Blender vs SketchUp – Which is Right for YOU?

(soft music) – All right. Hey there, good to see you. Alex here and welcome to Office Hours, where I answer your
questions about SketchUp. Today’s question, SketchUp versus Blender, which is better. This is
going to be a good one, so don’t forget to grab your cup of coffee and let’s jump right in. (beep) (soft music) Today’s question comes from Stephen. And it’s probably a question
you’ve been asking yourself. Is SketchUp or Blender the
right 3D modeling tool for me? Of course the answer
depends on each person and their particular needs. But I’ve come up with a list of eight key differences
between SketchUp and Blender, that will help you decide. But first, let’s take a look
at Stephens’ entire question, because the context he provides,
gives me a pretty good idea of what I think will be
the right solution for him. Here’s what he said. I’m an architect and design anything from new construction to remodels, but I also dabble in custom furniture. Currently I hand-sketched my ideas and then use AutoCAD for plans
and construction documents. The problem is, more and more
clients ask for 3D renderings and I’ve realized it’s
finally time to catch up and jump into the world of 3D. SketchUp looks like the
right tool to learn, but I’ve also been hearing
a lot about Blender. I know this is gonna be a big investment to learn a new skill, so I want to be careful
and pick the best tool. So in your opinion which is better? SketchUp or Blender? I’ve been asked this question
before, a number of times. So what’s the right answer? For some of you, SketchUp
will be the better option. And for others, you’ll need Blender. It really depends on
your unique situation. That’s why I came up with a
list of eight key differences between the two programs, that I’m about to share with
you, to help you decide. And if you’re wondering
which program I’d recommend to Stephen and why? Stick around to the end of the
video and I’ll let you know. But for now let’s jump right into the list of eight key differences
starting with number one, what’s the difference in price? Blender is open source. So it’s completely free to use. You just go to the Blender website, download the Installer, run it and you’ve got the latest
version of Blender. SketchUp on the other
hand is not open source. Now there is a free version
called SketchUp free, but it’s got a limited feature set and only runs in a web browser. You can get a few more import and export features by upgrading to the paid web-based
version called SketchUp shop. That costs 119 a year. But for the fully featured desktop version known as SketchUp Pro, it’s $299 a year. If you’re confused don’t worry about it, we’ve created a video to
help you decide which version of SketchUp is right for you. And I put a link to it in the cards. Going forward in this video, I’ll be comparing Blender to SketchUp Pro, unless I mention otherwise. Now for both Blender and SketchUp the minimum computer
requirements are pretty similar. So as long as your
computer is powerful enough to run one of them, it
will work for either. At the time of this video, that means you need at
least a two gigahertz CPU, at least four gigabytes of RAM and a graphics card with at
least one gigabyte of RAM, that is Open GL 3.3 compatible. Alright so right off the bat, Blender is free and
SketchUp is $299 a year. But that’s not the whole story, because there’s another
investment you’ll need to make, to get up and running with either tool. That leads me to number two,
which is easier to learn? SketchUp is widely considered
to be more user-friendly and intuitive than Blender. And that makes it faster to learn. How much faster? Of course, it’s not an exact science but based off of what
I’ve seen for my students, I guess you could learn SketchUp about two to three times faster than Blender. You can get started
with SketchUp or Blender for free here on YouTube. In fact, I’ve put a link to a great getting started
video for SketchUp, as well as one for Blender in the cards. Then after you get started
with the right tool for you, you can always move on later to invest a more professional training. So to recap so far, Blender is free, but you’ll need to invest
more into learning it. And SketchUp is $299 a year, but you can learn it faster than Blender. Depending on how much you
value the time that it takes to learn SketchUp versus Blender, the investment to get started, might start to look pretty similar. So let’s move on to talk
about the differences that will tell you whether
SketchUp or Blender is the right tool for creating
the thing you have in mind. We’ll start with number
three, which is easier to use? SketchUp was designed
to help you create quick and easy 3D models. Sure, it’s got less tools
and features than Blender, but the ones it does
have are laser focused on helping you create relatively less complicated ideas pretty quickly. Let me give you some examples. SketchUp is the better choice for most types of architectural design. From small residential homes, all the way up to bigger
commercial projects. Interior designers, landscape architects, and most are the design professionals in the construction industry, also tend to go with SketchUp, for many of the same reasons. SketchUp is also preferred by
woodworkers, cabinet makers and designers that need to create more straightforward
furniture or products. The type that don’t
have complicated curves or more organic looking shapes. And for all SketchUp users, there’s the advantage of the 3D warehouse. Which contains millions of free 3D models, that can be downloaded
