Landscape Design & Rendering Best Practices - Looking for advice with a very high poly model

Hey Sketchup community! I would really appreciate some advice on my model and the landscaping I have in it. I think my polygon count is too high and my edge count as well. However I don’t know what to do as I want to produce high quality renderings of the geometry. I am familiar with proxies, 2d graphics and 3d objects. I am very well read and experienced with sketchup, but this landscaping thing I need some basic tips still I think… My graphics card for the first time stalled on me, on a great computer system, 64gb ram and blah blah, graphics card is rx 580 by radeon, good card, but I could probably get a better one and see a bigger performance boost… Anyways, see attached photo of my model polygon and edge count. The file size due to the plants and vegetation is around 80mb, you can see the photo for the model statistics on the rest.

Can anyone give me any best practice tips for finding or managing high poly vegetation? Is my poly count way too high given the plants and things I have in the model? I’ve inspected each plant before downloading and they render ok, good enough anyways, they also use components for a lot of the leafs and the leafs and stuff and faces of the plants are clean and simple to still produce a high quality render. I’m not sure how to get around this, I don’t think I could find better plants to be honest that will render great, must I be using proxies than or? Each plant I’ve downloaded here is around 3mb and typically like between 5000 to 40,000 faces, perhaps more with some plants… Looking on the 3d warehouse, I constnatly adjusted the poly slider to be around 10,000 and I just couldn’t find plants that would render well so I had to crank the poly count… Perhaps that’s maybe what I have to do? Not sure on this one… Any advice would be amazing.

Screenshot 2021-12-07 011428ss


@AK_SAM any tips?

18 million edges are way too much.

My advice is to ditch 95% of the high poly vegetation. Use good 2D face-me trees or 3D versions of them instead. Most 3D trees don’t even look good, and the repetition is ugly when they are used en masse. You can use single items for something that is seen from very near.

Thanks for the comment on the polygon size! Yea it’s insane how much poly these plants have taken up, even after trying to be careful. Regarding removing them, that’s not really an option as I want to have my sketchup model render into layout where I have some site plan scenes that need to show good enough looking plant geometry of the site in layout, that means I can’t just rely on a proxy… @AK_SAM could really use you on this question here too, how can I do both, layout and render ready? I can see how if I make simple objects for each plant as you do sam and as others mention to do, which I do for other things already just not plants, I can see how my model would be super fast, it already is when I hide the plants via differing scenes, but how am I supposed to manage some scenes when I have to load the plants into those scenes and do things to those scenes? Do I turn off sectoins of plants at a time while I’m modelling, I can only imagine a site with way more plants that I also want to show and look good in layout for the site plans and wonder how I’m going to do that… I think it’s probably about hiding most plants not being worked on while modelling when I have to load the scenes with all the plants?.. This landscape thing haha, real challenge.

Posting on my phone so will give some brief points…

Theres no getting around a high poly count but you need to find your practical limit then simplify items to stay at that limit.

  1. Balance: 10,000polys is fine but adjust up or down if a plant is in the background vs foreground.
    Some 3DW plants have far too much geometry in their leaves. You only need a few polys in a leaf if you apply shaders (bump etc) in the renderer. Trunks and branches, and rocks need very few polys to look good. It really is a matter of finding good “medium res” trees that render well. I make a lot of my own.
    3dw components using subdivision methods generate insane polys for trivial things like tiny branches or flower petals.
    2.5d components could maybe be used in the distance and if you can add shaders to make them look less fake.
    I often delete out the ce tral portions of a tree’s leaf/canopy structure or delete the back half and just keep the leafs that form the outer parts.

  2. Realism. The branch and leaf structure and the materials used are what make trees seem more realistic. High poly and hi resolution are handy but not as important , imo. Placement, scale and context are also very important…it has to look natural. Dont forget to add some fallen leaves, and if using more than 1 type of plant then create some branch varieties. I fond that many 3dw trees use basic materials, eg all the same colour green for the leaves all over the tree…not realistic.

  3. Proxies…wont talk about it too much, but it’s important even if you use a branch/stem/leaf cluster as a proxy.

  4. Large model management tips apply as with all models.

  • Edges need to be hidden where possible (try hiding instead of softening).
  • hide what’s not needed in your SKP view. Eg tag all leaves seperately and just arrange the model using the trunks and branches.
  • explode subgroups and components. You don’t need every leaf as a component…it kills performance.
  • check texture size…some 3dw materials are far too large.
  • poly complexity should be reduced. I did make a dandelion flower once with 50,000 polys but i dont recommend you use that.
  • im not 100% sure on this one but I also try to avoid scaling components, eg the same leaf copied 1000 times with randomness added through scaling each copy…i suspect that kills performance too.

I wont talk too much about rendering methods but consider using lighting ( eg shadow or vignette) and camera focal length to blur or highlight certain objects. In rendering its east to get images that are far too sharp across the field of view and portray a 100% clear blue sky with intense sunlight.m… aim for a more “camera style” output using cloudy skies or less vibrancy.

Have you noticed a lot of good 3d viz artists use effects like sun rays, mist, snow, dawn/sunset, etc, to cover parts of the foreground? It helps to have some of those tools handy. Photoshop is ppretty helpful for fixing jaggies, artifacts, shadow gaps, adding “grime” or producing a more artistic (“emotional”) effect overlay.

Layout is a different topic again… just keep your cursor well away from Hybrid or Vector modes, or you may as well reach for the p³ower switch.

