SketchUp is not that Awesome

Posted on Mar 8, 2010 | No Comments
  • SketchUp

Not all 3D modeling programs are created equal. Some are easier to learn than others, while some require almost a degree in computer engineering to use to their fullest capacity. But most importantly you should be able to recognize when to use a certain program to accomplish a certain task. This is where we want to talk to you about SketchUp.

SketchUp is a fantastic program if you recognize what it was designed to be used for. For 3D sketching. SketchUp really is like 3D paint. It gives designers the ability to very, very quickly put together a massing model to later refine in another program. Don’t get us wrong you can take a project from initial design to production documents in SketchUp.

If you find yourself in the latter category of users who find they are using one program to create a majority of your documents in SketchUp then you are doing your designs a disservice. Now before you think we are being software elitists we will admit that we use SketchUp and we have used it a lot. However, you would never know it because rarely does any of our SketchUp work make it up for presentation during a review.

So to justify the statements we have made above we are going to give you some quantifiable reasons as to our position on SketchUp.

SketchUp is stingy and doesn’t like to play well with others. SketchUp is a facet based modeling program. Meaning, if you model a box primitive in SketchUp, the box is made up of six faces each with its own entity data. This allows for the users to very quickly edit any geometry in their models, this is the reason for the mass appeal of this program. However, when you try to take any models out of this program into a more precise “solid” or “NURBS” modeling program the SketchUp modeled geometry will be imported as meshes or some other unnecessarily complicated geometry. This conversion extremely limits the future usability of the geometry. More often than not one will find themselves remodeling geometry because the SketchUp geometry is unusable.

Another reason to limit the use of SketchUp in the development of your design process is because it limits the quality of images that can be produced via renderings and line drawings. I have seen on various occasions students and professionals print sections straight from SketchUp without editing. We should all know better. Almost as important as the design is the manner in which the designer chooses to present their design, and to be that hands off with a projects presentation is to be just as hands off with the design.

More importantly when users of SketchUp go to render their SketchUp models in a professional rendering program like Vray, Mental Ray, or Maxwell render, they will run into a plethora of issues. A majority of these issues will center on UV texture mapping, which is iffy in facet programs and scaling maps consistently. This issue is quickly disappearing as software gets more advanced but currently these rendering issues are still present.

Even with all these negatives SketchUp is still a viable solution when it comes to 3D modeling. Just recognize its position, and use it accordingly. If you feel that other programs are too difficult to learn, don’t worry everyone opens a program for the first time at some point. The important thing is to use what you know till you know how to do it better. If that thing you know is SketchUp, well then you are going to have to use SketchUp. Just don’t limit yourself to that one program. Please, for our sanity.

contributed by William Burks co-founder of

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