Data (GDC floor plans)

We received seven JPEG images from UT Austin, containing simplified floor plans of the GDC (commonly known as the "Gates Dell Complex"; more formally, known as "The Bill and Melinda Gates Computer Science Complex and Dell Computer Science Hall"). The plans were almost perfect for our purposes: enough information for navigation; no extraneous details.

File Naming

| MPT.skp         # multi-layer page template
| qr_*.jpeg       # JPEG QR code image
| sample.jpg      # JPEG floor plan image
| sample_g.jpg    # greyed image (via GC)

| sample_a.skp    # annotated tile template
| sample_m.skp    # merged tile model
| sample_o.skp    # outline (via SketchUp)

| sample_ec.pdf   # Edges and Cells
| sample_eh.pdf   # Edges and Holes
| sample_elr.pdf  # Edges, Lines, and Rects
| sample_ep.jpg   # Edges and Print

| sample_c.pdf    # Cells
| sample_cl.pdf   # Cells and Lines
| sample_l.pdf    # Lines
| sample_lc.pdf   # Laser Combo


SketchUp (SKP) and Adobe Illustrator (AI) have a number of similar, but subtly different concepts. For example:

  • layers
    • layers can be used in both AI and SKP to control visibility
    • layers are not preserved in SKP's exported PDF files

  • lines
    • SKP lines are zero-width and black
    • AI lines can vary in color and width (i.e., stroke)

  • faces and fills
    • SKP has faces, which must be surrounded by a closed border of lines it creates faces automagically, but they can then be removed
    • AI has fills, which can exist with or without enclosing lines
    • faces and fills can both vary in color

SketchUp Tips

I find SketchUp's layers to be more then a little wonky. To keep the alligators from chewing on your ankles, here are some practical tips (mostly from Mike Tadros):

  • Layer0 should remain the current layer.
    (Don't use the radio button in the Layers dialog.)

  • Keep layers invisible unless you need to see them.

  • Create (and delete) lots of "extra" lines and shapes.
    (Use them for inference, as targets, etc.)

  • Group things that you won't be changing (much :-).

  • Assign things to layers (using Entity Info)
    after you've grouped them.

Fonts dialog

The Fonts dialog doesn't play nicely with the 3D Text tool. For example, it may prevent you from setting a font or size, revert to a font you never set, etc. So:

  • Kill off and restart the dialog before changing the font or size.

  • Make sure the 3D Text dialog shows the desired font and size
    before trying to enter and place the text.


This approach generates content in SKP and transfer it to AI as PDF files. Although SKP is a 3D modeling tool, I'm only doing 2D. Content types are distinguished by layer, file name, and (in AI) color.

I generate the content in Layer0, but then transfer it to a named layer:

  • Cells (braille annotations)
  • Edges (11" W x 8.5" H outline)
  • Holes (for a 3-ring binder)
  • Lines (e.g., traced walls)
  • Print (printed text, QR code)
  • Rects (enclosing rectangles)

Edges are retained in all of the PDF files for two reasons:

  • they are used to transform the dimensions (which AI trashes)
  • they allow aligned placement of pasted content

Notes are created by the 3D Font tool in Arial and braille; their top surfaces are then filled with black.

The etching and cutting is performed in two passes. First, the Rects (containing Cells and Lines) are etched. Then, the Holes are cut out and the Edges are cut, releasing the finished piece.

Produce three PDF files (in SKP)

  • sample_ec.pdf - Edges, Cells
  • sample_eh.pdf - Edges, Holes
  • sample_elr.pdf - Edges, Lines, Rects

Edit, merge, and print files (in AI)

  • edit sample_eh.pdf (Edges, Holes); save
  • edit sample_ec.pdf (Edges, Cells); save as sample_c.pdf
  • edit sample_elr.pdf (Edges, Lines, Rects); save as sample_lr.pdf
  • combine sample_{ec,eh,elr}.pdf; save as sample_lc.pdf
  • handle relief engraving; save as sample_lc.pdf
  • engrave Layer 2 (Cells, Lines)
  • cut Layer 1 (Edges, Holes)

This wiki page is maintained by Rich Morin, an independent consultant specializing in software design, development, and documentation. Please feel free to email comments, inquiries, suggestions, etc!

Topic revision: r11 - 28 Nov 2015, RichMorin
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