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Here is how we troubleshoot V-Ray for SketchUp errors

Are you often having to troubleshoot V-Ray for SketchUp errors? Does your machine run slowly when trying to render? Do you often experience crashes?

Troubleshoot V-Ray for SketchUp errors | Bug splats indicate a crash has occured and SketchUp needs to reopen the file

We want to give you all something a little different with this blog…

If you would like to understand how we troubleshoot our problems at a professional CGI studio – grab a drink and read on!

How do we begin to troubleshoot V-Ray for SketchUp errors?

To troubleshoot errors or crashes, we must always begin by trying to recreate the problem first, and then gradually rely on the process of elimination.

If we are able to recreate the problem, we know that the problem exists within the file and it is not an external issue caused by other running programs or drives.

If we encounter the same issues when we reopen the file after restarting the machine, we can be confident that the problem is confined to SketchUp & V-Ray.

Learning from these processes, we can over time become more experienced with troubleshooting V-Ray for SketchUp errors early on and ‘smell the smoke’ with new projects whilst putting in place new optimised ways of working after each resolution.

Eventually, your scenes will rarely run into problems and if they do, you will most likely be able to cross-reference previous projects and either resolve them quickly or have the knowledge to know how to find them.

Most hardware-related questions that we are asked by former delegates are solved by using the optimisation tricks that you will find below, rather than by investing in expensive new hardware.

Hardware is expensive and does not necessarily mean that you are solving the problem. It may be that you are merely increasing the power of your setup to deal with the problem quicker, but the problem and lack of optimisation still exists and remains unsolved.

My scene is really heavy and starts to lag when I orbit, what can I do?

 

Naturally, we’d immediately turn to hardware issues, but firstly we should think about the scenes’ complexity.

  1. Are we utilising proxies? This keeps geometry within SketchUp to a minimum, whilst preserving the level of quality that you need when rendering.
  2. Have we run a clean-up to make sure we do not have multiple faces within complex imported models? We recommend using CleanUp³ for its ease-of-use!
  3. Are we working with our SketchUp edges turned off? By turning off our edges in the SketchUp ‘view’ tab, we can immediately smooth out any orbital lag that we may encounter.

Remember, orbital lag is GPU (graphics card) based and loading or processing lag is CPU based (the main processer, or brain of your PC)!

Check the points above before investing your hard-earned cash on a new GPU.

SketchUp really does not need much GPU power. At Archilime HQ, we rarely need to troubleshoot V-Ray for SketchUp errors when it comes to GPUs – we all use Nvidia GeForce 1060s (which are relatively middle-of-the-range when it comes to power) with absolutely no graphic issues whatsoever.

During our Access into V-Ray for SKP courses at the Archilime Academy, we practice key techniques to troubleshoot V-Ray for SketchUp errors of your own, so that you can have the confidence to fix your own problems when they arise!

My SketchUp file size seems too big in comparison to my scene, why could this be?

Everything that we put into a SketchUp file impacts the file size; whether that be models, proxies, HDRI’s, or textures maps.

Sometimes if we are struggling with file size this will directly affect the RAM usage for SketchUp and will naturally put the program under strain during the render stages.

It is unlikely for a Sketchup file to crash due to RAM limitations because Sketchup will automatically control its usage.

RAM crashes will not usually occur until the file is starting to render so it is worth keeping an eye on the filesizes of the textures that you are using (use JPEGs where possible and try not to exceed 10-15Mb in filesize).

If you do not keep an eye on this, and you start to use PNG’s or TIFF file types (which are generally many times larger files than JPEGs), you can very quickly see your render load-up times increase, which is when RAM bottlenecking can occur and crash your renders.

My loading times are taking forever, why?

 

When we set out to troubleshoot V-Ray for SketchUp errors, there are different types of loading issues that we can identify before we then go through the process of elimination. These types of loading scenarios use the CPU.

For SketchUp processing, we have the dreaded ‘wheel of death’ where the mouse cursor circulates and forces Sketchup to temporarily freeze.

This usually occurs when SketchUp has to work extra hard to complete a function – this often happens when using plugins such as Skatter, Profile Builder, Roundcorner etc, or computing a native modeling technique like a copy & paste. Check out some of our favourite plugins here.

We also have V-Ray loading times which would occur on the load up of the VFB (V-Ray Frame Buffer) or the LC (Light Cache) stage of the initial render.

Then, we have the actual rendering process whereby the buckets (threads) process the image through progressive rendering or bucket rendering.

Troubleshoot V-Ray for SketchUp errors | The number of buckets relates to the number of cores within the CPU

All of these load styles for SketchUp and V-Ray are slightly different from one another as they use the cores/threads of the CPU differently. One thing to pay attention to is the clock speed (GHz) of both your base clock-speed and turbo clock-speed for processing and rendering.

SketchUp is a CPU-based modeling package that benefits from single-core performance so the number of cores is almost irrelevant for SketchUp use only. The key thing to pay attention to is the turbo clock speed and the CPU architecture because the only time turbo clock speeds are put to use is when a single core is being operated – like processing Skatter.

The newer the architecture of the CPU (generally speaking with Intel) the better the core performance will be. For more info on CPU benchmarks, take a look at V-Ray’s standalone service where you can see how your own hardware ranks in comparison with others.

If we turn to V-Ray rendering, all the cores available to the CPU will be used and split and will naturally run at the base speed, this is called Hyper-threading.

What is hyperthreading?

Hyper-threading is a process by which a CPU divides up its physical cores into virtual cores. When rendering, these are treated as physical cores by the operating system and all of those virtual cores (buckets or threads) will then be used – so the more cores, the better!

Troubleshoot V-Ray for SketchUp errors | Hyperthreading allows for twice the number of buckets, which means quicker renderings

You can manually ‘overclock’ your CPU for the best results, but this process can be complicated and needs to be done by someone with the right skills, if done incorrectly instability issues and crashes may occur.

