Google SketchUp - Better Reports and Presentations with 3D Models

Wednesday, December 07, 2011 8:25:00 PM Categories: CAD Reports and Presentations
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Whatever your area, sometime you probably need to present a report to a client or manager.



In Telecommunications area, the vast majority of reports or presentations have almost always the same traditional formats.

In some ways this is good because the standardization makes it easier to extract the content that really matters from them.

But this does not prevent you from improving the presentation or report traditional format, including a better experience mainly in terms of visualization.

Following these lines, we can for example create graphs, tables and maps more streamlined and clear, highlighting only the relevant data.

But there are other ways to surprise in a traditional report, for example by inserting 3D models, even simple, to further improve the experience.

So now we'll know a fantastic tool that helps us a lot in this activity, Google SketchUp.

Note: All telecomHall articles are originally written in Portuguese. Following we translate to English and Spanish. As our time is short, maybe you find some typos (sometimes we just use the automatic translator, with only a final and 'quick' review). We apologize and we have an understanding of our effort. If you want to contribute translating / correcting of these languages, or even creating and publishing your tutorials, please contact us: contact.


Program WebSite

The first thing of course is to download this free tool from Google website. Visit the website, download the installation file and proceed with standard installation.



The Program

After downloading and installing the SketchUp, run it.


A first window appears, where you can choose what is your desired unit system (1), for example whether to use feet or meters. Choose the most appropriate, and click 'Start using SketchUp' (2).


Okay, you're already in the program environment.


But before we start using it, let's make some observations.

First, the SketchUp is a really great program for its purpose. But that does not mean that its use is trivial, especially if you have no experience with any CAD or drawing software.

Although the program is actually much easier to use compared to its competitors, it may at first seem confusing to many people. But nothing prevents us from achieving what we seek.

And that's where the second point is: you need to know exactly what you want.

As a painter in front of a blank screen will already know what he'll draw, you must have in mind what do you want to create.

One final point is: do not expect a work of art in your very early models. This certainly requires practice, but you sure will improve with time, especially after becoming familiar with the main (and simplified) available actions.

Surely Pablo Picasso hasn't made a perfect drawing in his kindergarten, but see what the practice has made of this great artist. (Okay, you do not need to have the talent of Picasso, but for sure you can create your drawings very well).

So, with these observations, we will continue.



The next step then is to familiarize yourself with the interface, and its main possibilities. We're talking about 3D models, and then the 'surface' is a basic concept here.

Every 3D model is composed of surfaces. For example, a simple 3D model is a box like the one below.


In SketchUp you draw mainly from basic squares and circles (2D), and use a very interesting tool ('Push/Pull') that allows you to change the original surface (1) to the desired final model (2).


Adding the basic forms, and working with them, you will be creating your final model in a very simple steps.


Another important concept is the axis of height, length and depth, respectively shown in Blue, Red and Green in the image below. Note that the SketchUp also has the image of a person, that serves as a reference help to 3D visualization.


For example our design in SketchUp would be as shown below.


Note that we are not talking about using the interface of the program, but explaining the main basic concepts.

Concluding this part, the program also offers other useful tools for editing, such as 'Select', 'Erase', 'Move', 'Zoom', 'Pan' and 'Orbit' - this last allowing you to view your design in any angle or reference, and can be accessed with the mouse wheel, as we do in Google Earth.


All these tools are very simple to use and are intuitively understood when we use it. Therefore, we will not detail the use of each. Besides being common to most image editing programs.

If you just want to work with 'all' the tools available, simply go to Menu: View -> Toolbars -> Large Tool Set


This bar provides easy access to some tools like 'Freehand' for free drawing. But remember that regardless of whether or not they are showing up on the bar, they can be found in the many existing menus.

Note: If you are starting, we advise not trying everything without knowing what to do. As we said, it is necessary that you are familiar with it, and understand some basic concepts, otherwise, it can seem confusing.

An editing tool that you should use a lot is the 'Line'. With this tool you can go drawing dimensions, and then linking them, creating very different forms.

And for all the selected tools (in use), you have the option of an instructor in the small screen, showing the main activities available.

See for example the instructor (when 'Line' is being used).


It is important that you have mastered the use of this instructor, especially taking advantage of the aid that SketchUp gives in real time.

For example, when you start to draw any line, it reports on which axis which is aligned (Through an on-screen text, and also by the color of the future line). Simply click a starting point and move to the end point - with another click, the row is created.


As you will draw, it gives other informations, such as where it is leading the new line. Move to any other point, and give a new click to create a new line.


