When your SMB designs a new building, an office space, or possibly a data center, you may not need to hire a designer at all and only call in an architect when you get to the stage of inspections and the like. With tools such as Sweet Home 3D, you can create 3D designs that can be used to start the process of creating a new space for your business or re-modeling your current space. Sweet Home 3D is free, easy to use, and comes with features any DIYer would appreciate.
Sweet Home 3D’s built-in features
- Easy to use drag and drop design.
- Draw straight, round, or sloping walls.
- Add doors and windows.
- Change color, size, and even the texture of walls.
- View 2D and 3D simultaneously.
- Real-time update of 3D view.
- Plan annotation.
- Photo-realistic image creation.
- Import additional 3D models.
- Export to PDF, bitmap, vector graphics, videos, or standard file format.
- Run on local machine or any machine with a Java-supporting browser.
- Windows 98 to Windows 7
- Mac OS X 10.4 (Tiger) to 10.7 (Lion)
- Various Linux systems and Solaris
- Minimum processor of 400 MHz
- Minimum 256 MB RAM
- Java Runtime Environment
The installation steps depend on the platform you are using. For instance, if you’re on a Windows platform, you download the installer from the SourceForge site, double-click the .exe file, and walk through the simple install wizard.
If you’re on the Linux platform, download the package from SourceForge, unpack the archive, and then run the command ./SweetHome3D from within the newly created directory. The binary executable must be run within that directory because it contains the necessary Java pieces. When the main window opens, it’s time to go to work.
Using SweetHome 3D
SweetHome 3D is the most user-friendly 3D modeling software I have ever used. In Figure A, I created a mockup of an office, complete with desk, workbench, spiral staircase, and aquarium.
Click the image to enlarge.
From the left pane you can select from various objects to drag and drop into your design, but first you must create the room where objects will be added. To do this, click the Create Rooms button from the toolbar under the Menu bar and then click the four corners for your room in the working pane (Figure B).
The dark area represents the portion of the room your current placement will create. Here I have yet to click the fourth corner for the area. (Click the image to enlarge.)
Now you can create the walls for the room by clicking the Create Walls button. You can click and drag the walls wherever you need them on the drawing. After the walls are in place, it’s time to start dragging and dropping your items.
If you don’t find an object that you need for your design, Sweet Home 3D has an import feature that allows you to import the following file types:
- 3D Studio
To import objects, follow these simple steps:
- Go to Furnature | Import Furnature.
- In the new window click either Choose model (if you’ve already downloaded a file) or Find Models (to find objects on the SweetHome3D site).
- If you click the Choose Model you will have to navigate through your file system to locate useable files. Find the file and click Open.
Note: If you download the file from the SweetHome 3D site, you don’t have to unzip the file.
During the object import, you can modify various properties of the object (Figure C), including the size of the object, the name of the object, the orientation of the object, elevation, color, and much more. You can also categorize the object for more efficient usage.
In the previous window, you can modify the orientation of the object. (Click the image to enlarge.)
As you can see during your build, the 3D view updates in real-time. You can also do a 3D walk-through of your room and even create a video of the walk-through. To do the 3D walk-through, follow these steps:
- Finish your drawing.
- Save your drawing.
- Go to 3D View | Virtual Visit.
- Use the arrows to walk the little guy around the room to get a view (Figure D).
You can either click and drag the little man (in the upper pane) around, or use the arrows to change the view. (Click the image to enlarge.)
To create your 3D video do the following:
- Go to 3D View | Create Video.
- Move the man to the spot in the room you want the video to start.
- Click the Record button in the Create Video window (Figure E).
- Move the man to the next spot in the video and click the Record button.
- Continue around the room and click the Record button where you want the man to visit.
- After you “walk” around the entire room, set the video format and the quality of the video.
- Click the Create button.
As you walk through and hit Record, the path your man takes will appear in the window shown.
The 3D video functionality can be a bit buggy depending upon the installation of Java you are using as well as the platform. The combination of Linux/Java is fairly buggy for creating videos. If you think you’ll want to take advantage of this feature, make sure you have the latest version of Java installed; otherwise, the Windows/Java combination proves to be fairly solid for the creation of video walk-throughs. Give SweetHome 3D a try to see if you can make it work to fit your needs.