SketchUp is one of the simplest and most effective 3D modeling software tools on the planet, and SketchUp plugins are designed to let you do more exciting things even faster and easier. They’re used for everything from making an instant roof to adding beautiful, realistic trees to your design, and there’s a vast collection to tap into. Here are some of the most popular SketchUp plugins, free download treats, and paid-for tools designed to help you create ‘extraordinary’.
What are Sketchup Plugins?
SketchUp is one of the world’s most popular 3D modeling tools, with its user-friendly interface and intuitive processes, its free and pro versions. Once you’ve mastered the basics, you might want to start exploring ways to boost your SketchUp skills. And that’s where plugins and SketchUp extensions come in, created by users to make life even simpler. They enhance the software’s already excellent default tools to deliver faster, better results and save you plenty of valuable time, especially on those basic repetitive tasks you find yourself doing again and again. All you do is enter the data for a SketchUp plugin to do its magic.
So what is the difference between SketchUp plugins and extensions? Extensions are registered plugins, containing extra code to let you to turn them on and off under ‘Preferences’ inside the Extensions menu. A plugin doesn’t need to be approved to become an extension, it just needs to comply with internal requirements.
You’ll find a treasure trove of brilliant SketchUp plugins at the SketchUp Extension Warehouse. In the meantime, let’s take a look at 15 of the best SketchUp extensions.
How to Use Sketchup Extensions
The Extension Warehouse and SketchUp work together seamlessly. Most of the time, all you do to add an extension to your local version of SketchUp is click the install button on the extension details page. There are a couple of things to remember. One, you need to access the Extension Warehouse from SketchUp rather than via your browser, and two the extension needs to be free. Many extensions in the Warehouse are free but some developers charge for their work. Look out for an ‘Install Trial’ button or a button to press to purchase. Either way it’s as easy as pie. Once you’ve installed your extension or plugin, you can use it directly from SketchUp.
Sketchup Plugins for Architects
Here are some of the best SketchUp plugins for architects, just a small selection from a huge collection of exciting, life-changing tools to take your work to the next level.
The Curviloft extension is dedicated to lofts and skinning, quickly generating surfaces from contours. The Loft by Spline element joins separate contours, either open or closed, using smooth splines. The Loft along Path tool joins contours together along a given rail curve. And Skinning creates superb surfaces with boundaries made up of 3 or 4 contours next to each other. Because there are so many complex solutions needed to calculate Loft and Skinning geometries, Curviloft SketchUp gives you the choices you need to adjust the parameters according to the configuration of your contours, generating a total of nine essential modeling options from a basic set of curved lines.
The 1001Bit Tools extension helps you to create amazing 3D staircases, escalators, walls, doors and windows, even self-generated roof rafters. All you do is use a few mouse clicks to deliver them in perfect 3D. This makes analysing the shadows from a building, the exposure to the sky, and how long a point remains in shadow really easy and quick. Each tool simply involves putting your parameters and dimensions into custom designed dialogues for excellent dimensional flexibility, supported by a .txt database for calling up proprietary and standard model profiles and settings.
The Artisan extension is packed with powerful architect modeling tools designed to let you create all sorts of accurate images in 3D, including the terrain itself, furniture, people, sculptures, fabric, rocks and plants.
3D Tree Maker
The 3D Tree Maker speaks for itself, allowing you to add extremely convincing greenery to your work. You’ll find it simple to make 3D trees and include them in your model, and there are lots of predefined trees and plants to choose from. You can create grass and flower beds, using fully customisable parameters to make changes via the configuration window. You use skeleton proxies – also called ghosts – to reduce the tree size while you’re working on other aspects of the design, then switch to high poly 3D for your final render. It’s easy to generate random new trees and save your parameters as handy new tree templates.
