How to Convert 2D Image Into a 3D Model

By Daniel Ketchum

3D models are used for many different purposes, from entertainment, to architecture to scientific research. There are many 3D models of buildings available for purchase online, but if you want to have a custom 3D of a particular house or building, you are going to either have to hire a 3D modeler to make it, or make it yourself. With the advent of Google SketchUp and the plug-in PhotoSketch, this has become much easier.

Things You'll Need

  • Google SketchUp (free program)
  • PhotoSketch (plug-in for Google SketchUp)

Step 1

Open Google SketchUp. Click on the "New Project" icon, and in the dialog that pops up, name your project. Click "OK." In the browser that opens, browse to the folder where you have your images stored. You will need to have five different images to use. A new dialog with thumbnails of the images will pop up. Click on the "Camera" icon to get started. At this point, the program will perform a process called "Feature Extraction." This may take some time. The status bar at the bottom will let you know how things are going.

Step 2

Click "Yes" in the dialog that opens to continue to the "Feature Matching Stage." In this process, the program will try to find features in common in the images. This will also take some time. Click "Yes" in the dialog that opens to continue to the "Pose Recovery and Alignment Stage." Close the preview window. Two of your images will be displayed.

Step 3

Establish three correspondence points in the two images. Click on a point in the bottom image, and then on the same point in the top image. Do this three times. Make sure that the points you select are all in a plane relative to the ground in the image. Now right-click and select "Done."

Step 4

Click on the "Snap to 3D Point" icon and pick a 3D point to snap the ground plane to that position. Now click the 2D rectangle icon and start drawing in planes that match the angle that the tops of the building would be. Do this for each building in the image. You can rotate to get a better angle for placement.

Step 5

Use the "Push/Pull" tool to expand each plane to the same size as its corresponding building in the images. Click on the "Texture Mapping" icon to see the texture applied to the model. Since SketchUp supports dynamic texturing, you can use the modeling tools to refine the model even with the texture still on it. An example would be if the building has a sloped roof. Here, you could draw a diving line down the center of the roof and raise it until the roof texture conformed to the model. You can now save and export your model.