Best Rendering Engine Stage Design



I primarily use SU 2018 for Stage Design. I’d like to be able to place light instruments in the design model and use them as illumination for various scenes. There are many rendering extensions available, but I’m wondering which one would be best for stage design ?


There isn’t a best renderer. You should try a few different ones and see what you like.


Well, there are dozens of renderers, so let’s save you some time: The top ones among architects are:
-Lumion (3,000 euro)
-Vray (750 usd last time I checked).

Also, there are a couple more that are becoming popular:
-Twinmotion (1,700 euro)
-Enscape (Flexible pricing. It’s subscription-based.)

Of all four, most are “realtime”, that is, they use a video game engine and rely heavily on having a top of the line graphics card, allowing you to work directly in a window showing how the final image or video will look, and thus being blazing fast for video production. Remember Little Big Planet or ModNation Racers? Just like that.

The only old fashioned “offline” renderer of the bunch is Vray. That is, it traditionally takes its sweet time to render a final image, thus making it unsuitable for video production, but incredibly good for still images. Other popular renderers in this category are Thea Render and Twilight. Twilight even has a free version.

Take a look at The SketchUp Essentials channel on YouTube. He shows you how different renderers work.


Thanks for the info, I’ve heard of Vray (a little pricey but well worth it), I’ll check out the others you mentioned. Real time rendering is not a requirement, and I doubt my video card (GTX670) would handle it anyway.


There are many renderers made specifically for SketchUp. Although some of them may be considered “for beginners”, in the right hands, they can have some impressive output.

Check out the following


Hope this helps



If you don’t have a super powerful computer - there are remote render farms that you can use that typically cost about a buck an hour or per use for access to. They’re super useful if you only render out a few times a month. I’ve had super complex models rendered out in less than a minute using these services.

If you end up going with V-Ray a list of reputable farms can be found at:


Another note to mention is integration. The draw-back of many of the real-time render engines is that they tend to operate outside of SketchUp - and require re-importing and re-mapping of materials when models are edited. In-model engines like V-Ray render out exactly what’s inside SketchUp’s model space without the need to export / import / identify changes.


I must second Chris’s picks. Those all seem easy to use. Give each one a try.

Of them, LightUp is different: It first “bakes” the illumination using your CPU, and then, to navigate the illuminated model, it uses your graphics card. It’s also different because everything happens within the SketchUp view itself, not in a separate popup window.

There was I time when I only used LightUp for everything, because the other programs seemed too complicated, but then I became more proficient with Twilight and used it a lot for still images. Similarly, if you’re new to rendering everything will seem Greek to you. The programmers often don’t think the way designers do. Just be patient.

LightUp can run even without any discreet graphics card. I rendered this video with LightUp on a 2013 MacBook Air (Intel Graphics 5000), just for kicks (I could have used my desktop PC): Of course, forcing such a lowly machine to produce this was no fun. I had to optimize the model heavily and survive tons of bugsplats. Your graphics card should be fine.

I currently only use Lumion and LightUp for video creation.I no longer create stills. But if all you need are stills, have a look at Visualizer for SketchUp. It’s only available for SU 2015, but it’s free, and really, really, easy to use. Unfortunately, it’s no longer in development, so no SU 2017 or 2018 version.


I’d also mention Photoshop is really your best friend when it comes to rendering. There are definitely times where it’s so much easier just to draw in some light.

Check out for some tutorials.


There’s an up-and-coming standalone physical-based renderer for Windows (req’s. “good” nvidia GPU, eg. 1070 or better yet 1080) called Unicorn Render that comes in three configurations based on required features. IMO pricing is quite competitive, see here




As others will say you might want to try SimLab Composer. The Lite version is free to use with 1080 resolution and no watermark and the Pro version is affordable starting at $199 USD. It also integrates with SU and links the file to the rendering program so it can auto-update if you make a quick change while also open in SimLab.


I would echo the list @ChrisDizon posted but personally I use Thea at home.

You can easily place lights in SketchUp and then use GPU rendering for super quick instant visuals. It should work well with your GTX 670. I had a 2GB GTX 680 for years running Thea and was great.

The fact you want to do Stage Design is subjective really and wont matter overall, it’s no different than me making a shop interior or a spaceship.

The good thing about running off the GPU is that you can quickly re-position the stage elements on the fly to see what looks better. Thea will also run inside SketchUp itself or on it’s own. It’s also relatively cheap, just a little less than SketchUp Pro itself.


I have been using Shaderlight for set design, and find that it works fairly well. You can place lights on your lighting gantry and direct them towards a spot on the stage. Then you can change light type, spread, colour, and intensity in a dialogue box within sketchup. There is also a mechanism for fine tuning individual reflecting surface colour and texture, from rough to glossy.

I have not tried any of the others. There may be better ones out there, but the cost and performance of Shaderlight has been acceptable. There is a free trial available for low resolution renders.

Attached is a preliminary HD render I did for a stage set for Silver Linings. Render time with AMD R9 380 4gb graphics card was about 5 minutes.



Can’t praise lumion enough, the pre-made scenes make it easy to import a model and generate great images.

Rendering plug in programmes
What are some great rendering extensions for SketchUp?

Having now used keyshot more I would rate it over Thea in ease of use and asset management but still a bit lacking in speed.


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