This balances out the higher clock speed over all the cores as opposed to the turbo only focusing on one or two cores depending on the CPU type.

If your loading times are becoming an issue, I’d recommend looking into a more suitable CPU for your desired purpose but remember, depending on what CPU you chose you may need different components to run it, especially if you are looking at threadrippers! They are hungry for power!

Before I troubleshoot V-Ray for SketchUp errors; how do I check RAM usage?

There are two ways to do this which will depend on whether you are utilising the V-Ray Swarm with configured nodes linked to your network as a local render farm or If you are using a single desktop.

If the latter, you can simply press ‘CTRL, ALT + DELETE’ and then go to the task manager.

On the task manager, you can find one of the top tabs called ‘performance’ which is where you can monitor your usage for all your hardware if you think you are getting RAM issues, this is the first place to start looking to see how that RAM is being delegated and if you are finding your RAM is bottoming out, try closing all your other programs as a short term fix.

Your task manager contains your running performance of your machine

If you are running nodes through the swarm, you can check the nodes’ RAM usage from the V-Ray UI.

The V-Ray Swarm interface is accessible by a web browser which then gives you access to all the machines visible on the local network and includes options for configuring and controlling the V-Ray Swarm node machines.

You can get into the V-Ray Swarm web interface by opening a web browser window and typing the following address: http://localhost:24267 where 24267 is the default port number used by V-Ray Swarm for communication.

Use the V-Ray swarm UI to check up on the machines within your network
Bonus points for imaginative names for your PCs – we Archilimes are big fans of Marvel!

Remember though, your nodes will be bottlenecked by the amount of RAM your localhost (your desktop PC) has. For example, if your nodes have 64Gb RAM and your local host has 32Gb RAM, then the nodes will be capped at 32Gb not then utilising the power of the full render farm.

If usually your RAM is capable of rendering your scenes, but a particular scene is causing issues, try changing your render type from bucket rendering to progressive, this then handles the RAM in a different way and dumps each pass once it is done.

Bucket rendering is more efficient and faster however progressive rendering gives you immediate results at poor quality and then computes ‘passes’ naturally being able to deal with RAM differently.

Progressive rendering could be much slower to achieve your desired noise limit though, so it’s up to you to test it!

What questions must we ask before building a new machine or upgrading a PC component?

This has got to be the most asked question we receive from our delegates, which requires another question:

What do you need your machine to do?

Before we think about building or buying a new machine we must understand what we need it for in the present and in the future (maybe you have contemplated producing animation in Lumion or Unreal Engine but currently only use Sketchup & V-Ray).

Different programs use different pieces of hardware more efficiently than others so it’s important for us to understand what requirements certain programs have and how those programs operate with that piece of hardware.

The first step is to identify and refine your workflow so that it is as optimised as possible. If we are running into freezes or crashes whilst still looking to then spend money upgrading hardware, we likely need to reassess how we are working before purchasing any new equipment.

Think about how much programs use GPU and CPU and then start to build a list of parts that suit that.

To know how to troubleshoot V-Ray for SketchUp errors, you need to know what each PC part does…

CPU

V-Ray Next CPU rendering is the ‘normal’ version of rendering. V-Ray uses the CPU to calculate light ray traces as they bounce around your scene. It scales very well with both clock speed and core count, so we recommend that you invest in a powerful CPU with a high base GHz speed and multiple cores.

Video Cards (GPU)

For V-Ray Interactive the video card selection is the biggest single factor in rendering speed/performance. If you own an Nvidia GPU, you can use the Nvidia Denoiser (see Denoising section for more details).

RAM

The exact amount of RAM you need is going to depend on how ‘heavy’ your projects are with difficult to render elements such as vegetation, glass materials, etc. We recommend that you opt for 32-64Gb RAM to be on the safe side. For reference, we use 64Gb and manage to operate efficiently.

Hard Drives

Whilst more expensive than their HDD counterparts; we recommend using an SSD for the primary drive that hosts SKP & V-Ray as the high speed of SSDs allows your system to boot, launch applications, and load files many times faster than any traditional hard drive (HDD).

 


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What are SketchUp Plugins?

If you are here searching for SketchUp plugins, then you already appreciate how easy-to-use and versatile SketchUp can be when 3D modelling. Using the basic toolsets that SketchUp provides, it is possible to build detailed and complex 3D models for many different industries.

SketchUp plugins are tools that have been developed by members of the SketchUp community to add additional features or improve on the functionality of the native SketchUp toolset(s).

The Extension Warehouse allows you to browse the thousands of plugins that are available to install – with most of these being free-of-charge.

SketchUp Plugins, The Extension Warehouse is a great source for plugins.
The Extension Warehouse within SketchUp is a great source for plugins.

 

Why use SketchUp Plugins?

Depending on the desired outcome, there is a strong possibility that there is a plugin out there which can complete a certain task for you quicker and more accurately than modelling something manually.

As a team of highly driven creatives, we are always looking for that ‘next big thing’, that improves the quality of our work and saves us time doing it.

This list is the product of an accumulation of over 30+ combined years across the team as professional SketchUp & V-Ray users, so take it from us – these plugins are bone-fide game-changers, and the work that we produce today is testament to these incredible SketchUp plugins.

SketchUp Plugins, V-Ray offers us the ability to render our 3D models
One of our most-used SketchUp plugins; V-Ray offers us the ability to render our 3D models.

 


Artisan Logo

 

SketchUp Plugin #1: Artisan

When you think topography, you should think Artisan.

A far cry from the typical rectilinear forms for which SketchUp is most well-known; this SketchUp plugin allows users to create and edit organic, free-form models such as terrain, furniture, fabrics and much more.

You can sculpt, smooth, flatten, inflate or pinch your quadmesh geometry to mould it into any forms that you could imagine!

When modelling the terrain on each of our projects, we usually begin by importing the contour lines into SketchUp as a CAD drawing, and then using TopoShaper to create a quadmesh to allow us to create the existing topography.

