Posted by on Mar 22, 2016 in SketchUp, Tutorials

How To Breathe New Life Into Your SketchUp Model With Hand Drawn Elements

Article by Kevin J. Pfeiffer.

We take a look at how to take your lifeless SketchUp models and inject with a new lease of life.

Often when making SketchUp models and presenting them they can look “formulaic”. SketchUp is called out for causing students and practitioners to be lazy in their design. While yes, all design most definitely should start with a pen in hand – when making renderings, SketchUp and other programs like Photoshop can be leveraged to enhance your graphics in a quick way. Instead of spending a boat load of hours drawing everything by hand. Just because you use SketchUp for model making doesn’t mean you shouldn’t include the uniqueness of your hand.

Let’s Get Started on Your SketchUp Model

So first I’m going to grab a plaza model I found on the 3D Warehouse and open it up in SketchUp. Find a view that you prefer, and make sure to add the scene so it can be referenced later. As well make sure that all of your sky and ground are turned off and your background is set to white (window>style>background setting>uncheck sky and ground), this will make adding your own sky and such in later much easier. As well, when you’re in the styles layer set you profiles to 1 (window>styles>edge settings), this will give your lines a much finer feel.

SketchUp models. Image credit: Kevin Pfeiffer

SketchUp models. Image credit: Kevin Pfeiffer

Next Step and Avoiding Bad Practice

Now that I have my scene set, I need to export my layers. One aspect of rendering with SketchUp that people commonly mess up is the idea that SketchUp is where you render, but in reality SketchUp is best used to set up massings and heights, and the rendering done later in Photoshop. So just like drawing on layers of trace paper, we’re going to export a few layers from SketchUp. For this tutorial let’s just export out lines and shadows.

SketchUp models. Image credit: Kevin Pfeiffer

SketchUp models. Image credit: Kevin Pfeiffer

To export just your line work click the hidden line option in the styles tool bar. Go to file>export>2d graphic and select options. For this quick example I’m just going to make my height 1000, for more in-detail projects, I’ll sometimes go up to 2500. As well make sure anti-alias is on, then go ahead and export.

SketchUp models. Image credit: Kevin Pfeiffer

SketchUp models. Image credit: Kevin Pfeiffer

Now by turning on your shadows and turning off edges and profiles export out your shadows, make sure the resolution you set previously remains the same.

Now we can start into Photoshop. Open your two exported files, and put the two layers into the same file so that they are on top of one another. I have my shadows layer on top of my lines layer. Change the layer mode to multiply (essentially get rid of all white) on the shadows layer, you now have a layered image. I also exported out some quick trees and people from SketchUp and put them in quickly and changed their layers to multiply

SketchUp models. Image credit: Kevin Pfeiffer

SketchUp models. Image credit: Kevin Pfeiffer

Top Tip

At this point, while simple fine line drawings with shadows does look less “SketchUp” like, let’s figure out how to add a hand drawn element to this drawing. Print out your lines, trees, and people layer and pick up some pens and trace paper! Make sure to print to “actual size”. If you fit your paper, it can be very hard to scale it back to your Photoshop file.

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SketchUp models. Image credit: Kevin Pfeiffer

SketchUp models. Image credit: Kevin Pfeiffer

Use some drawing pens to trace, you can be as artistic or straight lined with this. This is the part where you add your personality to the drawing. You can even do another layer of color using AD markers. Once you’re done with that scan your trace paper and load it back into your Photoshop file. Layer them in just as you did with your SketchUp exports.

SketchUp models. Image credit: Kevin Pfeiffer

SketchUp models. Image credit: Kevin Pfeiffer

Now my layer structure has the new hand drawn layers turned on. Again turning all to the multiply layer type to take out all the white. I also masked the layers so I didn’t have tree lines going through my people and such. At this point – about 30 minutes in for me, you could have a complete sketch of just line work and shadows ready to print. But what about adding a color splash and some details?

SketchUp models. Image credit: Kevin Pfeiffer

SketchUp models. Image credit: Kevin Pfeiffer

As seen in my file structure I first off used the base texture colors from SketchUp and turned the opacity down to almost 10%. Masked in a grass texture, and turned the opacity down. As well, I painted in some tree colors with a splatter brush. I also added people’s shadow and color. You’ll also see I used the gradient tool and added a very faint blue sky, with some birds in the background. I also added a paper texture I found online and set its layer type to multiply to give a tooth to the whole drawing.

Above you can compare the before and after. In the studio you have probably seen the above drawing often – a rendering that was taken directly out of SketchUp. But, with about 30 minutes of extra work you can take your SketchUp render from a basic computer model to a personal hand graphic. There is so much room for creativity with this method and can be varied a myriad of ways. So go out and start drawing all over your SketchUp models and breathe some new life into them.

How do you breath new life into your SketchUp drawings? Tell us in the comments!

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SketchUp models. Image credit: Kevin Pfeiffer

SketchUp models. Image credit: Kevin Pfeiffer

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Kevin Pfeiffer, writer

Kevin J. Pfeiffer is eager to discover more and tackle the subject of landscape architecture from unique and varied perspectives, making for creative and intriguing observations.
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