Use SketchUp Without Learning SketchUp
You don’t need to be an expert in using SketchUp to use it. In fact, you can do some amazing things without ever drawing a line. The key is Google SketchUp’s 3D Warehouse where you can find thousands of models that are absolutely free. I encourage beginners to visit the warehouse and download a model or two to practice learning the navigation commands, Orbit, Zoom and Pan. When you’re comfortable with that, you can practice with the Move tool and take things apart. When you download a model, it will be one object, so click on it with the black arrow, right click the mouse and select Explode from the menu. If it’s a good model, everything that would be a distinct piece in real life will be a distinct part, called a component. If things stretch when you try to move them, try again with a different model.
You can also use the model to print dimensioned views. On the Camera menu is an item called “Standard Views” with a submenu for front, side and other views. That’s the slow way to get there. Under the View Menu/Toolbars, look for “Views” and you can add a row of little houses that you can click on to instantly get the camera positioned.
Your view will still be in perspective, so head up to the Camera menu and click on “Parallel Projection” to being up the view you would expect to see in a mechanical drawing. You also want to have the Layers and Scenes windows open. You can find them under the Window menu. Click the plus sign in the Scenes window to add a scene for each view you want to print. When you have the view you want, click the two arrows chasing each other in the scenes window to update each scene. Scenes are saved snapshots of your model, and when you add one, it adds a tab at the top of the model window. Click on a tab to switch from one point of view to another. Scenes can be renamed from the Scenes window, so you can change Scene 1, Scene 2, Scene 3, to Front, Side and Section.
The Layers window also has a plus sign, and you can add layers and use them to control the display of dimensions in each scene. Make a layer for each scene’s dimensions, and uncheck the boxes for the dimensions you don’t want to see. Because your scenes are all snapshots of a single model, if you don’t do this all the dimensions will show in all the scenes. The radio button before the layer name makes it active. All of the model itself should be on Layer 0. When you add objects, such as dimensions to the model they well be on the layer that was active when you created them. After you set the layer visibility, update the scene before moving to the next one.
Use the dimension tool to add the dimensions you want. Click on one point, then a second point to create the dimension, then slide the mouse to position the dimension. You will likely need to zoom in or out to find the exact points you want, and you might need to orbit as well. That’s okay, you can use the practice, and clicking on the scene tab at the top of the window will return you to the point of view that you saved.
If you like, you can copy the model or parts of it off in empty space to create an exploded view or some other detail. Create a scene where that view is visible and you will be able to switch between views and print them independently. You can also add section views with a couple clicks, using the section tool.
Pick up the section tool from the toolbar (in the large tool set). When you move the cursor around the model, it will flip around to different planes. When the orientation is what you want, click on an object, in this case, I clicked on the side of the desk. That sets up a section plane, and you can use the move tool to slide the plane into position to expose the inside of the model.
When the section plane is in place, update the scene. In this model, I have two scenes with an identical camera position, one shows the side from the outside and the other shows the section cut. From the view menu, the visibility of the section plane, and the section cut can be turned off or on, and those settings are saved when the scene is updated. Dimensions in section views can be tricky, the tool looks for a specific point and doesn’t want to snap to points on the section plane. Once again, you may need to orbit and zoom to place the dimensions.
When you want to print, the important settings are all under “Print Preview” in the file menu. If you are in a standard view with parallel projection, you can print to scale, or print a full size pattern. Play around with the settings, choosing some options will lock out other options, and before you hit OK take a good look at the “Tiled Sheet Print Range”. When you print full-size of at a large scale, SketchUp will tile the print on as many pages as it needs. This is great when you need it, but not so great when it prints 60 or 70 pages while you’re out getting a cup of coffee.
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