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Old 04-08-2015, 01:02 AM   #1
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Tips for virtual modeling in SketchUp software

Skoolie converters are generally people who like to make things. A lot of us have experience with some kind of manufacturing trade—woodworking, metal fabricating, welding, etc—or just happen to be handy with tools. A smaller subset is people who have experience with virtual modeling or CAD software.

In an effort to assist those of us with limited exposure to this powerful, yet intimidating tool, this thread will discuss tips for using Trimble's (formerly Google's) SketchUp software.

The single best reason to use SketchUp is price: It's free. There is a Pro version that sells for close to $600, but unless you're a professional architect, the basic version (called SketchUp Make) is all you'll ever need. For skoolies, it's perfect.

While SketchUp is relatively simple for CAD software, it does have a learning curve. And so we come to the first tip: Play with the software before you attempt to model your bus. I suggest watching any of the dozens of tutorial videos produced by Trimble on YouTube and, in another window, work with the software, trying the techniques discussed in the videos. There are lots of tricks that will help immensely when it comes to building your own model. Maybe try modeling something you have around the house; something with curves and varied surfaces. Try to get the measurements as close to the real thing as you can.

A three-button mouse, while not a requirement, does make using the software easier. (I don't use one and I've been able to work around it. There are keyboard shortcuts for the tools you'll use regularly and knowing them helps if your mouse has only one or two buttons.)

Second tip: Measure your physical bus as accurately as possible. This will make it so much easier to get good results and prevent having to redo lots of modeling. You'd be surprised how an error as small as an inch will cause problems with placing components in your virtual model. It could be the difference between making beds fit or scrapping plans and starting over. I suggest measuring the inside dimensions so you get an idea of how much room you'll have after you've finished the wall insulation and structure. If you measure the outside, be absolutely sure you subtract the thickness of the walls before you start to add virtual components to your model. (If you're designing a bus build before you find your "perfect bus," accurate measurements are, obviously, unnecessary, but accurate practice is good training for when you get started later.)

Third tip: Take advantage of the 3D Warehouse, an extensive collection of ready-made modeling components that you can download directly into your model. You'll find everything from windows to stoves to refrigerators to chairs. A lot of real-world manufacturers have gone to great length to create models of their products and make them available in the 3D Warehouse. Want to know if that KitchenAid fridge will fit between the IKEA base cabinets? There's probably an accurate virtual model available for both of them. If it hasn't been professionally created, there's a good chance a regular user of the software needed a copy for himself, so he built it and then shared it to the Warehouse for anyone else to use.

I'll try to think of more tips, but I encourage anyone with SketchUp experience to share any helpful tips and tricks they've learned. Also, please share any renders that you're especially proud of. Here's a few of mine (still haven't finished all the details), to show what can be accomplished:

Exterior, with outer skin and roof deck:


Skin and roof deck hidden, showing interior walls and subfloor structure, including chassis frame rails (and I just noticed something I need to fix, LOL):


Interior, driver's side shown using a section plane to cut straight through the entire vehicle and hide everything to one side of the plane:


Elevation view using another section plane to cut through and expose surfaces for a clearer image:


Interior, standing on top of the water tanks and looking to the rear of the bus:
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Old 04-08-2015, 09:14 AM   #2
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Great share PD! All these pics are created with all free software... this is right in my pricerange. I can't wait to play around with it! Thanks!
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Old 04-08-2015, 12:27 PM   #3
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Here's an early plan I did



This is a view of the above plan, using the walk through feature.



Here is a plan which is pretty close to what I am actually ending up with. I haven't messed with it for a while.



This is what the shower looks like



If you want to see more go here and scroll forward.
2012-01-09_195011.jpg Photo by somewhereinusa | Photobucket

If anyone is interested I can possibly share the file and you can take it apart to see how things are done. The files are pretty big and I'm not sure I can send them.

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Old 04-08-2015, 02:07 PM   #4
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This is too cool. I don't have the minimum system requirements to install it yet, but someday...

Just a head's-up from one of my own mistakes. I notice the TV in the corner between the two L shaped bed stands. Make sure your TV is viewable at such steep angles.

Mine suffers tremendously at any angle other than straight-on and at eye-level. It's an older flat screen, and I only bought it to use a computer monitor. The granddarlings watch movies on it and need to get in a tight circle so they can all see the pic. "He's touching me!!" lol
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Old 04-08-2015, 11:05 PM   #5
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Quote:
Originally Posted by SassyLass View Post
The granddarlings watch movies on it and need to get in a tight circle so they can all see the pic. "He's touching me!!" lol
LOL.

