Sketching software allows users to create a drawing with digital graphics. Instead of traditional art supplies such as paper and pen, artists create drawings on a computer or tablet using digital tools such as brush sets, color palettes, and more. These drawings can range from 2D drafts that visually communicate how something functions or is constructed to digital artwork. These products can be used by illustrators or designers in many different industries, such as automotive design and traditional construction. These tools allow you to take sketches one step further with functions such as pushing and pulling surfaces to turn them into 3D designs. Sketching solutions typically integrate with general-purpose CAD, as sketching files may be imported to CAD tools to create 3D models.
To qualify for inclusion in the Sketching category, a product must:
Sketching software is meant to seamlessly transition traditional art and design to a digital format to keep this process more intuitive for the user. You can simulate any medium with these solutions—wood, charcoal, paint, or pencil. Artists or designers use a stylus as a pencil or a paintbrush on a screen or tablet to create designs or works of art. One option could be a graphics tablet, which is a smaller screen connected to a computer that acts as a drawing pad. As you sketch on the tablet, it translates your strokes onto the screen.
This software can serve as the basis for more complicated designs or artwork, including animated scenes. Since not every sketching solution is capable of 3D designs, these products are typically compatible with CAD tools. That way, sketch files can be exported into 3D CAD files, allowing for the creation of 3D models.
Digital sketching expands the boundaries of physical art and design. Manually drafting up designs, painting on a canvas, or creating a sculpture takes multiple tools; with sketching solutions, users have a comprehensive selection of tools at their fingertips. Sketching software can support multiple capabilities—including an unlimited color palette, multiple line weights, and unmatched precision and control—within one platform.
Digital sketching software also offers editing capabilities that are not possible with physical art and design. For example, with traditional painting, layers are painted directly on top of each other, making it impossible to edit each layer separately. Sketching software, meanwhile, offers the ability to manipulate individual layers through the use of color, shadows, special effects, and more.
In addition, unlike drafting up sketches in real life, a separate tool is not needed to adjust lines in sketches; the functionality to create curves and smooth lines is built into sketching solutions. In practice, this helps achieve an accurate design quicker, meaning the product being designed can go to market faster.
Sketching software is commonly used to create technical drawings depicting a process or how something is constructed. Architects use this software to sketch out designs for buildings, so that the full structure of the building can be seen. When these sketches are rendered, they can be used to show the location of windows, doorways, stairwells, and other points of interest. These sketches are often exported as CAD files to then create a 3D model of the design.
Engineers utilize these solutions to depict the structure of a building they construct, or even the individual parts of a product. Sketching solutions also allow engineers to create detailed schematics that outline how a product works. With this information, a manufacturer can bring the product to life.
Artists working in any medium can benefit from sketching products as well, as they enable artists to create digital works of art. Artists have an endless amount of colors at their disposal. The stylus used to create art can function as a paintbrush, pencil, and more. Digital art eliminates the limitations of physical art, since the platform can mimic almost any medium.
While there are not different subcategories of sketching software, some sketching products might emphasize certain applications of sketching. One such application is digital illustration. This style of sketching is most commonly used by artists. They can use a stylus and screen to replace a pencil and paper. Traditional sketching techniques such as layers, perspective, and reshaping translate to these solutions.
Sketching software users who draft up a model of a structure or object utilize these solutions for their 2D CAD capabilities. These products allow users to quickly create a precise 2D drawing without the use of stencils and other technical drawing tools. Similarly, industrial designers use sketching software for its concept drawing capabilities.
Architects and engineers may use these solutions for technical drawing as well. These drafts are intended to visually communicate how something is constructed or how a process works. While there are different applications for sketching software, they are all typically used in these industries to serve as the basis for a 3D model.
Sketching software should offer its users a robust toolkit. The use of a stylus allows the user to create a variety of strokes and line weights. The stylus can act as different tools, such as a paintbrush or pen. Sketching solutions provide other valuable tools, such as rulers and straight edges, so users can ensure designs are as precise as possible. Sketching software should also offer an artist or designer an endless amount of colors to choose from.
No matter the user’s industry, the 2D drafting capabilities included in sketching software are highly valuable. The toolkit in these products make for comprehensive 2D drafting, along with editing and annotation capabilities. Sketching software is so precise that it enables users to annotate drafts with text, dimensions, leaders, and tables.
