Monthly Archives: August 2006

Google Sketch

I think Google have something here….if the whole world can build 3d models and share them …then maybe we will see the development of even more and perhaps bigger shared 3d worlds.
Technical drawing, a subject many of us took way back then. Don’t know about you, but I found fumbling with set square and compass was awfully tedious. Then along came computers and, for a hefty price, you could use AutoCAD. There were various budget packages such as TurboCAD, but even it will cost you US$150. Now the nice people at Google have bought SketchUp and are giving it away for free. What the hell, I decided to give it a try.
Boy was I pleased. I was expecting to fumble with the complexity of isometric projection and the like, but no. Upon switch-on the screen showed a little human mannequin standing at the corner of the screen. This was a foretaste of how just user-friendly the program is. Since the figure is drawn to scale, you could see immediately whether that door, or window, or yacht you had just drawn had the correct dimensions. Take yourself off to:
and load SketchUp and let’s design a house.

Let’s design a house
Start Sketchup, (can you see the little man?). We will be selecting tools from the bar at the top of the screen.
Click on the Rectangle tool, and draw a rectangle on the screen starting at its top, left and dragging the mouse towards its bottom, right corner. As you pass by the point where the rectangle becomes a square, a little dotted line momentarily appears, stop here if you want to draw a square. This is typical of SketchUp’s friendliness, with helpful little features.

Now select the Push-Pull tool (I love using it), click inside your rectangle and pull your rectangle upwards. There you have it, a perspective drawing of a rectangular, flat-roofed ‘house’. What about dimensions I hear you ask; simply key in 25m, 10m, 15m and hey presto your house is drawn to scale alongside the mannequin.

Side wall looks too long perhaps? Select the Orbit tool, rotate the house in 3D till the side wall is visible, back to the Push-Pull tool and push or pull the wall till it looks ok.

Next the roof; With the Line tool draw a line across the roof. Yet again SketchUp assists you, displaying a coloured marker as your cursor passes the mid point of the roof edge. Click on it for a symmetrically shaped roof, or elsewhere for a sloping, Swiss-chalet roof.

Use the Move tool to pull the flat roof into the familiar inverted V shape. You can draw rectangles, circles, cones, pyramids to exact dimensions with ease. Now to add more realism, let’s tile the roof and paint the walls.

Select Paint Bucket, Roofing, then Shingles. Click on the roof of your house. You can use your mouse wheel to Zoom in on the roof to take a closer look at the effect. Zoom back out, select Warm Concrete from Materials, click on the walls of your house to apply it. You’d prefer a semi-transparent blue glass wall perhaps? Its all there in Sketchup.

SketchUp whilst not quite AutoCAD ( it reads and writes AutoCAD files) is a superb program. You can cast shadows, do walkthroughs and employ a ton of other features. You can share it with the world by storing it online in the Google ‘3D Warehouse’ .
Imagine designing a scale 3D model of Belfast’s Albert Clock (complete with slight tilt) and placing it at its exact latitude and longitude on Google Earth. Apparently that is why Google are giving SketchUp away for nothing, to encourage us all to populate Google Earth with three dimensional objects.

Anthony McCourt
School of Computing and Intelligent Systems,
University of Ulster, Magee College, L’Derry
Northern Ireland BT48 7JL


BSc Multimedia Design (Main)

I am the subject director for the main in Multimedia Design which is normally taken as part of the BSc Computing Multimedia and Design.

There are nine modules on the Multimedia Design Main:

If you have question about the course you can leave them here or contact me directly at