SketchUp: all you need to know before getting started

Published on February 6, 2020 by Carlota V.

In the 3D printing industry, there are many 3D modeling options to design the piece you would like to get 3D printed. Some software solutions are very popular for additive manufacturing, even though they are not entirely dedicated to this purpose. This is the case of SketchUp, a modeling, animation and mapping solution that has become known mainly in the architectural sector for its ease of use. SketchUp Free version was selected in our 3D software for beginners listing. What are the features of SketchUp? We tell you more about the different plans and pricing options below!

The first version of SketchUp was developed in 2000, initially published by Last Software. It was then bought by Google in 2006: the American giant sold the software in 2012 to the Californian company Trimble. There are now 3 versions: Pro for all professionals; Shop for makers and designers; Free which, as its name indicates, is the free version of the solution, available directly from a web browser. In all three cases, SketchUp is based on surface modeling where surfaces and edges are manipulated to obtain the desired result. The last update was released in January 2020 and includes some improvements, based on user feedback.

SketchUp Free, the most basic version of the software

SketchUp Free (formerly SketchUp Make) is a completely free and cloud-based solution – all you need is a working internet connection. It allows all users to easily 3D model their piece using a variety of tools. You will be able to draw lines, arcs, shapes and all kinds of objects directly on the cloud. Painting, measuring and displacement tools are also offered, allowing you to imagine any element. Additionally, and very importantly for 3D printing, the model you create can be exported as an .STL file. After slicing your model, you can send it to the 3D printer.

SketchUp Free also provides a library of free models for those who need a helping hand, called 3D Warehouse. The free version offers 10GB of storage in the cloud via Trimble Connect for easy project sharing. This solution is designed for personal use only. Note that you will not be able to add any extensions to this version, limiting your creative possibilities.


Image via SketchUp

SketchUp Shop, a version for creators

This option offers advanced features compared to the free version and has been developed for professionals looking for affordable 3D modeling solutions. It is an intermediary solution between the Free and Pro version. It is intended for makers, creators, and designers as it allows to realize construction projects and to visualize the model before manufacturing. In fact, SketchUp Shop unlocks all the limitations of the free version: possibility to customize materials and styles, to visualize the hierarchy of your components, etc. Storage space is unlimited. However, you cannot add extensions to the software on this version.

Note that SketchUp Shop is adapted to 3D printing, allowing the export of projects in STL and OBJ formats. It also accepts DWG/DXF files in order to work with CAD software. Finally, on the price side, count $199 per year.


Image via SketchUp

SketchUp Pro, the most complete version of the software

As you can see, SketchUp Pro is the most advanced solution of the software, to be used on a computer – you have the option to connect to the web version too. It consists of three different programs: Pro, LayOut and Builder. SketchUp Pro has more advanced features, designed for all professionals who need a complete modeling solution. Compared to the two other versions presented, this one enables you to create dynamic components, animations, use a 2D version on LayOut or to make your own sketches. SketchUp Pro also offers an STL export format.

Version 2020 brings new features in terms of data structures and modeling behaviors, with tools such as Outliner and the ability to hide objects while you work. The license for one computer costs $695 – please note that you can get a free 30-day trial period. From 2019, you can take out an annual subscription for €220.


Image via SketchUp

What version of SketchUp do you use? Let us know in a comment below or on our Facebook and Twitter pages! Sign up for our free weekly Newsletter, all the latest news in 3D printing straight to your inbox! You can also find more information on software for 3D printing HERE.

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