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Textured Globe Models in SketchUp

Textured Globe in SketchUpOne of the things I plan to do with this blog is put up some descriptions and tutorials of how I create my files. 

This is something a few people have asked about – texture wrapped globes in SketchUp,  just as I used for my ‘Bouncing Google Earth’ model.   

As its primary use is for architectural modeling, SketchUp doesn’t have any texture wrap options. So rather than attempt to apply a material to every plane surface of a model sphere by hand (very time consuming!) , the simplest thing to do is use object-based 3d modeling software and import the model in.

The following tutorial uses Anim8or  (Freeware, Windows only – sorry) – download from here – much quicker to learn for a task like this than more elaborate software like blender. 

The global map image used for texturing needs to be in what’s known as ‘equidistant cylindrical projection’,  more commonly called a ‘cylindrical map’.   There are hundreds of these across Nasa’s website and elsewhere on the web.  For Earth as well as other planets.

Earth Map

In this example I use the January Blue Marble image from here.

Create the Mesh in Anim8or:

  • Start Anim8or and go to File -> New.
  • Click the ‘Add Sphere’ button.
  • anim8or-sphere-button
  • Hold down the left mouse button in the main window and drag to create the sphere. Size and position are unimportant at this stage.
  • Anim8or Basic Sphere
  • Double click on the sphere to open the Sphere Editor.
  • Anim8or Sphere Editor
  • Change the Lon/lat divisions to make the mesh finer or coarser  – in the example I created here I used 24 in both directions.

Apply the texture:

  • Use the Material drop down menu in the Sphere Editor and highlight — new —
  • Select the button to the right of that to bring up the Material Editor.
  • Anim8or Material Editor
  • Click the button next to diffuse.  The Texture Selector will pop up. 
  • In the Texture Selector chose Load Texture.
  • Open the image you want to wrap around the sphere.
  • Select your newly added material (under CHECKS) .    A picture of the sphere will appear in the Texture Map section of the dialog.
  • Anim8or Texture Selector
  • Click OK in the Texture Selector, then OK in the Material Editor.
  • Anim8or Textured Globe

Export the model:

  • Object -> Export.
  • Save as type:  3D Studio (*3ds).
  • Save the file to the same directory as your texture – this *very* important – SketchUp won’t find the texture otherwise.

Import into SketchUp:

  • Run SketchUp and go to File -> Import.
  • Change the file type to 3DS Files (*.3ds) and Open the model you created in Anim8or.
  • To remove the black lines simply double click on the model several times, right click and select Soften/Smooth Edges.  Move the slider to the right with Soften Coplanar on.
  • That’s it!   The 3D world model can be resized and scaled in SketchUp just like any other – the texture mapping will stay in place.

Download the Textured Globe SketchUp file.

  1. Julio Siqueira
    July 20th, 2007 at 12:57 | #1

    You said:

    “Change the Lon/lat divisions to make the mesh finer or coarser – in the example I created here I used 24 in both directions.”

    I used this with the sunmap, and the result was not smooth. So I changed to 360 in both directions, and it ended up real nice. But I don’t if it affects the size of the final file, or the processing demand on the computer.


  2. Julio Siqueira
    July 20th, 2007 at 12:58 | #2

    Sorry, just a correction: I don’t *know* if it affects the size of the final file, or the processing demand on the computer.

  3. James
    July 21st, 2007 at 18:16 | #3

    Confusingly, I think there’s a bug in anim8or’s lat/lon division settings for spheres. Even though you can enter high values it doesn’t appear to create anything finer than 32 x 16.

    To make anything with more divisions you can go to anim8or’s build menu: ‘convert to subdivided’ then ‘convert to mesh’ , which will double the divisions in both directions.

    But yes, increasing these will directly affect file size and the processing demands in SketchUp and Google Earth. A 128 x 128 would probably make Google Earth die 🙂

  4. ben
    April 11th, 2008 at 06:00 | #4

    hello! this is great! thank you very much for making this. do you mind if i use it in a sketch up figure ? is that what it is for? thanks!

  5. peter
    May 8th, 2008 at 06:19 | #5

    how do you convert an an8 animation to a avi video clip ?

    can it be done without using fraps screen recorder ?

  6. mark
    May 11th, 2009 at 13:17 | #6

    is there a way, when you zoom in on the sphere to have the texture change… as you zoom in/out ?

  1. April 11th, 2008 at 17:38 | #1