Terrain in Sketchup III

Terrain in Sketchup III
Posted by on April 30, 2014
Posted in: construction, creative community, geomodeling, software, tips and tricks

Continuing our post series on modeling terrain in SketchUp (Terrain 1, Terrain 2), I have been trying a few other plugins that make life easier. The first one, called Simplify Contours, helps you weld and simplify contour lines (which may import as hundreds of little line segments) so you can more easily turn them into a mesh. The other, called Instant Terrain, creates a terrain model based on a terrain file from a different program or different objects in a field.

Simplify Contours

Like Ady explained in her previous post about terrain, imported contour lines often require some work before they are mesh-worthy. Even if the contours are arrayed at their proper elevations, if the curves are too complex the resultant terrain comes out lumpy and the file size becomes unnecessarily large. Running this script reduces the time it takes to generate a mesh considerably, but important detail can be lost. See below.


Important road details to preserve

Terrain model from non-modified contours

Important road detail on terrain model

Terrain model from "simplified contours"

Important road details lost

Instant Terrain by Vali Architects

If Simplify Contours doesn’t get you where you need to go, you do have other options. Ady explained before about the use of Terrain Reshaper, a great plugin that redraws a mesh using a regular triangular grid. This plugin works really well, especially when you want to maintain some level of detail in the terrain. I had great results but I had to wait for a while (about 20 minutes on 3400′ by 2500′ model). Instant Terrain is another alternative for fixing up messy terrain geometry: it works fast but you have to be very careful with the level of detail you choose depending on the area of the terrain. I was able to get results at maximum of 50’ detail on this area. I tried to get a 20’ detail but the wait seemed forever so I had the force-quit the program.

Close-up on non-modified contours model showing mesh's triangulation

Close-up on Simplified Contours Model. Simpler but less detailed triangulation.

Terrain Reshape on Non-Modified contour model at 30' detail. (About 20 minutes wait)

Instant Terrain on Non-modified Contour Model. Detail at 50'(About 5 minutes wait)

An even more useful feature of this plugin is the capability to merge or stitch different areas of terrain. This plugin can also make a mesh out of any group of objects. It works almost like putting a bed sheet on top of something, the bed sheet adjust to what is underneath recording its shape. I was able to merge these three different terrains into one very quickly.

Different terrains aligned together

Terrains stitched with "Instant Terrain"

So considering these tools for working with terrain, these are my recommended recipes for an efficient workflow:

For high level of detail from contours, use (Ady’s recipe): weld contour lines; create terrain (draw/sandbox/from contours); Use Terrain Reshaper (it’s worth the wait); soften, smooth, and hide lines.

For quick, smooth and not very detailed terrain (probably large terrain models): Simplify Contours; create terrain (draw/sandbox/from contours); Instant Terrain at detail no less than 50’.

For stitching different terrains: Align terrains together and use Instant Terrain.

Good luck!

About Sebastian

Sebastian Marticorena was an illustrator at Fat Pencil Studio from 2014-2016. Read more