Instant Roof does exactly what it says, creating beautiful roofs in an instant. Whatever you want to add, it happens in a few clicks, whether it’s full framing, beam ends, corbels, Greek returns, various rafter styles, all sorts of different shingles, tiles, take-offs and more, potentially saving you a great deal of time. The results are extraordinarily good.
[h2] Sketchup Plugins for Modelling
At its heart Sketchup Pro is all about top class 3D modelling. There are countless really good plugins or extensions that enhance Sketchup 3D’s already remarkable modeling capabilities. Let’s take a look at some of the most popular and widely used 3D modeling plugins.
The Joint Push/Pull plugin gives you a wealth of exciting options for extruding surfaces, one of the most popular being extruding multiple surfaces in parallel. It’s a simple matter to make complex shapes fast, and the extension also contains push-pull tools like Round Push/Pull, Vector Push/Pull, and more.
What can be achieved with the Fredoscale extension? FredoScale is actually a set of tools used to deform geometry in a variety of ways. You benefit from better scaling, tapering and stretching. You can also twist and bend like a pro, shear, stretch, and radially bend objects with ease and confidence.
So much can be achieved with the Shape Bender SketchUp extension. In a nutshell, it takes any 3D object from your model and bends or stretches it along a path you’ve pre-drawn then selected. It’s unbelievably powerful, letting you create and bend linear objects into beautiful, curving shapes in just a few clicks.
Laubwerk SketchUp offers another wonderfully intuitive method for creating 3D landscapes, gardens and exteriors, a great way to make unusually realistic plants. You can easily adjust the shape, age, season and level of detail of each plant. There’s a choice of kits containing 10 different plants, each with 36 different variations for endless variety. The images are of superb quality thanks to the high-poly leaf photographs used to create the tool.
The Clothworks SketchUp extension does what you’d expect from the name – it lets you make outstanding cloth simulations to drape across objects in your design, including table cloths and curtains, bedding and flags, all uncannily lifelike. The tool realistically simulates the way cloth works and interacts with 3D objects.
Free Sketchup Plugins
Many of the plugins available for SketchUp are free or have free versions for you to play with, including Shape Bender. Next, we’re going to highlight a handful of the best free SketchUp plugins.
Round Corner Tool
The Round Corner Tool extension carries out a task that has, in the past, been surprisingly challenging. It performs the rounding of the edges and corners of 3D shapes for you, along a 2D profile, in 3 modes, either round corners, sharp corners or bevelled corners. Your corners can have 3 or more edges. It can also create concave corners, which are always rendered as round.
Front Face Tool
The Front Face Tool extension accurately reverses faces so they’re orientated without affecting your forward facing faces, designed to save you a lot of valuable time. Imagine a face is facing backwards. Usually, you’d need to select it, right click, and pick ‘reverse faces’. This can take ages when your object is complicated, involving multiple polygons, but this tool makes easy work of it.
The Solid Inspector extension tool lets you inspect modelled or imported objects for errors, the kind of mistakes that end up lagging, crashing or corrupting your SketchUp file. It cleverly mends what can be mended then tells you what you need to do to fix the rest.
The Mirror extension replaces all the copying, rotating, shifting, and flipping you’d otherwise need to do when creating a mirror. Thanks to this tool you can make perfect mirrors in no time, every time.
The exceptional Keyshot rendering extension lets you make photorealistic images of 3D models. All you do is import your data into KeyShot, assign the materials, change the lighting and move the camera to render. This is widely recognised as the world’s best rendering software and comes complete with real-time ray-tracing, drag and drop materials, procedurals, textures, interactive labelling, HDRI lighting and physical lighting, a wealth of colours, part and camera animation, focused caustics, an HDR editor, import 40+ 3D formats and its own 3D modeling plugins.
SketchUp Plugins and Extensions
This article has covered just a few of the zillions of fantastic SketchUp plugins and extensions available to users, a bank of remarkable tools to help you create excellence every step of the way. Why not take a look at SketchUp’s wide choice of resources and tutorials? You can explore the magic of SketchUp Pro here.