3D rendering is an essential part of 3D modeling. Rendering is used in many disciplines by many types of people, including architecture, freelance CAD drafting services, virtual engineering, and visual effects. This is the process of converting 3D models (such as wireframes) into 2D images. Various rendering styles may be used such as photorealistic or diagrammatic.
If you are a 3D rendering service, you have a multitude of programs available that can be used to complete the process. Furthermore, you also have at your disposal a range of advanced modeling programs to create stunning 3D visualizations. SketchUp is one such program that was initially released in 2000. This 3D modeling program is well-known within the industry and is used by many designers.
The usability and utility of SketchUp can be improved by using plugins. A host of third-party developers have created advanced plugins for use with SketchUp. In this article, we look in particular at 3D rendering plugins for this software. These rendering plugins will allow you to turn your 3D models into beautifully finished renders:
What is SketchUp?
Before we jump into the plug-ins, let’s remind ourselves of what SketchUp has to offer. SketchUp is an advanced modeling program. There are several different versions available including a free version, and a pro version. It was first released in 2000 and is available on both Windows and MAC devices.
Using SketchUp, you can create detailed and advanced 3D models. It is renowned for its ease of use and accessibility to any range of skill level – from novice to professional. Designs are facilitated by a vast library known as the 3D warehouse. Users contribute pre-made models and designs into this warehouse that anyone can access and use. As you will see below, these models can be turned into fantastic renders using the plugins we have listed.
Top 3D Rendering Plugins for SketchUp Software
3D rendering capabilities in SketchUp are limited. This is why rendering plugins are vital if you wish to use this program for that purpose. Developers have created third-party plugins for SketchUp due to its popularity. They have capitalized on this lack of rendering support. The following are nine fantastic plugins that can help you turn your models into superb 3D renders:
Price – $99.00
Notable Feature – Full support for artificial lighting
Brighter 3D is one of the best-known 3D rendering plugins for SketchUp. There is both a free trial version and a full Pro version at a cost of $99.00. The free version limits the resolution you can create your renders at. This plugin uses advanced noiseless rendering techniques to create stunning results. It is also straightforward to use and caters to both the beginner and the professional.
When using Brighter 3D, you have access to a massive library of materials and lighting features. For example, you can create artificial, natural lighting, and even HDRI lighting (High Dynamic Range Imaging). The materials allow you to create a realistic surface and include such features as reflection and refraction of light. The system requirements are not too stringent – it is advised that you have 8GB of RAM and a 1.5GHZ multi-core processor.
Price – $59.95 (SU Podium V2.5 Plus Upgrade)
Notable Feature – Superb support for natural lighting from sun & sky
SU Podium is another heavy hitter in the world of SketchUp plugins. This plugin is slightly cheaper than Brighter 3D and has just as much to offer. SU Podium primarily concentrates on photorealistic rendering. It is superb for creating architectural designs, and natural landscape renders. As with most rendering programs, Podium has an extensive library packed full of useful materials. You can use this library to create realistic surface textures complete with reflections and bump maps.
One area that Podium excels is lighting for both interiors and exteriors. It utilizes two forms of natural light – the sky and sun. This can help you create dynamic renders with beautiful lighting effects and tone. Finally, Podium also has a post-processing tool. You can use this to edit the final Bitmap renders that are created. This negates the need to use a dedicated photo editing program such as Lightroom or Photoshop.
Price – Various depending on reseller
Notable Feature – Streamlined asset management
V-Ray is considered by many to be the industry standard for SketchUp rendering plugins. It is reportedly used by 92 out of every 100 architectural firms. The only downside to this plugin is its cost and availability – it is not cheap and certainly not to be used by hobbyists. You only have to look at some of the gallery shots on Chaos Groups website to see the exceptional quality of the photorealistic renders this plugin can create.
