Presenting Your Model inside SketchUp - Viewing Your Model in Different Ways - SketchUp For Dummies (2017)

SketchUp For Dummies (2017)

Part 3

Viewing Your Model in Different Ways

Chapter 11

Presenting Your Model inside SketchUp


check Walking around inside your model

check Creating scenes to capture particular views

check Making animations with scenes

check Cutting slices through your model with section planes

check Generating plans and sections

After you make a model, you probably want to show it to someone. How you present your work depends on the idea you want to convey. The tricky part about using SketchUp to present a model isn’t actually using the tools; it’s choosing the right tools to get your idea across without a bunch of extra information distracting your audience. Most 3D models have so much to look at that the real challenge is finding a presentation method that helps you focus on the stuff you want to talk about.

In this chapter, you learn about three ways to show off your models without ever leaving SketchUp. If you’ve made a building, you can walk around inside it. You can even walk up and down stairs and ramps — just like in a video game. You can create animated slide shows by setting up scenes with different camera views, times of day, and even visual styles. If you want to talk about what’s inside your model, you can cut sections through it without taking it apart.

As you read this chapter, think about what you want your model to communicate. Think about how you might use each method to make a different kind of point and think about the order in which you want those points to be made. As with everything else in SketchUp (and in life, we suppose), a little bit of planning goes a long way. That said, presenting a model live in SketchUp is undeniably sexy; you can’t really go wrong, so have fun.

Exploring Your Creation on Foot

Few experiences in life are as satisfying as running around inside your model. After you make a space, you can walk around it, go up and down stairs, bump into walls, and even fall off ledges. You can check to make sure that the television is visible from the kitchen, say, or experience what it’d be like to wander down the hall. In a potentially confusing building, such as an airport or a train station, you can figure out where to put the signs by allowing someone who’s never seen your model to explore the space “on foot.” The following sections, uh, walk you through how to use these features.

These tools were made for walking

A couple tools in SketchUp are dedicated to moving around your model as if you were actually inside it. The first step (no pun intended) is to position yourself so that you seem to stand inside your model. This can be tricky with just the Orbit, Pan, and Zoom tools, so SketchUp provides a tool just for this: Position Camera. After you’re standing in the right spot (and at the right height), you use the Walk tool to move around. It’s as simple as that.

remember The Position Camera and Walk tools enable you to walk around inside your model.

Standing in the right spot: The Position Camera tool

The Position Camera tool precisely places your viewpoint in SketchUp in a particular spot. That’s really all it does, but it works in two ways.

· You want to stand right here. Choose Camera ⇒ Position Camera from the menu bar or click the Position Camera tool. (You find it on the Large Tool Set in both Windows and Mac OS X.) Then click anywhere in the modeling window to automatically position your viewpoint 5 feet, 6 inches above wherever you clicked. Because this is the average eye height of an adult, the result is that you are, for all intents and purposes, standing on the spot where you clicked; see Figure 11-1 . After you use Position Camera, SketchUp automatically switches to the Look Around tool, assuming that you may want to look around. We talk about Look Around in the “Stopping to look around ” section of this chapter.

tip You’re not stuck being five-and-a-half-feet tall forever. After you use Position Camera, type the height you’d rather be and press Enter. Type 18" to see a golden retriever’s view of the world, or type 7' to pretend you play for the L.A. Lakers. Keep in mind that the Measurements box (the spot in the lower-right corner where numbers appear) displays your eye height as a distance from the ground, and not from whatever surface you’re “standing on.” To set your eye height to be 5 feet above a platform that’s 10 feet high, you’d type 15' .

· You want your eyes to be right here, and you want to look in this direction. Select Position Camera, click the mouse button while in the spot where you want your eyes to be, drag over to the thing you want to look at (you see a dashed line connecting the two points), and release the mouse button; see Figure 11-2 . Try this technique a couple times; it takes a bit of practice to master. Use Position Camera in this way if you want to stand in a particular spot and look in a particular direction. This technique works great with scenes, covered later in this chapter.


FIGURE 11-1: Drop yourself into your model with the Position Camera tool.


FIGURE 11-2: Aim your view by using Position Camera in another way.

Stepping out with the Walk tool

After you use Position Camera to place yourself in your model, use the Walk tool to move through it. You find the Walk tool on the Camera menu or the Large Tool Set.

To walk around, click and drag the mouse in the direction you want to move:

· Straight up is forward.

· Straight down is backward.

· Anything to the left or right causes you to turn while you walk.