We then use Artisan to edit the newly-created topography quadmesh by flattening, sculpting and smoothing areas to conform with the desired form of the surrounding landscape.

SketchUp Plugins, Artisan is our go-to tool to mould terrain.
Artisan is our go-to tool to mould terrain.

Is there a free trial available?

Yes. Artisan offers a 15 day free trial.

How much does it cost?

A single, permanent license at the time of writing costs $29.00

 


 

 

SketchUp Plugins, Profile Builder is one of our favourite parametric modelling extensions

SketchUp Plugin #2: Profile Builder

Profile builder is one of several SketchUp plugins that brings parametric modelling into the world of SketchUp.

Parametric modelling enables you to build and design using a series of rules and constraints, allowing you to automate repetitive occurrences of specific components within your scene.

SketchUp Plugins, Profile Builder allows you to create assemblies and add these to multiple locations within your model at a click of a button.

Create assemblies using Profile Builder and add these to multiple locations within your model at a click of a button.

Let’s look at a simple fence, for example.

This fence is made up of several components – vertical posts, panels, horizontal beams, etc.

SketchUp Plugins, Profile builder smart path select

Once you create or load a parametric assembly using Profile Builder, you have the ability to add these very easily all over your model.

We use this specifically when modelling fences, pathways, rainwater pipes and much, much more. What we love about this is that you can save out your assemblies for later use – or simply download one of the many assemblies from their library. The possibilities are endless!

SketchUp Plugins, Profile Builder can be used to create recurring models throughout your scene.
The cornice detailing and panelling within this room was created using Profile Builder.

This amazing SketchUp plugin has saved us countless hours over the years, and they also have an incredibly informative official training course available to view on YouTube for free – what’s not to love!

If you would rather learn how to use this SketchUp plugin (or others listed here) from a person, take a look at our bespoke Top-Up courses. In a 1-1 setting, these allow us to really focus on how to use plugins that are directly relevant to you.

Is there a free trial available?

Yes. A trial for Profile Builder 3 lasts for 30 days

How much does it cost?

A single commercial license at the time of writing costs $79.00

 


 

 

Laubwerk provide 3D vegetation

 

SketchUp Plugin #3: Laubwerk

Laubwerk offers an expansive library of SketchUp & V-Ray-ready 3D vegetation models where the worlds of botany and 3D modelling overlap.

How to create realistic vegetation using SketchUp - Laubwerk Library Browser

Using their intuitive Plant Library Browser, simply select the desired species, and then chose where to place it within the scene.

Each plant comes with 3x shape variations, with each of these then having 3x age variations – totalling 9x different models of the same species of trees.

Download your free plant kit from Laubwerk here

You also have the freedom to adjust the leaf density of each plant, and our favourite feature – to change the season!

Laubwerk’s plant kits are the most versatile tool in our vegetation arsenal, and we look forward to seeing what they achieve over the next few years as they expand their offering!

SketchUp Plugins, vegetation can boost the quality of your CGIs immeasurably

We have relied on the quality of Laubwerk’s plant kits for years, and it was our absolute pleasure to host them as guest speakers on our webinar in June of 2021 where we looked at how to create realistic vegetation. We wrote a blog about the collaboration here – take a look if you are looking to improve the quality of your vegetation work!

Is there a free trial available?

Yes. Laubwerk offer a free plant kit with no time limit.

How much does it cost?

Laubwerk’s vegetation models come in ‘plant kits’ which are installed and loaded into your Laubwerk Library within SketchUp. For info on their pricing, head over to their store!

 


Skatter is used to automatically distribute objects within the scene

SketchUp Plugin #4: Skatter

Whenever we add vegetation to our models, there is one SketchUp plugin that we turn to… Skatter.

Skatter - Randomly rotate your objects

Besides offering a library of high-quality vegetation and landscaping assets, Skatter allows you to create parametric assemblies that control and refine the distribution of your vegetation models in any number of ways.

How to create realistic vegetation using SketchUp - Skatter - Clipping areas are used to show where vegetation will appear

It is our pleasure to welcome Thomas Hauchecorne, the founder of Skatter, with us on our upcoming webinar where we talk about how we create exterior landscapes here at Archilime. Join us for an advanced demonstration of this incredible plugin on Thursday 7th October at 14:30 (UK Time) – sign up here.

Is there a free trial available?

Yes. A trial for Skatter lasts for 15 days

How much does it cost?

A single commercial license costs at the time of writing $99.00 + VAT(Tax)

 


V-Ray logo

SketchUp Plugin #5: V-Ray

V-Ray completes this list as arguably the most influential plugin that we use on a daily basis.

Over the years, V-Ray has been a constant for those of us at Archilime and also those of you in the wider visualisation community.

Available as a plugin for SketchUp, 3DS Max, Rhino and many more – V-Ray is the gold-standard rendering plugin on the market.

Every still CGI ever produced by Archilime over the years was made using V-Ray for SketchUp.

An example of high quality textures

Our Access into V-Ray for SketchUp courses are perfect for those artists that are experienced within SketchUp, but want to begin creating CGIs.

Is there a free trial available?

Yes. A trial for V-Ray for SketchUp lasts for 30 days

How much does it cost?

A single commercial license at the time of writing costs £45 +VAT(Tax) per month, or £270 +VAT(Tax) per year

 


 

Next steps

Now that you have our recommendations – go out there and get your hands on those free trials!

Do you have any questions? What plugins do you feel should be on this list? Want to show us how you use any of these plugins?

Check out our contact page for more info on how to get in touch – we would love to hear from you!

Unfortunately we do not have the time to list out every amazing plugin that we use here at Archilime, but join our mailing list for more in-depth technical content, where we will be featuring more plugins in the future!


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Improve your V-Ray Textures using these 5 top tips!

We are often asked for guidance on how to improve the quality of V-Ray textures, so we want to give you our 5x top tips which will supercharge your workflow and boost the realism of your work!


