SketchUp is 3D design program from a little company called Google. Itâ€™s free, which is my preferred price point, though thereâ€™s also a â€˜Proâ€™ version with some extra features for professional users.
I use SketchUp whenever I need to produce a solid looking robot, be it a repurposed war-bot turned stage magician or just your everyday gigantic robot crab with a house on its back. I donâ€™t generally produce a finished work straight out of SketchUp, but instead use it to give part of a drawing a nice bit of geometry, forming a skeleton on which I can draw further stuff.
SketchUp started life as an architecture tool, and thatâ€™s still what itâ€™s best at; buildings and other hard edged objects. One of the reasons Google bought it is to allow users to contribute models to Google Earth. This means itâ€™s not a tool that is easy to make organic shapes in, though there are plugins to help with that.
SketchUpâ€™s unique selling point is the ease of modelling; itâ€™s designed to be an intuitive â€˜sketchyâ€™ experience, rather than the precise mathematical modelling process you might find in other 3D programs.
A big part of this is the ability to pull/push faces â€“ so make a cube, one can just draw a square and pull that face out into the third dimension. Generally, SketchUp lets you grab and stretch things into the shape you want.
Another useful feature is the programâ€™s ability to snap to alignment; if youâ€™re trying to make two shapes the same height as each other, the program will probably guess and snap to the right height for you.
Itâ€™s really rather clever, so why not give it a try?
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