Jannine Hanczarek is a Technical Illustrator at Fat Pencil Studio.
We here at Fat Pencil Studio use SketchUp, like, A WHOLE LOT. Part of what makes it so great is the plugins, (or, as SketchUp calls them "extensions"): not only are there just tons of them, but there are always new ones to keep an eye out for. If there's something you wish SketchUp could do...there's probably an extension for that.
Our FPS toolbox is vast, but very specialized. Here are some of the extensions we just can’t live without:
This is an ESSENTIAL extensions for all modelers and for any kind of modeling. Allows you to filter objects in and out of an existing selection. You can selects/deselect only edges, groups, components, or entities that have specific properties (hidden, soft/smooth, etc.). We use this a lot in a variety of ways, e.g., hiding bounding edges, selectively applying materials, and more.
If you've ever accidentally clicked out of a selection in SketchUp, no matter the size, you've felt the pain of not having this extension.
This is another vital one (aren't they all?). Use it to join loose edges into a smooth curve you can select in one click. We use it to prevent extra edges popping up when using the Push-Pull tool on traced geometry. Occasionally, veerrrry long sequences will require an extra application of the extension (maybe two) but Weld has never failed us.
This wonderful extension captures camera views from one model, and allows you to recall it exactly. Great for when you're working between versions of models and want to duplicate scenes. With both models open, capture your view from the first model and select "Put to Memory". In your working model, select "Retrieve from Memory" to bring up the view. Phew!
An expansion of how you can normally scale with the native tools in SketchUp. My favorite feature of this tool is the radial bend. Runner up: box taper!
This set of tools comes in handy working on large models with buildings and terrain. The "flatten selection" tool is especially handy when you're tracing and can't quite get a face to form for some maddening reason. During a recent terrain shaping project, Yana became very fond of this set, especially the "Contour Tool" and the "Project Down Tool".
This is a great shortcut for dropping objects to a contoured surface. Have a line of fencing you created with the PathCopy extension? Need to get them to fall cleanly onto a piece of terrain? DropGC will get it done.
Zorro is a wonderful tool for cutting the fat; it makes it easy to chop off geometry around the edges of your model that you don't need without having to intersect anything or enter into components or groups. Sensational.
Great for drawing catenary curves. Catenaries are the shapes that cables and wires take when they're hanging from both ends, and the arc tool doesn't quite cut it. This one doesn't come up often but when it does, this extension is your friend.
This extension drapes a continuous, triangulated surface over ANYTHING. Selecting into the surface and using Selection Toys to grab just the lines, you can Soft and Smooth to our heart's content. Available for a chill $7/year from Vali Architects, Instant Terrain can remedy all of your terrain simplifying woes. Let's face it, all of Vali's "Instant" tools are pretty dreamy.
Great when you've got a lot of loose, ungrouped geometry that you want to organize into something usable. We're assuming all our readers practice good model hygiene, but it's great for the times you can't avoid that sloppy 3D warehouse model. Thanks to all the rockstar Ruby scripters out there who make the modeling world a better place.
Now, GO FORTH AND MODEL.