1. Never leave the reflection colour as black

Reflections are visible in almost every material – there are very few exceptions to this in the world around us.

Improve V-Ray textures | Reflections are present on every surface.

Consequently, as CGI artists, we need to represent this within our work and ensure that our materials are always programmed to reflect light.

Improve V-Ray textures | We must program our materials to reflect light

As you can see, when we have our reflection colour set to black, we do not see any reflections…

Improve V-Ray textures | Reflection colour of black gives us no reflections whatsoever

Whereas when we set our reflection colour to white, we see really intense reflections.

Improve V-Ray textures | Reflection colour of white gives us intense reflections

Note the difference between reflection intensity and reflection glossiness

There is a difference between reflection colour and reflection glossiness - note the difference here

We cover this on our Access into V-Ray for SketchUp courses, held at the end of every month over Zoom!

Key takeaway to improve your V-Ray textures: always change the reflection colour from black

Improve V-Ray textures | Never leave reflection colours as black

 


2. Pay attention to repeating textures

There are few aspects to life as inconvenient as repeating (or tiled) textures…

Improve V-Rat Textures | Tiled textures are lacking in realism

An great material could be ruined if it repeats itself too often, and you can see visible repetitions within your work

Improve V-Ray Textures | High quality materials can be created in V-Ray, but we must address how these are applied (or wrapped) onto geometry within our model

It is fair to deduce that we must take measures to prevent this from happening… there are a few things that we can do.

Try and use the largest scale images possible for your materials. Think large-scale!

Improve V-Ray textures | Always look for large scale textures where possible

This fundamentally reduces the number of times that a material must repeat itself on a given surface.

We can also use something called Stochastic Tiling

Improve V-Ray textures | Adding stochastic tiling is done as follows

Using this technique, V-Ray automatically randomises the positioning of your materials – reducing the tiling effect!

Key takeaway to improve your V-Ray textures: use large-scale maps & add stochastic tiling

Improve V-Ray textures | Recording made by Archilime Academy showing the effects of Stochastic Tiling within the V-Ray 5 for SketchUp

 


3. How to fix glass errors

Does your glass sometimes show up as black, or just generally looks strange?

Improve V-Ray textures | Black glass is fixed within V-Ray for SketchUp by ensuring that the faces are facing the front

You’re not alone!

You may have glass applied to back faces – V-Ray hates this! Turn on the monochrome face style to check

Graphic of glass applied to back faces - checking with View, Face Style, Monochrome

V-Ray requires 2x faces of glass, with front (or white) faces facing outwards.

Improve V-Ray textures | A gif made by Archilime Academy showing the correct setup for glass
We also recommend using one of the preset glass materials – they work great!

If you follow these rules for glass, you will never have any more issues with glass!

Key takeaway to improve your V-Ray textures: glass in V-Ray requires 2x faces, with front faces facing out. Check this using the monochrome face style

Improve V-Ray Textures | It is crucial that we ensure that we address incorrect glass materials

 


4. Add specular or gloss maps into the reflection glossiness texture slot

Do your textures look uniform and flat?

Flat reflections are a result of adding a value in the reflection glossiness

Have you ever seen one of these maps before?

Create Realistic Textures | A specular map dictates where on the material we will see glossy or matte reflections
A specular map dictates where on the material we will see glossy or matte reflections.

Add them into your reflection glossiness slots to create varying levels of gloss across your material.

Using maps, we can create variances in reflection across the material

If required, you can wrap these gloss maps in a colour correction to enable to adjust this further

Colour corrections can be added to any type of map to change the appearance of a material

We can see the comparison between a material with & without a map inside the reflection glossiness slot.

The difference between using a gloss map and not using one

Check out more on how to do this on our blog on how to create realistic textures!

Key takeaway to improve your V-Ray textures: using maps to control your materials’ glossiness makes them more realistic

Improve V-Ray Textures | An advanced V-Ray material
An advanced V-Ray material

 


5. Add imperfections to your textures

Nothing is ever perfectly smooth…

Surface imperfections are often what tells us that a material is photorealistic

Not even seemingly ‘flat’ surfaces…

No surface is ever truly flat in the real world

Motes of dust, minute scratches or greasy fingerprints – top-level CGI artists look at add these details to our finishes.

Improve the Lighting in your CGI - An interior CGI of The Priory in Tetbury

It is possible to add black and white alpha masks into the reflection glossiness and/or bump slots.

Scratches are seen everywhere in the real world - as much as we hate it!

Wrap these in a colour correction, and tweak the brightness and contrast of these maps to achieve the desired results.

Scratches can be added to surfaces by adding alpha maps into the bump sections of the asset editor

Key takeaway to improve your V-Ray textures: use alpha masks to simulate surface imperfections.

Improve V-Ray Textures | The use of alpha masks to break the uniformity on flat surfaces is crucial for realism

 


Want more tips like this?

Join our mailing list for professional, technical content like this as well as offers on courses, updates about upcoming webinars and prize giveaways!

Archilime Academy online course provider 3d modelling visualisation cgi
Brought to you by the Archilime Academy

 


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Create Realistic Vegetation using SketchUp

What good is the intricate Architectural modelling or realistic textures when the quality of the vegetation completely lets down the CGI… we’ve all been there. Read on to find out how to create realistic vegetation using SketchUp and V-Ray workflows.

Throughout our years in the ArchViz industry, this is a common question asked by CGI artists all over the world.

How do I create realistic vegetation using SketchUp?

We must consider what we can do differently to improve both the quality of the 3D vegetation models and also how they are distributed within our scene.

The best way to do this would be to go through the process step-by-step, and show you first-hand how we ‘vegetate’ our scenes!

Initially we must plan out our landscaping. We could do this by using landscaping PDFs or simple annotations (very simple in my case!)

