Improving 3D Site Models and Project Collaboration with High Resolution Aerial Imagery & 3D Reality Mesh from Nearmap in SketchUp Pro. 

This blog post answers frequently asked questions on how-to import Nearmap imagery into SketchUp and provides more info on how users get value from current 2D Vertical imagery and 3D textured mesh.

SketchUp (formerly Google Sketchup acquired by Trimble Inc. in 2012) is widely used for building design and construction in the AEC (Architecture, Engineering, and Construction) industry, namely by landscape architects, interior designers, urban planners, developers, and architects to name a few. It is a 3D modeling application that has an extensive warehouse of user-created models and extensions for advanced modeling. Many designers prefer to use SketchUp over other CAD software, such as AutoCAD, Rhino and Revit, due to its ease of use and 3D visualization capabilities.

At Nearmap, we are frequently asked about best practices for importing Nearmap Vertical imagery, also referred to as orthoimagery, and on-demand 3D reality mesh into SketchUp; and furthermore, how are these best utilized in tandem to enhance site plans and aid in project coordination. Nearmap 2D and 3D aerial imagery is not only easily accessible through the cloud but is also high-resolution, accurate, and up-to-date which reflects a more realistic view between a proposed project and existing surroundings. Most designers, and project teams within the larger picture, first employ Nearmap within SketchUp for conceptual design and site context during the design phase of figuring out what they plan to build before setting off to build it.

Why Nearmap 3D?

Having access to current high-resolution imagery for SketchUp and other CAD tools can help enhance architectural visualizations for project proposals and marketing plans, evaluate preliminary designs, illustrate 3D site plans, better convey worksite conditions & safety issues, and will improve design and communication from across all project phases from preconstruction to completion. Nearmap 3D allows you to export on-demand 3D in several content types at high quality, scale, and speed.

Our most commonly asked Nearmap with Sketchup questions:

  • Can Nearmap content be imported into SketchUp and what file types are preferred?
  • Can 2D imagery be geolocated and used as a reference image to add more detail to a 3D site plan?
  • Can 3D textured mesh be edited, i.e. remove a building or tree, adjust color, edit resolution, and modify the mesh?

1. Importing Nearmap 2D and 3D into SketchUp Pro

How to access Nearmap and preferred file types?

If you are not already a Nearmap subscriber with instant access to high-resolution aerial imagery through the cloud, you may request access here.

Nearmap 2D Vertical Imagery and True Ortho

Nearmap 2D Vertical Imagery (.jpg, .png) and True Ortho (.tif) can be imported directly into SketchUp Pro through the File > Import > Select the image file that’s been downloaded from Nearmap MapBrowser and the corresponding file type (.jpg, .png, or .tif). This image may serve as a reference image footprint in which 3D models may be placed to create a more spatially accurate site plan. Perhaps you want to visualize the location of an existing parking lot, but you don’t want to spend the time to hand render it into the correct location. By utilizing the current aerial as a basemap or reference image, you could save time and money by accessing current 3D urban context of the surrounding environment. Please note that this simple method of direct import does not geolocate the image which would be helpful if you are planning to export &/or import additional georeferenced models. Other georeferenced models will need to be manually placed.

Nearmap 3D

Nearmap 3D textured mesh (.fbx, .obj) can be imported into SketchUp Pro via a third-party extension. We suggest SKIMP, Transmutr Importer Plugin, or SimLab Importer. All offer a free trial version and allow you to reduce the number of polygons i.e. wireframes during the import process which will aid in performance and rendering of the model. Both .fbx and .obj file types may be exported for a custom area of interest from MapBrowser and then imported through the suggested extensions.

2. Importing Georeferenced Imagery into SketchUp Pro

It’s useful to have the ability to import georeferenced aerial imagery into SketchUp to use as an accurate reference footprint for adding detail and other 3D models to a site plan. The basic idea is that an aerial image may serve as an underlay for a pencil sketch or 3D site model of a proposed redevelopment project or new site plan. One method of georeferencing images includes implementing File ? Geo-Location ?  Get Location capabilities of SketchUp to acquire a georeferenced basemap where you can then manually scale and rotate your model or use registration pins to more accurately geolocate your design.

3. Editing 3D Textured Mesh in SketchUp or in Other 3D Modeling Applications

How to remove objects, perform color adjustment, adjust resolution and improve quality?

The 3D textured mesh can be edited within SketchUp or in other 3D modeling applications. You may want to remove a building or an entire block in order to place your proposed design. It’s also possible to perform color adjustment and reduce the resolution of the texture maps separate from the polygon wireframes in Adobe Photoshop or other photo editing software. Autodesk Recap Photo, MeshLab, and Blender have advanced built-in editing tools that will allow you to modify the mesh which we will visit in future posts.

MeshLab is a free open source software that will allow you to select faces in a particular region of the textured mesh and quickly delete large areas. Another more tedious method to edit mesh inside of SketchUp is to turn on Hidden Geometry in order to see components of textured mesh. Utilize the free extension QuadFace tools available from the SketchUp Extension Warehouse. Use QuadFace Tools > Select > Grow Selection in order to select multiple meshes to be deleted. Delete selected meshes which could be of a structure, trees, cars, or any other object on the surface then turn off Hidden Geometry. The examples below demonstrate the edited mesh inside of MeshLab and imported into SketchUp. The Vertical 2D imagery has also been imported to fill in small gaps of the hole where the new design downloaded from SketchUp Model Warehouse was placed.

What’s next?

After creating a proposed 3D site model using Nearmap and SketchUp, it’s possible to save/export the model and then import the completed project into other software applications such as V-Ray, Enscape, Lumion, Unity or Unreal to create VR/AR experiences. We’ve seen Nearmap users create amazing interactive visualizations which we look forward to showcasing in upcoming blog posts.

Bonus Tip!

By default, SketchUp downgrades higher resolution image textures to a maximum of 1024 x 1024 pixels because in the past graphics cards didn’t have the horsepower to render models with large textures on screen reliably.

To turn off this feature, go to Preferences > OpenGL, and check the “Use maximum texture size”. With this checked, SketchUp will no longer downgrade image textures to 1024px. SketchUp will communicate with the video card and image will display at a new maximum resolution of up to 4096 x 4096 pixels.

Carrie Wiley

Enterprise Account Executive based New York

Carrie is a Geospatial Engineer experienced in the application of geographic information technologies including mapping, data analysis, remote sensing, GIS, and advanced methodologies to gain insight, make smarter decisions, and craft solutions to difficult problems.