SketchUp render

by Design Workshop Sydney

There are an array of render engines available which integrate well with SketchUp. We discuss several of these in our SketchUp coursessketchup-render
A good one to start with is Maxwell. First of all Maxwell is free. There is a Pro version ($100 new, $40 upgrade) but try out the free download first. It takes 5 minutes to download, and when you next open SketchUp, the Maxwell toolbar is there on your screen. Or go to View > Toolbars > and tick Large Toolset, Layers, Shadows, Maxwell, Large Buttons (SketchUp8) – you may then need to rearrange them to fit better on your screen.
Open a SketchUp model  like the one illustrated here – this is an eco-house design. And simply hit the Maxwell Fire button (far left of the Maxwell toolbar). The Maxwell Fire render window opens and your scene begins to render automatically – if it doesn’t (as in SketchUp version 8) you may need to hit the Enable button (top left) – for  a simple model this should take only a few seconds – note on the bottom left it should say Rendering then Ready when it’s done. Also note the resolution on the bottom right – 350 x 152 pixels.
Now click the Settings button (the “cog” icon) – the settings will vary according to which version you have, eg. in the free versions of Maxwell and SketchUp8 the maximum resolution is 800 pixels, and it says Draft engine. In the paid version you have a higher res and you have an additional Production engine. The default settings are: 12, 20, 320.
SL: This is Sample Level – you can drag the slider or type in a value and hit Tab. This equals the number of bounces of virtual light photons around the scene. Most render engines simulate the actions of real-world light particles; the higher the number the better the quality of the final image, the more refined and less noise. But when you are working on a model you want instant feedback, therefore lower the sample – keep at 10 initially.
Threads – equals the number of processors this engine is accessing. If it’s set to 0 Maxwell will automatically determine how many cores it can use – so best to keep it at 0. Max resolution – keep this at a lower res when working for faster feedback – 320 px – this is the long, horizontal side. Later change res to 800 or higher – note that the Aspect Ratio will stay the same (ratio of width to height). Draft or Production engine – the Draft engine is fine for a preview. Note that Production can actually be faster than draft, especially when you get into the higher sample levels. You could do a Sample Level of 25 for a finish render – but you may need to leave it overnight to render, depending on the size of the model & how many threads (processors) you have.
Note the small square buttons to reset the values to default. For an initial preview use the following settings: 10, 0, 320, Draft > hit Done, and it renders again – this should just take a few seconds for a simple model.
Click the top Save button – it goes to a Maxwell Output folder by default – browse to where you want to keep it. Note the various file formats: choose JPEG for website or emailing to a client. There’s much more to rendering in Maxwell, but that’s a good start & gives you an impression of the process. You can also add Maxwell Materials and realistic Sky maps.
Many useful tips and techniques can be found at the SketchUp website. And see many examples of our own clients’ work on our Facebook page.
Other related SketchUp Blog Posts: