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06.07 3D Modeling Visualization Exercise

Sketching, testing, and visualizing ideas before making them is often an efficient way to iterate and make concepts better be spending time and money to create them

Drawing ideas and ideation sketches with pencil and paper is the most direct, immediate and simplest way to see if an idea is worth exploring. Regardless of the complexity of an idea, object, installation, or performance you should be able to quickly sketch out a visual representation with a pencil and paper. The sketch might not have all the details or be completely accurate but it should communicate the basic idea or concept.

Once an idea has been evaluated via analog sketching, you can continue to make more refined and detailed sketches but in sculpture it often makes sense to use digital tools to 3d model an idea in real space to see if assumptions from paper sketches hold true.

A 3d model can show if an object will fit in an aspect, how many can hang on a wall, whether a projector can make an image the size of a wall, when the best place to put lights, and many more decisions.

Different versions can be made quickly and then be displayed side by side to make comparisons and improvements.

Which 3D Software?

There are numerous choices for 3D modeling software ranging from the simple to the complex, the free to the expensive. Most 3D modeling software is better at some tasks than others. It is best to know the basic concepts of 3D modeling and then gravitate towards software that will beat your needs on a particular project.


For this exercise, we will start by using SketchUp because it is a relatively simple and straightforward 3D modeling software package. You could do many things and it has a short learning curve. It is mainly geared towards architectural and design models that are more geometric than organic, but organic forms can be made as well. Eventually, if there are limitations in SketchUp that are better solved by other programs. For example, SketchUp does not have a native rendering program, but there are many third-party renders that work well with SketchUp.


Another good software package to use is Blender . It is free and open source and comes with a built-in rendering package. In fact, you can model objects in SketchUp, export them and then import them into Blender to use Blender as a rendering engine for SketchUp models. Many 3D modeling file formats are interchangeable between different cases of software. Ideally, artists are flexible and completely move between a multitude of tools to accomplish their creative tasks.


Basic 3D Modeling Exercise

  1. First step is to get familiar with SketchUp. There are some tutorial videos below that will get you up to speed quickly with the basic tools.
  2. Model some pedestals and sculpture objects in SketchUp
  3. Apply colors and materials to the Objects.
  4. Save your file of Objects for later use. You can import saved SketchUp Files directly into your SketchUp model. Follow the Export instructions to export for import into Blender.

Intermediate 3D Modeling Exercise

  1. Follow the Tutorial to model the SEM Installation Room
  2. After you model the first room, model the second room on your own. You will need to take measurements from the room with a tape measure.
  3. Import your objects from the previous SketchUp file into the installation rooms model.
  4. Move the objects around to make mock installations.
  5. Copy the model multiple times to make different versions and iterations of the installation.
  6. Take screenshots of interesting views of the installations in SketchUp. Use the screenshots to present proposals for installations.

Advanced 3D Modeling Exercise

  1. Prepare your SketchUp file for export as a Collada file for import into Blender and export as a Collada File.
  2. Import the file into Blender and clean up the model. This video shows a faster way to clean up the model on import.
  3. Modify and add materials to the model in Blender
  4. Add lights to the Blender scene.
  5. Make render images in Blender.
  6. Save the render images for use in presenting proposals for installations.

SketchUp Tutorial Videos

TopicTutorial Video Link
SketchUp Basics Part 1 link
SketchUp Basics Part 2 link
Cut Hole in Wall link
Model 5 Pedestals in SketchUp link
Model SEM Installation Room Tutorial link
Import Pedestals into Installation Room link
Add Room to Floorplan SketchUp link
Prepare SketchUp Model for Export link
Import SketchUp Model into Blender link
Clean Up Import in Blender link
Add Lights to Model in Blender link
Make Render Image in Blender link
Make Render Image in Maya link