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The Value of "Clean Modeling"

David Heim is a veteran book and magazine editor specializing in woodworking. After a 28-year career at Consumer Reports, he moved to Fine Woodworking magazine. David has been writing about and teaching SketchUp for over four years, and says he never begins any project until he has previewed it in SketchUp first. This is one of several upcoming SketchUpdate guest posts from David on modeling principles for woodworkers.

I first heard the phrase clean modeling from Dave Richards at 3D Basecamp 2014. As Dave explained it to me later, clean modeling is a simple concept that basically means, “learn to sweat the small stuff.” If the model isn’t “clean,” small flaws could interfere with the changes you or someone else may want to make in the future. Let’s take a closer look at clean modeling principles via a Shaker trestle table I did a few years back. It looks pretty good, right? Actually, it’s a good example of why clean modeling is important.

Although this model of a Shaker table looks pretty good, it actually contains a number of flaws; finding and fixing them is what clean modeling is all about.

Missing Faces. I thought enough of the trestle table model to share it on the SketchUcation woodworking forum. Someone quickly cut me down to size, pointing out that my turned legs were missing faces. It’s a good thing no one looked closer. In fact, there were several problems with the model. Let’s begin with the missing faces. It happened because I was working with small geometry at a 1:1 scale. I could have saved face, so to speak, if I had scaled up the leg profile before extruding it.

The blue areas (left side) show where faces were not created properly. The right side shows the successful result of the scaled up Follow Me technique.

You can heal these faces by tracing over some of the edges with the Line tool, but it’s better to scale up certain components before using Follow Me or running Intersect Faces. Dave Richards typically copies a component to be extruded or intersected, scales it up 100x or even 1000x, and then edits the copy. After that, he deletes the copy; the original will show the edits properly. Generally, I’ve found this scaling method ensures a model won’t wind up with small missing faces.

A closer look. Inspecting the bottom of the arched feet reveals more small problems. If I run ThomThom's Solid Inspector extension, it shows me a stray line at one corner. It’s only about 1/64” long, but it shouldn’t be there. The same goes for a sliver of a stray face on the opposite corner. Extraneous lines and faces like these can pop up sometimes when performing certain tasks — like Intersect Faces mentioned above. These little lines are hard to see, of course. I could say, “So what? No one will ever see them.” Maybe, but I need to get rid of them if I want a clean model.
Ed. Note: ThomThom recently released Solid Inspector². Also, try “StrayLines.rb” from

The Solid Inspector extension reveals a minuscule stray line at the base of the foot. This extension is a useful tool for identifying extraneous geometry that could be erased.

Orient faces. Obviously, visible faces must be oriented properly. But the same goes for faces that aren’t meant to be seen: the sides of holes, recesses, mortises, and the like. As you create those elements, take the time to be sure the correct face is showing. If a surface is facing the wrong way, you can right-click on it and choose Reverse Faces.

Soften/Smooth curved faces. Often, when you Push/Pull a shape that results in a curved face, you’ll also create edges separating the facets of the curve. You can hide those edges, but the face will still look faceted. It’s better to eliminate the edges with the Soften/Smooth Edges technique.

Hiding the edges on a curved face leaves the surface looking faceted (middle object). For a truly smooth face, use Soften/Smooth Edges.

Set component axes. If a component doesn't perfectly align to the axes, be sure to set the axes when you create the component. This is especially important if you’re planning to use the CutList extension. It relies on the size of the bounding box to reckon the size of the component. An oversized bounding box will lead to inaccuracies in the cutlist.

Clean-up. Finally, reduce the file size: purge unused components, use multiple copies of components instead of numerous groups, and compress textures. ThomThom's CleanUp³ extension helps expedite this process. If my advice strikes you as too obvious, that probably means your models are pretty clean already.

Guest authored by David Heim

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Goodbye Aidan. Hello Bitsbox.

Ten years. That's how long I was a member of the SketchUp team. I spent that time starting this blog, teaching classes, writing the For Dummies book, hosting 3D Basecamps, and a thousand other things. But the thing I'm most proud of is helping to establish the SketchUp for Education program: working with kids, parents and teachers to make 3D modeling a part of their lives.

SketchUp 4 Launch.jpg
The @Last Software team on July 6th, 2004, the day we launched SketchUp 4

When Scott Lininger (the co-inventor of Dynamic Components and lots more) approached me about leaving SketchUp with him to start a company that teaches little kids to code, I knew I'd found my (next) calling. I've been trying to learn how to program for years—what if I'd had the chance to learn when I was six? As a creative person, there's no single skill I've spent more time wishing I had. I don't want to be programmer; I want to be a person who can code. I want my kid to be a person who can code. What parent doesn't?

So I talked it over with my wife Sandra (you know her as the LayOut Product Manager), and we decided I should go for it. It wasn't an easy decision: The SketchUp team is my extended family, and this community has been the kindest, most generous and humble mob of people I've ever had the pleasure to know. And I love SketchUp. I LOVE it. (I still dream in SketchUp sometimes.) It's part of my DNA.

About 10% of the SketchUp shirts I've collected over the years.