How to create realistic vegetation using SketchUp - draw out a plan ahead of time

A preference is to then begin resolving larger pieces of vegetation first, moving down to smaller planting with each step.

We held a webinar recently with the guys at Laubwerk which ran through the process from start to finish… more on this collaboration later…


 

Trees

First and foremost, let’s talk about sources. For us, there are two sources which account for most of our realistic vegetation models, the first is provided by our friends at Laubwerk.

 

Laubwerk provide 3D vegetation

Laubwerk

Based in Berlin, Germany; Laubwerk offers an expansive library of render-ready 3D vegetation models where the worlds of botany and 3D modelling overlap.

Using the Plant Library Browser, simply select the desired species, and then chose where to place it within the scene!

How to create realistic vegetation using SketchUp - Laubwerk Library Browser

When in our SKP file, we notice the characteristic green blob – this tells us that this is a render proxy.

Proxies are better to add to our scenes because they contain less geometry than the full model, which keeps our files optimised and generally more operable.

How to create realistic vegetation using SketchUp - Laubwerk vegetation imports as a Proxy

At Archilime, we have used Laubwerk plants to create realistic vegetation using SketchUp for several years, and for some key reasons:

How to create realistic vegetation using SketchUp - we can create variations of tree species using the Plant Attribute Editor

  • Each plant has multiple variations. This helps us to reduce the ‘copy-paste’ effect that is visible in some CGIs.
  • We often asked by our clients to add specific young or older variants of a specific plant/tree into our scene. The Laubwerk plant attribute editor allows us to do this.
  • Need to change your scene from summer to autumn? Using the season attribute within the Laubwerk interface, this is straightforward and painless!

Download your free Plant Kit from the team at Laubwerk here!

Download your free plant kit from Laubwerk here


Chaos Cosmos

Another source which we use on a daily basis is Chaos Cosmos which is a powerful new feature of V-Ray 5 for SketchUp.

How to create realistic vegetation using SketchUp - Chaos Cosmos also offers a vegetation library

Simply use the filters and select the vegetation tag to view a large selection of V-Ray-ready plant models provided by creators such as VizparkMaxtree and DesignConnected.

As we are adding larger plants first, we can select the Tree filter to show us the list of available trees that we can add into our scene.

Chaos Cosmos vegetation library using the filter: Tree

Select a species that you like, and hit the Download button. This will save the file onto your PC, and once this has done so, you can then import this directly into your scene.

Like with the Laubwerk plants, Cosmos plants are also imported as proxies to keep the scenes lighter.

An image showing how proxies look within a SketchUp model alongside their CGI counterpart


 

Bushes & Hedges

Now that we have placed our larger plants into the scene, we can do a similar thing for our hedging & bushes.

I’m looking to add some nice box hedges into the planters here, so I’ll use one from the Chaos Cosmos…

Hedges from Chaos Cosmos are very high quality

After downloading and then importing this into the scene, I can then go about filling the desired planters with this 3D model of vegetation.

Hedges from Chaos Cosmos are very high quality

This process works great when working with larger plants, however when I want to place smaller variants of a bush en-masse, placing each one manually is not time efficient…

Introducing Skatter…

Skatter is used to automatically distribute objects within the scene

 

The first step is to add the Host grouped surfaces which will have the plants scattered onto them.

After adding all of our hosts, we can see how they have been added to the list, and some strange red lines appear in the chosen areas…

Skatter - add the hosts where our plants will sit

We can adjust the density of these red lines by modifying the appropriate parameter within the distribution section of the Skatter interface

Skatter - adjust the density here

These red lines are going to be swapped out for the bushes, by adding the bushes as my Scattered objects. In doing so, we then see the red lines change to red boxes, which now represent our bushes!

Skatter - Scattered objects are swapped-in here

As we can see, these are still in a grid pattern as the boxes are aligned to the axis…

To remedy this, we head down into the Random Transformation section and turn on the Rotate option.

Skatter - Randomly rotate your objects

After hitting the big, red Regenerate button at the top, this will then confirm the Skatter setup for us.

Skatter - Confirm the skatter group by hitting the regenerate button

A great thing about Skatter, is that we have the option to edit pre-existing setups, and we can do so by right clicking on the new Skatter group, and go to Edit Skatter Group.

It is possible to adjust where the vegetation has been scattered – we do this by adding a Clipping area as shown.

Skatter - Clipping areas are used to show where vegetation will appear

We then paint onto our model where we would like the scattered plants to appear by adding a paint area, and unticking use surface boundaries as include area.

As we paint our model, with Live Preview turned on we can see how our plants appear where we have painted… a very satisfying process!

This is useful when working to specific views – we can very easily control where we need to see vegetation in accordance with the chosen camera angles within our scene.


 

For grass lawns, we use two different approaches…

Girl in a grassy field made using V-Ray Fur

V-Ray Fur

At the drafting stage, we recommend using V-Ray Fur.

This is a feature which comes with V-Ray 5 for SKP, and allows you to grow strands of fur from grouped surfaces.

We have lots of control over the density, length, thickness, taper and bend of this grass, so it is perfect for the early stages of a project.

A great feature of V-Ray Fur is that each strand takes on the material of the image painted onto the grouped surface – a technique which allow us to simulate mown grass effects.

Grass is easy with V-Ray Fur - simply adjust the attributes and run an interactive render to test!
Grass is easy with V-Ray Fur – simply adjust the attributes and run an interactive render to test!

Skatter grass

For the final image stage, we recommend using Skatter grass for a realistic result.

Let’s now open up the Skatter Library, and pick one of the cut grass options.

Skatter grass is very high quality

We are asked whether we want to import the full geometry or the proxies – we will opt for the latter to keep our SKP file lighter and more optimised!

Once we hit the Load button, the same Skatter window that we saw previously pops up.

As you would expect, this is the point where we would select the lawn areas as our grouped surface which we want to be the base for our grass. Once done, we then hit the Regenerate button!

