How to Create Accurate Shadows in Google SketchUp 8

Google SketchUp can display accurate shadows, one of its most useful features. Adding shadows to freestanding things like tables, lamps, and pineapples is a mostly aesthetic undertaking; just fiddle with the controls until things look good to you, and you’ll be okay. To create accurate shadows, you must know the time of day, the day of the year, and the latitude of the building site.

The sun’s position (and thus the position of shadows) depends on geographic location, or latitude. The shadow cast by a building at 3:00 on March 5 in Minsk is very different from that cast by a similar building, at the same time of day, on the same date in Nairobi.

If you display shadows on a model of a toaster oven, geographic location probably doesn’t matter to you; the shadows are just there for effect. But if you try to see how much time your pool deck will spend in the sun during the summer months, you need to tell SketchUp where you are.

You can geo-reference your model (give it a geographic location) in two ways; which one you choose probably depends on whether you have an Internet connection handy:

  • Using a geo-location snapshot: If you know exactly where your model is supposed to go, and you’re online, use this method.

  • Using the Model Info dialog box: This method is a little more complicated, but it’s your only option if you’re not online.

It’s a pretty simple process to study how the sun will affect your project. This is the fun part; all you have to do is move some sliders.

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To study how the sun affects your project, follow these steps:

  1. Orbit, zoom, and pan around until you have a good view of the part of your project you want to study.

  2. Choose Window→Shadows to open the Shadow Settings dialog box.

  3. Select the Show/Hide Shadows button to turn on SketchUp’s sun.

  4. Make sure the time zone setting is correct for your location.

    If the time zone you see in the Time Zone drop-down list (at the top of the Shadow Settings dialog box) isn’t correct, choose another one.

  5. Type a month and day into the box to the right of the Date slider and then press Enter.

  6. Move the Time slider back and forth to see how the shadows will move over the course of that day.

  7. Pick a time of day using the Time controls.

  8. Move the Date slider back and forth to see how the sun will affect your project at that time of day over the course of the year.

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