Sketchup is one of the best modeling applications for 3D modeling, but it can feel a bit lacking when it comes to rendering. Check out these rendering plugins and reach the level of quality you’re aiming for.
Sketchup is an amazingly popular 3D modeling application that has a wide application with designers of all types and creeds. It’s easy to learn, and users can add to its functionalities by installing plugins specialized for specific purposes.
We’re here to do an overview of the most popular rendering tools for Sketchup. Handling that aspect of a 3D design isn’t something that Sketchup handles well on its own.
We’re going to go through some of the most popular options but also a few more obscure ones. Our goal is to provide users with diverse options, as not all of them will be getting these plugins with the same goals in mind. There are also some considerable differences in pricing, and we aimed to provide options for everyone’s budget - from free to “Well, that’s a lot of money” options.
1. V-Ray - The Classic
V-Ray is one of the legendary software solutions that most designers know about, but did you know that V-Ray is compatible with Sketchup?
This software has a user-friendly plugin that works seamlessly with Sketchup and is easy to set up. If photorealistic rendering is the goal you are moving towards, then V-Ray is the right plugin for you.
It brings a fantastic material editor and a plethora of other useful tools to expand the capabilities of Sketchup. On top of that, it is quite affordable as it will cost only a newsletter subscription.
All in all, an excellent way to expand Sketchup’s rendering capabilities and add some more functionalities.
2. Brighter 3D - Small but strong
The selling point of Brighter 3D is that they offer a simple rendering plugin that packs a punch. What does this mean?
Well, Brighter3D may seem simple, but it has some serious rendering power and can easily handle even the most complex rendering tasks. It also offers a way to get quick previews with its preview tool. This preview tool gives you an image of your work within a couple of seconds.
Brighter 3D uses unbiased rendering technology which means that everything will run fast and easy.
3. SU Podium - Professionalism and support
While SU Podium isn’t one of the most famous plugins for Sketchup but this doesn’t mean that it can’t perform at a high level.
One of the most significant advantages SU Podium has is its support community. You can find tutorials and will help you adapt to the new plugin fast. This is very important, as getting used to the new interface and figuring out how a new plugin functions can take away so much of a user’s time that a lot of people just stick with what they know.
This plugin produces renderings and visualizations that are more than a match for the current architectural standards. It also has a fantastic interface that is as efficient as the one provided by Sketchup, so this is a match made in heaven.
4. Maxwell - Another legendary plugin
If you are searching for a rendering plugin that has proved it’s reliable and stable over a long period, then Maxwell is a good option.
Thanks to the development team behind this plugin, Maxwell has managed to stay competitive for almost as long as V-Ray and demonstrate similar, if not superior, capabilities.
Maxwell developers realized the potential of Sketchup early on and decided to develop a plugin specifically for this software. The result is a plugin that works perfectly and gives Sketchup robust capabilities when it comes to rendering.
5. Indigo Renderer - Photorealism and lighting
Another lesser-known rendering plugin for Sketchup which expands its capabilities is Indigo Renderer.
This plugin produces some of the best photorealistic renderings out there and can easily be compared to most household names when it comes to rendering quality it achieves.
Indigo Renderer has a high-speed rendering algorithm and is features one of the most advanced physics-based lighting modulators ever developed. Your images and animations are going to look stunning.
It integrates perfectly with Sketchup so you can work without any distractions, crashes or errors - basically a perfect plugin.
6. LumenRT - Topographically capable
If you are having issues with Sketchup’s capabilities to deal with topography, then you might want to check out LumenRT.
LumenRT adds an amazing toolset to the ones that you already have, and this rectifies one of Sketchup's most prominent shortcomings. It is powerful enough to produce high-quality animations as well as images with an added option of quickly importing 3D models from Sketchup to Lumen.
All in all, if you are a landscape architect who’s looking to improve the capabilities Sketchup has to handle these kinds of projects, LumenRT is a great choice.
7. Twilight Render - Free and great for practicing
So far, we’ve talked about plugins that are intended for professional users. Most of them will cost you a decent amount, but what if you want to learn to render and want to do it without spending too much?
Enter Twilight Render!
This is by no means a rendering plugin on par with V-Ray and Maxwell, but it’s free, relatively simple to use and has decent capabilities. Your images will look decent, and their library is filled with decent materials. It is well integrated and is reliable.
This plugin is a great first rendering experience for people who want to enter the industry. So, give it a shot if you want to hone your skills without wasting money on professional rendering solutions.
8. Visualize - Lightweight and free
This is another tool that is designed for beginners. Visualizer is a rendering plugin that is completely free and easy to use.
The visualizations you’ll get with Visualize aren’t going to be top-notch, but we didn’t go for this one with that level of quality, to begin with. It is a nifty little plugin that expands Sketchup’s capabilities significantly and provides the user with an easy to use interface.
If you are looking for a cheap way to hone your rendering and design skills, Visualize is a great option.
9. Caravaggio - Powerful with a great trial period
This is a lightweight plugin that focuses on providing the user with a simple and easy to use interface, but this doesn’t mean it lacks the capabilities to produce good results.
The plugin has immensely powerful material and lighting editors but is primarily designed to be used through Sketchup. It produces solid results and can be used to set up your render up to the finest details.
One of the big advantages of this plugin is that it has a 200 renderings free trial so you have a lot of time to test it before you commit to a purchase.
These are by no means the only rendering plugins that will work with Sketchup - this is just a list of the ones that we found most interesting.
Didn’t you find the plugin you were looking for? Well, leave a comment, we love hearing about software that works well from the shadows! What other plugins, not explicitly focused on rendering, do you use regularly, and why?
Sketchup is a very flexible platform, and with the right plugins, it can turn into a fantastic tool capable of handling even the most demanding 3D design tasks.