Rendering plugins and applications

Hi all,

Im new to the forum but have been using sketchup pro for a number of yrs professionally.

Whilst i like the ‘sketch’ look we present to our clients, we are more and more feeling like we should move on to more realistic renderings.

Many yrs ago i was a visualiser and used vectorworks and artlantis, and whilst these achieved decent results at the time, nowadays i have nothing like the timescales i used to have as a junior. Whilst im not naive enough to beleive theres a program with a one click ideal, i really do need something that is very easy and very quick to learn whilst able to achieve reasonable results - not looking for photolike realism.

Ive experimented with vray in the past ( too complicated and not user friendly) and recently lumion (interesting but still requires lots of time and computing power esp to set up internal lighting)

My colleague has suggested we look at cinema4d (because that seems to be the ‘standard’) however from when i last used this it had a steep learning curve also and its a ppwerful program, maybe more than we need

Ive looked around online and there seems to be an insane amount of render engines with plugins, and 3d programs that can import from sketchup, but its tricky to find any with real world reviews. In the ideal world i would have all the time in the world to create and perfect visuals- in the real world i may have only a few days to pull together a full presentation complete with designs, mood boards, plans and visuals.

Shaderlight looks interesting, though i have not yet downloaded, any other suggestions?


Have a look at SimLab Composer 8. It is almost a “drop-n-go” rendering solution for SU. The basic “Pro” edition is very affordable at $199 but they do offer a “lite” free version that will render up to 1920x1080 with no watermark to help evaluate it for your needs. Here is a very quick and dirty render with a couple SU items with materials and a chair from the SimLab library.

Thea Render.
I too used to have V-Ray but found it too complex to set up. I’ve found Thea capable of equally good results with much fewer parameters to set up, and it has many rendering options. It integrates well with SU too. There do seem to be so many renderers out there now and it’s hard to grade them in any objective way. Only way is to try a few in trial mode, but that can become a time suck. Beyond that it comes down to cost and and an interface/workflow that works for one’s particular brain for an efficient workflow. I’m working in the film industry that has a need for fast turnaround and I’ve found Thea to be a good solution.
Unfortunately, whichever one you get there will be that learning curve to invest in. Not sure any of them will produce the results you want out of the box, my take on rendering is is that it requires the sensibilities of photography, lighting and texturing which is a whole other concept/skillset to 3D design, and proficiency in those skills, I believe, is more important than the renderer itself.

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SimLab seems to be mainly about creating VR scenes and options for surface finishes - or that was what the Youtube video I watched focused on.

If you are mainly interested in photorealistic stills, I imagine lighting is a main component, whether it is sun based (for external scenes) or electric light for interiors. Does the advice change for this kind of use?

Just moved from Cinema 4D to V-Ray: the new 3.6 version is more user friendly than everything I tried from 15 years ago till now!
I still have all the sophisticated tools of a professional software, combined to a simple user interface i coulnd’t imagine before tryng it.

Hi, i agree with white rabbit, but with your backgroumd you may have a handle on lighting ect. I have used a few renderers but do not consider myself an expert. The most balanced renderer in as far as quality of render, features and results is Raylectron. I think it was developed for sketchup alone the Ui looks of family and it is powerfull. Short learning curve, $99. I have not looked back. Will pm you some renders if you like.Only thing is it render by graphics card or CPU. Choose the Cpu option.

I bought Twinmotion 2016 and was happy with the speed and coordination with sketchup,

not cheap though and TM 2018 limitations have meant I haven’t upgraded as it has lost features that were important to me [BIMmotion no longer practical, No true reflections, no orthographic render views [elevations plans etc].

But it sure is easy to create content quickly… for almost drag and drop rendering

Nope it is perfectly capable of rendered still images. There are several youtube videos of SimLab being used for architectural renderings. I do believe that they do push the VR capabilities as a selling point and they are nice. I have played with a couple simple VR exports for projects but my main focus was an easy to use rendering system. I already have a copy of Maxwell for SU but was looking for something a bit different and the price point was low enough to give it a shot.

Thanks all for your thoughts- today i downloaded and tried thea and shaderlight inbetween work.

Thea out of the box was impressive, though the second image took hrs to render.wasnt impressed with shaderlight out of the box, it seems a bit to simple ( though i wont rule it out just yet as i dodnt have much time on it)

Has anyone used cinema4d? Yrs ago there were some in our office who used it and i didnt get round to the learning curve- my boss now has in his head we should get cinema because its the industry standard…
I downloaded the trial but im already aware its a steep learning curve and is a fully blown modelling program whereas the others are just render engines- are there any merits?

Interesting but not available for Mac I believe. Shucks!

I moved from Cinema to V-Ray cause of the quality of the render engine. Actually I find V-Ray interface easier to learn than Cinema.


Under render engine use IR Presto MC. It is the fastest renderer within the app. TR1 &2 are unbiased and produce physically accurate renders but take a much longer time. The presto engine is biased so works quicker and will often produce great results… Also depends on the GPU you have. So not sure why it took so long? and at what output resolution you had? as that takes its toll too. I’m not salesman for Thea but if you want to share your model I’d try a render with it when I get a moment and see what the deal is.

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