Thursday, June 24, 2010

Book Review: Google SketchUp for Site Design

It wasn't that long ago that I had the only book on SketchUp on the market (ah, the good old days). In the last few years other books have appeared, some of which are pretty darn useful. And while my books discuss using SketchUp in general, some of these new books focus on a specific SketchUp user. One example is Robin deJongh's book on Visualization, and in the near future I'll also be reviewing Bob Lang's new book for woodworkers.

But the topic of this post is Google SketchUp for Site Design, by Daniel Tal.

I've met Daniel a couple of times: I saw his presentation at the last 3D Base Camp, and attended a workshop he ran for landscape architecture students at the University of Maryland. He demonstrated ways to create incredibly detailed landscape models that you might not think could be done in SketchUp. In his book, he lets us in on the methods and techniques he uses - many of these are much easier than they look.

After some intro material on basic tools, groups, and components, the order of the book follows the typical work flow of a landscape architect. You start with a 2D site plan, making use of the 2D drawing tools (Line, Circle, Arc, Offset, etc.) There's also a bit about modeling from an image of site plan (i.e. tracing). Then you get all of your site elements into 3D, making use of layers and styles for easy control of the display.

The concepts in this book go beyond landscape architecture. There are tutorials on making a detailed park bench, planters, decorative fences. And for the architects, there are tutorials on windows, doors, moldings, curved walls, and more.

As you might expect, there is a large focus on the Sandbox tools, and this is where I had my best "aha!" moments. For example, you learn how to make sloped terrain using a set of 2D curves.

Applying the From Contours tool gets you pretty nice results:

I really liked the canopy exercise:

And for me, the coolest architectural tutorial involved using the Drape tool to superimpose a set of straight lines onto a curved wall, to easily model a complex-looking set of windows:

The last part of the book is about the interaction between SketchUp and AutoCAD: a topic that comes up all the time among design professionals.

One of the best aspects of the book is Daniel's use of Ruby scripts. With the thousands of scripts out there, it's impossible to find a single resource that explains them all. (I'm chipping away at the mountain by using this blog to talk about some of the plug-ins I like.) Daniel uses a select few extremely useful scripts, some of which are free, some cost a nominal fee. These include Randor, PathCopy, Drop, Simplify Contours, Joint Push Pull, Surface Operations - all of which are worth learning even if you're not a landscape architect.

Like with all of my books, all of the models used in the book are on the 3D Warehouse, so there's no need for an accompanying CD. And this book is printed in COLOR, which is essential - this book would be almost impossible to read in black and white.

Highly recommended!

Anyone can design anything in 3D!

Email Newsletter icon, E-mail Newsletter icon, Email List icon, E-mail List icon
Join our FREE Email Mailing List!


Anonymous said...

Bonnie, where is this book available and what does it cost?

Bonnie Roskes said...

It's at Amazon:, also in Kindle edition. You can get it as an e-book from Wiley for about $50 (pricey!):

Ba├║ SketchUp said...

Hello Bonnie. How are you?
I've been following your work for some time now, and I wanted you to tell me about his upcoming book. You will write a chapter talking about renderers like V-Ray and others?

Another doubt is about a possible launch of a new version of SketchUp. You could tell me if Google is preparing an update for SketchUp?
Maybe an SketchUp 8?

Sorry my english.


Bonnie Roskes said...

I'm not sure about when SketchUp 8 will be ready, but I know they are working on it. And yes, I think in my next book I will have some info on rendering engines - there are so many now. But other books are also discussing them, too.