and used in any project. That means with SketchUp, you only need to model
your unique design idea and for everything else
you need to visualize, you can get it from the 3D warehouse. Now of course, you can
create all the same sorts of projects in Blender. But it might be overkill to spend extra time learning Blender, if you only need to create these relatively
simple types of models. Okay. So SketchUp tends to be the better choice for most of the easier 3D
modeling projects you might have. But don’t count Blender out just yet, because what about the harder stuff. That leads us to the next difference. Number four, which is better at creating
more complex models? When it’s time to build
more complicated things, you’ll hit the limits of
what SketchUp is best at. And when you hit a limitation in SketchUp, it’s usually a place where Blender shines. Again, let me give you some examples. Blender is great for creating
organic shapes and structures. It’s also really good
for modeling furniture or products with more
complicated or curving surfaces. You can handle some of these same types of things using extensions with SketchUp. But if these sorts of complex 3D models are the main thing you need to create, then you’re better off investing your time into learning Blender. Plus there are some things that
you can only do in Blender. Take sculpting for example. I mean sure, you can sculpt a little bit with the artisan extension and SketchUp, but if you’re a character designer, you’ll be better off with
Blender sculpting tools. Plus only Blender has tools for rigging and animating characters or other objects in your model. And speaking of animations, only Blender can simulate
anything from smoke and fire, to the movement of hair and cloth, to objects that shatter
and fall to the ground. Okay so now you’re getting a sense for the types of 3D models that SketchUp and Blender
are best at creating. But there are still a few key
differences you should know about before you make your final decision. Starting with the next one number five, which is better for rendering? Imagine you’ve used
either SketchUp or Blender to create the model you need. And now it’s time to present
it to a client or a colleague. When it comes to presenting
your design ideas, you’ll wanna create a
rendering of your 3D model. Now that can mean a
more stylized rendering, or a more photorealistic one. So, which is better for rendering? SketchUp or Blender? First, if you only need to
create stylized renderings, SketchUp styles the feature is
probably your easiest option. You can tweak your edged,
face and background settings to come up with a variety of looks. And there’s a gallery of pre-made styles that make it simple to
get a more hand-drawn or artistic look. Now you can create stylize
renderings with Blender too. Using the free style feature. Like most features in Blender, free style is actually a lot more powerful than SketchUp styles feature. So you have more control
over the look you can create. But free style is a little
more complicated to use, and takes more time for
your computer to process. So it’s not ideal if you’re looking to create something quick. Of course there are times where you need a more
photorealistic image. With things like lighting, reflections and realistic looking materials. Now to do this in SketchUp, you need to add a rendering extension. There are dozens of them out there, and they cost anywhere from free on up to several hundred dollars. It can be hard to choose the right one, and to figure out how
to get started with it. So we created a video about
rendering in SketchUp to help. And I’ve put a link to
that video in the cards. Now when it comes to photorealistic
rendering with Blender, it comes with those tools included. In fact it comes with two options. The first is called Eevee, which is a real-time rendering feature. The other is called Cycles,
which is a path tracer. Either of them can be used to create photorealistic renderings. So what’s the difference between them? To start, you can render
your Blender model up to 12 times faster using Eevee
than you can with Cycles. So something that maybe
takes like an hour in cycles, would only take five minutes using Eevee. But there’s a trade-off. You get a more photorealistic
result using Cycles. Why is that? Well, Eevee uses a process
called rasterization. You can think of it like a
fast but really good astimation of what light, reflections
and other elements of the rendering should look like. In many cases it looks
more than good enough for the types of realistic
renderings you might need. On the other hand, Cycles uses a process called path tracing. Rather than estimating, it actually calculates
each and every ray of light as it bounces around the model. It’s as close as we can get to a truly photorealistic result. But it comes at the cost
of taking a lot more time for your computer to run
all those calculations, and a render the final result. It’s also worth mentioning, if you use a rendering extension or a third-party rendering
application with SketchUp, you’ll run into the same real
time and path tracing options, and they’ll have a similar trade-off between speed and realism. Okay, lemme wrap this section up with a few recommendations you
can use as a starting point. If you need fast renderings
that are photorealistic enough, you really can’t beat using Eevee, it’s fast, it’s free and it
produces really nice results. If you want similarly
