SketchUp Rendering Overview

IRender nXt from Render Plus is an powerful easy to use plug-in for creating high-quality renderings from right inside SketchUp.

This SketchUp Rendering Overview will help you learn more about Sketch Rendering - what you can expect, what you can change in your SketchUp model and how to get good SketchUp Renderings.

What to expect from Photorealistic Rendering

SketchUp has a built in OpenGL renderer which lets you see your model in 3D and with shadows and illumination from the sun. A Photorealistic renderer.

In addition to creating high-quality SketchUp models, there are some simple things you can do to improve renderings with an add-on rendering package.

Materials and Textures

SketchUp has done a great job of letting you place colors and textured materials.

With a Photorealistic Renderer you can add reflective properties and also higher quality materials.


The reflections help to add realism to this model.

One of the best things that you can do to improve a rendering is to focus on the details. It’s the details that can increase realism of a rendering and one detail that many users over look is adding reflection to all the materials in a model that need it. Not only that, but you must also apply the correct kind and the correct intensity of a reflection to a material.

Users normally apply reflections to the noticeable objects in a rendered scene such as a mirror but often forget about the small objects like a table top, or a door knob or other accessories. Spending time on these details can make the difference between a boring, flat image and an engaging, realistic one.

See: Reflection

Arroway Textures

Arroway boards-001.jpg

Arroway Textures is a supplier of high-res textures, which are used in many areas of digital visualization, e.g. architecture, design and art.

Arroway textures include, in addition to high quality images of the texture, additional dummy images specify the reflection, 3d texture, and othe special effects to create very high quality renderings.

See: Arroway Textures


Sample retail night - balance small.jpg

Lighting is an important aspect of a Photorealistic rendering.

There are three basic types of lighting from the sun and sky, lighting from artificial lights, and indirect lighting reflected from surfaces in your model.

Indirect light is bounced (or reflected) off something else and onto an object. Most surfaces reflect a proportion of light that fall onto them.

Use the following guidelines when lighting your model:

  • Provide accurate information whenever possible. Avoid using unrealistic intensity levels for light sources.
  • Adjust the overall brightness of your rendering by using the Brightness control on the Render Display Window . Do not attempt to adjust the overall scene brightness by changing the intensity of all of the light sources. nXt's automatic exposure adjustment will be working against you if you attempt to do this.

IRender nXt automatically processes illumination and shadows from the SketchUp sun and from the sky. You can add additional lights to the model - especially for interior scenes for more realistic effects.

Lighting Channels

Lighting Channels lets you quickly adjust light sources. By assigning channels to sun, sky, and groups of lights, you can quickly adjust the intensity of each channel with a slidebar and immediately see the effect on the final rendering.

See: Lighting Channels


HDRi Sky Rendering.jpg

Whether you use an HDRi Image or a PNG or JPEG for a background, you can greatly enhance your rendering with the addition of a background.

Raster images are used for the visual effect only.

HDRi images are also used for shadows and illumination.

Placing a background behind the model to view through the windows.

Background Wizard For raster images, you can use the Background Wizard to position the image and/or stretch to match the perspective in your view.

Using the Background Wizard to stretch a background to match the perspective of the rendering.

Nighttime Scenes

Aritficial Lights in a nighttime scene

There are two main principles for creating Nighttime Scenes.

  1. Lower the overall brightness of the scene. The Automatic Exposure feature of the render will automatically make the scene as bright as it would a daytime scene. Most Nighttime scene will look better if they are a little darker than daytime scenes.
  2. Balance the lights and the sky. A faint sky in he background will improve the scene. You can use Lighting Channels to quickly balance the effect of the artificial lights vs the light from the sky.
Balance of sky and artificial lights

Studio Renderings

A Studio Quality Rendering attempts to duplicate a photograph which would be made by a professional photographer in a studio. In the photo studio, lights would be placed carefully by the photographer of a stylist. Everything would be set up to bring out the best features of the subject. Studio Images are used in advertisements of client presentations. They are designed to sell or promote the product.

The more important factor in creating a good studio rendering is the proper use of lights and shadows. By placing lights deliberately you can show your product at its best. Many SketchUp Rendering products have defaults which make it easy to create a studio rendering.

Here is a sample of a dragon rendered in the Studio. High Dynamic, Studio lighting was provided using a HDRi Sky . The shadows were left intentionally, for effect.

Rendering using Engine 4 with 2000 passes.

You can render your product in front of a neutral surface, or a neutral background.

You can also use special studio geometry to provide a background effect.

Studio Layout

You can create geometry to match the type of layout a proessional photographer would use for a studio photograph.

Setting this up can be time consuming, but you have a lot more control on the effects and, at the end, you can create a a "more profound effect" for your rendering.

Here is a typical layout used by massimo on the SketchUcation forum to create a rendering.

Studio layout.jpg

Model rendered by massimo using this studio layout

Dragon massimo-studio-cr.jpg

For more information see: Studio Quality Rendering

Studio Model

Basic Studio on 3D Warehouse

Here is a Studio for Rendering which was supplied by Solo as part of a Rendering Workshop on SketchUcation: Rendering Workshop - Studio - still life

The model for the Studio is available from the 3D Warehouse - Basic Studio for Renderings.

Although the studio looks small, it is actually very large.

Play around with this by setting up your camera angles, then adding lighting as needed. Remembering that too many lights will give overlapping shadows which can ruin a studio setup.

Special Features to make rendering easier

Sample Renderings


Render Photorealistic Renderings from SketchUp Models. is devoted to helping you make better renderings with SketchUp.

This site will help teach you how to render photorealistic images to market your products, enhance your services and improve your business. See the Rendering Samples, and the Rendering Plugins available for use with SketchUp.

For more on SketchUp Rendering visit SketchUp Rendering

Rendering Terms

A rendered image can incorporate a variety of rendering features. Some of these features are available in SketchUp, using OpenGL, and some are only available with SketchUp Plugins for high end rendering applications.

  • Antialiasing — the process of making edge lines look smoother by blending in the colors at the edges.
  • Bump Mapping — a method of simulating small-scale bumpiness on surfaces.
  • Depth of Field — objects appear blurry or out of focus when too far in front of or behind the object in focus.
  • Edge Highlighting — Accentuation edges.
  • Fog — how light dims when passing through non-clear atmosphere or air.
  • Glow — defining an object which appears to be illuminated by lights, even if it is in a shadow.
  • Morphing — "photoshopping" 3D renderings to appear more life-like.
  • Motion Blur — objects appear blurry due to high-speed motion, or the motion of the camera.
  • Non-Photorealistic Rendering — rendering of scenes in an artistic style, intended to look like a painting or drawing.
  • Indirect Lighting — incorporating additional illumination from lights reflecting from other surfaces.
  • Reflection — mirror-like or highly glossy reflection.
  • Refraction — bending of light associated with transparency.
  • Shading — how the color and brightness of a surface varies with lighting.
  • Shadows — the effect of obstructing light.
  • Soft Shadows — varying darkness caused by partially obscured light sources.
  • Texture Mapping — a method of applying detail to surfaces.
  • Translucency — highly scattered transmission of light through solid objects.
  • Transparency — sharp transmission of light through solid objects.

See also