Sketchbook Designer is a great value added to some of the new Suites. You will find it in the three tiers of Autodesk Design Suite, Product Design Suite and Building Design Suite.
Sketchbook Designer installs a standalone version and also a plug in for AutoCAD. It is a phenomenal application for sketching and illustration, and I hope to do some justice to it in a series of examples around its use.
If you have ever used the previous version, called Alias Sketch, you will notice some changes. Most of the editing was moved into the standalone version, leaving very few features inside AutoCAD. They replaced this with a very powerful one click workflow.
The first example I want to show is around the use of 2d data from AutoCAD. We’ll do some edits inside Sketchbook Designer. In later posts I’ll get a little more creative with a bigger example, but this is simply for explaining some key concepts.
We’ll start with a simple detail: a balcony with a lighting fixture, where we’ll try to change the curve appeal. Let’s say that we want to use a solution that allows for freehand sketching, but we also want to reuse this information as efficiently as possible. If you are in Suites, you then have the best of both worlds. Let’s draft in AutoCAD and sketch in Sketchbook Designer, and reuse the data from one application into the other. The solution is a simple one click workflow.
Once you isolate the detail you want to sketch on top of, we’ll create a canvas. This is a simple operation that is done from the Sketchbook Designer tab in the Ribbon.
Select New Canvas and you’ll get a window with some grips in order to create your canvas. The Canvas will define the area where the plug in will operate. There are options for Fixed and Free, and the first one constrains the aspect ratio. If you want to have more freedom, you probably want to change into Free. Now, let me share a tip. Sometimes, you will see that Free is displayed by default, but the canvas behaves like Fixed. Simply go back to Fixed and change again to Free, and all will be good.
With your canvas done, you now want to let Sketchbook Designer know what to do with the AutoCAD layers. By selecting Create Vector Underlay On, the layers will be transferred, and will then be able to be converted into raster or vector layers inside Sketchbook Designer. Preserve layers ensures that you will see all layers, and they won’t be merged into a single vector layer. If you only want to operate with the lines inside a couple of specific layers, Preserve Layers is the right thing to do.
Once you finished, you can Apply the changes and then click on the Sketchbook Designer button in the Ribbon, which will start the one click workflow. The standalone application will start, and you will see the same canvas you had in AutoCAD. Note that the limits of the canvas in AutoCAD are the limits to any work you can do in Sketchbook, so keep this in mind when creating the limits of your canvas.
Also note that when Sketchbook Designer is linked to AutoCAD, you won’t be able to work in AutoCAD. If you don’t know this, you may think that AutoCAD has frozen.
You can see how your AutoCAD layers are now Sketchbook Designer layers. Simply select one of them, and you will see the option to convert it into a raster or a vector layer. Right now we want vectors, so as to use the cool and really sophisticated features from Sketchbook Designer.
Select the line, and see how you can create a curve by simply adding knots to the spline. There are other very useful commands, but I’ll only mention one more. Restroke Curve allows you to simply stroke next to the spline, and the curve will readjust to those strokes. If you have a tablet, this is a great way of getting closer to what you really want, as opposed to simply adding or removing knots. This is much closer to the kind of design intent that you can apply when hand sketching.
With the curves already with the shape you wanted, you can now export them as a dwg into AutoCAD. You can export a selection, if you simply want a couple of splines and not the whole set of curves. Once you do this, it’s time to go back to AutoCAD.
As soon as you close Sketchbook Designer, AutoCAD will be back to life, and you will see your edits. But wait a minute. Those edits are on the canvas and not real dwg vectors. Open the dwg file created in Sketchbook Designer and you will see your curves in Paper Space. Cut them and paste them into the drawing. You will probably have a different scale, but that’s easy to fix.
As you can see, in a couple of clicks, you could go from AutoCAD into Sketchbook Designer, and edit a detail, adding some design intent with tools more appropriate for this. As I said before, this particular example is really simple, and some may argue that they could have done this in AutoCAD alone. Sure. But the point was to show the concept around the one click workflow.
In following postings, after presenting some other features, we’ll move into more complex examples.