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Landscape Designing in Sketchup

I was recently contacted by the owner of a landscape design build company in Long Island. He wanted to know my thoughts on using Google SketchUp as opposed to other types of landscape design software. What I told him about this terrific 3D design software would apply to both professionals and homeowners. SketchUp is that easy, not to mention fun!

SketchUp provides the ability to draw in 3D so that a design or concept can be easily visualized. For the homeowner, drawing this way requires no intricate design abilities, while the landscape designer or architect has more sophisticated choices. They can draw directly in 3D or draw in 2D with such programs as AutoCad and turn it into a 3D design. The way it is done is that the AutoCad 2D drawing can be imported into SketchUp. That then becomes the base design for accuracy. All of the dimensions and locations are maintained in the 3D design.

When I first started out with this software, I did not get the basics of following the 3D “planes”. For some reason I missed it, but it’s actually very easy. SketchUp provides you with three colored lines that are guidelines. You must draw your lines parallel to these lines in order for everything to work. As you draw, your line will become the same color as that plane if you are doing it correctly. As an example, draw a vertical line. Vertical planes are blue. If your line is blue, you are good to go. If it is black, you must adjust the direction until it turns blue. Easy!

I’ll focus here on landscaping, since landscape design is what I do, yet SketchUp is great for interior design, architecture, mechanics and more. You can draw patios, walkways, swimming pools, ponds, houses and so on. Along with being able to draw these objects directly, you can also just add components into your design, such as plants, cars, people, etc. There are companies where you can purchase these or you can go to Google Warehouse where there are many components that are free.

Here are some of the things that I find not only helpful in creating a 3D design but fun too:

  • Create a patio and show it with different paving materials. Not sure if you want brick or bluestone? Look at it both ways.
  • Placeplants in the design at actual sizes. Although Plants will never be exact, they will be close enough for you to get an idea of what the planting design will look like.
  • Cast lighting at different times of day and year. You can enter your location, choose a date and time, and see how the light is cast along with shadows.
  • Show slopes and changes in elevation. This is trickier to learn how to do. However, it is an excellent SketchUp feature to help see your land and grading modifications if it is not flat.

You can try SketchUp for free or purchase the professional version. If you’ve never used it, you might try the free version first. However, do read up on the SketchUp Pro to see if there are features that are important to you. The free version is probably adequate for homeowners while professionals would probably benefit from the SketchUp Pro.

Susan Schlenger is a landscape designer who offers design services online to homeowners in all areas of the U.S. To learn more about her online design services, SketchUp, and get advice on all areas of landscape design, please visit  Online Landscape Design. New Jersey residents should visit Landscape Designer

Landscape Designing in Sketchup
Landscape Designing in Sketchup
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