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Improving Performance

Like all SketchUp users, you want SketchUp to be fast.

Whatever your experience level or modeling style, the way you model impacts SketchUp’s performance, and this article explains how to create 3D models in ways that optimize performance.

Behind the scenes, you can check how your computer stacks up against SketchUp’s requirements. And tucked into SketchUp’s preferences, you find a few settings that might also boost performance.

Table of Contents
  1. Optimizing your modeling techniques
  2. Checking your computer
  3. Setting OpenGL and anti-aliasing preferences

Optimizing your modeling techniques

Every time you orbit, pan, zoom, draw, or edit, SketchUp is rendering what you see in the drawing area. The more edges, faces, styles, materials, and so on, the more stuff SketchUp has to render as you work on your model. Minimizing the stuff (or keeping your model light) can be like transforming stone into cloud — metaphorically speaking, of course: What once took lots of effort to sculpt or move becomes easy to model because it renders quickly. (Stone materials in your building or landscape won’t evaporate and wander lonely as a cloud that floats on high o’er vales and hills — unless you follow the last tip and purge unused materials.)

Follow these tips to keep your model light and optimize SketchUp’s performance:

  • Stick to simple styles. Whenever possible, turn off shadows, textures, and special display effects while modeling.

    Tip: Create two separate styles: one for modeling (which is fast) and another for presentation (which can be slower). SketchUp 2015 includes Fast Styles that are designed for this purpose.
  • Components are your friends. When you use the same entity multiple times (for example, a window or a tree), make it a component, and then use copies of the component. Multiple instances of a component are lighter weight than multiple copies of an entity or group.
  • Hide geometry you don’t currently need. The more geometry that is visible in a model, the more slowly SketchUp runs. To improve performance, the best way to hide geometry is by controlling its visibility with layers. For example, you could group images, landscaping items like trees and shrubs, furniture, or cars onto separate layers and toggle their visibility on and off.
  • Choose JPEGs over TIFFs. If you import images into your model, use JPEG images rather than TIFF images. TIFF images tend to have large file sizes and take more computing resources to display.
  • Disable fog and shadows. Fog and shadows give SketchUp more work to do, and typically aren’t necessary if you’re still drawing or editing your model. If your model has shadows enabled, select View > Shadows to deselect the Shadows menu item. To turn off fog, select View > Fog to deselect the Fog menu item.
  • Purge data that you don’t need anymore. Your model stores components, styles, and materials that you’ve added to your model even if you’ve since erased or replaced them. SketchUp squirrels away these elements in case you need them later, but if you know that you don’t, tell SketchUp to let it all go. For details about purging unused items from the Styles browser, Materials browser, or Components browser, see Managing In Model Styles and Collections, Adding Colors and Textures with Materials, and Adding Premade Components and Dynamic Components. Or, to purge all your unused items at once, select Window > Model Info, select Statistics in the sidebar on the left, and click the Purge Unused button.

For a much more in-depth look at techniques that keep your model light, check out this one-hour video about modeling smart. The video was created at SketchUp 3D Basecamp in 2008, but the basic concepts from the presentation still apply.

Checking your computer

Your computer’s RAM, processor speed, and graphics card all affect SketchUp’s performance. If SketchUp is noticeably sluggish, make sure your computer meets or exceeds the minimum requirements for your version of SketchUp. For details, see SketchUp Hardware and Software Requirements.

Also, keep your computer updated with the latest version of SketchUp. When you stay current with updates, SketchUp has a better chance of running more efficiently. The same is often true for your operating system and your graphics card driver. To check for SketchUp software updates, select Help > Check for Update (Microsoft Windows) or SketchUp > Check Web for Update (Mac OS X). See How can I update my computer's graphics driver? and your system documentation for details about updating your operating system and graphics card driver.

Setting OpenGL and anti-aliasing preferences

OpenGL stands for Open Graphics Library, and it’s the API (application programming interface, which is like an application’s building blocks) used to render SketchUp’s 3D graphics.

Anti-aliasing is a technique for making jagged edges on graphics look smoother.

Now that you know what OpenGL and anti-aliasing are, you have an idea of what the OpenGL and anti-aliasing preferences do. If SketchUp has performance issues on your computer, adjusting a few OpenGL settings may help SketchUp render your model faster.

To access the OpenGL preferences, select Window > Preferences (Microsoft Windows) or SketchUp > Preferences (Mac OS X). Then select the OpenGL option in the sidebar on the left. The following list outlines the settings you find and what each one does:

  • Use Hardware Acceleration: Generally speaking, you want to keep this option enabled, which is the default setting. When this checkbox is selected, SketchUp uses your graphics card’s hardware acceleration features. Some caveats apply: Your graphics card must have hardware acceleration features and be 100% OpenGL compatible. At times, a graphics card may support hardware acceleration, but an issue or limitation in that graphics card's driver prevents SketchUp from rendering 3D graphics correctly. Disable this checkbox if you’re having problems with the 3D rendering of your models or if your graphics card is not 100% OpenGL compatible and does not support hardware acceleration.

    Note: Hardware Acceleration might only be available on your system for certain resolutions and color depths. Check the system settings for your graphics card to see if it supports hardware acceleration.
  • Use Maximum Texture Size: By default, this setting is deselected, because using maximum texture sizes slows down SketchUp. (Textures are images applied to your model.) Specifically, when this checkbox is deselected, SketchUp won't render graphics at a resolution higher than 1024 x 1024. You might select this option to see an image at a resolution higher than 1024 x 1024. However, if you have enabled this option and SketchUp seems slow, deselect this checkbox.
  • Use Fast Feedback: Fast feedback improves SketchUp’s performance, especially if you’re working on a large model. When you start SketchUp, it checks whether your graphics card supports fast feedback. If so, this option is selected by default. If not, this option is disabled by default. If your system doesn’t support fast feedback, you can still enable the feature manually by selecting the checkbox, but doing so may create more problems, rather than speed up your system.

On Microsoft Windows, your OpenGL preferences also include a Capabilities section, where you see a table of graphics card settings. SketchUp creates these suggestions by analyzing your graphics card’s capabilities and its rendering needs. By default, SketchUp uses the most basic configuration in the table to ensure the speediest rendering. If you’ve chosen one of the fancier options, which use more graphics card resources, and experience rendering problems, try stepping back down to the simplest configuration.

Tip: The simplest graphics card configuration has the lowest number in the # column and the lowest X value in the Anti-Alias column.

Click the Details button below the table see information about your graphics card.

In the Model Info window, you can toggle the anti-aliasing of textures on or off. (Select Window > Model Info and select the Rendering option in the sidebar on the left.) By default, the Use Anti-Aliased Textures checkbox is selected, because this feature improves SketchUp’s performance and textures’ appearance. If you see blurry textures or unusual display effects, deselecting this checkbox may improve your model’s appearance.


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