The farther you move your cursor, the faster you walk. Release the mouse button to stop. If you’ve ever played video games, you’ll get used to it quickly. If Scrabble is more your speed, it’ll take a few minutes to get the hang of things.

tip You can even use the Walk tool to walk up and down stairs and ramps. Keep in mind that the highest step you can climb is 22 inches — anything higher and you get the “bump” cursor, just like you walked into a wall. Also, if you walk off a high surface, you fall to the surface below. It’s times like these that we wish SketchUp had cartoon sound effects… .

Using modifier keys in combination with the Walk tool makes SketchUp even more like a video game:

· To run instead of walk, hold down the Ctrl key (Option on a Mac) while you’re using the Walk tool with your mouse. This may be useful if you’re trying to simulate what it’d be like if a werewolf were chasing you through your model.

· To make the Walk tool change your eye height or move sideways, use the Shift key. To move straight up like you’re growing, hold down the Shift key while you move your mouse up. To get shorter, hold down Shift and move your mouse down. To move sideways like a crab, hold down Shift and move your mouse left or right.

· To disable collision detection so that you can walk through walls, hold down the Alt key (Command on a Mac). Burglars find this handy for entering models without breaking any windows.

Stopping to look around

Look Around is the third tool in SketchUp that’s dedicated to exploring your model from the inside. If using Position Camera is like swooping in to stand in a particular spot and Walk is like moving around while maintaining a constant eye height, Look Around is like turning your head while standing in one spot. It’s pretty well named, we think; it does exactly what it says.

Using Look Around is so simple it hardly merits these steps:

1. Choose Camera ⇒ Look Around.

2. Click and drag around in the modeling window to turn your virtual head.

Don’t move too fast, or you’ll strain your virtual neck.

tip When you’re using any of the navigation tools, context-click to access any other navigation tool; this makes switching between them a little easier.

When you use Look Around with the field of view tool discussed in the next section, you get a pretty darned realistic simulation of what it’d be like to stand in your model.

Setting your field of view

Field of view is how much of your model you can see in your modeling window at one time. Imagine your eyesight kind of like a cone, with the pointy end pointing at your eyes and the cone getting bigger as it gets farther away from you. Everything that falls inside the cone is visible to you, and everything outside the cone isn’t.

If you increase the angle of the cone at the pointy end, the cone gets wider, and you see more of what’s in front of you. If you decrease the angle, the cone gets narrower, and you see less; see Figure 11-3 .


FIGURE 11-3: The wider your field of view, the more you can see.

Measured in degrees, a wide field of view means that you can see more of your model without having to move around. The bigger the angle, the more you can see. A wide field of view comes in handy when you’re inside a SketchUp model because working on a model you can’t see is hard.

It’s a good idea to fiddle with your field of view while walking around inside your model. Follow these steps to do so:

1. Choose Camera ⇒ Field of View.

Notice that the Measurements box in the lower-right corner of your modeling window says Field of View and that the default value is 35 degrees. This means that you currently have a 35-degree cone of vision, which is kind of narrow.

2. Type 60 and press Enter.

Your field of view increases, and you now have a wider view of your model. The trade-off is that you see more distortion at the edges of your modeling window as more information is displayed in the same amount of space.

tip A good guideline for setting your field of view is to strike a balance between quantity and quality; a wider view always means more distortion. For views of the outside of something, try a field of view of 35 to 45 degrees. For interior views, you can increase the field of view to 60 or 70 degrees.

technicalstuff If you know something about photography, you can express field of view in millimeters, just like you’re using a camera lens. Typing 28mm gives you a wide-angle view, as if you’re looking through a 28mm lens. For people who think about field of view in these terms, this option can be a lot more intuitive than trying to imagine cones of vision.

Taking the Scenic Route

Wouldn’t it be great if you could save a particular view of your model? And wouldn’t it be even greater if that view could also save things like styles and shadow settings? What if you could come back to any of these saved views by clicking a button on your screen? What if this whole paragraph were just a series of questions?

SketchUp scenes are (you guessed it) saved views of your model. It’s probably easiest to think of scenes as pre-saved views of your model, except that scenes can save much more than just camera positions.

remember Although scenes don’t get a lot of space in this book (they don’t even get their own chapter), scenes are an important feature in SketchUp for three reasons:

· Scenes can save you hours of time. Returning to exactly the right view with Orbit, Zoom, and Pan isn’t always easy. Sometimes a view involves shadows, styles, sections (you read about those later), and even hidden geometry. Setting up everything the way you need it, every time you need it, can be a pain. It’s not that SketchUp’s hard — it’s just that you have a lot of different ways to view your model. Making a scene enables you to apply dozens of settings with a click of your mouse.

· Scenes are by far the most effective way to present your model. Saving a scene for each point that you want to make in a presentation allows you to focus on what you’re trying to say. Instead of fumbling around with the navigation tools, turning on shadows, and making the roof visible, you can click a button to transition to the next scene (which you’ve already set up exactly the way you want). Figure 11-4 shows a set of scenes Aidan created to present a house he designed for his dog, Savannah.

