by Matthew Worwood

Published: 8 years ago

3D Modeling@High School: Google Sketch Up V Blender

I was recently asked the difference between using Google Sketch Up and Blender for a student project. I think other variations to the question would relate to why someone would want to use Blender over Google Sketch Up? It’s less known, and from experience, I believe it is perceived as being overly complicated and difficult to learn. This should be an immediate red flag for an educator who is only looking to integrate aspects of 3D modeling in order to enrich an existing curriculum, but I’m going to explore this question for those that are thinking about the process and product of a 3D Modeling project.

I have used both applications and would happily advocate for either given certain circumstances, and perhaps that should be where we begin. Given that the question relates to Google Sketch Up it is likely we are discussing a student project that requires some level of 3D modeling, and 3D modeling only! If we were talking about 3D Modeling and Animation then this article would be cut extremely shot with Blender winning hands down.

PRE GAME!!! How Do the Sides Match Up

Technically, they should be considered two different programs. Google Sketch Up is primarily a visualization tool that is designed to create simple 3D models quickly and easily. Blender is an advanced 3D Modeling and Animation software that contains complex features in order to produce real life looking images, however lets start with what they have in common. They both can be referred to as an open source, cross-platform, 3D modeling application that can produce amazing results. They both are accompanied by a passionate group of users who are committed to regularly sharing fantastic online tutorials that take you through the steps to produce anything and everything. The latter is an important consideration if you are a beginner to an application and a student who has downloaded software at home.

GOAL!!! Google Sketch Up leads Blender 1-0

Google Sketch Up, scores with its usability and easy navigation tools.  The simple use of solid shapes (which I was recently informed were correctly called Polyhedrons) to assemble basic models is a far easier process then a necessity to understanding the concept of using edges, vertices and faces in Blender. Access to Google’s 3D warehouse and the ability to submit a design to Google Earth are both amazing perks! Its great that you want students to produce elaborate models, but unfortunately time is not always on our side. Being able to quickly insert a premade tree or car into a scene is not a cheat as it is regularly applied in the professional world.

Overall, I’m confident Google Sketch Up is a program that can be quickly mastered at the middle school level, and wouldn’t say it’s beyond possibility that some elementary school children could grasp some of the basic features in this application. Basically, less support from the teacher is needed! However, this could also be considered a weakness in comparison to Blender. Yes it is easy to use, but this may not be our goal. I’m an advocate for presenting opportunities to develop skills in Problem-Solving. If the application is too easy to use, what are the students learning that they didn’t know before? While I’m willing to rule Blender out for elementary and middle school students I am not willing to do the same for high school students. I think Blender is something most high school student can master if properly introduced to the program.

Google Sketch Up Demo Reel

GOAL!!! Blender Scores to Equalize the Match 1-1

If we are looking for the best possible product then Blender wins this contest hands down in my opinion. Just take some time and Google what is cable in Blender. I feel the results easily rival the capabilities of 3D Studio Max. Some people may feel this aspect of the game is unfair as Google Sketch Up hasn’t been designed to achieve this kind of product, but I think it is something to consider when comparing these two platforms. When I look at a Google Sketch Up product I see something better associated with basic Architectural design, rather then something designed to replicate a real life image. Blender has been designed as an application that can produce professional 3D modeling and animation projects. Its advanced features are endless and are used at the artist’s discretion. Included are a variety of lighting functions that are considered one of the most important components of a 3D Modeling and Animation software. Now, I’m not suggesting that students will produce anything like the content included in the Blender Demo reel below, but I think it is important to recognize that introducing this application could be the start of a journey that could lead there for a select few. Secondly, some of the professional looking effects are not too complicated once students develop comfort in the user interface, which in my opinion is why Blender has a bad rep. Simple video tutorials can show students how to generate fire, water or rain and these are really cool. Ultimately, the products that can be achieved in Google Sketch Up, can be achieved in Blender, but I cannot say the same the other way. Finally, the integration of animation is too much of a grand affair to dismiss. I know we are talking about 3D Modeling only, but this is huge. Blender is a 3D Modeling and Animation software that is capable of producing video games and science simulations. While a little more complicated, if you are willing to take the time to learn some of the basic tools in Blender you could open the door to a world of endless possibilities for your students.

Blender Demo Reel

FULL TIME WHISTLE BLOWS!!! Blender 1 – Google Sketch Up 1

We started the article with the question of why someone would use Blender over Google Sketch Up for a 3D Modeling project. It’s impossible to answer this question without knowing what you are trying to achieve. Yet I’m hopeful that this closing paragraph may help. Blender should be considered the platform for producing an advanced 3D modeling and animation project, where as Google Sketch Up better lends itself to quickly developing the concept art for such a project. If your time is short use Google Sketch Up, I have found that students need a proper introduction to Blender and when this doesn’t happen Blender’s interface can quickly lead to frustration and stifle creativity. Finally, if our match went into overtime it is possible Google Sketch Up would win based on the technical requirements of running Blender, obviously a more advanced software demands a better computer. However, as an advocate of Blender and an advantage of a four year digital media and art sequence I will advocate for Blender. The majority of students that I have introduced to program have loved it, with some now interested in careers in 3D modeling and animation because of this experience

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