If the new line to be created is not aligned with any axis, it appears with the black color. Moreover, if the point is such that it allows you to complete the model, SketchUp also reports it (see the red line in the figure, showing that if you make your point where the pencil is, you can close the polygon as predicted).


Continuing, and closing the polygon (although it was possible to create more lines if we wanted), then we have a surface.


To continue showing a little more, we will use the tool 'Push/Pull'. Select this tool, click any area of the polygon, and drag the mouse up.


Select the 'Line' tool again, and move on the edges on one side of our model. Note that depending on where the mouse is the SketchUp shows that it is a point on the Edge (a small Red ball 'On Edge'), is a point in the Middle (Blue ball 'Midpoint') or is a End Point (Green ball 'EndPoint').


That way you can have a visual aid to make your edits. To further exemplify, let's create a line from the middle of this edge to the center of another edge (middle of model). Click the middle of the first ledge, and move the mouse until the middle of the model surface, until a visual cue (middle of the other edge).


Continuing, move and click on the previous cue point.


With the tool 'Push/Pull', drag the larger part of the model up and lower down (just for practice).


Note that we already have a model, and we show the main actions that must be learned by you.

Of course, there are still many interesting tools and actions, and you'll know better once you start practicing.

For example, we get the same result as before as follows. First, tracing a line from a midpoint of the first edge to the last ledge.


Then we draw another line connecting the middle of the row just created with the side edge.


Finally, we selected the tool 'Erase', and click on the line to be deleted.

Note that the result is the same, and often this option to draw several lines and then delete the unwanted is quite interesting.

And remember that you have freedom in many ways. For example, you can select the 'Circle' tool, put it on a ledge, and continue editing as we saw earlier, according to your goal.


We still have many tools, tricks and actions unexplored here, but as I mentioned, you can easily learn to use.



We will now see a more practical scenario.

Suppose you have done a RF Project to cover for a five-story building near Google headquarters (Googleplex). Wouldn't it be interesting to present a 3D visualization for your clients?

Then, access the tool 'Add Location ...' (1).


Navigate to your area of interest via normal navigation of Google Maps and/or through a search - button 'Search' (1).


Continuing, click the 'Select Region' (1 at image above), and set the region that contains the desired images. Finally, click the 'Grab' button (2).


The aerial images are then available in SketchUp, and then we can 'create' our new building.


Browse the SketchUp to the area where our building will be built, and draw a rectangle on the floor.


At the bottom of the screen you can see the dimensions of the newly created rectangle.


But let's assume that our building is 60 x 30 meters. Simply enter the value 60,30 in the text box and press Enter. Our rectangle is now with these dimensions.


You can also use this trick when drawing a line. Just type the exact value, hit 'Enter' and the design takes that value.

Now select the tool 'Push/Pull' and drag the top surface up. Then enter the value '3.5' in the 'Dimensions' text box, so our first floor was created, and is exactly 3.5 meters tall.

Now select the 'Select' tool, and select all our model.


With the model selected, type 'Ctrl + C' to copy (or go to the Edit Menu). Then type 'CTRL + V' (to paste). If you want more precision, click the 'Zoom Extents' tool (1).


Continue gluing the floor until the end, and our 'building' is almost ready.


If desired, use the 'Paint Bucket' tool (1) and 'paint' the floors.


Now save the model. Then, preview it on Google Earth, accessing the corresponding tool in the taskbar (1).


3D WareHouse

Okay, maybe you do not have skills, and initially don't have much confidence to start making your own 3D models from scratch.

No problem, you can start accessing the 3D Warehouse, with many models ready for downloading.


There is also a good chance you find your desired building already 'built' for some users. If a building is 'famous', is almost sure that it is available.

If it isn't built, why don't try, and help to map the world? You can make your own model, and then share it with the World.


In the specific case of Telecom, you may want to download a model of a tower?

The 3D Warehouse also offers. You can browse directories, or even do a familiar 'Google Search'. Do a search for example for 'cellular tower.'


Simply click on 'Download Model.

And then adjust the model according to your needs, eg by resizing it or moving it to the proper location.


Other Features

As you may have noticed, there are several possibilities in addition to demonstrated here. The SketchUp tries to facilitate the most of your work, for example by providing textures for your constructions!


The suggestion then is: practice!

And again, the hint: define clearly what you want or demand is fundamental. By doing so, in a short time practicing you will become a real expert in 3D models!



This was a brief review of SketchUp, another fantastic program from Google that greatly facilitates the creation of 3D models, allowing for example you to add more value to your traditional reports and presentations.

It is worth testing, and discover for yourself the potential that the program has to offer.

I hope you enjoyed. Leave your comment below. And until we meet again!