It has a myriad of features such as render control, a vast selection of materials and textures, asset management, and more. You are also given great control over various aspects of the render such as exposure, white balance, and adaptive lighting. As far as SketchUp plugins go, V-Ray is certainly one of the best choices.
Price – $495.00
Notable Feature – Advanced de-noise capabilities
Maxwell is another high-end rendering plugin for SketchUp and is on par with V-Ray. If you look at the concept images on their website, you can see the amount of detail available. From somber landscape shots to stunning architectural designs bursting with natural lighting, this plugin can do it all. It is often used in an architectural capacity but is also used for automotive rendering and other purposes.
What makes Maxwell even more accessible is that it can take a render through the entire process – from development and rendering through to post-production. It can, for example, be used in conjunction with both SketchUp and Photoshop. The de-noising tool is one of its most advanced features – you can remove background noise easily and create smooth and smart renders.
Price – POR
Notable Feature – Integration with CAD and GIS
LumenRT is a plugin created by Bentley. It offers a whole system for turning 3D models into unbelievable renders. This plugin can also be used to turn 3D models into videos and other types of real-time media. You can easily use this tool to add lifelike objects into your renders such as plants, animals, and even humans. It is primarily used for architecture and civil engineering designs that include vast cityscapes.
LumenRT offers advanced lighting capabilities, and you can choose lighting that reflects different periods within the day. The interface is extremely easy to use, and much of the rendering process can be complete with a few clicks.
Price – $595.00
Notable Feature – Scattering feature to create realistic vegetation
Indigo Renderer can create fantastic results. This plugin is used for a myriad of purposes such as interior design, architecture, and landscaping. It can be used to create photorealistic end-designs – the quality of the renders is superb. You can tailor the renders using different camera apertures and lighting techniques.
Furthermore, features such as scattering allow you to fill your designs with realistic vegetation and natural objects. This plugin also features an extensive database with over 600 different materials – you can create realistic surfaces for interior designs and exterior structures. Many people comment on the ease of use and the realism this plugin offers. In terms of cost, it is on par with Maxwell.
Price – $195.00
Notable Feature – Simple, no-nonsense approach to rendering
If you simply want to get the work done and create a render quickly, Caravaggio Render is a great choice. Caravaggio is not a complex product and does not offer the same level of functionality or control as other choices in this list. It uses a simple interface and you essentially select various parameters of the render you wish to achieve.
For example, you can select the antialiasing, lighting, quality of light, and final resolution of the render. For those who don’t have the luxury of time, Caravaggio is a superb choice.
Price – $99.00
Notable Feature – An affordable plug-in that can be used to create templates
Don’t let the basic look of the Twilight Render website fool you – this plugin can create amazing renders with ease. This plugin takes care of every aspect of the rendering including materials, lighting, and surrounding environment. Furthermore, the interface and controls are easy to use – you can, for example, create set templates that make the rendering process easier.
Using Twilight Render, you can create photorealistic renders and include a multitude of textures such as glass, tiles, and metal. You can also give your models fantastic lighting effects using different render settings like ray tracing and photon mapping. The quality cannot be compared to the giants of 3D rendering such as V-Ray and Maxwell, but it is still a great plugin, and affordable.
Price – POR
Notable Feature – Easy to use interface to clean up models for rendering
This is not a strict rendering tool, but it is extremely useful to have when compiling your 3D models to be rendered. Purge All does exactly that – it purges all of the unnecessary mess and items from your 3D models so that rendering is smooth and streamlined.
If you leave your models cluttered and unorganized, the rendering process can take that much longer. By using Purge All, you can clean it up in a much more efficient way than what you would have to do in SketchUp. The plugin is extremely robust and can help the rendering process greatly.
Anyone of these plugins can greatly improve the functionality of SketchUp. If you use this program regularly and want to create 3D renders, why not give one of them a try? If you don’t get on with any of them, you can always uninstall the plugin and try another! If you have any experience with these plugins, or know of any we have missed, leave a comment and share your thoughts!
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