[Sketchlife logo]


What is Sketchlife?

Sketchlife is a system which allows you to build for Second Life using SketchUp.

Most 3D modelling tools use meshes (vertices connected by edges which define faces), whereas Second Life has adopted solids, referred to as primitives, to be their indivisible building blocks. This guarantees that there won't be any stray polygons flying around, but it also prevents mesh models from being imported automatically.

The in-world modelling tools in Second Life are quite good, but they are stone age compared to the 3D modelling power tool that is SketchUp. SketchUp is free. (Thank you Google.)

Therefore, if we can't bring SketchUp to Second Life, we'll bring Second Life to SketchUp.

Sketchlife Hello World video — start here

This video shows a very simple model of the words "Hello World" being built and uploaded using Sketchlife tools. It demonstrates the process: press "Export", copy and paste the model key, drop the textures into the box, and, finally, copy and paste the build key. The process is the same for all models.

In a few words, Sketchlife is a tool to speed up the SL building process. A Sketchlife user will have an edge over even the most proficient builder who uses the online Second Life building tools exclusively. Sketchlife does not replace all of the in-world tools, it replaces those tools which are used to make up the bulk of Second Life buildings. After a model is imported, online tools can be used as always, to add the extra few details that may be necessary.


The most complicated model imported to date is St. Basil's Cathedral, originally modelled by Arrigo Silva and featured on Google Earth.

Teleport: click here (this is a SL-URL).

St. Basil's Cathedral

There are more screenshots on the Examples page.


1. The most important part of Sketchlife is the SketchUp extension. It is a Ruby script which uses the API provided by SketchUp to add several tools on a toolbar (inside SketchUp).

Sketchlife toolbar in SketchUp

From left to right:

  1. Box primitive tool.
  2. General cylinder primitive tool.
  3. Simple cylinder primitive tool.
  4. Arch tool.
  5. Sketchlife bucket.
  6. Select All Sketchlife primitives.
  7. Remove non-Sketchlife primitives from current selection.
  8. Export selected primitives to Second Life.

2. The second most important element of Sketchlife is the Sketchlife Importer. It is an object in Second Life which looks like this:

The Sketchlife Importer

It builds the object that you import.


The main strengths of using Sketchlife rather than the conventional building tools in Second Life are:


Per primitive:L$1
A model containing only one prim with at most one textured face can be imported for free.

For large, fully-textured models we have imported, the price of using Sketchlife was approximately the same as the price of uploading the textures. This combined cost is in all cases much smaller than the time investment required to build any given model. Also, the ongoing cost of land hire greatly outweighs this cost, even if everything on a parcel was to be constructed with Sketchlife.

The free option allows you to experiment.

Demonstration video

This video shows another simple, but this time useful, example of how to use Sketchlife. In this example I make a tile, replicate it and then stretch a texture over it. This application may be useful in itself, but the video is also good to watch for getting to know Sketchlife, as it shows the whole process of getting a model done, from start to finish.

Teleport if you want to have a look: SL-URL link.

If you would like to do something like what is shown in the video, here is a (zipped up) SketchUp file, with 26×26 tiles covering a 256 metre square, with some overlap. That covers a whole island exactly, so you will probably want to delete some of the tiles. The overlap and transparent sides of the tiles are intentional, as otherwise you will get flickering pixels as you move the viewpoint. (The UWA crest from the video was updated to have overlap and transparent sides.)

Process (briefly)

From here, follow the prompts of the web dialog, and the Sketchlife Importer. Below is a summary of what will take place.

The above description is expanded in the Details section.

How do I get it?

  1. If you don't have SketchUp installed, download and install SketchUp.
  2. Download the file sketchlife.zip and unzip it directly into the SketchUp/Plugins/ directory (which can be different for different users, for example C:\Program Files\Google\Google SketchUp 7\Plugins\ on Windows, and Macintosh HD/Library/Application Support/Google SketchUp 7/SketchUp/plugins/ on Mac).
    The contents of the ZIP file should go into this plugins directory. This is a file called sketchlife_nc.rb and a folder called Sketchlife.
    (If you need more help with this step, see this page for Windows users, or this page for Mac users.)
  3. (Re-start SketchUp.)
  4. In Second Life, teleport to The University of Western Australia island, where you will find a desk from which you can get a copy of the Sketchlife Importer.
  5. Copy it. Now you have everything you need.

This is the desk near the UWA teleport location:

A view of the desk where a copy of the Sketchlife Importer may be taken.

More information

On the Tools page, we have a description of how to draw prims and use other tools.

The export process (from when the Export button is clicked) is fully described on the Details page.

More information about how Sketchlife has been implemented are on the Inside page.

In the media

Evgeni Sergeev
Friday 03 July 2009 15:53 (Western Australia Standard Time)