· Scenes are the key to making animations. You make animations by creating a series of scenes and telling SketchUp to figure out the transitions between them. The process, explained in later sections, is as simple as clicking a button.


FIGURE 11-4: To show very specific views, create scenes.

After you get used to scenes, you’ll find yourself using them all the time. Here are some of the most common uses for scenes:

· Showing shade conditions for the same area at different times of the day. (See Chapter 10 for details about shadow studies.)

· Saving scenes for each floor plan, building section, and other important views of your model

· Building a walkthrough or flyover animation of your design

· Creating scenes that show several views of the same thing with different options (the pointy roof or the flat one, madam?)

· Demonstrating change over time by showing or hiding a succession of components. (Chapter 5 is all about components.)

Creating scenes

Before you start making scenes, know this: Making a scene in SketchUp is not like taking a snapshot of your model. If you create a scene to save a view, continue working on your model, and then return to that scene, your model doesn’t go back to the way it was when you created the scene. The camera position will be the same, and the settings will be the same, but your geometry won’t be. This is a pretty important concept, and one that makes using scenes so powerful.

remember A scene is just a set of view settings, which means that they’re automatically updated every time you edit your model. You can make some scenes and use them all the way through your process, from when you start modeling to when you present your design to the president. Or to your mother.

Creating scenes is a simple process. The basic idea is that you add a scene to your SketchUp file whenever you have a view you want to return to later. You can always delete scenes, so there’s no downside to using lots of them. Follow these steps to make a new scene:

1. Choose Window ⇒ Scenes to open the Scenes panel.

When the Scenes panel first opens, it doesn’t look like there’s much to it. Expanding it by clicking the Show Details button in the upper-right corner reveals more options, but don’t worry about that right now.

2. Set up your view however you want.

Navigate around until you’re happy with your point of view. If you want, use the Shadows and Styles panels to change the way your model looks.

3. Click the Add Scene button to make a new scene with your current view settings.

A new scene is added to your SketchUp file. If this is the first scene you’ve created, it’s called Scene 1, but you can give it a more meaningful name, as explained later in this chapter. As shown in Figure 11-5 , the scene appears in two places:

o As a tab at the top of your modeling window

o As a list item in the Scenes panel, right underneath the Add Scene button


FIGURE 11-5: A scene appears in two places.

tip When you’re creating a scene that shows an eye-level view of a building — whether it’s an interior or an exterior view — there’s a quick, easy step you can take to make the scene look 500 percent better: Choose Camera ⇒ Two-Point Perspective to make all the vertical edges in your model appear vertical in the view. Doing so removes the unprofessional, distorted effect that’s the hallmark of improperly wielded 3D modeling software.

remember Nothing is generated outside of SketchUp when you add a scene; it’s not like exporting a JPEG or a TIFF. Scenes are just little bits of programming code that “remember” the view settings in effect when you create the scene. Scenes also don’t add much to your file size, so you don’t have to worry about using too many of them.


Sooner or later, you’ll be presented with the Warning — Scenes and Styles dialog box shown here. It pops up whenever you try to create a scene without first saving the changes you’ve made to the style applied to your model. In other words, SketchUp tries to help by reminding you to keep styles in mind while you work with scenes. (The first part of Chapter 10 is all about styles, if you need a refresher.)

This warning dialog box gives you three options; here’s some guidance on which one to choose:

· Save as a New Style: This option adds a new style to your In Model styles library. When you come back to this scene, it looks exactly the way it did when you created it. Choosing this option is the safest way to proceed because it can’t affect any other scene.

· Update the Selected Style: Choose this option only if you know what effect updating the style will have on the other scenes in your model. If the style you’re updating is applied to any of them, you’ll affect the way they look. In models with lots of scenes and styles, updating a style can have big implications.

· Do Nothing to Save Changes: This option creates a scene with your current style applied, completely ignoring any changes you may have made to that style. When you come back to this scene, it looks different than it did when you created it. Only choose this option if you really know what you’re doing, or if you enjoy doing the same thing more than once.


Moving from scene to scene

Activate a scene you’ve added earlier by doing one of three things:

· Double-click the name (or thumbnail image) of the scene in the Scenes panel.

· Click the tab for that scene at the top of the modeling window.

· Context-click any scene tab and choose Play Animation to make SketchUp automatically flip through your scenes. Choose Play Animation again to make the animation stop.

tip Notice how the transition from one scene to the next is animated? You don’t have to do anything special to make this happen; it’s something SketchUp automatically does to make things look better (and ultimately, to make you look better).

