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The Problem

About a month ago or so, I was looking for a way to sketch out room layout plans.  Here’s what I initially found:

Autodesk’s Maya / 3D Studio Max

Although I have had familiarity with Maya and 3D Studio Max, I quickly eliminated them as solutions due to their ridiculously high $4000 / $2400 cost per year.  Besides, I already knew the amount of work it would take to get something that looks somewhat ok.


Blender Foundation’s Blender 3D

I looked into Blender because I knew of some previous artist co-workers who often spoke about it as the “less expensive Maya”.  It certainly has “open-source” going for it.  However, I eliminated it as a possibility after spending two days looking for tutorials and barely learning anything from them.  Seemed like a huge mountain.


Google’s SketchUp

Originally, I came across a website that stated “SketchUp” – it looked like an antiquated CAD / Architect’s program.  I saw a button that advertised it for $700.  That’s certainly better than Maya, but I knew nothing about this.


Unity Technologies’ Unity 3D

I’ve used plenty of Unity when developing Tiger Woods Online – in fact, I remember back before it exploded across the market when it was only available on Mac (e.g. not Windows).  In any case, I downloaded it again to give it a spin.  Same thing holds true now that held true back then – Unity is not for modeling.  You model in some other program, then import.  So, this was a no-go.



The Solution

Fast-forward to a meeting last week where I presented the need for modeling rooms to a number of professionals.  Two separate attendees both almost immediately called out “Google SketchUp” – a Tech Artist and an Urban Planner.  This got me thinking if it was the same one I had come across and passed by – it was!  Odd that “Google” is not on the product’s landing page – I would have probably paid more attention to the program because Google is known for having intuitive, free solutions for the masses.  Turns out that Google offers two versions.

  • The free version is “Make”.  There’s nothing really noticeably limiting in the program at all.  It allows for basic features like measuring, modeling, and texturing.  It also allows for numerous other advanced features like carving, geolocating, and plane clipping.
  • The paid version is “Pro” and is a $700 one-time fee good forever – a different pricing model than the industry standard.  Some features revolve around presentation, generating blueprints, exporting to other formats – largely bells and whistles for architectural professionals.


There are so many tutorials on so many subjects out there.  Fortunately, within a day, I came across a series of tutorials from Harwood Podcast.  I went to figure out how to add a door and instead, I spent (so far) three days going through thirty or so twenty-minute tutorials covering everything from the basics to how to build a complete house.

There are currently around sixty tutorials presented by Cameron Harris.  Give him props and like his Facebook page.  Well done, Cameron.

Final Thought

To be clear, I do not believe that Sketchup is nearly as feature-rich as entertainment industry software like Maya, but for my purposes, it solves my problem at a low price-point and a relatively low barrier-of-entry to becoming productive.