Essential SketchUp Plug-Ins
This blog post has been long overdue. SketchUp‘s modelling toolset is gorgeously simple and rightly so. For an application that essentially prides itself on being the Paint of the 3D realm, simplicity has to be a critical requirement. This was something that a lot of pro users found a bit limiting. But ever since version 4.0 (we’re now on 8.0) saw the introduction of the Ruby scripting interface, many 3D modellers with scripting skills started to code plug-ins to extend the core functionality of the application. And there are heaps of them out there. After sifting through quite a lot of add-ons out there, I’ve compiled a list of my favourite tools to the SketchUp arsenal. I believe these would be a vital addition to any 3D artist’s collection.
Some of the plug-ins I’ve mentioned here, simply automate tasks that would take a bit of time to plan and work through. Some are do-able with the standard toolset, but these tools help you to shave off some time (something 3D artists never have enough of). Since all of these tools use Ruby scripts, they’ll run great on both the Mac OS X and the Windows versions of SketchUp & SketchUp Pro.
1. Bevelling Tools
Pre Ruby script tools we would have used the Follow Me tool and a lot of patience and pre-planning to have bevelled edges. But you would’ve been limited if more than three edges converged onto one point. That is where these two plug-ins come in.
Chris Phillip’s SketchyBevel: This applies bevels to each selected edge of an object. All you do is select the entire object and you access the bevel tool by right clicking and enter in the bevel amount. You repeat the process to produce more rounded edges. Have a dekko;
Head over to the Sketchucation forum page for the plug-in to download.
Again a great site to register with (free), bookmark and frequently check out if you are a SketchUp user.
Fredo6’s RoundCorner: This is the plug-in you need if your preference is for more control over your result. It rounds, sharpens and bevels edges across models of any configuration & complexity.
2. Non-Planar Surface Tools
Dealing with curved surfaces used to be a major pain till the genius that is Fredo6 came up with these fabulous Tools on Surface. Now all all SketchUps’ drawing and construction tools can be used on almost any curved surface.
Tools on Surface: The plug-in installs a tool palette with all of the standard drawing tools – Line, Arc, Rectangle, Circle & Freehand. In addition to these you also get a few new tools Ellipse, Parallelogram, Sector (Pie), Circle (3 Points) and an Offset on Surface tool.
Download and install at the Sketchucation page here.
Joint Push/Pull: This script allows you to perform push the pull function on multiple faces on one operation. This tools maintains the continuity of the surfaces being offset. Especially useful to thicken non-planar surfaces.
The Sketchucation download forum page.
3. Freeform Deformations
Here are a couple of freeform deformation tools making your model almost malleable. One from each of the scripting geniuses Chris Phillips and Fredo6.
SketchyFFD: A sensational transformational tool. The gif below is pretty self explanatory. This by Chris Phillips.
Download and install at the Sketchucation forum page here.
FredoScale: A set of some awesome tools by the great Fredo6. With FredoScale you can the selection boxes around a set of objects and interactively apply various geometric transformations such as Scaling, Tapering, Stretching, Plane Shear, Twisting, Bending and Rotation. Some of these transformations can be done without a selection box. This plug-in comes especially handy when working with an already deformed / destructed object or surface.
The Sketchucation download and information page.
Shape Bender: This is a superb plug-in by Chris Fullmer that takes an existing group to match a curved line or series of connected lines. You will need to download the ProgressBar script to get this to work. You can get the links to both at the download links below.
Shape Bender – Ramps and Roads Hover mouse over to see the plug-in in action.
Download and install here.
4. Boolean Tools
OSCoolean: This is a free script to give true Booleans in SketchUp. It will draw surfaces from by an intersection of forms, that SketchUps’ Intersect command cannot do. Thus, saving on the time spent cleaning up geometry.
OSCoolean – Union, Cut, Intersect, Trim & Split Hover mouse over to see the plug-in in action.
Download and install here at the Sketchucation forum.
BoolTools: This is a commercial plug-in which can perform unions, difference and intersection operations.
BoolTools for SketchUp Demo Hover mouse over to see the plug-in in action.
Available for purchase here.