Physically Accurate Renderer for under $100


Can you be a bit more specific?


I understand what you are saying and there are definitely some limitations, but if you could have those hypothetical photographs of your future building wouldn’t they be really helpful in improving the design?


I am using Make 2017, so my export options are limited. Is there a good way to get my models in Blender?

I know a bit of Blender, and I wouldn’t mind to learn it deeper, especially now that Skethup doesn’t offer a proper free (or at least low cost) version. (Couldn’t Trimble offer a non-commercial version similar to Make for say $100-$150 with just forum support? $600 is way too much for those who aren’t making money from it, and there are certainly many!)


Certainly such photographs would be valuable. Sorry that I wasn’t clear - my point is that such exact actual “perfect” photographs would probably not be significantly more valuable than typical modern good-quality renderings. The difference between a typical good-quality rendering and a claimed highly-accurate rendering are likely to be modest, perhaps on the scale of differences between a heavy overcast vs. a moderate overcast in the exterior cloud configuration (which changes how dark are the corners, the balance between interior vs. exterior overall illumination, etc.).

Edited to add that SketchUp Make 2017 is still available at no cost for non-commercial usage.


I guess it depends on what you mean by “typical modern good-quality renderings”. Even in the galleries of Render Software (where I assume they present their best work) there is quite a variation. Some of them are almost impossible to tell that they are renderings, while in other cases it is immediately obvious that you aren’t looking at a photograph.

Then there is also the intention of the creator and possibly the intention of the Render software. Some renderings are done for promotional reasons and their intention is to sell a property, not to be true. And I think the same could be true for the Rendering Software - some might strive to be as physically accurate as possible, while other might give all their emphasis in allowing their users to get the end result that they want.


Thanks. I know. I am currently using Make 2017. But this is probably the last free desktop version and I doubt the online Free version will ever be as powerful as Make (e.g. support extensions). So it seems that Trimble is giving emphasis on professionals with the Pro version, on those with very basic needs with the Free version, and is leaving out those “mid-tier” users like me.


Beauty is but to the eye of the beholder.


I didn’t ask anything related to beauty :wink:


Not sure what options exist in make to export 3D, but as it can handle extensions I think there is an “obj export” or “Khronos gITF” export extension, both of which can import to Blender.

As for pricing, I’m not sure why it is the way it is, but some sort of tiered system for different needs and costs would make sense.


Using a renderer takes practice and good models and materials, no question about it. This is one of the reasons why I’m wondering if your quest for a physically-accurate renderer is not going to yield the result you seek - how will you know when the rendered image is accurate? Even a perfect rendering algorithm would need high-fidelity paint specifications, polyurethane coatings specifications, lamp and lampshade specifications, etc. to reproduce the real result.

Here is a fairly recent post which contains some renderings that I think look terrific. But I don’t know how accurate they are.


Obviously there is a lot more than just the renderer, but I don’t want the renderer to be a limiting factor. Some Renderers strive for accuracy and they also give you libraries with quite accurate materials, they can render quite accurately IES lights etc. 100% accuracy is not possible, but they can help you get close enough.

For example the Lumion renders you linked to are very good, but the interior ones are not very realistic. I don’t know how accurate Lumion can be these days, but from what I remember Lumion is about speed and less about accuracy.


Yes, I purchased Lumion because of its render speed and having the possibility, to do whole Animations. My Renders which TDahl linked, were rendered in between 5 to 10 seconds per Picture at Full-HD, with Nvidia GTX1080. Rendering the whole Animation took about 16 hours (25 fps per second).


Amazing work Peter! For professionals speed is certainly a very important factor as “time is money”. Probably it would take many days (or a render farm) to render that many frames with something like Maxwell!

Personally I am not planning to do any animations and I can afford to wait for an hour or more to get the image (although I do also like having the option to render in faster, less accurate way, so I can adjust things quickly).

The last rendering animation I did was 2 decades ago at College. An 18 second 320x240 resolution clip, using POV-Ray and a simple model created by typing code! It took me hours to create what I could now do in Sketchup in about 5 minutes and it took the whole night to render.


Thanks a lot.
Yes, rendering 5250 frames (= 3 1/2 Min. at 25 fps) with a Renderer, which needs one hour per frame, would be impossible. Would take 7 months. But I´m also planing to work with Vray to get more realistic results for Stills.
I think we are living in a very interesting period of time when it comes to Cad and Rendering because of that ongoing technical progress.


There is also Unreal Engine. Not sure if using Sketchup Make that you can use the specific file exporter for Unreal Engine which allows you to import the model into Unreal tho. Worth checking out though.


Thanks, but how real is unreal?! I actually have it installed and I played a bit with it without going very deep, but since it is a game engine I am guessing it will not have the level of realism I want.


Check out - there are examples of images created using Unreal Engine there…


I’d suggest, it is indeed a physics-based renderer but, be aware, it’s Windows only and requires a worthy GPU (GTX 1070 or 1080 and up).

Ref. here:



PS Price could be an issue but in my opinion Unicorn is worth it, and worth while knowing about it at least for reference…


I moved from Twilight 1 to 2 PRO and find it fine for me.
I must admit tinkering with a few rendering engines, but the common feature is not the rendering engine, but folks skill in using them and applying the post-pro tweaks to get the best out of them.
Twilight Pro can export to Kerkythea if you need to render on multiple PC’s.
The help on the forum is very good - Fletch & Chris try to respond promptly with concise answers.


Thanks, I only have GTX1060 and price is much higher from what I want to pay (even more so when you add the VAT that I will have to pay)

I am trying the hobby version of Twilight now. Yes, they have good support in their forums and many tutorials. There is also a course at Lynda for Twilight: Their sketchup integration and UI is also very good. My issue with Twilight is that I don’t really like the results of their biased engined, and their unbiased engine is a bit too slow compared to Raylectron and Indigo (CPU+GPU) which I am also testing now.

How useful is Twilight Pro “Real-time Exploration Renderer”?