Review: Google SketchUp Workshop

There are enough books out there to get you up and running with SketchUp. There are books you can refer to for specific information or to teach you to code extensions. There are others that are great for very specific subjects such as landscaping or woodworking. But I've never found one to pickup just for fun and inspiration ... until now.

The title Google SketchUp Workshop may sound dry but don't be fooled - if you're into SketchUp either as a professional or enthusiast and you have the basic skills down already then this is the book for you. If you're a novice, this book is not going to teach you the basics; the Overview section of the book starts with working with complex models in SketchUp and moves on from there to other advanced topics assuming a level of knowledge you get only from working with SketchUp for a while. If you have these skills already the subjects in the overview are really useful. Yes, you might know quite a few of them already but it doesn't hurt to brush up and to see if there's a better way of approaching the issues you face.

The rest of the book is made up of sixteen chapters, each of which is written by a different author. Each author is introduced and each has a specific area of interest or expertise which they then address with specific real world examples. The experts range from the SketchUp norms of Architecture, Engineering and Design through to more esoteric areas such as set design, woodworking, concept design painting and graphic design. It is this variety of subjects and voices that make this book so successful. Of course you will be more interested in some subjects than others but seeing these practical and inspiring examples of what SketchUp is capable of, described by experts in their fields teaches you something. Even if you never intend to model a Process Plant you can learn a lot from Mitchel Stagl's chapter because it shows an approach to working in teams and with really complex models. You might not have the artistic skills  to paint the concept art Alex Jenyon can but his chapter might inspire you to be a little more adventurous the next time you have to produce a 2D image for a client.

It is the variety of voices, applications and subjects combined with scope of artistic to technical emphasis that make this book my favorite SketchUp book to date. Some have criticized the fact that many of the examples use third party software (some of it very expensive) in addition to SketchUp to achieve their results. I might not be rushing out to buy a thousand dollar rendering engine but I did learn something from each chapter about how SketchUp integrates into each author's workflow. Very few people use SketchUp in isolation; it is just one tool in the arsenal.

I can't remember the last time I dipped into a technical book just for fun but with it's beautiful color illustrations, variety of subjects and inspiring tone I find myself constantly going back to the Google SketchUp Workshop and not wanting to put it down when I do. Whether you read it cover to cover or skip around through just the chapters that interest you most there is something for most SketchUp enthusiasts here. I just hope they're working on volume two...

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