Build entire worlds from the ground up, with this super speedy yet simple 3D art program
It’s perfect for kit-bashing and making dynamic, mechanical models
SketchUp definitely belongs in this roundup, especially when top concept artists such as Donglu Yu and Jort van Welbergen are using it for professional (and personal) work. As a piece of computer-aided design (CAD) software, you’d be forgiven for thinking that its sole purpose is creating bog-standard architectural designs. Well, in the hands of an artist the possibilities are practically endless!
“I love SketchUp mainly for its speed,” says Jort. “Because actions are relatively simple, the number of key presses for tools and actions are reduced, which means you can work at a faster pace. You won’t have to waste time looking through menus and lists.
“Another cool, unique element of SketchUp is that you can copy parts of geometry, like cut-in detail, super quickly – and make patterns quite easily, too.”
Simplicity is both SketchUp’s greatest strength and weakness. The interface may be pretty standard, but it’s modifiable. However, if you want to create complex, game-ready elements like landscapes, materials or animations, SketchUp isn’t for you. It isn’t great for smooth and curved surfaces such as cars, either.
But from a creative standpoint, SketchUp helps you to generate ideas quickly. “It’s perfect for kit-bashing and making dynamic mechanical models such as robots quickly, thanks to the grouping system,” says Jort. “And, of course, it’s great for all things architectural. Even if I end up using another program to finalise a model, like MODO or Fusion360, I tend to use SketchUp for my initial sketches.”
And it’s free – or at least the standard version is. This will enable you to transfer files between SketchUp, Maya, 3ds Max and Rhino. However, if you want to export OBJ files to pick up in Photoshop, then you’ll need the Pro version, priced around £490. However, we’d advise getting hold of the free version first, to experiment with.
If you’re serious about getting creative quickly in the field of concept art, then SketchUp could be a powerful tool in your arsenal.
edit the interface
The user interface is pretty standard, but it’s easily modifiable by dragging parts of the menu items around.
There are hundreds of plugins for SketchUp, which are mostly free. Notable ones are the Round edge tool, the Loft tool and the Modded push/ pull tools.
The standard package is free, although you won’t be able to export except as a DAE file. If you want OBJ and FBX exports then you need the Pro version, which comes in at a hefty £490.