awesome real time renderings of your SketchUp models, I recommend you take a look at tools like Lumion,
Twinmotion or Enscape. Now if you need the most
realistic result possible, my top choice for Kketchup is the V-Ray for SketchUp extension. When you compare it to Blender Cycles, technically you can get
somewhat similar results. But as a rendering tool, V-Ray has the edge in a few key places. That ultimately make
it the popular choice. And if you were leaning
towards using Blender, but you want to use
V-Ray instead of Cycles, there is a V-Ray for Blender plug-in too. Now we’ve only been
talking about still images. But what about when you need
movement in your presentations. That leads us to the next difference. Number six, which is best for animations? In SketchUp you can create
walkthrough animations. That’s where you fly through
the model from scene to scene. But these are rendered using
SketchUp non realistic styles. In the transitions from scene to scene are automatically created. Which gives you very little control of the path through the model. If you’re okay with that
kind of walkthrough, but you want it rendered
photo realistically, you can do that with most
rendering extensions. But it’s still just a walk through. You can’t move objects around. It is worth mentioning you can use an extension like animator or sketchy physics to get
moving around the model. And you can use tools like Lumion to get photorealistic animations that have pre-programmed motion. Like people walking, cars driving, plants and trees moving in
the breeze, even rain falling. On the other hand in Blender, you get every type of
animation I just talked about and so much more. You can create walk throughs, only with more control over the path of your camera through the model. Your animations can
have objects that move, only you have full control over rigging and animating anything you
like, any way you want to. And more than just having falling rain, you can simulate any type of particle system you can imagine. And everything I mentioned can be rendered either stylistically using freestyle or more realistically
using Eevee or Cycles. Plus Blender even comes with
video editing capabilities. So you can cut and splice
together more dynamic animations. Okay, as you can see from covering advanced 3D
modeling, rendering and animation, Blenders feature set is so
much deeper than SketchUps. But, there is one big feature
that comes with SketchUp, that Blender doesn’t have. Which leads me to the next difference. Number seven, which is best for 2D drawings
and construction documents? When it comes to creating
plans, shop drawings or even a full set of detailed
construction documents, you’ll wanna go with SketchUp Pro. It comes bundled with layout. Which allows you to turn
your 3D models into scale, dimension and annotated 2D drawings, that you can submit to contractors or use to get building permits. Blender is just not the right
tool to do this kind of work. So if you really need to use
Blender for other reasons, your best bet is to
take your Blender model into another application to
get your 2D drawings done. Now, speaking of building from your model. That leads us to the next point. Number eight, which should
you use for 3D printing, CNC routing and other fabrication? The truth is, SketchUp and
Blender are both equally capable when it comes to using them
for 3D printing, CNC routing or other fabrication. In either case, it’s your
job to understand how to create the right kind of model. The tools aren’t gonna natively guide you through that process. But if you do it correctly, both applications can output an Stl file. Which can then be used for
the next step of the process. Now I should quickly point out, if your only objective is
this kind of fabrication, you might want to look for
another 3D modeling application which will guide you through the steps to create a 3D
principle or CNC routable model. With SketchUp and Blender,
they’re really flexible. Which is awesome, but it means you need to
know what you’re doing, to make sure the model
you create will work for 3D printing or CNC routing. Okay, remember when I said
at the beginning of the video that I’d tell you what my recommendation for Stephen was, and why? Well Stephen mentioned he needed a program that could help him with
architectural design and construction documentation. So I told Stephen, I thought it made sense to
start with SketchUp Pro. But remember Stephen also said he dabbles in custom furniture. This is where I told him that
after he’s mastered SketchUp, if he has any trouble representing some of the more complicated design ideas, he could always learn
Blender for that purpose. And I told him to keep in mind that the 3D modeling skills
that he learns in SketchUp will actually help him
learn Blender a lot faster, if and when he gets to it. So that’s it. Congratulations on getting through all eight differences with me. Did you figure out whether
SketchUp or Blender is the right tool for you? If you did, do me a quick favor and let me know which tool you’ve decided to learn in the comments below. Or just let me know you
found this video helpful by giving it a like. From here depending on whether you decided to learn SketchUp or Blender, I recommend you watch
one of these two videos. Both do a great job of helping you avoid the things that often trip people up when they’re first getting started. If you don’t want to miss
future videos we put out, be sure to subscribe to our channel. Just click on the subscribe
button below this video. Until next time, happy sketching.

