SketchUp is a 3D modeling software that’s very different than more common polygon-based tools. Rather than snap together Lego brick-like pieces or sculpt models, SketchUp allows you to draw in 3D and then use your blueprint to easily drag-and-drop surfaces to build your model. This makes it a good tool for architecture, interior design, engineering, and model design.
Previously owned by Google before becoming part of the Trimble Navigation family, SketchUp bills itself as a friendly and forgiving 3D modeling software. Their website states “We don’t sacrifice usability for the sake of functionality.” This means an easy-to-learn application that allows even new users with no 3D modeling experience to get started quickly.
You can simply start by drawing lines and design the blueprint for your model. SketchUp then allows you to drag-and-drop surfaces, as well as pull, stretch, copy, rotate, and paint any part of your design. If you don’t want to start from scratch, SketchUp also offers a 3D model library with thousands of unique models of just about anything that new users can simply edit without building a model from nothing. Models are always being uploaded to SketchUp’s 3D Warehouse which means a limitless number of preloaded models are available for you to customize.
SketchUp also allows for third-party plug-ins hosted on their Extension Warehouse that gives users the ability to use even more advanced tools, like photo-realistic rendering.
The application is designed to work with a huge amount of file types. Users can import DXF, DWG, 3DS, DAE, KMZ, TIF, JPG, and PNG files to turn those into 3D models. You can also export in all of those, as well as in PDF, OBJ, FBX, XSI, VRML, MP4, WEBM, and AVI.
SketchUp Make is a free non-commercial software designed for home, personal, and educational use. For more advanced features and a commercial license, Trimble offers SketchUp Pro. Licenses for SketchUp Pro start at $495.