While some sketching tools allow 3D drafting, the feature is not universal. Many drawings created within these products serve as the basis for 3D models, so those solutions that only allow for drafting in 2D should be compatible with 3D CAD files.
Sketching solutions should offer features that allow users to create the most precise and accurate designs possible. Some sketching products might offer symmetry dimensions so that the design is drafted with uniformity. Various rulers, guides, and French curves may be available for precision drawing. These products should be adjustable for the user’s needs.
For those products more focused on the digital art side of sketching, solutions often have features that enable you to create a work of art right on your screen. These tools may allow you to blend layers of color, add shading, and more.
Mobile access is quickly becoming a relevant trend in sketching software. Cloud features are popular within many software categories, including 2D CAD. This means that people have access to their apps, tools, and other data at any time so users can draft models on the go.
Different digital art styles are trending in sketching software as well. One current trend is the color channels effect, which distorts reality through colors. Another digital art trend is the double exposure duotone. This is the overlapping of images in a monochromatic to give an “ahead of time” effect. The toolkits offered in sketching solutions could enable you to achieve these trends, and keep up with new and emerging trends as well.
Cost – Creating digital art is pricey. Aside from purchasing the sketching solution of your choice, you will likely need to purchase a graphics tablet that comes with a stylus. The advanced nature of the software and its digital tools make a keyboard and mouse ineffective for sketching.
Ownership — When you digitally draft up a design, it becomes far easier to steal than something created on a piece of paper. If a piece of digital art is stolen, you may lose sole ownership over your creation. However, some solutions may allow for you to create a digital watermark, which would prevent theft.
Prototypes are required — 2D designs are often intended to serve as the basis for a 3D design. However, a 2D design simply cannot communicate the same detail that a 3D design tool can. That means you may need to create a prototype of whatever you are designing. This might be the only way to get a complete view of the product being designed so you can ensure there are no flaws before it goes to market.
Rendering — While some sketching solutions offer the ability to draw in 3D, not all of them do. That means that another advantage of comprehensive 3D solutions is their ability to render a design. If your sketching software does not have 3D capabilities, you will need to export your file to a separate solution that supports rendering.
3D modeling — If the sketching product you select does not support 3D designs, you may want to consider finding a 3D modeling solution that integrates with your existing product. These tools can create a 3D model of the product designed with sketching software. Once a 3D model is created, a separate product can be used to render it. This will allow you to visualize your 3D design in a 3D environment.
3D rendering — As only some sketching software solutions support rendering, a compatible software that can render all your 3D designs into a scene might be necessary. 3D rendering software takes the 3D models created and places them into fully realized 3D environments. Integrating a 3D rendering solution into your design process allows you to see your design from all angles in a realistic way, helping you or your clients to check for flaws. 3D modeling and 3D rendering solutions are typically compatible with one another, if not offered in a bundle.
Graphic design services providers — If you are using sketching software for its art and design capabilities and do not have the resources to learn 3D design software, a graphic design services provider may be a good fit for you. These firms can create a visual representation of your brand’s ideas that can be used to attract potential and current customers. While this is not a guarantee, some graphic design companies may be adept at 3D design.
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SketchUp is one of the most popular 3D modeling and design tools in the world. Here at Trimble, our mission is to help make our users better, smarter, and more successful through the use of state of the art software and hardware. Trimble is an exciting, entrepreneurial company, with a history of exceptional growth coupled with a disciplined and strategic focus on being the best. While GPS is at our core, we have grown beyond this technology to embrace other sophisticated positioning technologies and, in doing so; we are changing the way the world works. Our solutions are used in over 140 countries and we have incredibly diverse lines of business. Our employees represent this diversity and can be found in over 30 countries, working closely with their colleagues around the world. SketchUp, part of Trimble’s Construction sector, is 3D modeling software that's easy to learn and incredibly fun to use. Today, hundreds of thousands of architects, engineers, contractors, woodworkers, artists, and other creatives use SketchUp Pro, LayOut, Extension Warehouse and the 3D Warehouse to design everything from transit centers to tree-houses and everything in between.
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