SketchUp and AutoCAD are two of the most widely used CAD programs by architects and interior designers for the representation of projects.
Focused on the use of interior design, Sketchup has utilities and facilities that make it a more useful program for the presentation of interior projects compared to AutoCAD.
AutoCAD is a very complete and versatile program, but, although AutoCAD has functions for 3D modeling, the strength of this program lies in the 2D representation, contrary to SketchUp.
In this topic, I want to make an analysis of the utilities of both programs focused on the use of interior design.
Quick answer: Due to its great versatility and speed in creating 3D models, SketchUp is a more useful tool than AutoCAD for interior design, Sketchup has a huge library of free 3D models that are very useful for interior designers.
As I mentioned previously, the fundamental utility of AutoCAD was from the beginning as a 2D tool, for this function is excellent, AutoCAD is so versatile that it is used by different professionals, not only Architects.
Sketchup is a tool oriented from the beginning to the rapid development of 3D models, with a concept of “freehand”, the fact that Sketchup is a tool focused from the beginning for 3D development gives it some advantage over the development of Autocad elements.
We must keep in mind that although AutoCAD is used in interior design for elevations and plan views, the powerful use of CAD tools in interior design is the 3D representation of spaces, and from that point of view we must measure the usefulness of both programs.
As an architect and CGI artist, I have had to work closely with interior designers, some of whom are very demanding and specific about the colors to be used in their presentations.
This is one of the fundamental differences between SketchUp and AutoCAD regarding interior design since the SketchUp program makes it much easier to apply colors on walls and furniture, not so much in Autocad.
In addition, Sketchup has a color selector where the HLS, HSB, and RGB formats are where you can enter the specific numbering of the colors to obtain exact tones.
Apart from this, SketchUp allows you to quickly and easily include images to the model and use them as textures.
It seems to me that the color options are a major drawback of SketchUp in relation to being used in interiors.
There is another decisive point in relation to the comparison of SketchUp and AutoCAD as a tool for interior design and that is the provision of a library of materials ready to be used immediately.
Yes, AutoCAD has many 3D blocks and elements that can be used to set up a 3D scene, but it does not compare to the SketchUp Warehouse.
The library of 3D files in SketchUp Warehouse is simply immense, to give you a practical example, the image that I put later in the comparison of the colors, of a room, all the elements were obtained from the SketchUp Warehouse, I only had to model the walls.
From the door, furniture, lamps, tables, everything was obtained from the SketchUp Warehouse, this saves me a huge amount of time, plus I can also upload my models to the library to share them.
Best of all, this library is free and you can download as much furniture as you want to present your projects.
I know I’m biased too much about SketchUp, but it’s objectively a better tool at least for the presentation of interior projects.
Complex 3D Objects
In this section, AutoCAD does have powerful tools and is very capable of making complex 3D objects more easily than SketchUp.
Sketchup can use plugins to make complex 3D objects, but in reality, they are a bit complicated to handle.
But, from my point of view, these complex 3D shapes are not a great advantage in reference to interior design, for interior design I have never been in trouble for needing to model any complex 3D object.
I can always solve them all with walls and furniture from the model library.
Fast and Fun
Although in this analysis, I have been totally biased in favor of AutoCad, with objective reasons, I really think that a person very experienced in AutoCAD is able to model any object that can be achieved in SketchUp, just much slower and less fun.
These are two more points in favor of Sketchup, it is a fast and fun 3D work tool, there is not much rigidity in the SketchUp program since the concept of the program is to emulate a freehand drawing.
This lack of rigidity can sometimes be a factor against it, but most of all it favors the speed of execution of the work.
Another considerable aspect is the learning curve of both programs, although you can achieve any object in AutoCAD 3D, to reach that level, it takes a lot of practice and time, while in SketchUp, it is so easy to learn that you could master the basics in one day.
In this section there is no overwhelming advantage for any of the programs, AutoCAD has very good programs for rendering.
AutoCAD has better rendering for detailed models, but in this specific case, we are comparing the proposals for interior design.
Initially, the 3D rendering options in AutoCAD were quite rudimentary and complicated in the handling of lights and materials, but nowadays they have improved and evolved a lot and you can achieve high-quality renderings.
SketchUp also supports a large number of rendering programs, including some programs that can be used from within SketchUp itself, such as the Vray engine.
As well as the other popular rendering programs, so I don’t see a clear advantage in either program.
I would lean towards SketchUp, because the variety of rendering programs available for SketchUp is greater than in AutoCAD, although this is not a determining factor, usually only one program is used.
Accuracy and Layout
This is the strength of AutoCAD as a program, although SketchUp may have millimeter accuracy, AutoCAD is simply a much more accurate program for drawing and plan execution.
In addition, AutoCAD is a much more versatile program with more tools available than SketchUp for making floor plans, although SketchUp has a layout where you can make very good presentations with details.
Simply the execution of plans and lines in SketchUp is a bit complicated and tedious.
Most of the time, an interior designer has to show his projects from the laptop or tablet, and in many occasions in meetings with clients, he has to execute and make changes in the same instant.
In this case, which does not require great precision, but speed in order to show ideas in real-time, SketchUp has the advantage over AutoCAD.
Another of the most useful elements of Sketchup is that you can record the views of the scenes and convert them into virtual tours, this is extremely useful for project presentation meetings, or to have the views of different spaces stored at the reach of a click.
You should not decide on just one program, if you put me between the two programs, specifically for interior design, the selection would not be so difficult, I would choose SketchUp without thinking too much.
Although actually in my work process I use both programs, because as an architecture professional I find it too difficult to try to create 2D drawings in SketchUp.
What I do is to create the plans and 2D drawings in AutoCAD very accurately, and this plan I import it to Sketchup where I work on the basis of the drawing created in AutoCAD, this way I make sure to be working accurately and take advantage of the speed and strengths of both programs.