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3D Cutaway Isometric Diagrams
(without exploding your model!)

Topics Covered

In this video, I show you how to make amazing cutaway 3D isometric views without having to explode and remove portions of your model!

Software used: SketchUp, Vray & Photoshop.

Lesson Summary

This scientific article summarizes a video transcript demonstrating the creation of non-destructive cutaway diagrams in 3D modelling using V for SketchUp. The technique involves manipulating materials, lighting, and the Clipper tool. Challenges and solutions are discussed, along with tips for enhancing the final output.

Introduction: Creating detailed cutaway diagrams in 3D modelling can be challenging without compromising the model’s integrity. This article summarizes a video tutorial that explores a non-destructive approach to achieve this using V for SketchUp.

  • Materials and Lighting:  Start by creating a grey base material to serve as a base for the cutaway. Use an outline override to add edges to the model.
  • Adjust the lighting by adding a dome light with an HDRI image to enhance the scene’s visual appeal.
  • Fine-tune the lighting by adjusting exposure or intensity to achieve the desired ambiance.
  • Glass Materials: For transparent elements like glass, use V-Ray glass materials. Ensure they are exempt from material overrides.
  • Add vegetation, such as trees, to enhance the scene’s realism.
  • Creating the Cutaway: Instead of exploding the model, create a box to represent the cutting object. Enable X-ray mode for better manipulation.
  • Utilize the “Convert to Clipper” tool to carve through the model. Adjust the cutaway’s extent and depth as needed.
  • Apply unique materials to the cutaway section, e.g., yellow, for clarity. Ensure that the material override does not affect the glass elements.
  • Check for open-ended geometry that may affect the cutaway’s accuracy. Ensure all elements are solid for clean results.
  • Final Render: Adjust the rendering settings, including resolution, to generate the desired quality.
  • Post-Processing: In Photoshop, refine the cutaway image by removing unwanted lines. Consider using a 50% opacity effect for a professional look.
  • Address ghosting issues by applying the outline material to objects seen through the Clipper.
  • Use SketchUp’s line work feature for added accuracy and adjust the safe frame for proper alignment with the final export.

Conclusion: Creating non-destructive cutaway diagrams in 3D modeling can be achieved with precision and professionalism using V for SketchUp. This technique allows for detailed and visually appealing representations without compromising the model’s integrity. Careful material and lighting adjustments, along with post-processing techniques, enhance the final output, providing a valuable tool for architectural and design visualization.

The importance of axonometric drawings

Axonometric drawings, stand as a compelling paradigm in architectural representation, offering a distinctive blend of precision and abstraction that both challenges and enlightens our perception of space. They are not merely technical illustrations but are imbued with the capacity to convey complex architectural ideas with clarity and cogency. This blend of accurate detail and stylized representation makes axonometric drawings an indispensable part of the architect’s toolkit.

The term ‘axonometric,’ deriving from the Greek words ‘axis’ and ‘measure,’ quite literally means to measure along axes. This is a fitting descriptor for a method that presents objects and spaces without the distortion of perspective. Axonometric drawings are categorized into three primary types: isometric, dimetric, and trimetric, each offering a different angle and dimensionality to the viewer, thus allowing architects to choose the mode that best communicates the spatial qualities they wish to highlight.

In isometric projections, the plan is rotated at 45 degrees from its orthogonal position, and all three axes (vertical and two horizontal) are inclined to project at equal angles to the plane of projection. This equality of axes gives a true representation of the object’s proportions, enabling architects to present their work in a manner that is measurable and quantifiable, ideal for technical understanding.

Dimetric and trimetric projections, on the other hand, use different scales along one or two of the axes, respectively. This flexibility affords architects the ability to emphasize particular aspects of their designs, perhaps to showcase the depth of a space or the prominence of a façade. 

Why should Architects use this type of drawing style?

One of the fundamental attributes that makes axonometric drawings so vital for architects is their inherent ability to maintain scale across the drawing. Unlike perspective drawings, where objects diminish in size as they recede from the viewer, axonometrics preserve the true scale of objects, regardless of their location in the space. This enables architects to accurately depict the size and scale of different elements of their designs relative to each other, which is essential for planning and for conveying the relationships between various parts of a building.

Moreover, axonometric drawings allow for a more thorough visualization of a project. Complex intersections and spatial configurations can be rigorously examined as they offer a simultaneous view of multiple faces of an object. This makes it easier to understand the layout and the connections within different levels and components of a building, something that is harder to achieve with traditional elevation or plan drawings.

These drawings also possess a certain democratic quality; they enable a variety of stakeholders, from clients to builders, to grasp complex architectural concepts without requiring the trained eye needed to understand perspective distortions. This characteristic not only facilitates a shared understanding but also enhances communication between all parties involved in the architectural process, thus bridging the gap between conception and realization.

However, the appeal of axonometric drawings transcends their functional and communicative merits. There is an inherent beauty in their geometric rigor and a subtle play between reality and abstraction that fascinates the viewer. In axonometric projection, as elements are decontextualized from their real-world vantage points, they gain a certain universality. The observer is invited to imagine the space without the prejudice of perspective, opening up a realm of interpretation that perspective-bound images might not allow.

How can Architects use Axo’s to explore ideas?

Furthermore, axonometric drawings provide a fertile ground for architects to explore their ideas in a purely formal context, unencumbered by the constraints of realistic representation. This abstract quality can foster innovation and creativity, allowing architects to push the boundaries of conventional design and explore spaces that might seem impossible through the lens of perspective. They can test new forms and spatial arrangements in a setting that is unforgiving in its precision but unlimited in its potential.

Despite these advantages, the creation and interpretation of axonometric drawings require a different kind of discipline. They demand meticulous attention to detail and an understanding of geometric principles, as well as the ability to conceptualize three-dimensional forms in two dimensions. Mastery of this technique can be a significant undertaking for architects, but the payoff is a tool of exceptional versatility and expressive power.

In contemporary architectural practice, where digital tools allow for an array of visualization techniques, axonometric drawings hold their ground due to their unique qualities. They complement other forms of representation, such as perspective renderings and virtual models, by providing a distinct type of clarity and a different kind of spatial understanding. The combination of these various methods enriches the design process, offering multiple lenses through which to examine and refine architectural ideas.


In conclusion, axonometric drawings are more than just a method of representation; they are an interpretative and heuristic device that enables architects to conceive, explore, and communicate complex spatial arrangements with an exceptional level of detail and precision. They provide a singular viewpoint that defies the natural perception of the human eye, inviting both architects and viewers alike to engage with space in a manner that is at once rigorously accurate and intriguingly alien.


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