Skatter grass can be added to any grouped host within SketchUp

We can adjust the Distribution settings in exactly the same way as before to make the patches of grass appear clumped closer together or more sparsely distributed.

Again, we want to ‘paint on’ where our grass will appear by using the Clipping Areas section of the Skatter window, as this enables us to remove excess plants that are not visible!


 

Finishing Touches

I highly recommend going away and looking through the Laubwerk, Chaos Cosmos and Skatter libraries to find other objects which we can skatter within our scene…

I’ve added some more planting from Laubwerk alongside some boulders and daisies from the Skatter library.

Hey presto – here is our finished scene!

The final image from the Vegetaiton webinar with Archilime Academy and Laubwerk


 

What’s next?

We offer one-to-one training over Zoom which teaches the concepts discussed here. These bespoke 4-hour sessions are heavily tailored to you to really ensure that you are challenged and learning appropriate coaching points.

For those of you that want to step up your rendering skills, take a look at our Access into V-Ray for SketchUp courses. This 3-day course, which runs from 09:00 to 14:00 (UK time) at the end of each month, covers the basics of material generation, how to light your scenes and covers render management skills.

On our most recent webinar, which covered all-things vegetation, we gave you the opportunity to use our scene and show us your skills! Feel free to download the SketchUp scene here and tag us and Laubwerk in your social media posts once finished!

As I said; we love hosting webinars and our next free one is on the topic of materiality and is scheduled for Thursday 5th August – sign-up here.


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How to create a photomontage…

Have you ever wondered how to create a photomontage, completely from scratch?

Going from this…

Create a photomontage | Original photograph to house our montage

… to this

Create a photomontage | Our final photomontage with a CGI superimposed over a photograph

Well – we’ve got you covered. Here’s how it is done.

Firstly, what is a photomontage?

A photomontage is a mix of two different media. A computer generated image (CGI) is overlaid onto a photograph to show a new design superimposed into its existing surroundings.

Stitch a CGI onto a photograph to market property or win planning permission

Whilst traditional CGI allows us to model the surrounding environment; photomontages offer us the opportunity to view the real-life surroundings as captured through the lens of a camera, which is often required when trying to win planning permission.

What is the recipe for a successful photomontage?

In it’s purest sense, we can break down how to create a photomontage into four fundamental steps…

Create a photomontage is made by combining a photograph, sketchup model, CGI using v-ray, stitching them together in Photoshop


Step 1: The photograph.

The photograph that we are to use for the photomontage can be considered as our ‘base’. All subsequent work depends on the initial photograph that we would like to stitch our CGI onto.

High quality photographs make for high quality photomontages

As a result, we need to ensure that it ticks all of the boxes before we progress…

  • The industry standard for photographing Architectural forms dictates that all of the verticals must look vertical within the image – ensure that the camera is not tilted up or down!
  • Consider the lighting conditions, as this is something that we will aim to copy within our CGI. Clear blue skies or a flat, overcast day – the choice is completely up to you.
  • The resolution of the photograph is important. We want the highest quality possible – we like our photographs to be 5000 pixels along their longest edge.

In terms of the composition, we need to remember that we will be overlaying a CGI on top of our photograph, which means that we need to ensure that we leave space within the frame to do so!

To maximise the quality of our final product, ensure that we can save out our photographs in RAW format.


Step 2: The SketchUp model.

Create a photomontage | It is important to model as accurately as possible to ensure that the model overlays perfectly over the photograph

Now for the fun part… let’s get modeling using SketchUp!

We must now model the proposed design – we run over the basics of how to do this on our Access into SKP course, and we cover more advanced modelling techniques on our bespoke Top-Up courses or 3-Month Development Programs.

Once we have ourselves a detailed model, we need to roughly match the SketchUp camera angle to that of the photograph.

This is the perfect time to think ahead to our CGI and try to match the resolution to our photograph (remember to ensure that safe frame is ticked!)

Create a photomontage | We must adjust the resolution within V-Ray to match the photograph

A key part of this process is ensuring that we match the Field of View (FOV) – this is akin to ensuring that we make sure that we use the same lens within SketchUp that we did for the photograph in real life.

Within the metadata of our photo, it often tells us the focal length of the lens that captured the shot…

Using the metadata, we can determine the focal length of the lens used to take the photograph

Within SKP, we then head up to View and then choose Field of View…

Within SketchUp, we can adjust the field of view, by going to camera and then highlighting Field of View

Here we type in our FOV value in mm, followed by enter – note how the camera within SKP changes.

Focal length sketchup model

The next step is to reposition the camera to match the photo. We do this by adding our photo as a watermark within the Styles panel of the tray as shown.

Using Styles within SketchUp it is possible to add a watermark image overlaid over our SketchUp model

This image overlay acts as a guide as we adjust the camera so that our model sits perfectly within the photo! Hit ‘Add Scene’ to save this angle!

Using Styles within SketchUp it is possible to add a watermark image overlaid over our SketchUp model


Step 3: The CGI

We now have a SketchUp model which is aligned to our photograph – let’s prepare our CGI using V-Ray

The first step is to develop our materials within V-Ray so that they look realistic. If you are new to this, check out our blog on creating realistic textures.

How virtual textures are broken down within V-Ray for SketchUp

Matching the lighting in the CGI to the photograph is important, so we need to ask ourselves the question…

Are we going to use the V-Ray Sun or opt for a Dome light?

Our recommendation would be to use the V-Ray sun if your photo was taken on a sunny day.

Whilst interactive rendering, we can move the position of the sun manually as shown below to match the shadows seen in the photograph.

 

Adjust the sun position using V-Ray 5's Asset Editor for SketchUp

This technique allows for a great degree of control, enabling you to truly match the lighting conditions as you see fit!

If your photograph was taken on a day with no direct sunlight – we recommend using a dome light.

Typical examples of this would be for cloudy days, photos taken at dawn, dusk or even at night.

Check out our blog on dome lights which explains how we go about adding these into our scene.