You can adjust the way SketchUp transitions between scenes, which is handy for customizing your presentations. Follow these steps to access these settings:

1. Choose Window ⇒ Model Info.

2. On the left side of the Model Info dialog box, choose Animation.

The Animation settings panel in the Model Info dialog box isn’t very complicated, but it can make a huge difference in the appearance of your scene-related presentations.

3. In the Scene Transitions area, set how SketchUp transitions from one scene to another.

These settings apply to both manual (clicking a page tab) and automatic (playing an animation) scene transitions:

o Enable Scene Transitions: Clear this check box to make SketchUp change scenes without animating the transitions between them. You probably want to do this if your model is so complex (or your computer is so slow) that animated transitions don’t look good.

o Seconds: If you’ve selected the Enable Scene Transitions check box, the number of seconds you enter here indicates the time SketchUp takes to transition from one scene to the next. If you’re “moving the camera” very far between scenes, bump up the transition time so that your audience doesn’t get sick. Three seconds is a good compromise between nausea and boredom.

tip If you’re presenting an incomplete model (perhaps you’ve thought about the garage and the living room, but nothing in between), it can be helpful to turn off scene transitions. That way, your audience won’t see the things you haven’t worked on when you click a tab to change scenes. It’s sneaky, but effective.

4. In the Scene Delay area, set the length of time SketchUp pauses on each slide before it moves to the next one.

If you want the presentation to seem like you’re walking or flying, set this to 0. If you want time to talk about each scene in your presentation, bump this up a few seconds.


A really great way to use scenes is to pretend you’re walking or flying through your model. By setting up your scenes sequentially, you can give a seamless tour without messing around with the navigation tools. This setup is especially handy when you need to walk and talk at the same time.

Here are some tips that can help you to simulate a person walking or flying through your model with scenes:

· Adjust your field of view. For interior animations, make your camera “see” a wider area by setting your field of view to 60 degrees. For exterior views, try a field of view that’s between 30 and 45 degrees. See the section “Setting your field of view ,” earlier in this chapter.

· Make sure that your scenes aren’t too far apart. Instead of racing through a room like it’s on fire, don’t be afraid to add more scenes. Your audience will thank you by not throwing up on your conference table.

· Add scenes at equal distance intervals. Because SketchUp only lets you control the scene transition timing for all your scenes at once, it’s best to make sure that your scenes are set up about the same distance apart. If you don’t, your walk-through animations will be jerky and strange, like Aidan’s dancing.

· Don’t forget the animation settings in the Model Info dialog box. Set the scene delay to 0 seconds so that your animation doesn’t pause at every scene. For a normal walking speed, set your scene transitions so that you move about 5 feet per second. If your scenes are about 20 feet apart, set your scene transition time to 4 seconds. This gives your audience time to look around and notice things. For flying animations, pick a scene transition time that looks good.

· Slide around corners. When you set up a walking animation, you have an easy, reliable way to turn corners without seeming too robotic. The method is illustrated in the following figure. Basically, the trick is to add a scene just short of where you want to turn — in this case, a few feet ahead of the doorway. The key is to angle your view into the turn slightly. Set up your next scene just past the turn, close to the inside and facing the new view. This technique makes it seem like you’re turning corners naturally.

Modifying scenes after you make ’em

After you create a whole bunch of scenes, you inevitably need to fiddle with them in some way. After all, modifying something is almost always easier than making it all over again, and the same thing holds true for scenes. Because your SketchUp model will change a million times, understanding how to make changes to your existing scenes can save you a lot of time in the long run.

warning Certain aspects of the scene-modification process can get a little tricky. This is kind of surprising, given how simple the rest of working with scenes can be. You deal with a lot of complexity when working in SketchUp, and this is just one of the places where that complexity rears its ugly head. The upshot: Pay special attention to the section on updating scenes and don’t worry if you take a little while to figure things out. It happens to the best of us.

Reordering, renaming, and removing scenes

Making simple modifications to scenes, such as reordering, renaming, and removing them, is easy. You can accomplish each of these in two ways: You either context-click a scene tab at the top of your modeling window or use the Scenes panel menu (click the menu arrow in the upper right). See Figure 11-6 .


FIGURE 11-6: You can modify scenes by context-clicking scene tabs or by using the Scenes panel.

Here’s how to reorder, rename, or remove scenes:

· Reordering scenes: You can change the order in which scenes play in a slide show. If you’re using scenes, you need to do this often — trust us. Use one of the following methods:

o Context-click the tab of the scene you want to move (in the modeling window) and choose Move Right or Move Left.

o In the expanded Scenes panel, click the name (or thumbnail image) of the scene you want to move to select it. Then click the Move Scene Up or Move Scene Down arrow at the top of the panel to change the scene’s position in the scene order.

