Update, October 15, 2013:
SketchUp is a wonderful piece of software for designing, visualizing and planning just about anything. Some people catch on to SketchUp right away, but lots of us struggle with getting the hang of it. Working on the computer in three dimensions can be three times harder if you don’t catch on to the basics of how the program works. I struggled a lot when I first learned, and most of that turned out to be simple things that weren’t readily apparent. In teaching others how to use SketchUp I’ve found several common hurdles. If you understand how to jump over those, the more advanced things come pretty easy, no matter what you want to create in SketchUp.
You do have to practice, as you do when you learn anything. The secret is to practice the right things, in the right sequence. My upcoming book “Building Blocks of SketchUp” is a guide to mastering the basics of 3D modeling. Like my earlier book “Woodworker’s Guide to SketchUp” it is in enhanced PDF format. We’re wrapping up the design phase, and within the 250 pages of text are more than 50 short videos. The videos are embedded within the text every few pages. You don’t need to go online to download anything, or leave the book to turn on a video player; you just click on an image and the video begins to play.
The videos reinforce the lessons in the text and screen-capture illustrations. You get to see what things ought to look like, where to click, and what happens when you click. If you can’t quite remember how to use a tool, the videos are easy to find and serve as a great reminder. When the video ends, you’re still on the same page. If you open the book in one window in Adobe Reader, and have SketchUp open in another window, you can switch back and forth. Read a little, watch a video, practice for a few minutes and you’re ready to move forward.
One of the lessons I’ve learned is that working with simple shapes shortens the learning curve considerably. In the past couple of years, I’ve started having the woodworkers who come to my classes play with blocks in SketchUp for the first part of the class. It’s how we learned to manipulate objects when we were kids, and it works well for learning SketchUp. Folks in a week-long class this year were doing on Wednesday what earlier classes were doing on Friday.
Unlike my earlier book, “Building Blocks of SketchUp” is not specific to any area of design. People who couldn’t get the hang of navigating, where and when to click with the mouse, or the properties of objects in SketchUp find themselves zooming and orbiting without much thought, making things that don’t stick or stretch without reason, and making the models they want. People with experience in SketchUp find they can do things in their models they didn’t think possible and AutoCAD users discover that SketchUp is faster, easier and more versatile than they believed.
At the end of this post is a link, and you can download a few sample pages from “Building Blocks of SketchUp”. Open the file in Adobe Reader and see what you think. If you subscribe to my newsletter, you’ll be among the first to know when this new book is available for sale. Let me (and the rest of the world) know what you think by leaving a comment or click on my signature to send me an e-mail.