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Okay here’s one method for layout…

Create a Plan view scene and render it as a high res jpg with subtle or no shadows.
Then send that plan view scene to layout , but exclude any 3d plants. Render it in hidden line style and use that for dimensioning etc.
Then drop the render is as a jpg underneath. So you basically make your own hybrid mode.

I put plan view symbols and 3d plants on seperate tags. Sending 3d plants to LO is usually a disaster .

ABSOLUTELY GENIUS!!! Wow, totally love that idea. Holy smokes. So much good feedback here. Thank you for telling me that and the community, it will only help push people forward doing these things. That is an incredible idea, wow…

When does your sketchup for landscaping course start and where can I buy it? Lol…

If the model is not going to go through a rendering application but displayed “as is” I would not try to get too realistic as the result will not be realistic anyway. Instead I would try to create a graphic style that conveys the general mood of the intended design, with no need to get the number of petals in a rose right. I wish I had stolen some images someone posted years ago on an earlier incarnation of this forum so I could show what I mean. The images were IMO the best ever showing a landscape design in SU, with plants that were mostly just textured blobs.

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I put a plan view symbol inside the 3D component when needed, on a separate tag so I don’t have to remember moving both around.

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Super cool and I love that challenge! I actually just read a post where you said the same thing to I think the girls name was Tanya, a landscape designer who had similar problems… Well I think I have the know how and certainly the skills and knowledge about the programs to make this work well. … now to figure out this custom style of my own. Challenge accepted. I actually LOVE the style that the sketchup campus on landscape design teaches on their website. I’ll try to do something similar to that I think … Thanks anssi!

Yep that’s the way to do it.
Can have 2d Plan and 2d Elevation (faceme) component in there as well as the 3d. Then 3d trunks & 3d leaves on seperate tags…so with a tree you get 4 components within one!

The Size of the model (faces/edges/objects) really is a rough guide. For example I have two models open at the moment that i’m working on

One has 4m faces and 12m edges…it’s a street scene with a lot of trees, cars, people, etc. And its actually rendering pretty well in Layout (raster mode only, mind you). Sketchup is also manageble with everything turned on, but shadows do take some moments to render. This is on a 3yo gaming laptop.

The other has 1m faces and 4m edges but is routinely crashing LO, and SKP is struggling for ages with some tasks. It’s a site plan of a large university campus consisting of imported contours (simplified), a 3d surface, and other layers from CAD- possibly containing a few too many empty objects, loose geometry on tags, tiny faces, geometry far away from origin, and just too much raw geometry within one “mega” component (the 3d surface).

Here’s a quick shot of the street scene model. not really intended for close up rendering but did a quick export to see how it would look… the tree looks okay except the trunk is colliding with the seat! :stuck_out_tongue: (one of the pitalls of having 2d+3d components…the origin has to be Excatly the same)

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You mean the dennis method?

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Totally agree… it either needs to be somewhat realistic/detailed, or it needs to be artistic.
There’s an unhappy medium where its like early Lumion and everything just looks a bit like a 2000s computer game.

Some of the digital watercolour stuff people produce is beatiful and emotive…and pretty quick to produce one you have a complementary library of components & materials, and a workflow of your own.
Fotosketcher is a good place to start, I reckon.


Any good sources of inspiration to share on beautiful sketchup landscape or modelling styles? Most likely without photoshop. If you know of any resources, would love to check them out! Nice models btw sam! The photo I originally attached looks way better done up, still working on it, you just saw the photo when I did nothing to it with styles, fog, shadows, etc. Which btw, wow do those things really completely make the renderings look way better for layout. Pretty cool what sketchup can do natively

If you have the 3d component in there too, what level of detail is it than? I’m guessing it can be of a high level of detail where a model might be millions of polygons, but the other components are there to make the model light and snappy using scenes to hide the 3d objects in the working modelling scenes, correct? I can’t totally agree with anssis comment about no middle ground. The photo I originally attached, if I turn on shadows in teh right way, fog, etc, it looks stunning in layout. That’s what I want in layout too, the rendering option you provided sam is incredible and I’ll use that in some cases, however for a model that’s not too big that it will render in layout in a few minutes, that’s good enough for me and I’d rather than have the higher poly 3d objects with the face me and other stuff to be present while I’m working but than the 3d object to show in the rendered scenes in layout? Where do you fit proxies into the mix of it all? The problem with proxies is I couldn’t have my objects to show than in layout to look great like I want them too… I think can I use eneroth reference manager to switch objects from proxies to the real 3d objects? I don’t think I can do that with that plugin or any plugin in bulk to hundreds of plants for exmaple… Where do you fit proxies into your workflow to get great renders when you also at the same time would want great results in layout WITHOUT using the method you mentioned to me already with teh wireframe viewport overlay…???

@R-Covatta has a nice technique. I especially like his resampling of the surrounding texture to use as a modified material for the window surfaces as reflections.

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Have you checked out our course on SketchUp Campus yet? Specifically, section 6, working with vegetation.


Eric! You’re the man! I love your courses! You do great work and are a great instructor! The sketchup campus is a hidden gem! I was just watching your course yesterday at 4am haha, (in a time crunch on a job). Would love your feedback on the discussion here?!

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Do you have any overall thoughts on sending a high poly model to layout to be rendered in layout? What would you do there in regards to some of the discussion on this above?