeared to have lost their entire model. In one case, because they only used groups, they did indeed lose all and they had to start from scratch. In the other, there was a combination of groups and components. The groups were vaporized but the In Model Components library still had all the components. They were inserted into the model space and only the groups had to be redrawn. Still a bunch of work but not nearly as much as for the first guy.

Fortunately, SketchUp allows for different ways of working. Although many users disagree with my approach, it works quite well for me.


#7
  • Materials must be painted only on faces, not groups

A common beginner mistake is taking the paint bucket and just slapping the color on the first thing they see, resulting to problems further down when the materials are at all the wrong places.

Could be changed to

  • Materials should be applied only to faces. Applying them to groups would paint all the default color back and front faces to the selected color.

Model Geometry - All objects should be created as solids for easier modification and use

This could really vary by the stage of design, but generally when you model things as close to the real world objects as possible it’s easier to use and modify them down the line. For instance - when modeling a bookcase I say “Think like a carpenter, how are you going to put this piece of furniture together”


#8

Dave, I’m in the same camp as you. I only use Groups for temporary ad-hoc purposes such as hiding things on a non-visible layer. Everything else is a Component. I think some of the use of Groups may be by long-time users who built a workflow back when Groups may have been seen as more efficient than components. But, exactly as you say, everyone is entitled to their own view on this (and to live with whatever advantages or issues it brings along).


#9

I agree wholeheartedly. The unfortunate choice of “layer” for SketchUp’s visibility flagging system causes ongoing confusion for newbies and migrants from other CAD or photo-editing apps. Tutorials and training need to get this idea clear as early as possible by using better phrasing.

Dimensions can also safely be associated with layers other than layer0.


#10

I also agree with others that this is backward. The SketchUp Guides encourage grouping and painting via group, whenever possible.

When a specific face needs to override the group’s default material, then that is when the face is directly painted (ie, has an override material applied.)

There are some that refer to nothing (or nil) as the default material. This is not true. The default assignment for an object’s material property, is nothing (nil.) Meaning nil is not a material, it is a setting of the material property, that tells SketchUp not to paint that object.


#11

I think this varies depending on the material that is being used. For solid colors and the like, applying to the exterior of the group is fine. But for materials with a pattern, this usually looks really bad. I do woodwork, and having the exact same grain on all surfaces looks completely wrong, so I have to paint the individual faces - sometimes with different materials.


#12

I’m mainly working with architectural models so when making section cuts and section cut animations I want easy control of the object back face color for poche techniques or some other stylistic effects. If the materials have been applied to groups I won’t have the flexibility changing the back face color in the whole model and then I have to spend extra time trying to fix the groups.
By applying materials to groups

  1. You lose flexibility
  2. You are often left with materials hidden on some back faces you can’t get rid of by purging the model, unless using plugins.
    I don’t see advantages of painting groups. If you want to paint all the faces in a group, you can just use ctrl/shift

As for groups and components
I always really do encourage the use of components whenever possible, but the practice of using only components and having to keep making them unique could be tiresome and confusing for beginners. People also often forget to do so.
What could be great would be the ability to paste an object as a unique components with ctrl + shift + v and adding the extra modifier shift to copy while moving. It’s a shame you can’t assign a shortcut to make unique.
The main idea of the rule was to keep the model size down and let you modify the model more easily. If someone wants to skip using groups all together, then that’s their choice I guess.


#13
  • The inference system should (must?) be mentioned
  • Navigation with the mouse should be explained

#14

Cotty,

Currently I’m giving SketchUp and LayOut quick reference cards printed on both sides of a sheet, so the next sheet would include the 20 something rules/suggestions and the second side could maybe really cover topics about SketchUp mechanics and other useful things not covered by the rules or the reference cards, but that would most likely be a topic for a new discussion.