One of my favorite features is Layers. You can assign different parts to separate layers and turn those layers on or off to see details that may otherwise be obscured. It's also cool to see how your bus is put together, even if you've never seen it "naked."

Chassis porn:


Tip: Don't assign small parts of a component to anything other than the default Layer 0; it can lead to troublesome interactions when you want to turn off a layer, but the app says you can't do that because some part of the active component is on that layer. It's best to just create everything in the default layer and assign new layers later in the build.

If you do find layer assignments are getting out of hand, start deleting layers one by one. SketchUp will ask what you want to do with the items in each layer and you can choose to delete them, send them to the active layer, or send them to the default layer. Once every layer is deleted and all components are on Layer 0, you can start assigning stuff to new layers.

Since each layer has a customizable color, you also have the ability to view your models colors by layer. This makes it easy to see what's on what layer at a glance:
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Old 04-08-2015, 11:06 PM   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by somewhereinusa View Post
This is what the shower looks like

I love the dimensions tool. Makes it really easy to see approximately how much material you'll need to construct a cabinet or shelves.
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Old 04-09-2015, 10:02 PM   #7
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When you have a lot of time on your hands, you tend to spend it in ways that, while not necessarily unproductive, still defy reasonable explanation.

I spent all day building this Dayton wheel for my bus. There is a set of Dayton wheels in the 3D Warehouse, but this is much more accurate and detailed. My head is tired.



Luckily, I can re-use most of this for the dual rear wheel setup.

When I'm done, I'm going to upload the front and rear wheels to the Warehouse so anyone can use them for a project.
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Old 04-09-2015, 11:09 PM   #8
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Holy cow, beautiful work! And thanks for posting all these tips. I've been playing a lot with SketchUp myself and I've been super-frustrated. It has some weird ideas about when faces should spring into existence, and how to move objects around. I have a lot of trouble just getting objects laid out the way I want them (especially the way it auto-cuts things that intersect). Your tips help a lot.
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Old 04-10-2015, 02:28 AM   #9
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Join Date: Sep 2010
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Quote:
Originally Posted by taskswap View Post
Holy cow, beautiful work! And thanks for posting all these tips. I've been playing a lot with SketchUp myself and I've been super-frustrated. It has some weird ideas about when faces should spring into existence, and how to move objects around. I have a lot of trouble just getting objects laid out the way I want them (especially the way it auto-cuts things that intersect). Your tips help a lot.
You're welcome. I agree sometimes SketchUp can be frustrating, but please do watch the YouTube videos that explain how to use the tools. The Follow Me tool is probably the most powerful, yet hardest to master. If your path takes a weird turn, the new structure created by this tool can be ... well, let's call it interesting. I used it a lot to router nearly every hard edge in this model and all the hard work paid off—it looks nice and smooth, even at extreme zoom levels.


On the dual rear wheels, I even modeled the corrugated spacer between the wheel rims.


These are the photos I used for reference, along with a few careful measurements:


For things like spokes, I worked on just one spoke at a time, then copied and rotated that one component around the center of the wheel. Sometimes it's not easy to find the exact center of a model after there are a lot of parts, so I always start a circular model with a box with a corner at the origin. That way, I can always find the exact center at any height, provided the box is at least as tall as my model's highest point.

Another trick is to work on only half of any symmetrical object, making that half into a component as early as possible. You can then copy the component and scale it through to the other half of whatever you're working on. What you're doing is inverting the component so it mirrors the half you're working on. Copies of components will always reflect changes made to any other copy of the same component, so when you make a change to the left half, the right half will show the same change. Watch a video on the Scale tool to see what I'm talking about.

Speaking of components, I suggest making anything you're working into a component as early as possible. (I think I said that last night. It's late again.) Then just open the component and work away, without worrying that you'll accidentally create or cut out anything else. Every cabinet in my bus model is a separate component instead of just faces pulled out of the wall.

EDIT: I just uploaded these wheels to the 3D Warehouse, so you can download them and add them to your own model, or just to see how they're made. Search for "Dayton truck wheel" and it should come up along with the other, less-detailed wheels that someone else made.
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Old 04-10-2015, 09:38 AM   #10
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I have a lot of trouble making components inside things, like modeling cabinets inside the chassis. It seems to be a huge amount of work to get all the right things selected when making the actual component because things are already cut. The only trick I've found is to do something like copy the chassis to a new location, cut out everything I don't want (so I just have the side wall profile, for example), model the cabinet THERE, then I can more easily select everything and make the component. Any tricks for that, or is that the best way?
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