· remember Renaming scenes: Give your scenes meaningful names: Living Room, Top View, and Shadows at 5:00 P.M. are descriptive enough to be useful. Scene 14 lacks a certain je ne sais quoi. Use one of the following methods:

o Context-click the scene tab and choose Rename (this works only on the Mac, for some reason).

o In the Scenes panel, select the scene you want to rename and type something into the Name field below the list. If you don’t see the Name field, click the Show Details button in the upper right. If you’re feeling really organized, go ahead and give the scene a description, too — more information never hurts.

· Removing scenes: If you don’t need a scene anymore, feel free to delete it. However, if you have a scene that you don’t want to appear in slide shows, you don’t have to get rid of it. Use one of the following methods to remove a scene:

o Context-click the scene tab and choose Delete to get rid of it permanently.

o In the Scenes panel, select the scene you want to ax and click the Delete button.

To exclude a scene from slide shows without getting rid of it, select its name (or thumbnail) and clear the Include in Animation check box.

Working with scene properties

Okay. Turn off the television. Send the kids outside to play. Do whatever you need to do to concentrate because wrapping your head around the concept of scene properties isn’t altogether straightforward. We do our best to explain it.

Basically, a scene is just a collection of saved viewing properties. Each of these properties has something to do with how your model looks:

· Camera Location: Camera Location properties include the camera position, or viewpoint, and the field of view (discussed earlier in this chapter).

· Hidden Geometry: Hidden Geometry properties are really just one thing: what elements are hidden and what elements aren’t. These properties keep track of the visibility of the lines, faces, groups, and components in your model.

· Visible Layers: Visible Layer properties keep track of the visibility of layers in your model.

· Active Section Planes: Active Section Plane properties include the visibility of section planes and whether they’re active. We talk about sections in the last part of this chapter.

· Style and Fog: Style and Fog properties are all the settings in the Styles and Fog panels, and there are a lot of them. (See Chapter 10 .)

· Shadow Settings: Shadow Settings properties include whether shadows are turned on and the time and date for which the shadows are set. They also include all the other settings in the Shadows panel.

· Axes Location: Axes Location properties are very specific. They keep track of the visibility, location, and orientation of the main red, green, and blue axes in your modeling window. It’s sometimes useful to move the axes around when you’re working, such as when you’re working with a rotated street grid in an urban-scale model.

remember Here’s the tricky part: Scenes can save (remember) any combination of the preceding properties — it’s not an all-or-nothing proposition. After the full impact of this information soaks in, you’ll realize that this means that scenes are much more powerful than they first appear.

tip By creating scenes that save only one or two properties (instead of all seven), you can use scenes to do some pretty nifty things. Here are three of our favorites:

· Create scenes that affect only your camera location, allowing you to return to any point of view without affecting anything else about the way your model looks (such as styles and hidden geometry).

· Create scenes that affect only styles and shadows, letting you quickly change between simple and complex (hard on your computer) display settings without affecting your camera location.

· Create scenes that have different combinations of Hidden Geometry to look at design alternatives without changing your model’s style and camera location.

The key to working with scene properties is the expanded Scenes panel, visible in Figure 11-7 . Although this panel is pretty simple, folks who understand it are few and far between. Prepare to join the informed minority.


FIGURE 11-7: Choose which scene properties to save in the expanded Scenes panel.

Follow these steps to set which properties a scene saves:

1. In the Scenes panel, select the scene whose properties you want to fiddle with.

You don’t have to view this scene when you edit it; you can edit properties for any scene at any time.

2. If not already expanded, click the Show Details button in the upper-right corner of the Scenes panel.

3. Select the check boxes next to the properties you want to save.

That’s it. You don’t have to click Save anywhere to make your changes stick. A little anticlimactic, no?

tip One terrific use of scene properties is to create scenes that help you show off different iterations (versions) of your design. You do this by making a different layer visible with each scene in your model. See Chapter 7for details about controlling layer visibility.

Updating scenes

If you want to update (make changes to) an existing scene, you have a couple options:

· Update all the scene’s properties at once, which is a piece of cake.

· Update the scene’s properties selectively, which isn’t quite as simple. Read on for both sets of instructions.

warning After you update a scene, you can’t use Undo to return the scene back to the way it was. Instead, save your SketchUp file right before you update a scene and choose File ⇒ Revert if you don’t like the results.


The simplest way to modify a scene is to not worry about individual properties. If all you want to do is update a scene after you make an adjustment to the appearance of your model, you’re in luck. Follow these steps:

1. Click the tab of the scene you want to update.

The tabs are at the top of the modeling window.