Scott and I left the team to work together full-time in June. In the time since then, we've created Bitsbox: A free website where kids can build apps that work on real devices (like phones and iPads), and a box full of app projects that gets delivered to our subscribers' kids every month. The video we made for our Kickstarter campaign explains it:

Other good news: Last week was Computer Science Education Week, and over 200,000 kids built apps with Bitsbox online. You can, too. We were featured in very nice articles in TechCrunch and GeekDad, and we were the Kickstarter Project of the Day on the 11th. And we're just getting started.

Aidan and Scott at Bitsbox World Headquarters in Boulder

If you'd like to support a couple of ex-SketchUppers in our effort to make coding less scary, or you'd like to pre-order Bitsbox for some kids you know, please do. At the end of the campaign, when we ask you if you know any Super-Secret Codewords, put in "SketchUp" and we'll include something special in your first box. Maybe a hair from John Bacus's magical beard. Maybe something even better.

THANK YOU for ten amazing years. It was a pleasure. Maybe we'll see each other at the next 3D Basecamp. Reach out if you like: I'm Onwards!

Posted by Aidan Chopra, SketchUp Evangelist (Emeritus)

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Introducing Paid Extensions in Extension Warehouse

Today, we're pleased to announce that Extension Warehouse has just crossed into the realm of fully functional app store. This means that in addition to the hundreds of fantastic SketchUp extensions that are freely available, you can now purchase and install paid extensions directly through Extension Warehouse, in just a few clicks.

Now, Extension Warehouse lets you purchase and install paid extensions from SketchUp developers.

We hope that enabling the sale of paid extensions will be a game changer for SketchUp users and developers alike. Users get direct access to awesome paid extensions that streamline modeling workflows. Developers get an awesome E-commerce platform with access to millions of customers who are looking for great modeling utilities and add-on tools. Win-win? We think so.

It’s worth noting that credit card transactions are processed securely by the same store platform we use to sell SketchUp licenses. And we’re using the same licensing platform that SketchUp uses. Each extension is still carefully moderated by the SketchUp Extensibility team to ensure quality and security. So, the purchase process for extensions is as smooth and safe as buying SketchUp Pro.

Initially, you’ll find the following paid extensions now available through Extension Warehouse:

We're adding new free and paid extensions every week; keep tabs on the newest extensions by following SketchUp on Twitter, Facebook, or Google+, or by browsing Extension Warehouse for new products from your favorite developers.

If you are a developer, our new E-commerce platform means that instead of spending a major portion of your time implementing your own licensing system, maintaining your own store front or worrying about how you’ll process your transactions, you can focus on developing great tools for SketchUp. For more information on distributing extensions check out our developer center.

Posted by Bryce Stout, Product Manager

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What are Fast Styles?

Let’s say you’re presenting an idea in SketchUp, but perhaps you’d prefer a loose conceptual look or a hand-drawn visualization — you’d rather not show what you’ve created in a way that makes it feel finished or final. Styles in SketchUp control the display settings which alter the way your model appears.

You can choose from a collection of predefined Styles, mix attributes of various Styles to make your own unique Style, and assign Styles to Scenes for handy access. The thing is, some Styles render faster than others. Because of this, you may want to use certain Styles (or Style settings) in certain situations during modeling and presentation work.

The Style shown above is called “PSO Vignette”; you can find it in the “Assorted Styles” category of the Styles Browser. This Style looks great, but it’s meant for illustration — not navigation. (Mountain Lake Retreat model by MB Architecture via 3D Warehouse)

This led us to the idea for Fast Styles: a combination of Style settings that won’t slow you down while modeling. In SketchUp 2015, you’ll notice a small green stopwatch icon in the bottom right corner of a Style thumbnail that meets the criteria of an official “Fast Style.” SketchUp now auto-detects Styles that use less processing power — this earns them the new badge.

These Styles are Fast Styles; note the new green badge.

To create your own Fast Style, you’ll need to get your hands dirty in the Styles Browser. When creating a Fast Style, you should avoid Style choices that will cause performance decline as your model complexity increases — settings like Sketchy Edges, Profiles, and Watermarks. Check out our Knowledge Center to learn more about these settings and Fast Styles, and remember to save the changes to your newly configured Styles!

However, a Fast Style doesn’t mean a boring Style. We whipped up a few custom Fast Styles and tossed them into this SketchUp model. Go to Window > Styles and jump into the "Select", "Edit", and "Mix" tabs to see what's there and mix some new Styles of your own.

This Style was created by simply changing the edges for the default “Blueprint” Style. The white Edge Setting from the “Camo” Style was applied to a copy of the Blueprint Style to create this new fast version.

A Style like the Fast Blueprint above might be a good choice when you want to present your SketchUp model in a stylized fashion, but you’d also like the benefits of smooth navigation and Scene transitions. Of course, you can still use Styles that have not earned the Fast Style badge — the benefit of working with Styles and Scenes together is that it’s easy to jump from a Scene meant for illustration to a Scene you might want to interact with. Now, with Fast Styles, you've got another trick up your sleeve for working and presenting quickly in SketchUp.

Posted by Josh Reilly, SketchUp Team

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