A preview of a 3D scene, lit using a Dome Light. The HDRI image used is from PG-Skies.

Pay attention to try and find an HDRI that matches the lighting conditions in your photograph!

Final render

Before pushing the button on the final render, ensure that we tweak our exposure to roughly match that of the photograph (we can refine this later).

We must match the exposures between the CGI and the photograph

For more info on how to improve the quality of your lighting within your CGIs, check out our blog on the topic here.


Step 4: Marrying the CGI with the photograph

Now that we have the raw materials, let’s bring these into our image editing software – we highly recommend Adobe Photoshop.

Overlay the CGI on top of the photograph.

Add a vector mask, and begin removing sections of the CGI which we do not need

Masking within Adobe Photoshop is a crucial step when creating photomontages

It is possible to use other render elements to help with this masking process – we coach artists on this topic on our tailored Top-Up courses.

At this stage, we also look to match the tones of the materials within our CGI to those seen in the photograph.


Et voila!

Our final photomontage with a CGI superimposed over a photograph

We hope that you have enjoyed reading about our process to create the perfect photomontage, from start to finish!

Keep an eye out for next month’s blog on how to scatter realistic vegetation in our scenes!

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5 time saving techniques for SketchUp or V-Ray

1. Hotkeys

When extrapolated for the full working day; the everyday SketchUp user may spend upwards of 10 minutes simply searching for the correct tool to use.

Introducing Hotkeys.

Also known as shortcuts, hotkeys are a defined as:

A key (or combination of keys) which give you quick and immediate access to a particular function within SketchUp.

The particular function that the definition above refers to would be different for each SketchUp user – meaning that we need a way to manually assign certain shortcuts to assist us with very specific tasks.

Head over to your preferences window, and click on the shortcuts tab.

Simply search for the tool that you use frequently, and tap the key (or series of keys) that you would like to assign to activate the function.

A simple concept – but within a week, we guarantee that this will make you feel more fluent within SketchUp.

5-time-saving-techniques-for-sketchup-or-vray - a keyboard showing sketchup hotkeys

If you would like to hear about other ways that you can feel more fluent within SketchUp, why not try our Access into SketchUp course?

2. Components

The second of our 5 time saving techniques for SketchUp or Vray is, in our opinion, components are THE best way of advancing the quality of your 3D scenes in the most time-effective manner possible.

How do they work?

Right-click on one of your groups within your scene, and ‘Make Component’

This simple process now gives this entity new editing properties. When you make copies of this component, you will notice now, that editing one of them enables all of the others to be edited simultaneously!

The sky really is the limit when it comes to the applications that this offers us.

How do we use them?

Vegetation.

Make loads of copies of a piece of vegetation; randomising the rotation and scale as you go…

Here, we’ve used something called a V-Ray Proxy – which explains why our ‘vegetation’ looks like a box! When rendered, this box in-fact looks like a small patch of meadow grasses.

As you can see, the same principle still applies – an edit made to one of these affects each and every other instance!

We cover components in great detail on our Access into SketchUp courses, which tend to run at the end of every month. Click on the link to find out more!

 

3. Parametric Modelling

Wouldn’t it be great if there was a way where, as if by magic, you could pre-program a set of rules into an intelligent program, which could generate a whole host of different modelling elements, with minimal input from the user?

Well, I’m very glad that you asked…

Rather than manually modelling, duplicating and generating profiles and components, take a look at parametric modelling plugins such as Skatter and Profile Builder.

When it comes to creating realistic vegetation, Skatter is the sharpest tool of the lot.

As the name suggests, this intuitive plugin allows you to scatter vegetation components around your model, allowing you to randomise the distribution in ways hitherto impossible using SketchUp’s native toolset.

As the name suggests, this intuitive plugin allows you to scatter vegetation components around your model, allowing you to randomise the distribution in ways hitherto impossible using SketchUp’s native toolset.

We have been using this plugin for years, and it truly is the cornerstone of our landscaping workflow, which enables us to apply and produce complex and detailed landscaped imagery.

Building complex, parametric models is achieved through Profile Builder 3‘s intuitive interface, which gives you the power to construct detailed and future-proof assemblies with labour-saving in-mind.

 

Download preset assemblies or create your own – we really do vouch for the efficiency of this powerful SketchUp extension!

We are often asked for bespoke training in these plugins – take a look into our Top-Up courses if you would like to know more.

4. Test Rendering

If you have done some rendering in the past, you will be well aware that this is not instantaneous… unfortunately.

That said, there are certain techniques that you can use to speed up this rendering process, depending on the quality of the output that you require.

When ultra-high quality is not necessary for the early stages of a project, using a Denoiser in conjunction with a low-quality draft enables you to understand the design without waiting a long time for the render to finish.

After running a few tests of our own – adding a Denoiser to lower quality drafts buys you time to spend elsewhere.

Another pro-tip is to use region renders whenever possible – as the name suggests, this allows you to test-render only a small portion of the overall image.

The same principle applies when interactive rendering when using the ‘follow-mouse’ technique. After pressing the icon highlighted below, the render engine will focus its attention on the position of your cursor – another very useful technique if you need a quick solution.

We cover rendering techniques in great detail on our Access into V-Ray courses, held in the middle of every month – check out the link to find out more!

5. Distributed Rendering

This time for V-Ray not Sketchup, one of our 5 time saving techniques Many hands make light work.

Imagine being able to harness all of the computing power of your office or home, enabling you to ‘borrow’ computing power from all the machines within your local area network…

Introducing the V-Ray Swarm.


Intelligent render engines like V-Ray allow the user to break-up and ‘distribute’ the rendering workload across many machines.

Depending on the number of cores within your CPU (the brain of your computer), you will have varying amounts of buckets (which are the small squares that can be seen above). 

When you add another machine to your V-Ray Swarm, you will notice that the number of buckets increases – which means that your render will finish much faster!

