If you like arranging furniture, blank terrain is as exciting as moving into a new home: Everything is clean and open and ready for your stuff. Can’t wait to set the house you designed onto its site, model a winding path through your garden, and fill the landscape with plants and trees? You’re in the right place. In SketchUp, two Sandbox tools help you place objects on terrain:
Whether you import terrain into SketchUp or create your terrain completely from scratch, you likely need to sculpt your terrain or make minor adjustments. With specialized Sandbox tools, you can create berms, ponds, terraced landscapes, and so on. The Smoove tool enables you to model hills and valleys on a TIN (triangulated irregular network). With the Add Detail tool, you can split a selection within a TIN into smaller triangles so that you can model detail where its needed.
Hiding terrain can improve SketchUp’s performance. Terrain can gobble up a noticeable chunk of your computer’s processing power, but SketchUp doesn’t ask your processor to render hidden geometry. Having a way to hide the terrain is also handy when terrain obscures the bottom parts of a model. Hide the terrain, and it’s out of your way.
In SketchUp, importing preexisting terrain is your easiest route to creating terrain. However, the tools for creating terrain from scratch are useful in the following scenarios:
Does the terrain that you want to model exist somewhere outside your imagination and in digital form? Hurrah! You can just import it! Well, sort of. Also, after you import terrain, you usually need to edit it. At minimum, you likely need to clean up the imported data by reducing the number of faces to improve your model’s performance, tracing contour lines, or a few other tasks covered in Editing and Fine-Tuning Terrain. But for now, enough of the sour details.
Terrain is important to many SketchUp modelers: Your building needs ground to stand on, or maybe you’re modeling the ground itself to create a landscape. But wait. SketchUp’s Sandbox tools — the tools you use to model terrain — can also create forms completely unrelated to terrain. How can terrain include all these other possibilities?