2. Make whatever styles, shadows, camera, or other display changes you want to your model.

3. Context-click the current scene tab and choose Update.

warning Be careful not to accidentally double-click the tab, or you’ll reactivate the scene and lose all the changes you made. However, after you update the scene, the new scene properties replace the old ones, and you’re home free.


Here’s where things get complicated. At times in your SketchUp life, you’ll want to update a scene without updating all its properties.

warning When you update scenes selectively, you make changes that you can’t see immediately, which means disaster might strike. Copy your SketchUp file before you update more than one scene at a time, just in case something awful happens.

Maybe you’ve used scenes to create a tour of the sunroom you’re designing for a client, and you want to change the shadow settings to make your model look brighter. You have 30 scenes in your presentation, and your meeting’s in 5 minutes. You don’t have time to change and update all 30 scenes one at a time. What to do? Follow these steps:

1. Adjust the Shadow properties to where you want them to be for all the scenes you want to update.

Although this example deals with shadows, this same method applies to any scene properties changes you want to make.

2. In the Scenes panel, select all the scenes you want to update.

Hold down the Shift key to select a group of consecutive scenes. Hold down Ctrl (Command on the Mac) to select noncontiguous scenes.

3. Click the Update Scenes button in the Scenes panel.

The Scene Update dialog box appears, as shown in Figure 11-8 .

4. Select the Shadow Settings check box and click the Update button.

If all you want to update are the Shadow Settings, make sure that only that check box is selected. More generally, you’d select the check box next to each of the properties you want to update. All the selected scenes are updated with those new properties, and all the properties whose check boxes are clear remain unchanged.


FIGURE 11-8: Updating only certain scene properties is a little more involved.

Mastering the Sectional Approach

Software like SketchUp has a funny way of providing moments of perfect simplicity, moments when you sit back, scratch your head, and think to yourself, “That’s it? That’s all there is to it?”

Sections in SketchUp offer one of those moments. To put it simply, sections are objects that cut away parts of your model so you can look inside. However, the sections don’t actually split or otherwise alter a model’s geometry. A section is temporary and easily hidden or removed, so that you can see your whole model again just as easily as you created the cutaway.

You place sections wherever you need them, use them to create views you couldn’t otherwise get, and then delete them when you’re done. When you move a section plane, you get instant feedback; the cut view of your model moves, too. If you want to get fancy, you can embed sections in scenes and even use sections in animations. Sections are the icing on the SketchUp cake: easy to use, incredibly important, and impressive as all get-out.

People use sections for all kinds of things:

· Creating standard orthographic views (such as plans and sections) of buildings and other objects

· Making cutaway views of complex models to make them easier to understand

· Working on the interiors of buildings without moving or hiding geometry

· Generating sectional animations with scenes

Cutting plans and sections

The most common use for sections is to create straight-on, cut-through views of your model. These views often include dimensions and are typical of the drawings that architects make to design and explain space.

Straight-on, cut-through views are useful because

· They’re easy to read.

· You can take measurements from them (if they’re printed to scale).

· They provide information that no other drawing type can.

remember The following terms (illustrated in Figure 11-9 ) can help you create different views of your model more easily:

· Plan: A planimetric view, or plan, is a top-down, two-dimensional, nonperspectival view of an object or space. Put simply, a planimetric view is every drawing of a house floor plan you’ve ever seen. You generate a plan by cutting an imaginary horizontal slice through your model. Everything below the slice is visible, and everything above it isn’t.

· Section: Not to be confused with sections (the SketchUp feature), a sectional view, or section, is a from-the-side, two-dimensional, nonperspectival view of an object or space. You make a sectional view by cutting an imaginary vertical slice through your model. Just like in a plan view, everything on one side of the slice is visible, and everything on the other side is hidden.


FIGURE 11-9: A plan is a horizontal cut, whereas a section is a vertical one.


In architecture, the convention is to cut plans at a height of 48 inches, meaning that the imaginary horizontal slice is made 4 feet above the floor surface. This ensures that doors and most windows are shown cut through by the slice, whereas counters, tables, and other furniture are below it, and thus are fully visible. You can see what we mean in Figure 11-9 . These details are important when you try to explain a space to someone. After all, architectural drawings are two-dimensional abstractions of three-dimensional space, and every little bit of clarity helps.

When it comes to architectural sections (as opposed to sections, the SketchUp feature), there’s no convention for where to cut them, but you should follow a couple rules:

· Never cut through columns. If you show a column in a section, it looks like a wall. This is bad because sections are supposed to show the degree to which a space is open or closed. You can walk around a column, but you can’t walk through a wall (at least we can’t).

· Try your best to cut through stairs, elevators, and other vertical circulation. Showing how people move up and down through your building makes your drawings a lot more readable, not to mention interesting. See Figure 11-9 for an example.

