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how to model a palm tree in sketchup - the leaves

Now for the fun part! Modeling leaves in SketchUp is a straightforward task but when you add some plugins into the mix it is a very simple and quick process.

In this tutorial you will use transparent .png images to reduce modeling time.

This is the second part to the Modeling a Palm Tree tutorial

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Importing the texture

Draw a rectangle measuring 5m x 5m.

drawing a rectangle in sketchup

In the Materials palette choose 'Create Material...'. In the dialog that opens use the 'Browse button' to navigate to your texture. Using the Paint Buckettool, paint the texture to the square.

adding a texture in sketchup

If your texture does not fill the face correctly use the Edit tab to set the material size to 5m x 5m.

edit material size in sketchup

Dividing up the texture

To create 4 separate leaves from one texture we need to divide the textured face so there is a leaf for each. Use the Pencil to draw some boundary edges around each leaf.

dividing a textured face in sketchup

Double click the leaf to select it and group it using Edit > Make Group or using the context menu.

Remove any unwanted geometry and position each leaf using the Move tool.

moving groups in sketchup

Divide each leaf further using the Pencil tool. To remove any unwanted vertices you can use Fredo's Remove Lonely Vertices plugin.

You are now ready to manipulate each leaf.

subdividing geometry in sketchup

Shaping the leaves with Vertex Tools

This next step is easiest using Vertex Tools. You can do this using the native Move and Rotate tools but the process is much faster and the textures will remain properly positioned if you use Vertex Tools.

Since the process is the same for all 4 leaves you can repeat these steps for each.

Select the grouped leaf and Right Click > Make Component. Set the Component axis as you see in the image below.

opening a group for editing in sketchup

Using Vertex Tools Select tool you can select the center row of vertices.

vertex tools select tool

Move these vertices upwards. If you are using the native Move tool to do this you will notice that the textures will scramble. Vertex Tools has a feaure that locks the textures mapping when performing translations such as this.

moving vertices with vertex tools

Using the same technique move the front and rear vertices downwards.

moving vertices with vertex tools

In the remaining leaves I added further divisions to give the leaves a much smoother appearance. You can add as much or as little detail as you wish.

using divisions to add details in sketchup

using divisions to add details in sketchup

Position Components to form branches

At this stage you should have 4 leaf components. We will now position these to form the overall shape.

Move each leaf into a central position around the World Axis this will allow you to use the axis as a pivot point.

Stack your leaves in an order that suits you. Here I went from smallest to biggest but you can create whatever variant you wish.

stacking leaves in sketchup

Using the Rotate tool array copies around the World Axis. To array a copy press the CTRL key when using rotate. Here I rotate a copy 90 degrees and then typed 3* to make 3 copies.

As you can see 4 is no where near enough and the rigid alignment of the leaves makes the whole thing look unnatural.

making a rotational array in sketchup

Add some variation to the leaf stack by rotating each leaf very subtlely and then group/component the stack.

adding subtle rotations in sketchup

Now repeat the rotational array but this time rotate a copy 60 degrees and type 5* into the VCB.

making a rotational array in sketchup

Select the 6 stacks.

selecting in sketchup

Move a copy upwards using CTRL and the Movetool.

moving a copy in sketchup

Rotate this selection 30 degrees about the World Axis

making a rotation in sketchup

Now rotate random stacks slightly to add even more variation.

adding subtle rotations in sketchup

Because SketchUp doesn't display shadows from .png images you can go one step further and use the Line tool to roughly cut-out the shape of the leaves.

cut out the leaf shape in sketchup

Once you have completed this you are left with a collection of leaves that cast great shadows in SketchUp.

cut out the leaf shape in sketchup

Below is the finished for Premium Members to use in commercial or personal projects but you MAY NOT redistribute or resell this item.

Link for Resources

palm-tree-tutorial-result