When I first started using (and teaching and writing about) 3D modeling with SketchUp, the differences between the free and paid versions of the software were simple to understand (this 2015 post goes into detail about the differences between “SketchUp Make” and “SketchUp Pro”) In my work I use SketchUp Pro, and I consider the cost of the license and yearly maintenance a bargain. If I were just starting out however, I would want to see what the program was like before I spent any money. That has been, and will continue to be one of the wonderful things about SketchUp; you can learn how to use the program with a version that doesn’t cost anything. If you decide it is worth the investment, you can then purchase a license.
So the question is: “which free version is best for me?”. With the release of SketchUp Pro 2018, SketchUp decided to provide a web-based software, called “SketchUp Free” rather than update “SketchUp Make” along with “SketchUp Pro”. But that doesn’t mean that “SketchUp Make” has ceased to exist, or isn’t a good way to learn how to make 3D models. Click here to read the official SketchUp Forum discussion about this.
Where to get SketchUp Make
While SketchUp Make 2017 will no longer be updated, it is still available for download and installation and it will continue to be. The link isn’t easy to find, but here it is. With any version of SketchUp, be sure to read the “Terms and Conditions”. SketchUp Make is “free for personal use”, if you’re making money using SketchUp, you need to have a license and the features of SketchUp Pro will make it easier for you to make money. With SketchUp Pro, the Solid Tools, the ability to import and export vector files and the addition of the add-on program LayOut, are all worth the investment.
The advantage of using SketchUp Make to learn is that the software and your model files live on your computer, and the interface is nearly identical to that of SketchUp Pro. In my classes, students use a mix of SketchUp Pro and SketchUp Make, and we go through the differences and advantages of SketchUp Pro. When it comes to making a model, there aren’t many significant differences between the two versions.
What is “SketchUp Free” and is it any good?
The new, no-cost version of SketchUp is “SketchUp Free”. When I first heard about a web-based version of SketchUp in the summer of 2016 I was skeptical, and when I tried it I wasn’t impressed. Recently I took a close look, and while I’m not wild about web-based software, SketchUp Free has come a long way. It doesn’t have all of the features of SketchUp Make, but it works very well. I tried it with some large models that already existed and I duplicated a model I recently made for a client.
With my computer (it’s a pretty good one) and with my internet connection (I pay for a fast connection) there wasn’t a difference between modeling with the online version and modeling with my installed version of SketchUp. The interface is a bit different, as the standard menu bar doesn’t exist in SketchUp free, and some tools and functions live in unexpected places. If you’re familiar with the way SketchUp works it won’t take long to adapt to SketchUp Free. If you’re just starting out in 3D modeling, the things you learn in the web-based iteration will be familiar if you change to a downloaded and installed version.
More than “Free” but less than “Pro” – SketchUp Shop
Just a few weeks ago, SketchUp announced an option in between SketchUp Free and SketchUp Pro called “SketchUp Shop”. This is also web-based software, and it includes features that aren’t available in SketchUp Free. SketchUp Shop is available by subscription at a cost of $119/year. SketchUp Shop includes solid modeling tools, the ability to import and export vector files, the ability to customize materials, and technical support. If you want to quickly make detailed models, use your SketchUp model in other vector graphics programs or for CNC work, this is a more affordable alternative to SketchUp Pro.
I haven’t used SketchUp Shop yet, but I expect to in the near future. When I do I’ll be reporting on it and I’ll also be writing more about SketchUp Free. Here are the current options for up to date versions of SketchUp. The license for SketchUp Pro is a one time fee. To keep it up to date and receive technical support, there is an annual fee of about $120.
While I write about 3D modeling with SketchUp and teach people how to use the software, I do not have any official or financial relationship with the company. I am a fan and I appreciate the amount of time and effort that goes into products that are free to use. If you want to keep up with what I have to say, sign up for my newsletter in the sidebar. If you have any questions about SketchUp and how to use it, leave a comment below or click on my signature to send me an email.