Over the past few weeks, we’ve shared some insightful guides on how use SketchUp — one of architecture’s most used modeling applications — for those just starting out with the software. If you are looking for an introduction to the program, check out Michael LaValley’s “quick start” tutorials, including a run-down of the 10 essential tools you should master first, a smart guide to optimizing your image export and some shrewd modeling tips to dramatically save you time.
Many of you, though, will already be familiar with the basics of SketchUp and want to take your modeling skills to the next level. While the tools that come with the software are useful for most everyday tasks, anyone who has used SketchUp for more than a few days will know that there are a plethora of plugins out there that facilitate amazingly complex forms and ingenious time-saving processes.
We’ve compiled some of the best from the SketchUp Tutorials Facebook page, together with illustrative GIFs that give you a sense of how each plugin works in a matter of seconds. If you have any favorite plugins that aren’t included here, let us know in the comments!
Sketchy FFD by CPhillips
Sketchy FFD adds a “control cage” to an object, allowing you to create complex curved, forms from gridded surfaces. It raises the possibility of creating domes, arches or free-flowing organic shapes constructed from “weaved” elements or mesh. A full demo is available here, and the plugin can be downloaded here.
Memory Copy by Adam Billyard
Memory Copy allows you to copy not only geometry, but also transformations such as the resizing or rotation of said geometry — the tool can “remember” your last move and duplicate it. This makes it a breeze to construct a sweeping staircase … or a perfect stack of Jenga blocks! The plugin can be downloaded here.
JHS Power Bar by CadFather (Max Coppoletta)
Among its many functions, this hugely useful plugin enables you to create an array along a path. A series of components can be quickly placed in a predefined arrangement, perfect for balustrades like the one shown above. A full tutorial can be found here, and you can download the plugin here.
Follow Me and Rotate by Wikii
Create detailed rope, twine and ornate balusters with Wikii’s amazing plugin, which combines the traditional “Follow Me” tool with a rotating action to produce twisting geometry. Check out a full tutorial for this tool here, and download the add-on here.
Multiple Offsets by Sam D Mitch
Sam D Mitch’s add-on gives you the ability to offset many faces of an object at once, making it possible to create complex, coffered forms like the sphere illustrated in this GIF — ideal for your model of the Pantheon dome! The plugin is available to download here.
Helix Along Curve by 3dalbertsoft
One of the most ingenious plugins on this list, Helix Along Curve enables you to create helix tubing along a predefined path. When combined with Bezier Spline and Component Stringer add-ons, you can also model a perfect chain with individual links. A full tutorial on constructing the form above is available here, and you can download the Helix Along Curve plugin here.
Edge Tools² by ThomThom
ThomThom’s handy palette of edge-related tools saves you time in multiple ways, enabling quick simplification of imported DWG site plans, the ability to split a face into multiple planes, and — most significantly — highlighting of imperfections so you can clean up your model in a flash. The extension can be downloaded here.
Section Cut Face by TIG
Simply add a face to your section plane with this useful plugin. The face can be quickly modified, changing its color for presentation purposes, and it can also be set to update automatically as you edit your model. The add-on can be downloaded here.
When combined with the QuadFaceTools plugin, SubD can be used to produce curvilinear volumes like the one shown above with clean, rationalized subdivisions. This is helpful when modeling complex domes and parametric shells. SubD can be downloaded here, while QuadFaceTools can be found here.
Curviloft by Fredo6
Fredo6’s hugely popular Curviloft allows you to generate surfaces from contours, making it ideal for creating curvilinear, organic volumes like those of renowned firm Zaha Hadid Architects. This essential plugin can be downloaded here.
CLF Shape Bender by Chris Fullmer
Chirs Fullmer’s amazing tool allows you to bend an entire component or group, so you can create bespoke windows, doors and details for curved walls and roofs. You can watch a complete tutorial for this extension here, and the plugin can be downloaded here.
Animator by Fredo6
Another brilliant extension created by Fredo6, Animator enables you to creating moving parts with your SketchUp model with ease. Simply create the first and last frames of the movement you want, then hit play and watch your dynamic model shift into motion. Download Animator here.
Top image via drizzt_fan14 on Photo Bucket