15 thoughts on “Blender vs SketchUp – Which is Right for YOU?”

  1. Did you figure out whether Blender or SketchUp is right for you?
    If you did, do us a quick favor and let us know which one is right for you in the comments below… or just let us know you liked the video by giving it a like 👍.

    Got a SketchUp question you'd like to ask us? Ask it in the comments!

  2. Phew I chose correctly. SketchUp all the way for me as an exhibition designer. Also my clients and contractors can access the free version to look and interact with designs.

  3. Why does everyone not know about www, I have used this for professional images on magazines and brochures and it is really hard to tell the images are renders. It is so fast to render compared to other sketchup plugin. I have tried them all even Vray and nothing comes close.

  4. No sure if you mentioned re: rendering. Blender is more real time rendering, the sketchup plugins require you to test/re-do things until you get it the way you want. Requires more time, no? What’s the best/fastest result rendering plugin for sketchup?

  5. Thanks! This is very informative. I have some particular questions for you concerning Blender and a CAD program called MicroStation…should i ask here or ???

  6. If we want to compare it with 3ds max ,Can we create more realistic renders with sketchup? Also which vray would be better 2.0 or the 3.4/3.6?

  7. Thank you so much for this extremely well prepared and informative overview. Impressive – as always! It really clearyfies if and when to use Blender and SketchUp and why. One key difference, if I got this right, seems to be that SketchUp uses polygons (straight edges) and Blender uses NURBS (curved surfaces) for all geometry. This enables SketchUp's extremely intuitive user interface and fast learning curve and Blender's extremely detailed free form models.

    And also another important difference (please correct me if wrong): SketchUp has a limited model file size while Blender permits much bigger model file sizes. I once saw a 3D-printed 10 centimeter high model of a free form fantasy dragon made in a NURBS based software. It was extremely detailed and nowhere near what I could achieve in SketchUp (I tried). But – as an architect I still choose SketchUp Pro as my main production software for many reasons mentioned in the video.

    For rendering, a new heavy player has entered the scene however: Twinmotion by It will give Lumion, Vray etc a really hard time fighting with both top quality and low, low pricing. And now, when entering this "battle of renderers" they even write on their download home page still today in mars 2020: "Twinmotion will be a paid-for product in early 2020. Until then, download it for free as an early adopter and keep it for free forever." I got it and it is amazing, fully comparabale to Lumion. (But as with all these big rendering software, a muscle desktop PC seems to be the most suitable hardware)
    Again, thanks for a super video!

  8. I have been using SketchUp for years and your videos have been a great help to me. Thank you. One question I do have is, can I import my SketchUp models into blender to take advantage of the the rendering that Blender seems so good at? I have used Shaderlight in the past for my renderings and appreciate your recommendations for other programs. Cheers.

  9. I am a pro sketchup user. Would not use blender as I am sure with extensions and plugins i could model anything for interiors just as quick if not quicker.

  10. Blender has a few plugins to enable it to be more architectural friendly on your point 7. Like TinyCad, or BlenderKit for free/paid assets to populate your architecture, sketch style for 2D looking fun, Real Units, so you can get around blender arbitrary measurements, especially when importing into other software for final layouts with proper scaling. And others..

    Basically both can be plugged to highwater and back to do each other's feature. It really just come down to time management to learning each other's interface. Blender may have too many options tho for most users and may get in the way, it's also a rolling release so it's constantly changing breaking plugins sometimes as a moving Target.

    SketchUp may have too few, plus the cost of SketchUp pro, plus paid add-ons to may end up adding up really quick.. but it's almost an industry standard at this point if sharing documents. As long as your making something off your work tho it's probably worth the cost even if you have to buy into a few of the better plugins to bring it up to feature parity.

    Minor issue is this is almost like comparing Apples to Orange in the grand scheme of things. Even if they can be made to accomplish the apple or orange of it's opposite.

    Good luck.

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