As a base program, SketchUp has been developed into a powerhouse 3D modeler that just about anyone with a computer and an internet connection. It’s easy enough for clients to understand, and nuanced enough for architects and designers to quickly build their designs in digital space and get instant feedback about massing, proportion, and circulation.
But, when you start to add extensions and plugins, you can transform SketchUp into a one-stop visualization shop that allows users to create photorealistic renderings, animations, and walkthroughs that will wow clients and strengthen the design process.
The rendering software in this list is some of the best in the world, and all provide streamlined plugins for use within the SketchUp experience. These programs are marketed towards architects looking to keep their visualization work in house without having to hire an expensive, dedicated rendering artist to keep on staff.
Here is the best rendering software to use with SketchUp.
Maxwell has been around since your parents were toying around with this new thing called ‘rendering software’ back in the last 1990’s. It’s been ubiquitous with the industry since the beginning, offering some of the most powerful rendering physics that produce incredibly real-looking images and animations.
The development team at Next Limit have done an admiral job at creating a plugin for SketchUp that is not only incredibly easy to install, it’s streamlined in a way that users will feel like it’s a natural extension of the program they know and love. You’ll be rendering in mere seconds, and with a little practice, be using SketchUp in ways you could have never imagined. Maxwell is worth every penny, especially when paired with the fastest modeling tool on the planet.
Artlantis was developed specifically with architects and design professionals in mind. This, along with a stripped-down user interface, make it the perfect rendering companion to SketchUp. It’s tools are not only compatible with the software itself, but with the way architects’ minds are trained to work from a perspective of development, process, and workflow.
Artlantis released a plugin for SketchUp around two years ago, and has continued to develop it so that it works hand in hand with the tools and camera techniques of the base program. It comes packaged with a robust material library that is filled to the brim with textures and colors that architects and interior designers frequently use.
While Keyshot has yet to release a proper plugin for SketchUp, the relative newcomer on the block is such a powerful tool it’d be a shame not to mention it here. SketchUp models are easy enough to interface into the program via a downloadable extension, allowing Keyshot to take things from there.
Keyshot is a capable rendering engine, yes, but it’s real magic comes from the ability to view your rendered scene in real-time as you tweak materials, massing, camera, and lighting conditions. It provides an incredibly fast work environment that doesn’t require you to sit around while a bunch of draft renderings are produced just so you can change things and try again.
Just like Maxwell, V-Ray has been around since the beginning. It’s trajectory hasn’t given an inch as it has been continually developed into a rendering program at the top of its class. V-Ray for SketchUp offers the precision, accuracy, and flexibility the program always has, but in a package that users can navigate and implement with ease.
V-Ray is simply the best when it comes to providing true-to-life results in just about every rendering category imaginable. Whether you’re animating for Pixar or using SketchUp to render your parents’ basement renovation, V-Ray will show you the way to the promised land. And while all those features certainly come with a hit to your wallet, it’ll be worth it once you see your designs literally come to life.
One thing Brighter 3D has on every other rendering program on this list is that it was developed specifically for use within SketchUp. This means it’s toolset was designed to work hand-in-hand with the 3D modeler, making rendering just as fast and easy as the modeling. Brighter 3D doesn’t have many frills or extras - it’s just a solid rendering engine that should be perfect for 95% of SketchUp users out there.
The only downfall is that Brighter 3D doesn’t currently have a version for Mac users, though the developers promise one is in the works.