Sketchup vs. Rhino

Can anyone explain why Sketchup is so limited to the size of model it can handle and Rhino is not?

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Rhino is NURBS based.
SketchUp is Mesh based.
NURBS surfaces are a much more efficient and accurate way to represent objects than meshes.

Since we don’t write SketchUp, it is going to be impossible for us to explain the limitations of that application.

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Yet John just did it!:grin:

CostaThomas, I would suggest you try both software and you’ll understand immediately the differences!
You could also watch the explanatory video on youTube…

SketcUp is very intuitive and suitable for modeling simple, on the fly, by simple forms that are not too curved.

Rhino is another world!

To compare two different software is not very intelligent!
If anything, you could compare Rhino with Alias, Moi, SolidThinking and FormZ (the most popular).

As someone who has to spend way too many hours “dumbing down” models to suit requests for Sketchup files, I would say it’s because Sketchup is a bloody toy whose popularity has actually been an impediment to progress, not unlike how the fax machine set electronic communications back 10 years. If I ask someone what their 3D software experience is and all they say is “Sketchup,” I say, “Okay, so what’s your 3D experience?”


It’s important to keep in mind what SketchUp and Rhino’s intended purposes are.

Rhino is intended for industrial design and product styling tasks where the models will be used in the manufacturing process.

SketchUp is intended to quickly and easily make mesh models for imaging purposes, to “sell” the concept of a design. The models are not intended to be used in the manufacturing process.

Rhino does not compete well against SketchUp when the goal of the effort is images.
SketchUp does not compete well against Rhino when the goal if the effort is manufacturing.


Back to the original question about handling the file/scene sizes by Rhino vs SketchUp - I would not say SketchUp is so limited in that aspect. I have been seeing (unfortunately!) quite complex SketchUp models of stadiums, airports etc. taken very far and seemingly working OK for the designers creating them. It is definitely by the extensive use of components and groups (equivalent of Rhino blocks). The “bilboarding” entourage elements in SketchUp (mapped 2D planes always facing the camera) are nice addition too to populate the scenes easily with light-weight components. So - I would not say SketchUp is so limiting in scene size and complexity. It’s just a matter of how organized your file is and how experienced user is.

Having said that, Rhino in right hands beats SKP in most aspects, I would even say producing images as well. There is a lot of basic functionality of scene organization missing in SKP that I can only imagine make working with large scenes much harder (lack of Layer folders being one of the main ones). Rhino files, if handled well, can have enormous amount of geometry and complexity and still perform well. Not to mention the obvious difference of ability to model any shape you want, relatively easily. But this is mostly a feedback on scene complexity, not product comparison. SketchUp is easy to learn but working on serious and more complex stuff you will hit the wall quite fast with it.

@John_Brock, this seems to come up quite often (“Rhino is intended for industrial design”) but I am sure you do realize, like it or not, that it is vastly used in other industries, architecture being probably as popular as the product design. I would still say Rhino beats SketchUp in that aspect if used properly, both when it comes to conceptual design and visual presentations. A note from ‘heretic user’ :slight_smile:


I specifically used the word “intended”. Industrial design remains our core focus. Over the years we have added a lot of additional tools so Rhino becomes useful, productive, and practical for other vertical market segments. Page Layouts are a good example.

We do understand that architecture is becoming a larger and larger segment of the Rhino user base. Should that mean we change our successful historical focus and concentrate of the much larger architectural segment? There are a lot more “players” there to compete with and they traditionally have ignored the overlap in architecture with industrial design. Can you imagine Zaha Hadid or Frank Gehry doing what they have done without Rhino?
Isn’t the architectural community better served by Rhino staying focused on surface modeling?

Hi John,

Thanks for your insight. Zaha Hadid’s and Frank Gehry’s projects are good, ‘extreme’ examples of using Rhino in architecture for complex shaped projects and definitely Rhino’s ability to produce these is an important component of it. By no means I suggest changing the focus, rather cheering for ‘widening your field of view’ :wink: Many architectural projects are not so complex geometrically and don’t necessary require the whole array of advanced surfacing tools but Rhino is still great when working on them. It’s fantastic to have these tools, when needed, no question about that. But for many, the strength of Rhino is the non-limiting approach in modeling, stability and reliability of the product, plus of course easiness to organize your files and working with large files, many file formats, excellent tools to work with 2D and 3D curves, scripting, parametrics with Grasshopper, great community and tech support, and I could go on and on. If I was to distill ‘why’ for architectural use, I would just say ‘non-limiting and very reliable modeler’ to make the case. The advanced surfacing would maybe come second… Obviously as world and workflows keep changing, Rhino is evolving along. I was recently making a case why Mesh tools should get some more attention in planning Rhino development ( More Mesh friendly Rhino ), not to suggest switching your development focus but rather recognize the common workflows and trends, at least in architectural user base and keep up with that while expanding Rhino in future.
As usual, thanks for listening !


I’ll go a bit OT, but IIRC Gehry uses Digital Project, an offshoot of Catia made in-house. True for Zaha though.

Thanks; obviously ZHA uses Maya a lot as well. Rhino is definitely a part of their workflow though, at various stages of projects.

I did not know about that. So I did some searching and came across this video on how they use it, if anyone is interested.

Gehry used to use Rhino.

I can’t understanding, why more people use sketchup, which is very bad cad program, except it fee.:hushed:

When it comes to architectural type uses of Rhino, we use it on more complicated stone projects. Rhino is the only 3D cad program I have found to do ramp and twist walls and stairs and it does a nice job. See below for a limestone stair drawn in Rhino about 5 years ago.



Because was free at start and you move the object surface with one just one click and all the model updates. The interface is much faster and simple. Simple for simple 3d models. But I agree with you that can’t make a intermediate to complex things in it.

It’s no longer free beyond a 30-day trial (unless you’re an educator).


that’s not true… sketchup is free software for non-commercial use.



Trimble Navigation Limited and/or its affiliates (“Trimble”) gives you a personal, worldwide, royalty-free, non-assignable and non-exclusive license to use the executable version of the Software for non-commercial use only. Non-commercial use means: you may not sell, rent, lease or lend the output of the Software or the Services. If you are a for-profit organization of any kind, or an employee of a for-profit organization using the Software or Services in that capacity, you are engaged in commercial activity; therefore, in order to use the Software and Services, you must purchase a SketchUp Pro license.

If you are a qualified instructor at an educational institution, or you are an enrolled student at an educational institution and use the Software in your classwork, you may use the Software for classroom teaching purposes, and classwork purposes. This includes installation and use of the Software in teaching labs at an educational institution, provided that use of the Software is by enrolled students who are engaged in classroom learning activities at the educational institution. However, if you are an employee of an educational institution and your job responsibilities are not those of a qualified instructor, you must purchase a SketchUp Pro license. For example, but not as a limitation, if you are employed as a member of the professional staff of an educational institution such as the facilities management team, you are considered to be engaged in for-profit activity and you must purchase a SketchUp Pro license.

Government agencies are considered to be commercial users and must purchase a SketchUp Pro license.

Didn’t realize they’d renamed the free version to Sketchup Make.
But, if you want any functionality at all…$$$.