It’s easy to see why so many architects, designers, and engineers have been beginning to use SketchUp on a daily. It’s easy to use, client friendly, and doesn’t cost you a dime to get things up and running. What once was at the butt end of every 3D visualization joke is now a powerhouse in the industry, and poised to grow even stronger as it continues to be supported by its developers and its user community.
And when paired with the right rendering plugin, SketchUp transforms into a 3D rendering and visualization tool that has the potential to rival design software that has long been dubbed superior.
These are the top rendering plugins for SketchUp, all must-have addons that might even have you tossing the rest of your creative suite in the trash.
Yes, the most ubiquitous and arguably powerful rendering engine has made its way to SketchUp. In fact, it’s been here for a while, and has been transforming people’s SketchUp models into photorealistic renderings and animations for a number of years now. vRay for SketchUp is easy to install and get started with, offering the power of the world’s most used renderer to the speed and flexibility of the most commonly used modeler.
Brighter 3D is a high-quality rendering plugin that has supported SketchUp since 2008. It uses an unbiased rendering algorithm that provides plenty of power and the ability to quickly produce renders for critique, feedback, and easy tweaking. There is a free version of Brighter 3D for those looking to test the waters before diving in head first. And while Brighter 3D is developed by a small team and occasionally presents bugs, it is lightning quick, affordable, and incredibly easy to use - all three things SketchUp itself is credited with.
SU Podium is a favorite among architects and interior designers for the ease in which it can produce detailed and life-like architectural visualizations from a detailed SketchUp model. Their development philosophy has always been to simplify their interface to work best with SketchUp’s streamlined approach. This has resulted in a marriage that is a seamless as it is fruitful, giving designers the ability to translate their work into results without the need of an expensive rendering consultant.
LumenRT provides a robust and easy to understand toolset that works best for designers and artists who rely heavily on landscape and terrain to improve the realism of their rendered scenes. LumenRT doesn’t actually have a specific plugin for SketchUp, but the models you build in Google’s modeling software can be easily imported into Lumen, where it can be set up with the material libraries, lighting and entourage capabilities of LumenRT.
A name that is almost as well known as vRay. Maxwell has been around since before SketchUp was even a name, so it’s easy to see why this renderer is help in such high regard by 3D rendering and visualization artists. It’s the household name of household names, and the reasons why are in the quality of results Maxwell produces time and time again. The plugin for SketchUp is no different, offering professionals something familiar to hang on to as they push and pull their way through their 3D models.
Named after one of the most well-known Italian Baroque painters, Caravaggio 3D is a simple, lean rendering plugin that is definitely worth a look. They offer a free trial (200 renderings) to see if it’s something that might add value to your work. The plugin works directly with your SketchUp model and has material and lighting editors for fine tweaking and final production.
Indigo boasts one of the most impressive real-world lighting physics models, even when pitted against some of the bigger names on this list. The plugin for SketchUp works just as you’d hope, and will transform your models from blocky lines and shapes into magnificent works of art. Yes, it is that good. If you’re looking for a product to do most of the work for you and make you look like a seasoned professional, jump now and give Indigo Renderer a try.