SketchUp: A better view of small spaces

When you’re modeling a small room, it can be a pain to see what’s inside. The problem is that the walls and ceiling get in the way. One solution is to lop off the ceiling and work in a top view, dollhouse-style. Other folks set up scenes from the interior corners and adjust their Field of View to something super-wide like 90 degrees.

Looking at a small interior space from the outside isn’t very rewarding. 

Deleting the ceiling and switching to a top view is useful, but fiddly. 

Standing in the corner and making your Field of View really wide is just weird. What are you—a housefly?


Both of the above techniques work—to a point. Personally, I think it’s like trying to read a book through a keyhole. By far my favorite method for working on small interiors is to make use of SketchUp’s ability to have faces with different materials on each side:

The face separating Susan and Sang is yellow on one side and green on the other. 

Creating a completely transparent material and painting the green side makes it see-through. 

The Entity Info dialog box shows that the selected face is yellow on the front and see-through on the back.


By painting the outward-facing surfaces with a see-through material—one whose opacity is set to 0%—I can see in from the outside. Super useful, super simple.

Here, I painted all of the outward-facing surfaces with a transparent material. Notice that the interior surfaces still look opaque? 

Orbiting around my model, I can see through all of the walls. I can even see through the floor.

A great guide to Turkey in Google Earth

Following in the footsteps of great sites such as 3DHawaii and 3DLasVegas, we travel to the other side of the globe to check out 3DLocationEarth, set in Turkey.

The basic idea of the site is similar the concept behind the Hawaii and Las Vegas sites; provide information about area hotels, businesses, schools, etc, and “fly” the user to each place using the 3D map on the screen.


Note: When the site first loads, all of the text is in Turkish. To convert, find the “language” drop-down near the top-right corner and select “English”.

While the amount of content on this site is quite impressive, it’s a bit clunky to use when compared to sites like 3DLasVegas. The Vegas site, if you recall, has a slick “Location Navigator” at the bottom of each item to help you easily explore it in 3D. This site has similar icons at the top of the page, but they’re very inconsistent. I suppose that’s part of the issue when dealing with such a large dataset. In addition, 3DLasVegas has thumbnails of all their locations on the left site, whereas 3DLocationEarth simply has a text-based list.

However, what is truly amazing is the 3D content that 3DLocationEarth has contributed to the 3D Warehouse, and therefore to Google Earth. As of right now, they have nearly 3400 models in Google Earth, including some notable items such as the Google headquarters in Mountain View, CA!


Even more impressive is their ability to view inside of various buildings. A great example of that is the Sirkeci Konak Hotel. Once you load that page, play with the silver icons at the top to go to the lobby, various rooms, the pool, etc.

We’ve shown you a few 3d interiors before, but this hotel is quite remarkable.


It will be interesting to see which direction Google pushes going forward. While the interior of this hotel feels similar to the Street View-based art gallery interiors that Google released earlier this week, they’re vastly different technologies. You would think that a single method for creating interiors would be ideal, but we may be a few years away from that.

In any case, check out 3DLocationEarth to see all of the great work these guys have done.

Make your SketchUp models more realistic with Shaderlight

We’ve been big fans of Google SketchUp, since before they purchased it (and made it free) back in 2006. Every year we’ve seen improvements made to the product and last September saw the release of SketchUp 8, with a handful of excellent new features.

One of the great features of SketchUp is the many plugins that it supports. One of the newer plugins on the block is called Shaderlight and it’s quite amazing. It’s one of a variety of products that help turn your SketchUp rendering into a very photorealistic image. For some examples, check out the images below which were both created by “Sully114”:

Boat Interior


Villa Interior


Those photos are very impressive, and the Shaderlight folks have put together a video to show you how it works. It’s a great demo of the system, showing how powerful it is and yet how easy it is to use.

As with most products like this, you can try out a free version of it to see how well you like it, and then upgrade to the Pro version ($199) if you’re wanting more out of it.