Posted by on Oct 29, 2015 in Fresh Trends, SketchUp, Tutorials

How to Create Your Own Library of Awesome Sketchup Components

Our resident SketchUp expert Kevin J. Pfeiffer teaches us how to create your own library of awesome Sketchup components in just 4 easy steps.

One of the most attractive aspects of using SketchUp is the community or creators filling up the 3D Warehouse. On their homepage alone, you can sift through an ocean of models and components made by users just like you. But, there is a catch to all of this. There are just too many models sometimes, and for every good component you find online, there are 100 poor ones. And on top of that, because it is a user backed library of components made mostly by laymen, there can be a lack of useful models.

Case in point – I searched for “Harry Potter” and got 648 results, including highly detailed models of the entire Hogwarts. Then, when I searched for “oak tree”, I got only 424 results and the first one was simply a grey rectangle. Now, there are online libraries where you can buy beautiful vegetation components and other landscape architecture related materials, but most people want it easy and free. So I’m going to present you with a few tips on how to create your own library of components that will give your models a new level of richness.

Using the search. Image credits: Kevin J. Pfeiffer

Using the search. Image credits: Kevin J. Pfeiffer

1.Organization

As the name suggests, the game here is making folders where you save everything. If you’re already actively rendering on the computer, you should have texture folders set up. Having a texture folder for reference will save an exponential amount of your time. If you need a car component, it’s much easier to go to your folder titled

Keeping it organised is essential. Image credit: Kevin J. Pfeiffer

Keeping it organised is essential. Image credit: Kevin J. Pfeiffer

“Transportation” and select from the pre-selected approved components than going through thousands of car components on the 3D Warehouse.

Make sure to try to label everything and know where everything is. Over time you will find that you have collected a layered and diverse selection of models that you can easily drag and drop into your SketchUp files.

2. Users

As mentioned earlier, SketchUp is amazing because of its community-based resources. There exist so many amazing users who are willing to help you at the drop of a hat. These include model makers, extension writers, and more. They are the ones who know the ins and outs of this program and are mostly willing to share that knowledge. I use this community aspect to help populate my components library.

Find a model in the 3D Warehouse that you think is well made; it is likely that a user who has made something great, has also made other excellent models and has them hosted on his/her profile. Following to their page, you can see everything else they’ve constructed as well as their collections, liked models, and liked collections.

Find a Model. Image credits: Kevin J. Pfeiffer

Find a Model. Image credits: Kevin J. Pfeiffer

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This has led me into a web of users, all with spectacular work which I can use to add to my library that would have been impossible to find simply by sifting through the search function. Also, there is a growing popularity for companies to host SKP files of their products on a 3D Warehouse page (such as DuMor) which is fantastic when you are looking for high-quality benches and other site materials for your model.

3. Vegetation

As landscape architects, the main components we are on the hunt for in our models are trees. But there is a conflict with vegetation in SketchUp. 3D vegetation will bog down our models and cause our computers to practically crash and 2D vegetation is flat and aesthetically not appealing. Luckily, SketchUp offers a great alternative, 2.5D trees. These are essentially 2D trees with 8 sides, tricking the eye to be 3D. There are a lot of 2.5D models in 3D Warehouse, but, below, I’m going to show you how to make your own.

Image credit: Kevin J. Pfeiffer

Image credit: Kevin J. Pfeiffer

First drag and drop your TIF or PNG file of a tree into SketchUp. You can find tons of these trees by Googling “cut out tree” or “tree PNG”. The trick, here, is that your file has no background.

Next explode (right click on the tree and press explode) the tree. You’ll notice the image has a black border around it now – a lot of 2D tree models in the warehouse have this, but it’s easy to get rid of it. Turn on your eraser (hotkey E) and hold down the Shift key. This turns your eraser tool into a “hider”, where it simply hides the lines you select.

Now you’ll notice the shadow of the tree is still a dull rectangle. In order to get a correct tree silhouette, turn on your freehand drawing tool (below the pencil) – select your tree and trace around it. Delete the areas you don’t want and hide the lines again. You’ll now have a correct looking shadow.

From here, make a copy of your tree, rotate it (hotkey Q) 90 degree on its base and then move the stump to the middle of the original tree. Now you have a perfect handmade 2.5D tree in just flat one minute. Using the great extensions, cfl scale and rotate multiple, I copied the tree multiple times and made a forest. In just five minutes, I went from having a cutout tree to having a full 3D forest.

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Image credit: Kevin J. Pfeiffer

Image credit: Kevin J. Pfeiffer

Using this method, you can make your own library of 2.5D vegetation that can be site-specific and tailored to yourself. In the past, I have even taken photos of trees on a project site and made a component in SketchUp out of the photo.

4. How to Implement?

So, you’ve put together your component folder and are ready to use it in SketchUp. What is the easiest way to access it without constantly bringing it up in a file browser? It’s simple – go to Window>Components in SketchUp. From there click the arrow on the right of the pane, select “Open or create a local collection”, then find the library you’ve put together. And boom, it’s totally at your fingertips to drop in at ease. This way you can navigate the folders you put together for “people”, “cars”, and “vegetation” separately, but all within SketchUp.

Sketchup Components

Image credit: Kevin J. Pfeiffer

Putting together a component library is not hard at all. You just need to be consistent and tenacious in the quality of components you decide to include in your models. Spending the time to keep an organized folder structure, seeking out the power users on SketchUp’s 3D Warehouse, and even making your own components will lead you to have a polished library, everyone in the studio will be jealous of.

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Article by Kevin J. 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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