Creating 3D models with computer aided design (CAD) software is complicated, but an important digital technology skill. Sketchup is a fantastic tool that has a web-based interface that is free for students to use from home for a limited time. So let’s make use of it. This post will go through the basic tools and steps to create a 3D structure. Students are encouraged to experiment further.
Step 1 – Navigate to edu.sketchup.com and sign in
When you navigate to the educational address you are prompted to sign in. You should use your own school account like you have been with Minecraft. Use this link or click the image below: https://edu.sketchup.com/
Step 2 – Take the tour and start modelling
There is a very short tour of the main areas of the main sketchup screen which is worth watching. Or if you remember working on this previously you can jump right in by going to the next step.
Step 3 – Click ‘Create New’
The ‘create new’ button gives you a few options with regard to the units and precision.
Step 4 – Activate the instructor
The instructor panel gives you visual instructions about the currently selected tool. When you first start the ‘select’ tool is selected. You will see it’s the very top tool on the toolbar on the left side of the screen. The select tool allows you to select any of the element in your model. You can also select a group by dragging an area around one or more items.
Step 5 – Using the orbit tool to move and pan
The orbit tool helps you navigate within your 3D model. The keyboard shortcut is ‘o’ for orbit. When you first start there’s nothing there except the 2D man that looks like a scout leader. Use the orbit tool to practice moving around him. Most of the tools have several options which you will see expand when you click the tool. You will use the orbit tool a lot so have a play with it until you can move around and pan with confidence.
Step 6 – Using the rectangle tool
Ok, that’s enough moving around – let’s start creating something. Let’s start with drawing a rectangle on the ground (the red and green axis).
Step 7 – Using the push/pull tool
Now we’re going to make this 2D rectangle become a 3D object with the magical push/pull tool. We will pull the rectangle out of the ground to make a 3D block.
Step 8 – Using the line tool
Let’s make our rectangular prism a bit more interesting with the line tool. Select it from the toolbar or press ‘L’ on the keyboard.
Step 9 – Using the paint bucket
Here’s the famous paint bucket tool again. This time we have more than just colours to experiment with. There are textures!
Step 10 – Using the move tool
The move tool is a bit tricky. In sketchup you have to very careful with exactly which element you are trying to move so it’s best to use the select tool to select it first. In the following screenshots I draw a line across the top surface, select it, then use the move tool to pull it up vertically to form a gabled roof.
Step 11 – Save your model
You can of course add more to your model, but it’s best to save before you spend too much time on it. As a web application it can glitch and crash and you wouldn’t want to loose hours of creative energy. You can take a screenshot as well, but saving the model is best. Click the ‘save’ button at the top of the screen.