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Pixel Perfect Alignment

Visualizer is a great tool for making clear, realistic images quickly for communication with clients, contractors, and colleagues. Sometimes a photo can show what a formal drawing can't. How can we further maximize the utility and impact of our designs?

If you read our previous post about VIsualizer ground shadows, you might have noticed that the unshadowed SketchUp display had one thing that the Visualizer display lacked: dimension markings. This post will show you how to quickly integrate both views together, so that you can get the best of both worlds when you need it. Here's an example:

What sorcery is this? Glad you asked!


To make a photo like this we just need to apply a new subtle feature of Visualizer 1.1's new image size tool -- Pixel-Perfect Alignment. 

In Visualizer's window size controls, the top button sports a tiny SketchUp logo. When you click it, Visualizer's window will alter its proportions to match that of the SketchUp display. And if you hold down the shift key when selecting it, Visualizer will also match the SketchUp display size exactly -- pixel-for-pixel.

If we save the Visualizer photo and also use SketchUp's own "Export 2D Graphic" ability, these two pictures will align perfectly and can easily be mixed to gain the combined strength of both views in a single photo.


If you're experienced with mixing SketchUp with image tools like Gimp or Photoshop, you may already know everything you need already. For the rest of us, here's a quick step-by-step breakdown:

1 For Visualizer, we've already told you what you need to know: shift-click the window size to get perfect alignment with SketchUp, then press the shutter button to save that image when you're satisfied with the detail and color.

2 In SketchUp, we'll ned to tweak our display so that only the dimensions guides are shown. This is surprisingly easy!

First, turn off SketchUp shadows (if you were using them).

Next, open the SketchUp "Styles" window from the "Window" menu, and follow along with these three steps.... (indicated by the red stars):

First, let's select a "Straight Line" style.

Let's pick the simplest, one-pixel-line style. The SketchUp view should jump to a line-drawn view.

Finally, let's select the "Edit" tab, and un-check "Edges"

Now all we see are the dimensions!

From this point, just go to SketchUp's "File" menu and select "Export -> 2D Graphic..." to save this picture.

So now we have two pixel-aligned pictures: the visualized house, and the dimensions.

3 To finish this up, we'll need to combine them in an common image-editing program like Gimp or Photoshop. We'll use Gimp in the example since it's free for anyone -- the steps are nearly identical in Photoshop.

We'll simply combine the pictures as two layers. In Gimp we can get them both in a single step, using "File->Open As Layers..." and select both images before pressing the "Open" button.

Open the "Layers" window, and you'll see your two layers. If the dimensions layer is not visible, just drag-rearrange them so that the dimensions are on top (red star in the illustration)

Now, select that dimensions layer and change the Mode from "Normal" to "Multiply" (marked by the green star). Voila! Our dimensions are layered over the Visualized house.

The dimensions will be in black. If you'd like a lighter touch, you can also edit the opacity of the top layer, as we did in our example picture at the beginning of this post (blue star).

That's it!

Extra Credit

As you probably know, we've just scratched the surface of SketchUp's complex line styles here -- our goal was a simple and direct one: to integrate our dimensions (and annotations) to the Visualizer view.

Feel free to experiment! Adding line styles to a Visualizer display has a lot of creative and communication potential, depending on the model and your goals. For even more unusual line effects, check out the sketchy-styles experts at SketchUpArtists.Org for more ideas ranging from the mild to the wild.