Ways of enhancing renders

Are there plugins to help make renders (exported images) of models look more realistic? I’ve noticed some people using what looks like more realistic lighting for instance that seems to make the models look more realistic overall.

There are many rendering applications available and a number of them have user interfaces that work within SketchUp. Vray for SketchUp is a popular one. There are many more, too.

Are you still using SketchUp Make? Which version? Please complete your forum profile. That information is useful for helping you with your question.

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Thank you Dave, I have just updated my profile as I use pro - sorry I thought I had already updated that.

I’m struggling to make my models look more realistic. I don’t want them to be super realistic but I’ve noticed other landscape designers are somehow able to make their models, using some of the same textures and 3D warehouse plant and furniture models, look better somehow.

I will take a look at Vray now.

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Hello London. Suffolk calling.

I have been through this thought process and haven’t yet taken the plunge on committing to a render package. As @DaveR points out Vray is commonly used with Sketchup and produces some fantastic results. It is also quite a cost commitment so you need to be sure you will get enough use out of it.

Rendering is also quite power hungry, so you need to know you have a beast of a computer if you don’t want to be waiting around hours for it to churn through the process. I recently upgraded my Mac to a spec that should be able to handle at least simple renders quickly.

And finally Esther… There is quite a learning curve in using renders. It is not just a push button and sit back. You have to be careful in your selection of materials to make sure they render accurately. Plus understand light sources and types, etc. It’s a discipline in its own right.

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Twlight Render is one that is free. It is a good way to get your feet wet.

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From the paid renderers, Enscape and Twinmotion come closest to the “push a button” solution, especially for views that can manage without artificial light.

A quick summary of rendering and the elements you have control over that will ultimate affect/improve the realism and quality:

1. model detail - if your model is simple with low poly or less geometry, it will appear less realistic. For example, take a wall corner. In SketchUp, wall joints are usually exactly 90 degrees. In the real world however, there is the slightest curve connecting the two faces. That small, but important, seam refracts light in a way a 90 degree corner does not in the rendering program.
2. materials/textures - Similar to above, models from the SU default library and/or 3D Warehouse are usually not created with rendering in mind and therefore lack the detail or realism required. In addition, rendering applications such as V-Ray support PBR textures that leverage several ‘hidden’ channels or im,age layers to create special effects that a default SketchUp material lacks.
3. asset quality - Same note about point 1 re: model geometry count/detail. If you’re using only free assets from 3D Warehouse, it’ll be hard to find the detail and quality you need for realism since these are user-generated and free. Companies sell higher quality vegetation assets and the difference is big. In addition to higher geometry counts, most purchased assets include PBR plant materials (noted in point 2) that brings an additional level of realism to them without adding additional geometry to the model. Check out VizPArk and Laubwerk. I’m familiar with these and they sell in SketchUp format so that’s why I name them. Other companies like Xfrog may only offer .OBJ format in which case you need a special import extension to use them in SU.
4. lighting - Lighting makes a big difference since all photography is really at the end of the day is understanding of and capturing light. For example, in rendering, you can use SketchUp’s default sun and sky which usually works pretty well but looking for a specific light quality and loading it into your model via HDRI can make a big difference. Try it out and see that the same model and camera can look and feel quite different under different lighting scenarios.
5. render settings - last but not least, render output settings can make or break a view. For example, making sure you have a high resolution set, like min 3000 pixels will add a lot more detail in the final image. As well as other special effect tricks. V-Ray for example has a built in color corrections editor as well as camera bloom and glare effects. This simulates both physical camera effects as well as the post-processing required for almost all images to really take it to the next level.

Whew. Good luck!


@simoncbevans @RLGL @Anssi @eric-s

Thank you for your replies and time, this is really helpful. Eric, thank you for all of the recommendations and explanation. This is all making a lot more sense to me, coming at it from zero!

I will explore all of these and weigh up the costs. At the moment I can see the value in Laubwerk and V-ray I’m just not sure I can commit to the costs (or that my mac pro will run them! lol) but I will start there and try our some of the other renderers.