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Modelling from CAD within SketchUp – where do I start?

If you are modeling within SketchUp, you will need to know how to import and align CAD drawings. Whether your own or somebody else’s; well-aligned CAD drawings are the literal foundations upon which you build your SketchUp models.

How to Align CAD

Let us explore how to align CAD in the most efficient way possible. To clarify; the plan is for us to import CAD before tracing over it to create our 3D model. Let’s get started!

Importing…

When initially importing a CAD file (in dwg format), it normally enters the SketchUp workspace as a completely flat group.

CAD imported into SketchUp
Next step; organisation
Organisation…

Something else that you will notice is that all of the CAD layers are visible as tags within SketchUp. We don’t need all of these so we can compress these tags down into one which we’ll rename CAD. I would now recommend creating a tag to be used for the massing of our 3D model.

GIF showing the layers brought in during a CAD import to SketchUp
When importing CAD into SKP, layers are preserved

We also need to ensure that each floor plan and elevation is grouped separately.

CAD plans and elevations are grouped seperately after being imported into SketchUp
Grouping geometry protects it from being warped when manipulating later.
Reposition…

Now that we have organised our drawing, let’s begin positioning the plans and elevations. Take the ground floor and move it over to the origin as shown (also remember to align right angles on the plan with the red and green axis as you can see here)

A ground floor CAD plan within SketchUp which has been moved to the origin for ease of use
Moving the GF Plan to the origin is a great way to ensure that you are modeling using the red and green guides (or axes)

The next step is to align the elevations around the ground floor plan. Pay special attention to things like window and door openings, because we use these features to resolve whether or not we need to flip our elevations.

Align CAD elevations are lined up with the corresponding plans
Move and rotate your elevations to ensure that they are aligned with your plans. Remember to cross-reference to ensure correct alignment!

We can now stand up our elevations by using the rotate tool. A tip from us is to use the direction buttons on your keyboard once the rotate tool is active, as this will better enable you to lock the orientation of your rotation!

Align CAD drawings by rotating elevations in SketchUp
It is best to use the rotate tool to ensure that all elevations are stood up in preparation for modeling later.

Now simply place your first-floor plan over the top of your ground floor plan and lift up to the correct height as shown on the elevations. Repeat this step for each additional floor.

And hey presto you have now successfully aligned your CAD drawings! 

Aligned CAD drawings imported into SketchUp from AutoCAD
Next step: start modeling!

For more information on how this is done in practice, check out our Access into SketchUp and Top-Up courses, taught online with the Archilime Academy!

Archilime Academy online course provider 3d modelling visualisation cgi

Brought to you by the Archilime Academy

 


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Do you want to hear our most-asked question? 

Where do I find high-quality furniture models? 
A product CGI that demonstrates the sourcing of a high quality armchair model from Design Connected.
A Product CGI showing high-quality models downloaded from Design Connected.

We get asked this because SketchUp & V-Ray users like yourself are wise to the fact that adding better quality 3D models into your scenes adds realism to your work.

We are in complete agreement – from our experience; there is no other part of the visualisation process that boosts the quality of a CGI more than the usage of high-quality, realistic 3D models…

Check out our work here!

Finding the right source… now that’s another question entirely…

 

Our favourite source is a website called Design Connected.

A screenshot showing a high-quality 3D model of a bed from Design Connected.
The Kelly Bed, by Poliform. A Design Connected 3D Model.

We have no affiliation with these guys – but we rely heavily on their models. Without a doubt; they are the place to go for high-quality SketchUp models of furniture, lighting, and accessories.

For over 10 years, they have worked with premium brands to provide photorealistic 3D models of their products – so that SketchUp and V-Ray users like us can download and import these into our scenes!

All models are (or can be) made available in SketchUp format, and all textures are correctly applied to each model, meaning it is the closest thing to a plug-and-play technique that exists for our workflow for furnishings

 

Another source that we use is 3D Sky.

A website screenshot of 3D Sky showing the range of 3D models available to download
A screenshot of 3D Sky showing the range of 3D models available to download

Again, we have no affiliation with this website, however, we have really benefited from the vast 3D collection that they offer.

If models are not available on DesignConnected, we head over to 3DSky, safe in the knowledge that we will find something that we can use.

Rather than the standard SketchUp file-type (.skp) that we are used to; models from 3D Sky tend to be in a different format – a filetype called obj

In a nutshell, they store the geometry and textural information that makes up a 3D model. Different 3D modelling programs use different file types to save models – however, the .obj file type is the closest thing to an industry-standard in this regard.

Transmutr allows you to convert obj, fbx, 3ds, dae files into SketchUp (skp) files.
Convert various 3D formats into SketchUp files using Transmutr

To import .obj models, we use an extension called Transmutr. The easy-to-navigate interface allows you to convert these into .skp files – for you to then import into your scenes.

This process can be covered on our bespoke Top-Up Courses.

 

For its value, the 3D Warehouse is an invaluable resource

An image showing a screenshot of a 3d model search using the 3D Warehouse within SketchUp
The 3D Warehouse has been designed around you. Find free 3D models for SketchUp scenes here.

If you are working under a tighter budget, without the capacity to spend much on 3D models – there is no better source than the 3D Warehouse within SketchUp’s interface.

If you own or have owned, SketchUp Pro – there is a very good chance you know about this already.

Use the sliders on the left to control the quality of the models within your search parameters.

Take note… these models are not quality-checked before being uploaded to the warehouse – which means that you can end up with a real mixed bag in terms of quality.

To be safe, we always recommend saving the desired models into their own files, rather than importing straight into your scene – as this protects your master file from any latent errors that may be present within the imported models!

We run over how to make the best use of the 3D Warehouse on our Access into SketchUp online course.

 

Without over-complicating things…

A CGI demonstrating the quality of furniture 3D models sourced from websites such as design connected, 3d sky and the 3d warehouse
High-quality 3D models bring your CGIs to life. Invest time in sourcing the best quality 3D models available to you.

If you are looking for consistent, high-quality 3D models – we recommend Design Connected.

Variety, on the other hand, is a real strength of 3D Sky.

If you are looking for free models – 3D Warehouse is the source for you.

 

Still doesn’t answer your question?

Model it yourself!

Join us for our next 3-hour, Bitesize course where you can learn to Model with Photography – follow the link for dates!

Archilime Academy online course provider 3d modelling visualisation cgi

Brought to you by the Archilime Academy