The correct answer to the question if there is a full free version of SketchUp would be “Yes, but …” or “No, but …” depending on your point of view.
SketchUp is a commercial software for 3D modeling by Trimble. It is considered by many as a bringing some of the best tools of cutting-edge programs like Rhino, 3ds Max, and AutoCAD into one package. However, for others the standout feature of SketchUp is its vast repository of plugins that allows users to adapt the program to many different purposes.
Hence, SketchUp’s wide array of features makes it a versatile tool. It is used across a wide range of industries such as design, and architecture. Therefore, it comes as no surprise that the full version of SketchUp is not free.
Luckily (here’s the but), there is are fully functional free trial versions of the 3D modeling software for you to test before you buy it. Moreover, the developer offers a free version of SketchUp with the full feature-set to students. Another option is called SketchUp Free, a slimmed down version that runs completely in the cloud. Just in case the price tag of the full program is out of your budget, we have prepared a list of the best free SketchUp alternatives.
First of all, any interested user can get a 30-days free trial version from the SketchUp website
Alternatively, Trimble offers an educational version of SketchUp that is available at a discount. It is meant for students and educational purposes. The prices for the educational licenses vary from country to country. As a rule of thumb, the price will be about 10% of the original price.
Here is how you get your discount:
Some would say the best free alternative to Sketchup is Sketchup itself. Anyone can use a free slimmed down version of the 3D modeling software that runs in your browser.
SketchUp is an extremely versatile tool is used for visualization and planning in a large array of industries spanning architecture, interior design, urban planning, engineering, and construction.
What strikes the first time user of SketchUp at once is the neat and tidy interface. There are not many buttons that can boggle beginners trying to understand the 3D modeling software. It is easy to grasp the basic principles behind this 3D modeling software, making it possible to create simple 3D printable models from scratch within the first few hours of learning. This is thanks to some intuitive tools that allow navigating and sculpting accurately in 3D-view.
Which is not say that SketchUp is only capable of simple 3D modeling. Since Trimble encourages users and third-party companies to contribute extensions – many of them free of charge – there is virtually no limit to its potential capabilities. One case in point is Curviloft, bringing to SketchUp a set of tools that allow modeling complex organic structures. The free 3D modeling software also includes drawing layout functionality and allows surface rendering in a variety of “styles”.
SketchUp comes with its own exchange repository integrated into the program itself: 3D Warehouse – a library where approximately 2.2 million 3D models can be downloaded directly into the program. Files are limited to a size of 50 MB. 3D Warehouse is connected to the online printing service Materialise.Cloud. By the push of one button Materialise. Cloud claims to automatically repair any glitches the model might have and produce a watertight STL file, that can be downloaded from 3D Warehouse.
SketchUp is strong for designing visualizations – it may well be considered the best 3D modeling software for the job. The support for 3D printing is already impressive and growing every minute.
With two version of the program, it worthwhile to know the differences between Sketchup Free and the commercial pro version.
Both 3D modeling programs have the same core tools that you need to create the geometry of SketchUp designs. So, if your focus is on 3D modeling itself, the free version will work just fine. However, you will find differences in many other aspects of the program that add a more professional edge to it.
The free version of SketchUp comes with a basic renderer that is useful to share simple images of your work. However, the pro version not only allows you to export high-res images, but you can add rendering plugins that can be photorealistic or highly stylised. Moreover, you are no longer limited to static images, you can create animated sequences that bring your projects to life!
SketchUp Pro also comes with a presentation tool called “LayOut”. It can help explain your design to your clients by producing stunningly designed schematic presentations, detailed illustrations, and other options. LayOut is even able to produce detailed construction documents that display professional features like bills of materials, elevations, sections, or construction details.
The standard tools in the 3D modeling software are meant for modeling geometric shapes like buildings. But if you want to model organic shapes such as terrain, the free version of SketchUp is not sufficient. However, the pro version features a sandbox tool that enables this more advanced kind of shapes.
The greatest asset of SketchUp Pro is the Extensions Manager that allows users to add additional tools and features to the program. Some of them are for free, others are offered for a fee by third-party developers. For example, the 3D modeling software does not support STL files out of the box. Instead, importing and exporting STL files are enabled by the extension “SketchUp STL” that can be downloaded and installed from within the program.
