Continuing my tutorial on using Sketchup to design RC aircraft we will look at how I customize Sketchup with the Toolbars and Plugins to be able to draw and work with our designs. There are many options to customize Sketchup so I am going to just cover a few to get started and as we go down the road I will add others and will cover them at that time.
If you are new to Sketchup and missed the first section on Sketchup basics you may want to read that first before moving on. You can find that article here: Introduction to Sketchup
Large Tool Set
The first thing we want to do is expand the number of stock Sketchup tools that are displayed on the tool bar. To do this we want to activate the Large Tool Set. This can be done by going to your View menu > Toolbars > then check the box next to Large Tool Set. You’ll also want to un-check the Getting Started box as those tools are also in the Large Tool Set. While you are here you will want to also check the Views box. These three toolbars will get us started but we also want to add some third party plugins.
Sketchucation is a great site that has a vast catalog of Sketchup plugins that greatly expand the power of the program. You do need to sign up for an account to access the downloads but don’t worry the account is free and they wont be spamming you with junk email. They also have a extension manager plug in that makes searching for plugins and installing them a breeze.
Head over to Sketchucation and download the Plugin Store here:
To install the Sketchucation plugin store you will need to find the Window Menu and locate the Preferences option.
This will open the preferences window and you will want to select the extensions menu on the left and then click the install extension on the bottom. Navigate to the location where the SketchUcationTools.rbz file was saved to and click open.
Follow through the install prompts until you are back the the sketchup screen with a new toolbar open which will be the Sketchucation Plugin Store toolbar.
Once you have that installed we can start searching for a few plugins I find very useful in RC design.
The first item we want to get is the LibFredo6. This is a shared library used by a number of plugins and at least one we will start using right away. So download and install this plugin first.
Sketchup has an Arc tool for drawing round lines but it is limited to simple curves. Many shapes on the airplanes we want to draw or design will need more flexible or complex curves. This is where a Bezier Spline comes in very handy. The plugin I am linking works very well and has a number of options for the type of splines. This tool will aid in drawing rounded wingtips, airfoils, canopy shapes and more.
Once you have the Bezier Spline tool installed it should open a new toolbar for you and you can either leave that floating in the Sketchup window or dock it with your other toolbars on top.
Finally you will likely want to import other cad files that might not have been made in Sketchup. A popular CAD sharing format is DXF files or Drawing Exchange Format. The free version of Sketchup does not have a native DX import tool but there is an add-on that works very well to bring DXF files into Sketchup. Once again use the Sketchucation Plugin Store to search for FreeDXF and locate the Free DXF importer by Jim. Install using the auto installer or extension manager to have this tool added as a plug in.
There are many other plugins you can add to Sketchup so look around at Sketchucation and other sites for useful tools. There will be a few more that we will add down the line as we get into more advanced models but for now these are the only ones we need to get drawing. However if you find one that you find very useful I’d love to hear from you. So drop me a line using the contact form below and perhaps I can work it into a future section or video.
For more information on installing these tools check out my video on Customizing Sketchup for RC design.