Designers love to draw, develop or create concepts from scratch but sometimes you need some help due to time constraints or creative dead ends. There is always stock photography web sites to turn to or other outlets that have free vector-based graphic assets but I have found some of the best assets from an unlikely source – Google Sketchup.
For those creative folks that aren’t familiar with Sketchup, it’s a free program similar to autocad that you can use to model or render 3D objects or spaces. Autocad is a great program, but it’s got a hefty price tag. I recently used Sketchup to design and render my basement that I am starting to finish (Blog post HERE). Sketchup has a free online “warehouse” of ready made models that you can import directly into the workspace, and these are free as well. (Free is always good, right?)
The free version of Sketchup is limited though – you cannot directly save files as EPS or AI files to use in a vector program like Adobe Illustrator. You can however “print” files as vector based PDFs, which you can then open and edit in Adobe Illustrator. This is where Sketchup has become invaluable to me. This method isn’t perfect as you usually have to clean up some paths, strokes or other stuff but if you are in need of specific graphic object, at a specific angle with realistic perspective you simply cannot beat this workflow.
I’m sure that Adobe has something in the works that will do something similar to this, but until then give Sketchup a shot. You won’t regret it.