A few days ago, the news that Google had aquired @Last Software was released. This also meant that Google has aquired what I consider one of the mose easiest to use and ‘good looking’ pieces of CAD software. This software is called SketchUp. I’ve been playing with it today and wanted to show you how you can make your own models for Google Earth in under 10 minutes. So, here we go.
First of all, get your hands on the SketchUp software and the Google Earth plugin. Also, if you haven’t got Google Earth, download and install that. They’re not huge file sizes but (God forbid) dial-up users should start downloading now . Okay, install SketchUp first and then install the plugin. This plugin will allow you to import current views from Google Earth to work with and creating your model. It also allows you to preview your model in Google Earth which is very handy. Okay, everything installed? Let’s go…
Right, for my tutorial I’m going to create a very simple model (with no textures) of my house and the walls around it. It’s a very rough guide and should get you started. So, first of all, open up Google Earth and find the area you want to put the model on; in this case I’ve chosen my house. Get a perfect arial view and then open up SketchUp. This is the hardest part.
Click the far left button to get the current Google Earth view. This will insert the Google Earth image onto your 3D canvas. This is only a guide so the greyscale and frankly crappy quality of the image is of no concern to us now. Now, to make sure you don’t have troubles with users who have the ‘terrain’ feature turned on in Google Earth, click the middle button of that toolbar we mentioned. This will show the terrain on your 3D canvas. Okay, so you’re ready to create your model. In this tutorial, I’m going to create a not-to-scale model of my house, but just something I can recognise.
Okay. So, first I’m going to create the main block of my house by selecting the ‘Rectangle’ tool to the left and then using the ‘Push/Pull’ tool to make it a cube – my house. Yours should look something like the image in the screenshot on the left. Now, we have to make the roof slanted to actually make it look more like a house. To do this, pick the ‘Pencil/Line’ tool and on the top of the cube on one of the sides, go along it until the pointer square turns blue. There, click and draw the line to the other side of the roof where the square pointer will also turn blue (this means the line is straight). Okay, next we have to lift the roof up.
To life the roof up, select the line we just created with the ‘Select’ tool and then select the tool and drag the line upwards. You’ll see that the rest of the cube’s top moves with it. Stop moving it when you’re happy with the result. This is our roof. Well, I’m going to stop with the modelling here and move on to exporting the model.
Okay, so now you’ve got your model house, you now need to move it into the correct place on the map on your 3D canvas. Select the whole house with the ‘Select’ tool and then use the ‘Move/Copy’ tool we used earlier to move the whole house into the correct position. Now, as long as you haven’t changed the image in Google Earth everything should work. With Google Earth still open, in SketchUp go back to the Google Earth Plugin toolbar and select the far right button. This will take your model and preview it in Google Earth. Have a look and see what it looks like. Here’s my example.
If you’re happy with your model, in SketchUp go to File -> Export -> 3D Model and select ‘Google Earth (*.kmz)’. You can then open this file in Google Earth and save it to your ‘My Places’. I’m sure you’d be able to create more details and better models than this one, but this is just to get you started. Have fun! Hopefully Google will actually make the product free.