#15

Here is the updated list:

Modeling Tips

  • All objects should be modeled close to the axis origin to avoid camera clipping issues
  • All Primitive geometry should be created and remain assigned to Layer 0. It should then be made a part of a group or component and assignet to a specific layer.
  • Groups and component must have an appropriate names and IFC for easier work with Outliner, LayOut and BIM
  • CAD data and 3D Warehouse models should be inserted in a new SketchUp model. These objects should only be inserted in the working file after checking their scale and deleting unnecessary layers and geometry.
  • When working with complex models, individual parts of the model can be made in a new SketchUp file and then assembled or referenced in the working file as a component.
  • Very tiny objects should be modeled in an over sized scale to avoid face-creation problems
  • Avoid using excessive arc and circle segment count to keep the model size down
  • Use scenes to enable or disable unnecessary layers as well as shadows, fog and style effects for faster performance while modeling
  • Use components above groups when possible to reduce the file size, allow easier editing and more flexible use of objects
  • Use Purge and the Cleanup plugin to delete unnecessary geometry, materials, components and styles
  • Materials should be applied to faces. Applying them to groups would paint all the default colored faces in the selected color. Every material needs a unique and logical name and only the largest necessary texture size.
  • Creating objects as solids lets you use and modify them easier. Keep object front faces on the outside for easier use of stylistic effects
  • Consider turning off auto-save to avoid performance interruptions when presenting complex models

#16

Oh yea, forgot about wood grain! True that.


#17

This is a great conversation, and the context in which you are teaching of course has a lot of influence on what might be emphasized.

A few other thoughts for consideration that we see newbies to SketchUp trip over in live classes or their own self-learning.

  • If they are new to 3D in general, they don’t learn to navigate well and don’t do it enough.
  • How to use groups and components can vary, but we definitely recommend that raw geometry is placed in a “container”, one or the other. Anyone have a strong case for leaving “raw” geometry out there and not grouping it?
  • Anyone else run into the click-move-click issue when teaching SketchUp? That in using your mouse you’ll have much better success if you learn quickly to click to start and click to finish every operation that allows for such functionality. (Eraser or freehand tool being obvious exceptions) but learning inferencing, move, etc… works better if you don’t hold that darn button down.
  • Using the ESC key and Undo function properly to get out of “trouble”.
  • Everything in SketchUp is drawn with real dimensions, regardless if they are taking control, so learning to take control of accuracy is important.
  • I think one of the key concepts that people don’t realize is that as quickly as you can get going in SketchUp, it still takes a real time commitment to use well, and far more to master.

Some repeat thoughts I’m adding in here, but I love this discussion on common tips and misunderstandings.


#18

Not “leaving” it out there, but when creating 2D construction shapes on top of existing (grouped) geometry I tend to leave them ungrouped and all on layer 0 until I’ve created the 3D element. (normally drawing a profile so that I can “follow me” to make an element)

If I create the group first from a simple rectangle that i will move, draw on, cut, etc. then any time I want to double click on the new geometry (so that all the connecting edges are selected) all that happens is I enter the existing grouped geometry instead. If I lock the underlying group, hide it or work out there, then double clicking will do what I want.
After I’ve generated the element I draw a selection box round it and group it.


Another tip: space bar is a shortcut key that reverts back to the selection tool: saves a lot of mileage on mouse movement.


#19

I’m not sure about this file size thing. I’d like to hear some expert testimony. Here’s an earlier comment.

Shep


#20

Beneath the covers, both Groups and Components use the same ComponentDefinition structure to “own” their Entities. When you copy a Group, SketchUp leaves both the copy and the original wired to the same ComponentDefinition, just as if you made another instance of a Component. So there is only a modest overhead difference in memory used so long as all copies of the Group are left unedited. The significance of the difference will depend on how many Entities are in the object - more Entities means the overhead is relatively less important.

When you edit a copy of a Group, it is split off to a new ComponentDefinition. So the effect is as if you did “make unique” before editing a Component. In other words, the memory difference remains minimal so long as you are modeling the same number of distinct objects.

So the choice of Groups vs Components isn’t really a matter of significant memory savings unless you use them badly. It is a matter of what you are most likely to do with them later.