Interior design/layout in 30 minutes or less?



Hi guys, I’m considering moving my workflow over to Sketchup and I’m hoping someone can help me make sure what I’m shooting for is possible…

I do only interior design work where I take a photograph of an empty room and place furniture into the room so the room looks furnished (sofa, tables, wall art, beds, etc…).

My plan is to have some models of pre-made furniture so all I would need to do is drag, drop and arrange furniture in a scene using Sketchup’s photo match tool.

The end result has to be photo-realistic.

Ideally furniture files will have textures and materials all mapped and setup so they can be dropped into the scene quickly.

At this point I’m not interested in learning to model or doing anything advanced. Just placing pre-configured models of furniture into a photo background and rendering with photorealistic results.

With the right setup does this sound like something that can be accomplished in 30 minutes or less for a single photo?

Do you have any suggestions on what you would do to streamline this workflow for someone that has never used Sketchup before and wants to learn how to place objects and render a scene in only a few days?

Would it be possible to have a default set of render settings or lighting settings that can be reused or possibly tweaked slightly for each photo? And which render extension would be best for this?



Short answer: yes. But is it possible to learn something well in just a few days? Sketchup’s easy but rendering isn’t so easy. I guess it all depends on what level of quality you are expecting in the finished product. Do you have any examples you can post?

I think “photorealistic” can mean several things…for some, it’s hours spent fine-tuning materials and lighting so it’s just perfect and genuinely fools people into thinking it’s a photograph. To other people, it simply means “has nice shadows and glossy & reflective surfaces”.
How much experience with rendering do you have so far, and what software do you use? For now I’ll assume you know a fair bit about rendering already and can create or apply realistic materials (high-res textures with depth maps, advanced material properties, etc)

As for Sketchup workflow:
-Getting the photo into the scene and lined up properly is a few mins using Photomatch or the Watermark feature of sketchup.
-Your renderer will also need to import the photo as a backplate or environment map. Achieving consistent scale between Sketchup and the Renderer needs a bit of forward planning but is not too difficult…

  • Furniture import & moving items around is very quick. You’ll have a directory of your components (skp format) that you can drag and drop from. If your components are in OBJ format then youll need to convert them. Sketchup’s ability to manipulate materials is a bit limited but I think there are extensions to improve the way you can apply and edit UIVW maps.
    For materials, its important that the renderer ‘remembers’ the advanced properties of the components and materials you import - for example a shaggy rug will need a depth map or displacement map applied so it doenst look too ‘flat’ when it’s renderered - your renderer needs to understand that your rug component is imported from your sketchup component library, and have the material cached so that it renders with the displacement map effect.

If the components you are using are very detailed (10,000s of polygons) then you may need to use “proxy” or “dummy” objects or “linked entities” and again not all renderers support these features with Sketchup. Most do now though, I think

You can set a template scene up with various lights included. This will be important to speed up lighting, so maybe have a few scenes to suit different types of interiors (eg a large room with windows, small room with artificial lights, day, night etc). Some people make these scenes and provide them on Rendering forums, or at least give you some good advice to make yours.

The most difficult task to get ‘photo-real results’ will be lighting your 3d furniture and objects in a way that matches the lighting of the photo background. I know Indigo (renderer, and the sketchup extension Skindigo) has a good on-the-fly light layer adjustment feature which is very powerful for adjusting lighting levels. This avoids the need to use Photoshop to adjust brightness of the finished render.

Another option is to forget the photo and just model the empty room in sketchup - Using basic measurements of the floor space and allowing 5-10mins to model the room (with paint, carpet, skirting boards, trim, windows, etc) would get you a pretty good result as long as your rooms are simple (e.g. not a historic hotel lobby). This will give more design freedom for furniture & object placement and eliminate the lighting consistency issues. But learning to do this quickly within just a few days of practice may not be possible.

Rendering times at best are about 5-10 mins for processing for a 1080p image… and this time goes up dramatically if you have complex lights such as chandeliers or lots of translucent objects (glass coffee tables, mirrors, wine glasses, etc).
I recommend trialing a few different renderers including Indigo, Maxwell and VRay because they each interface quite differently with Sketchup and offer different features. I only use Indigo so I cant help you decide sorry.


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