When I teach SketchUp classes, I try to spend at least half my time looking over the shoulders of students, answering questions and coaching them past the hard parts. The answer to almost every question (and the solution to the majority of problems) begins with one of two things:
“Zoom in so you can see what you’re doing” or “Orbit around so you can see what you’re doing”. I get tired of saying it, but maintaining a point of view where you can clearly see what you’re trying to do is essential to successful modeling. Here is an example:The task is to move one of the keys straight out of the tenon. In SketchUp speak, we want to move it up on the blue axis. The problem is, in this point of view the blue axis and the green axis are in line. When you try to move the key, you can’t see the difference between the green and blue directions so the key can take off into space. It’s easy to blame SketchUp for not being able to read your mind, but if you can’t see something clearly, the software won’t be able to tell which way you want to go either.
I don’t consciously think about it, but most of the time when I model, I have a point of view that looks something like this. The red and the green axes are at an angle to the screen. I also have the cross hairs turned on for the cursor-you can do that in the Preferences window, look for Drawing on the list on the left. If you’ve had training in conventional mechanical drawing, or experience with a 2D CAD program this point of view will seem strange, but it’s the best way to keep your bearings in SketchUp.
People who aren’t comfortable with navigation tend to gravitate to a flat, two-dimensional view of the model, reasoning that that will make things easier. The opposite is the case, working in 2D will only teach you how the program doesn’t work. The directions in SketchUp are all based on the colored axis directions, and if you can clearly see the difference between them, everything that follows will be easier. And if you’re trying to work on a specific point, Zoom on in so you (and SketchUp) can find the snap points. If something just won’t work, or move where you expect it to, a change of attitude can work wonders.
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