Google SketchUp is quickly becoming the most widely-used 3D modeling tool in the architecture and design industries, and it’s easy to see why. SketchUp offers a user-friendly toolset that is easy for designers to pick up and use to help them with their work. It is the quickest way to understand how a project is coming together in glorious three dimensions and helps cut down on spending valuable time wrestling with other, more cumbersome programs.
And to the delight of architects around the globe, the ability to integrate rendering software with SketchUp’s design tools elevate it to an all-in-one presentation powerhouse that lets them produce mind-blowing renderings and visualizations completely in house.
However, there are a lot of renderers to choose from, and they aren’t all created equally. This list aims to outline the best rendering plugins and integrated software that work with SketchUp, and which ones might be perfect for you depending on the kind of design work you’re doing.
This is the best rendering software for Google SketchUp.
vRay has been at the top of the rendering software mountain since 3D visualization became a thing. It is powerful, ubiquitous, and comes with a massive support community that will help new users get their feet wet without too steep a learning curve. vRay makes a plugin for SketchUp that integrates seamlessly, ensuring you never have to leave the program to set your scenes, apply materials, and tweak lighting conditions on the fly.
Podium is a favorite among architects and architectural designers because it has a user interface that reflects the streamlined and efficient inputs of SketchUp itself. It might not have the most well-known brand name attached to it, but make no mistake: SU Podium is capable of producing renderings and visualizations that are just as impressive as some of the giants in the industry. Podium has a great support community, and easy-to-find tutorials that help new users get quickly up to speed with how to best utilize the program’s potential.
Another household name, and another reason why SketchUp has become such a capable presentation tool. Maxwell has been around for almost as long as vRay, and has managed to keep up with the best rendering software available because of the dedication to excellence demonstrated by its developers. They knew they had something special when SketchUp gained popularity, so they jumped on-board with a plugin that was geared specifically towards making it a better renderer. The result is a power couple that is hard to best in the design and visualization world.
While Indigo Renderer is a bit of a lesser known quantity among some of the more popular engines on this list, it certainly shouldn’t be disregarded as inferior. In fact, Indigo is fully capable of producing photorealistic renderings that stand tall against the other giants on this list. One of Indigo’s coolest features is its physics-based lighting modulator that produces some of the most believable conditions for interior and exterior lighting. Pair this with a fast rendering algorithm and seamless SketchUp integration, and you have yourself a viable up and comer in the 3D visualization industry.
LumenRT is great for designers and landscape architects who rely heavily on terrain and landscape manipulation for their work. It’s toolset slots in nicely with SketchUp’s, and even has a few topography modifiers that help shine light on one of SketchUp’s most glaring blind spots. In addition to all that, LumenRT is a renderer fully capable of producing images and animations that help explain why your designs are worth celebrating. And while they are still working on a plugin for SketchUp, your 3D models can be easily imported into Lumen for modifications and manipulations.
Visualizer might not be the most high-end renderer available for SketchUp, but it is certainly the most user-friendly. You can see your models come to life in real lighting and materiality conditions as you design, making SketchUp an instantly better design tool right out of the box. The visualizations it produces aren’t print quality, but it is a great entry point for people looking for something easy, free, and fast to get start honing their rendering chops. There is no risk involved in giving Visualizer a try, and the rewards could be a better end product for you and your clients.