Best rendering program for landscape design?

Hello there, I wonder which rendering engine is easiest to use if you’re doing outdoor landscapes? From what I’ve seen, most rendering software seems to show mainly architectural or interior projects, not many gardens.

I have tried and achieved some mediocre results using VRay, I think I can learn how to do water with some time, but proper foliage doesn’t seem do-able (or am I wrong and just didn’t find the right tutorial?)

I’m also thinking about using Thea or Lumion to do this.

What are your experience with these programs in terms of user friendly-ness and your success in doing foliage and grasses?

any render engine could do an excellent job if you really know how to use it…the Lumion example is excellent but of course, was done by a master in that engine because if you see other examples they are mediocre at its best

SketchUp Podium is another. I can’t claim to have mastered it yet myself, however.

@Suzanne, are you really on SU v8, as shown in your forum profile?

that would limit renders greatly…

if you meant SU v18 you should look at ’Skatter’ as an aid for rendering foliage…


You need a renderer that can do the following

  • Proxy or Dummy components
  • Scattering and/or volumetric fill (eg grass, and hedges)
  • Swap components to numerous presets (eg take Oak Tree and swap it with one of 9 different varieties of Oak tree from your detailed library including seasonal variations etc)
  • Support pre-animated 3d models???
  • Environment maps (spherical skies, background images, models, etc) and allow good control of daylight settings

So far there arent many renderers that can do all that.

Best options are

  • Lumion (fast, easy but not cheap)
  • Vue
  • Renderworks (uses Cinema4d engine)

I use Indigo but that’s missing a few features and is still a bit 'beta’ish. I also use Lumion

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Ive just downloaded SU 2018, must have made a mistake when making my profile. Thanks, I’ve found Skatter too and am going to try it

Thank you! So far I’m quite drawn to using Thea, it seems cheaper and simpler to use than many of the other programs. It probably also depends on the kind of objects you have in your model. Ie. I’ve just used face-me plants so far to limit the file sizes but a rendering program is not going to pick up on that. I’m a complete beginner so not really sure if this is true.

Anyone on this forums who has experience using Thea for outdoor scenes?

Thea and Indigo are very similar but I believe Indigo’s rendering engine is faster & better.
You should install trial versions of each and compare them. But do spend some time to read tutorials because the terminology and process of rendering is unlike any other software.

For rendering, when you model in Sketchup you will be using simple 2.5d or 3d Trees (not Faceme ones) to help you when designing…
But you will also want to have a really nice quality 3d version of the tree. So you actually need 2 versions of every plant and tree species you wish to use. Building up your library is part of the challenge.
What the renderer will do is take your model and render it,but as it does this, it will swap out your basic trees for the detailed version. That’s how you can get 1000s of complex trees in one sketchup scene - you wouldn’t ordinarily be able to do this in sketchup because sketchup is viewed in “real time” whereas rendering happens gradually… File sizes in rendering are not a problem and can easily grow to several gigabytes.

If you want a renderer, which you can see detailed 3d trees and also orbit around in real time, in a similar way to Sketchup, then you need Lumion or Vue.

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