Jul 1

Create 3D Graphics – Easily and FREE!

Category: Graphic Tips

Ever wanted to create 3-D graphics, but was always held back by the high cost of software? If you actually had several hundred to invest in one software package, imagine what you could do! Design a building that a mission will take place at, make your own starships, weapons, etc…

Before you rush out to purchase a full powered, and highly priced 3D modeling application, consider a FREE alternative. I discovered Google Sketchup about three months ago and here is a sampling of what I have managed to make:

Pilot

TIE Fighter

Transport

Google SketchUp is a fast, flexible, and fun 3D modeling application that allows you to quickly mock up designs of objects, buildings, or anything else you dream up. Being Google, you can expect the interface to be very user-friendly. Google even broadens the power and novelty of this program by enabling you to share your creations with the public online; just upload your designs to Google’s 3D Warehouse Web site or drop them into Google Earth. In turn, you can view models made by other SketchUp users all over the workd and save them to integrate into your own designs.

You can download this mere 19.11MB app for free (here) to a PC running Windows 2000 or up with at least 128MB of RAM (512MB is recommended). Installation took me just a few minutes on a Windows Vista computer.

Most 3D software is complex and confusing for newbies, but immediately after loading the free Google SketchUp, I swiftly mastered the basics by finishing its three short tutorials. There’s not a drop of difficult CAD terminology, and you can leave open a neat, context-sensitive, animated Instructor panel for additional help if you need it.

Google SketchUp’s no-frills interface consists of a large, central canvas flanked by a single toolbar containing most of the icons needed to build models, with the rest of the features available from the Main Menu atop the screen. This compact setup leaves maximal space for drawing; however, if you wish, you can display up to 12 floating task-specific toolbars, such as those for Drawing, Construction, and Camera.

SketchUp is intuitive; just drag around the mouse to draw rectangles, arcs, segments, or circles, then select the Push/Pull tool to extend shapes into the third dimension. The tools do most of the heavy lifting for you. For example, as you draw freehand, with straight lines, or with the pencil tool, SketchUp guesses where you want endpoints to meet and snaps them shut for you. SketchUp even highlights the edges and the centers of shapes when the cursor passes over them, making it painless to draw with accuracy. Similarly, guidelines appear when you cross the cursor over another line, so you can visualize how your object relates to the rest of the scene. Unfortunately, you can’t easily push or pull curved surfaces to produce rounded objects, such as a TIE cockpit.

SketchUp helps you color in your models instantly via a Paint Bucket tool or by choosing from the more than 100 swatches, including vegetation, glass (yes, transparent), and metal, in the Materials palette. Once you draw, say, a small three-flat building, you could detail its red bricks, ivy-laced walls, and gravel driveway in a matter of minutes.

Want your design’s blue-sky setting to evoke high noon on Tatooine? The Shadow Settings palette is especially cool: just use the sliders to set the time of day and the month to add the properly angled shadowing effect to an object. Other neat features include the ability to display a transparent version of your model, inspect hidden geometry, walk around or orbit the scene, and rotate objects in all directions.

Once you’ve finished your model, you can upload and share it with other users, thanks to the unlimited, free storage space at Google’s 3D Warehouse Web site–where you can also grab other people’s models (I dropped the Taj Mahal into the center of the Pentagon ­čśŤ ).

Google SketchUp’s support Web site offers a searchable knowledge base, FAQs, and a contact link to reach technical service via form e-mail. A user group and detailed video tutorials provide extra assistance should you still need help.

The simplicity of the free Google SketchUp makes three-dimensional drawing possible even for those who lack knowledge of design or perspective.

I hope to see some of our creative minds here at the Vast Empire share their creatins with the rest of us, maybe even use some of their designs as Competition Entries.

Just to get you started, here are some Star Wars Source Files you might like to use (designed by myself):

(click for zip file)

~Doc

1 comment

1 Comment so far

  1. Model Ryan August 27th, 2007 11:47 am

    Model Ryan…

    I Googled for something completely different, but found your page…and have to say thanks. nice read….

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