Top 10 SketchUp extensions to boost productivity

January 14, 2020 Sumele Aruofor

A view of SketchUp's Extension Warehouse

SketchUp is pretty robust straight out of the box. It is even more powerful because users can supercharge its capabilities by customizing it with extensions to suit their unique workflow. Based on a conversation with Anders Hus Folkedal, who’s work at Ramboll we’ve featured on the blog, we’ve shortlisted ten key extensions any 3D enthusiast can add to their workflow to improve productivity and speed up modeling. Jump on it.

The rendering power trio: “I keep V-Ray in Live mode, and render from there. I’m also an avid Lumion user and Unreal Engine apprentice. All three offer the opportunity to create professional hyper-realistic renders.”

 

  1. V-Ray Next Render for SketchUp

Interior modeled in SketchUp and rendered using V-Ray for SketchUp

Image courtesy of V-Ray

Long established as a robust professional renderer within arch-viz circles, V-Ray delivers polished, photo-real renders. Geek out a lot by tweaking specific inputs or roll with inbuilt presets if you’re new to rendering.

  • Who uses it? Intermediate to advanced user familiar with rendering theory.
  • Great for: High-quality professional renders
  • System compatibility: Windows/Mac
  • Pricing: Available as a monthly or annual subscription [£30/month or £270/year]
  • Trial: Free for 30 days 

 

  1. Lumion Live Sync for SketchUp

Image showing a model in SketchUp alongside the Lumion Live Sync view

Image courtesy of Lumion

Lumion Live Sync allows you to establish a live connection which means you can model and render simultaneously. This should give you a sense of pushing and pulling a real-life building. Essential for smaller scale models. 

  • Who uses it? Intermediate to advanced user
  • Great for: Visualising your small scale project as you model
  • System compatibility: Only available for Windows
  • Pricing: Lumion €1499 | Lumion Pro €2999 | Free educational license in some countries
  • Free trial duration: 14 days 

 

  1. Unreal Engine

Residential interior modeled in SketchUp and rendered in Unreal Engine

Image courtesy of Turner Fleischer Architects

Developed by Epic Games and previously deployed for gaming development, Unreal Engine is ideal for creating approachable, super-fast renders that can be navigated in real-time. The Unreal Datasmith Plugin for SketchUp also enables seamless exports from SketchUp to Unreal Engine.

  • Who uses it? Beginner to intermediate user
  • Great for: Fast, real-time rendering
  • System compatibility: Available for Windows and Mac
  • Pricing: Free

 

  1. Profile Builder 3

Profile Builder in action

Image courtesy of Profile Builder

This extension massively speeds up modeling time because it makes repetitive tasks a piece of cake. Create profiles using simple or complex SketchUp faces and polylines. Extend these profiles along paths to create a profile member, and combine profile members to create parametrically-defined assemblies. 

  • Who uses it? Intermediate to advanced user
  • Great for: Creating bespoke and standard profiles for repetitive geometries
  • System compatibility: Available for Windows and Mac
  • Pricing: $79 for lifetime access
  • Free trial duration:  30 days

 

  1. Add Height from Datum

GIF showing Add Height from Datum in action

Need to reference heights whilst you’re modeling or during crucial stakeholder meetings? Then this extension is for you. Mark out the key levels in your design and reference them for greater accuracy throughout your design process. 

  • Who uses it? Beginner to advanced user
  • Great for: Keeping track of key datums within your project
  • System compatibility: Available for Windows and Mac
  • Pricing: Free. Register with SketchUcation, an independent SketchUp community forum, to access the download 

  1. S4U Make Face

GIF showing S4U Make Face extension in action

Image courtesy of S4U

As the name suggests, select your line drawings and Make Face will auto-fill them with faces. This is Anders’ go-to for “when I’m lazy and many faces need to be generated”.

  • Who uses it? Beginner to advanced user
  • Great for: Filling in your line drawing with faces
  • System compatibility: Available for Windows and Mac
  • Pricing: $10 
  • Free trial duration: 5 days

 

  1. Solid Inspector2

Screenshot of the Solid Inspector2 UI within SketchUp

Image courtesy of ThomThom

This stress-relieving extension inspects and highlights issues such as reversed faces within modeled solids. Your exports for 3D printing could be ready in just a few clicks!

  • Who uses it? Beginner to advanced user
  • Great for: Checking that volumes are drawn correctly, resolving issues in solids and keeping models lighter.
  • System compatibility: Available for Windows and Mac
  • Pricing: Free

 

  1. Fredo6: FredoTools (v3.6a)

FredoTools tool box

Fredo6: FredoTools (v3.6a) is a collection of various inspection and simple manipulation tools. In particular, Edge Inspector is a handy tool for inspecting edge connections.

GIF showing Make Face extension and Edge Inspector tool from Fredo6: FredoTools in action

  • Who uses it? Intermediate to advanced modeler
  • Great for: Optimizing models using a variety of clean-up and manipulation tools
  • System compatibility: Available for Windows and Mac
  • Pricing: Free. Register with SketchUcation, an independent SketchUp community forum, to access the download 

  1. CleanUp3

CleanUp3 UI in SketchUp

Similar to SketchUp’s native Purge function, the aptly named CleanUp3 will tidy and optimize your SketchUp model. Choose between options to purge unused items; erase hidden geometry, duplicate faces, and lonely edges; or merge identical materials, and connected coplanar faces. 

  • Who uses it? Beginner to advanced modeler
  • Great for: Removing redundant geometry and making your model lighter
  • System compatibility: Available for Windows and Mac
  • Pricing: Free - Go pro for $5 

 

  1. Fredo6: Bezier Spline

Fredo6: Bezier Spline UI in SketchUp

Another valuable set of tools from Fredo6 enables users to draw a variety of Polylines, Bezier and Spline curves. A unique feature it offers is the ability to edit a curve after they’ve been drawn by adjusting its control points. In combination with Profile Builder, use the Bezier Spline tool to run road profiles and road assemblies.

  • Who uses it? Beginner to advanced modeler
  • Great for: Sketching out centrelines for roads onto topographic surfaces
  • System compatibility: Available for Windows and Mac
  • Pricing: Free
Keen to boost productivity further? Read this article for tips on how to model large projects efficiently.

About the Author

Sumele Aruofor

Sumele contributes architecture and performance-focused content to the SketchUp blogs. When she's not writing or practicing architecture, she can be found singing, cooking up a storm, or with her head stuck in a book.

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