You cut plans and sections by adding section planes to your model. These are a little abstract because nothing like them exists in real life. In SketchUp, section planes are objects that affect the visibility of certain parts of your model. When a section plane is active, everything in front of it is visible and everything behind is hidden. Everywhere a section plane cuts your model, a slightly thicker section cut line appears.

tip If you’re using Windows, open the Section toolbar by choosing View ⇒ Toolbars ⇒ Section. If you’re on a Mac, the Section Plane tool is in the Large Tool Set, which you can activate by choosing View ⇒ Tool Palettes ⇒ Large Tool Set. On both platforms, Section Plane looks like a white circle with letters and numbers in it.To add a section plane, follow these steps:

1. Choose Tools ⇒ Section Plane to activate the Section Plane tool.

You can also activate Section Plane by choosing its icon from the Large Tool Set (or if you prefer, the Section toolbar on SketchUp for Windows).

2. Move the Section Plane tool around your model.

Notice how the orientation of the Section Plane cursor (which is quite large) changes to be coplanar to whatever surface you hover over.

3. After you figure out where you want to cut, click once to add a section plane.

To create a plan view, add a horizontal section plane by clicking a horizontal plane like a floor. For a sectional view, add a vertical section plane by clicking a wall or other vertical surface. You can, of course, add section planes wherever you want; they don’t have to be aligned to horizontal or vertical planes. Figure 11-10 shows a section plane being added to a model of a house.

4. Choose the Move tool.

5. Move the section plane you just added by clicking it once to pick it up and again to drop it.

You can slide your section plane back and forth in only two directions so that the section plane remains perpendicular to its cutting plane. When you’re deciding where to locate your cut, the nearby sidebar, “Cutting like an architect ,” offers helpful pointers.

After you add a section plane and move it to the desired location, you can rotate and even copy it, just like any other object in your model. The section plane never affects your geometry — just the way you view it.

6. image If you need to rotate your section plane, select it and use the Rotate tool.

Why rotate a section plane? In certain circumstances, rotating a section plane (instead of creating a brand-new one) can help explain a complex interior space. Showing a plan view becoming a sectional one is a powerful way to explain architectural drawings to an audience that doesn’t understand them.

Read more about the Rotate tool in Chapter 3 .

7. To make a new section plane by copying an existing one, use the Move or Rotate tool to do it the same way you’d make a copy of any other SketchUp object.

Chapter 3 explains these basic actions in detail.

Copying section planes is a great way to space them a known distance apart. Spacing sections planes consistently can be trickier if you use the Section Plane tool to keep adding new ones, instead.

Figure 11-11 shows moving, rotating, and copying a section plane.


FIGURE 11-10: Add a section plane wherever you want one and then move it into position.


FIGURE 11-11: Moving, rotating, and copying a section plane.

When the section plane you’ve added is in position, you’re ready to control how it affects visibility in a number of other ways. See the following sections for details.

Controlling individual section planes

You can control the way section planes behave by context-clicking them to bring up a context menu, as shown in Figure 11-12 . You see examples of what the following options do in the same illustration:

· Reverse: This option flips the direction of the section plane, hiding everything that was previously visible, and revealing everything that used to be behind the cut. Use this when you need to see inside the rest of your model.

· remember Active Cut: Although you can have multiple section planes in your model, only one plane can be active at a time. The active cut is the section plane that’s actually cutting through your model; others are considered inactive. If you have more than one section plane, use Active Cut to tell SketchUp which one should be active. If you have only one section plane but can’t see the cut, check whether the cut is active.

technicalstuff You can have more than one active section plane in your model at a time, but doing so requires that you nest, or embed, each section plane in a separate group or component. You can achieve spiffy effects with this technique, but explaining how they work in detail is beyond the scope of this book. You can read all about groups and components in Chapter 5 .

· Align View: When you choose Align View, your view changes so that you look straight on at the section plane. You can use this option to produce views like the ones described in “Getting different sectional views ” later in this chapter.

· Create Group from Slice: This option doesn’t have much to do with the other choices in this context menu; it’s really a modeling tool. You can use the Create Group from Slice command to do exactly what it says: Create a group from the active slice, or section plane. The command is handy for creating filled-in section cuts for final presentations.


FIGURE 11-12: Context-clicking a section plane gives you some options.

Setting section-plane visibility

remember If you want to control the visibility of all your section planes at once, a couple menu options can help. Use both of these toggles in combination to control how section cuts appear in your model. These two options, shown on the View menu, are illustrated in Figure 11-13 :

· Section Planes: This choice toggles the visibility of section-plane objects without affecting the section cuts they produce. More simply, deselecting Section Planes hides all the section planes in your model, but doesn’t turn off the section cut effect, as shown in the middle image in Figure 11-13 . This view is how you probably want to show most of your sectional views, so this toggle is pretty important.

