Google Sketchup is a 3d drawing and illustration program like none you’ve ever seen before. It’s about the fastest, easiest, most self-explanatory, simple 3D tools I’ve used before. That’s because Sketchup is designed and operated in a much different way that any other 3D program I’ve seen before. Most 3D design tools owe their lineage to CAD software, and for that reason they’re really designed for precise, step-by-step drawing of well scaled, detailed and precise figures for mechanical or architectural use. There’s often as much typing of commands as there is mouse-clicks. (Also, it’s FREE)
But Sketchup is much different. It is designed for freehanded drawing and creation of 3D objects and worlds. It has a “tape-measure” as a measuring tool, but by and large it’s click-drag-draw and eyeball the dimensions and layout. This is combined with some very useful geometric tools allow for easy scaling, dividing and aligning of components. It’s a ball to make simple and complex figures and the models are rendered in real time, even on a relatively lackluster computer, allowing you to pan, tilt, zoom and fly around the models. It has some very useful features including “push/pull” which is akin to extrude and “follow me” which allows for extrusions that create circles, spirals, shapes or follow almost any profile. You can create “components” which allows you to put a given figure in multiple places and have it change in all locations by just editing it once.