In addition, this 3D modeling software supports a handful of handy free extensions to prepare your SketchUp files for 3D printing. For example, CleanUp3 Extension, Solid Inspector2, 3D Printing Model Repair Service (MakePrintable), or CADspan.
We also want to point out several extensions that connect SketchUp Pro to external services. These provide important functionalities such as cleaning up meshes, getting an estimate for the cost of printing and ordering a print (i.materialise, Makeprintable) – be aware that these services may require you to subscribe in order to work.
Click here for more information.
If the price tag of more than half a grand is out of your range, there are a number of free SketchUp alternatives that offer comparable features. Most notable among them are FreeCAD, Onshape, and Vectary.
To learn more about free CAD software, check out our article, 30 Best Free CAD Software Tools 2018 (2D/3D CAD Programs)
However, if these programs simply don’t cut it for you, consider these commercial or free SketchUp alternatives: Best 3D Design/3D Modeling Software 2018 (15 of 30 are Free)
Designed around parametric modeling, FreeCAD is solid free CAD software. It is made primarily to 3D design real-life objects of any size. Its parametric modeling capability allows you to easily modify your 3D design by going back into your model history and changing its dimensions.
Being an open source, its feature set is oriented towards the community. So be prepared that FreeCAD can be a bit overwhelming at first. But if you make an effort to dig deeper into the free CAD software, you will be rewarded with an awesome set of features.
The FreeCAD software offers a modular architecture that allows plugins to be mounted to the core application. It also offers a Sketcher with constraint-solver, allowing you to sketch 2D shapes; a robot simulation to study robot movements, and a Path module dedicated to mechanical machining like milling (CAM), and can output, display, and adjust G code. One of the most impressive modules in this free CAD software is the architecture bench that enables BIM (building information design). This feature allows you to design models of buildings that contain important metadata like the cost of materials, weight and much more.
In sum, if you are looking for a free SketchUp alternative it doesn’t get much better than FreeCAD!
Equipped with a feature-set fitting for enterprise-grade CAD software, Onshape is, in fact, free for open-source projects. It is aimed at professional level users, who want version control and collaboration tools to work in large teams. Onshape is delivered over the cloud as a service. This free CAD software works on pretty much every system you can imagine – even on iOS, and Android phones.
One of the most interesting features of this free CAD software is its collaborative mode. Unlike installed CAD and PDM, Onshape gives everyone on the team instant access to the same CAD workspace and same CAD data in one central place in the cloud. Another nifty feature is the ability to manage a master design without the need to save copies or keep track of numerous different file versions.
Since it is never easy to switch from one CAD software to another, Onshore offers you the opportunity to use the hotkeys from other programs.
Onshape trumps SketchUp with its support of mobile devices. The free apps available for Android and iOS are not merely file viewers. They offer the complete toolset of the core 3D CAD software! In other words, on your smart-phone this free SketchUp alternative is even better than the real thing!
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Take a close look at Vectary. For its innovative UI and approach to collaboration, this free online CAD software tool is definitely worth your attention. For instance, this free CAD software already includes parametric modeling. A feature that allows for quick adaptions of the mesh using sliders and selections that is mostly found in professional engineering suites like Fusion 360.
But this doesn’t make Vectary an engineering program for the web since the program doesn’t rely on precise measurements. Instead, designs are created in a 3D viewport using subdivision modeling and then transformed using various tools. Making this free online CAD software tool better equipped for the needs of designers. To get to started quickly, the developers have prepared a series of templates that you can use for mockups, layouts, and even 3D social media messages. Also, Vectary emphasizes user collaboration as all models are saved in the cloud and can be easily shared. As the API is expected to be published in the future, the functionality can potentially be expanded using plugins.
Although the range of features is amazing for a free CAD software that runs in the browser, this comes at a price. Don’t underestimate how much memory this free CAD software takes up. Vectary’s free plan includes 10 private projects and unlimited public projects. The free plan of this free SketchUp alternative even includes commercial use of Vectary. Business options allow for a larger number of projects and various other perks.
License: The text of "2018 SketchUp Free Download – Is There a Free Full Version?" by All3DP is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.
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