· Section Cuts: This option toggles the section cut effect on and off without affecting the visibility of the section-plane objects in your model. This choice is sort of the opposite of Section Planes, in the previous point, but it’s every bit as important.


FIGURE 11-13: Control section plane visibility with Section Planes and Section Cut.

Getting different sectional views

Using section planes, you can create a couple useful and impressive views of your model without much trouble. The second builds on the first, and both are shown in Figure 11-14 . A section perspective (left) is a special view of a three-dimensional space. The second type, an orthographic view (right), is straight on and doesn’t use perspective.


FIGURE 11-14: Turn on Perspective for a section perspective; choose Parallel Projection to produce an orthographic view.


If you imagine cutting a building in half and then looking at the cut surface straight on while looking inside, you have a section perspective. The section part of the term means that the building has been cut away. The perspectivepart indicates that objects inside the space seem smaller as they get farther away.

Section perspectives show interior space in a way most people can understand — and section perspectives look incredibly cool, too. To create a section perspective using the Section Plane tool in SketchUp, follow these steps:

1. Select the section plane you want to use to make a section perspective by clicking it with the Select tool.

When the section plane is selected, it turns blue, (assuming that you haven’t changed the default colors in the Styles panel).

2. If the selected section plane isn’t active, context-click it and choose Active Cut.

Active section planes cut through their surrounding geometry. If your section plane is visible but isn’t cutting through anything, it’s not active.

3. Context-click the selected section plane and choose Align View.

This aligns your view so that it’s straight on (perpendicular) to your section plane.

4. If you can’t see your model properly, choose Camera ⇒ Zoom Extents.

This zooms your view so that you can see your whole model in the modeling window.


Ever seen a technical drawing that included top, front, rear, and side views of the same object? Chances are that was an orthographic projection, which is a common way for 3D objects to be drawn so that they can be built.

Producing an orthographic section of your model is pretty easy; it’s only one extra step beyond making a section perspective. Here’s how to do it:

1. Follow Steps 1 through 3 in the preceding section, as if you’re making a section perspective.

2. Choose Camera ⇒ Parallel Projection.

This switches off Perspective, turning your view into a true orthographic representation of your model. If you printed an orthographic view at a specific scale, you could take measurements from the printout.

tip To print a plan or section view of your model at a particular scale, have a look at Chapter 12 , which explains the whole process. If you have SketchUp Pro, see Chapter 14 ; printing to scale is among the things LayOut was created to do.

Animating sections with scenes

Combining section views with scenes to create an animation is both a useful and impressive way to show off your model. The basic idea is that you can use scenes to create animations where your section planes move inside your model. Here are a few reasons you may want to use this technique:

· If you have a building with several levels, you can create an animated presentation that shows a cutaway plan view of each level.

· Using an animated section plane to “get inside” your model is a much classier transition than simply hiding certain parts of it.

· When you need to show the relationship between the plan and section views for a project, using an animated section plane helps to explain the concept of different architectural views to 3D beginners.

Follow these steps to create a basic section animation; a simple example is illustrated in Figure 11-15 :

1. Add a section plane to your model.

For help with this step, see “Cutting plans and sections ,” earlier in this chapter.

2. Add a scene to your model.

The earlier section “Creating scenes ,” explains how to add scenes.

3. Add another section plane to your model.

You can add another section plane in one of two ways:

o Use the Section Plane tool to create a brand-new one. This is probably the easiest option, which makes it ideal for beginners.

o Use the Move tool to copy an existing section plane. The earlier section “Cutting plans and sections ” introduces this technique.

Make sure that your new section plane is active; if it is, it cuts through your model. If it’s not active, context-click the section plane and choose Active Cut from the context menu.

4. Add another scene to your model.

This new scene remembers which is the active section plane.

5. Click through the scenes you added to view your animation.

You see an animated section cut as SketchUp transitions from one scene to the next. If you don’t, make sure that you have scene transitions enabled: Choose Window ⇒ Model Info and then choose the Animation panel in the Model Info dialog box. Make sure the Scene Transitions check box is selected.


FIGURE 11-15: Making a section animation is a fairly straightforward process.

tip If you don’t like seeing the section-plane objects (the boxy things with arrows on their corners) in your animation, switch them off by deselecting Section Planes on the View menu. Then you see the section cuts without any ugly rectangles flying around.

remember The hardest thing to remember about using scenes and section planes to make section animations is this: You need a separate section plane for each scene that you create. That is to say, SketchUp animates the transition from one active section plane to another active section plane. If all you do is move the same section plane to another spot and add a scene, this animation technique won’t work.