Top 10 plugins for SketchUp

Paul Hatton takes a look at the plugins available for the 3D modelling software SketchUp, and offers his top 10!

Paul Hatton takes a look at the plugins available for the 3D modelling software SketchUp, and offers his top 10!

SketchUp has been around for a number of years now and it still seems to be going strong in the visualisation market.
© SketchUp and J Logan Architects

SketchUp was one of the first pieces of software that made it possible for non-experts to create 3D models. It has been regularly expressed by artists that SketchUp is great for doing simple tasks but that it lacks the functionality required to create complex models. I dont overly agree with this conclusion as I do know incredibly skilled artists who use it as their primary modelling software. I think a lot of the same advanced results can be achieved using SketchUp but the workflow is different and youll probably just need to make use of some other plugins. Well explore some of the plugins you might want to look into using.

Modelling Profile Builder

Our first plugin is a massive time saver. Built in to SketchUp are the follow tools so think of this as more of an extension. It enables users to create models quickly and accurately. The website has a helpful user guide video which will walking you through getting to grips with it. Its also free so its a no brainer to give it a try.

Make the most of profiles with this helpful plugin.

Modelling Slice

Slice your model up in a whole host of different ways with this handy plugin. You can utilise this to present your model with cut throughs or even use it to slice your model up and send it to a laser cutter. Once again its a free plugin and well worth a look.

Slice your contour model up. Image courtesy of Sketchucation.

Modelling SketchUp BIM

This plugin enables you to create building models quickly and easily. From what I can tell though it isnt really BIM though because it doesnt have the associated data that a program like Revit puts into the model. Think of it more as a way to speed up creating buildings.

Design buildings in a third of the time.

Interactive Import/Export SketchFab uploader

SketchFab as an online web based tool that lets users interact with 3d models. It doesnt require a plugin so its a great platform to reach the masses. This plugin enables you to upload your models to SketchFab. For reference, its WebGL under the hood

Make use of this online viewer right from within SketchUp

Interactive Import/Export RPS 3D PDF

Another way to view your models interactively is to use the 3D Pdf format. Personally Im not really a fan of this format and would prefer to use a gaming engine like Unity but you may find practical uses for this simple solution. Use it to export directly from SketchUp to PDF.

There is a free fully functional 30 day trial.

Interactive Edddison

This plugin is cool and is great for anyone wanting to present their 3d models interactively. This is perfect for designs and architects who want to bring their models to life. In 3 simple steps you are able to create your interactive app. It even works on tablets which is perfect if youre on the move.

This paid plugin has a free trial to enable you to decide if its for you before purchasing.

Materials Texture resizer

Weve all tried to share 3D models and realised that their just too big to share. This is usually because of high resolution textures which are more detailed than they need to be. This plugin gives you the ability to resize all the textures in your model or for specific objects. This could also be helpful if youre outputting to a gaming environment.

Another free plugin to make your life easier.

Rendering VRay

Obviously this is a heavy weight in the rendering market. They now offer a plugin right up to version 2016. There is a rich set of features and if youre used to this rendering engine in other modelling packages like 3ds Max then this is a natural side step for you.

Download the demo to see if this is the rendering engine for you.

Rendering Raylectron

Texture, light and render your SketchUp models with this rendering plugin. The features are not as extensive as VRay but its also nowhere near as expensive. It may therefore be a viable option for people who want to visualise their models but dont need to reach the heights of realism that VRay can achieve.

They offer an unlimited time free trial. Purchasing required for commercial use.

UI LaunchUp

This plugin is brilliant! Our world seems to revolve around search. Users want to be able to access what they want quickly and thats exactly what this plugin lets you do. Search for tools and declutter your interface. This website lets you donate to the author to show your appreciation.

This free plugin is a no brainer for speeding up your workflow.

The history of SketchUp

For many people when they hear the word SketchUp they instantly think of Google, and thats understandable but it was actually originally created by @Last Software in 2000. Google entered the stage when @Last Software wanted to enable their users to geo-locate their models in Google Earth. Google liked what they saw and purchased the company in 2006. SketchUp is now owned by Trimble Navigation who acquired them in 2012. They are a massive company in the BIM, architecture and construction industries and have continued to develop SketchUp.

Related links

Download SketchUp
Check out some featured models in the SketchUp gallery
Learn more about SketchUp
Head over to the SketchUp forum for users
Take a look at the SketchUp forum for developers

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