Let’s have a look at a real-world application for this…

Whenever anyone purchases a new V-Ray license, you automatically receive a free V-Ray Render Node accompaniment.

Imagine that we have two machines in the office, one that we will work on, and the other that will act as our render node.

We then install V-Ray on both the primary machine, and also the render node.

Once we are ready to render, we then turn on the V-Ray Swarm at the bottom of our Asset Editor, and then go to add a new node. You reserve the right to name your nodes anything you like – if you are cool like us, you can also name all of our machines after characters within the Marvel cinematic universe!

We truly believe that these time-saving techniques are useful to anybody, regardless of your level of SketchUp and V-Ray – which is why we cover all of the above on our Access into SketchUp and Access into V-Ray for SketchUp courses – head over to our shop to find out more!

All of our courses are now held online, and we truly believe that the quality of the course is only improved by being able to attend within the comfort of your own home or office.

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How to Align CAD

Modelling from CAD within SketchUp – where do I start?

If you are modelling within SketchUp, you will need to know how to import and align CAD drawings. Whether your own or somebody else’s; well-aligned CAD drawings are the literal foundations upon which you build your SketchUp models.

Let us explore how to align CAD in the most efficient way possible. To clarify; the plan is for us to import CAD before tracing over it to create our 3D model. Let’s get started!

Importing…

When initially importing a CAD file (in .dwg format), it normally enters the SketchUp workspace as a completely flat group.

CAD imported into SketchUp
Next step; organisation

Organisation…

Something else that you will notice is that all of the CAD layers are visible as tags within SketchUp. We don’t need all of these so we can compress these tags down into one which we’ll rename CAD. I would now recommend creating a tag to be used for the massing of our 3D model.

GIF showing the layers brought in during a CAD import to SketchUp
When importing CAD into SKP, layers are preserved

We also need to ensure that each floor plan and elevation is grouped separately.

CAD plans and elevations are grouped seperately after being imported into SketchUp
Grouping geometry protects it from being warped when manipulating later.

Reposition…

Now that we have organised our drawing, let’s begin positioning the plans and elevations. Take the ground floor and move it over to the origin as shown (also remember to align right angles on the plan with the red and green axis as you can see here)

A ground floor CAD plan within SketchUp which has been moved to the origin for ease of use
Moving the GF Plan to the origin is a great way to ensure that you are modeling using the red and green guides (or axes)

The next step is to align the elevations around the ground floor plan. Pay special attention to things like window and door openings, because we use these features to resolve whether or not we need to flip our elevations.

Elevations are lined up with the corresponding plans
Move and rotate your elevations to ensure that they are aligned with your plans. Remember to cross-reference to ensure correct alignment!

We can now stand up our elevations by using the rotate tool. A tip from us is to use the direction buttons on your keyboard once the rotate tool is active, as this will better enable you to lock the orientation of your rotation!

Align CAD drawings by rotating elevations in SketchUp
It is best to use the rotate tool to ensure that all elevations are stood up in preparation for modelling later.

Now simply place your first-floor plan over the top of your ground floor plan and lift up to the correct height as shown on the elevations. Repeat this step for each additional floor.

And hey presto you have now successfully aligned your CAD drawings! 

Aligned CAD drawings imported into SketchUp from AutoCAD
Next step: start modeling!

For more information on how this is done in practice, check out our Access into SketchUp and Top-Up courses, taught online with the Archilime Academy!

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High quality 3D models of furniture… where to find them? 

A product CGI that demonstrates the sourcing of a high quality armchair model from Design Connected.
A Product CGI showing high-quality models downloaded from Design Connected.

We get asked this because SketchUp & V-Ray users like yourself are wise to the fact that adding better quality 3D models into your scenes adds realism to your work.

We are in complete agreement – from our experience; there is no other part of the visualisation process that boosts the quality of a CGI more than the usage of high-quality, realistic 3D models…

Check out our work here!

Finding the right source… now that’s another question entirely…

 

Our favourite source is a website called Design Connected.

A screenshot showing a high-quality 3D model of a bed from Design Connected.
The Kelly Bed, by Poliform. A Design Connected 3D Model.

We have no affiliation with these guys – but we rely heavily on their models. Without a doubt; they are the place to go for high-quality SketchUp models of furniture, lighting, and accessories.

For over 10 years, they have worked with premium brands to provide photorealistic 3D models of their products – so that SketchUp and V-Ray users like us can download and import these into our scenes!

All models are (or can be) made available in SketchUp format, and all textures are correctly applied to each model, meaning it is the closest thing to a plug-and-play technique that exists for our workflow for furnishings

 

Another source that we use is 3D Sky.

A website screenshot of 3D Sky showing the range of 3D models available to download
A screenshot of 3D Sky showing the range of 3D models available to download

Again, we have no affiliation with this website, however, we have really benefited from the vast 3D collection that they offer.

If models are not available on DesignConnected, we head over to 3DSky, safe in the knowledge that we will find something that we can use.

Rather than the standard SketchUp file-type (.skp) that we are used to; models from 3D Sky tend to be in a different format – a filetype called obj

In a nutshell, they store the geometry and textural information that makes up a 3D model. Different 3D modelling programs use different file types to save models – however, the .obj file type is the closest thing to an industry-standard in this regard.

Transmutr allows you to convert obj, fbx, 3ds, dae files into SketchUp (skp) files.
Convert various 3D formats into SketchUp files using Transmutr

To import .obj models, we use an extension called Transmutr. The easy-to-navigate interface allows you to convert these into .skp files – for you to then import into your scenes.

This process can be covered on our bespoke Top-Up Courses.

 

For its value, the 3D Warehouse is an invaluable resource

An image showing a screenshot of a 3d model search using the 3D Warehouse within SketchUp
The 3D Warehouse has been designed around you. Find free 3D models for SketchUp scenes here.

If you are working under a tighter budget, without the capacity to spend much on 3D models – there is no better source than the 3D Warehouse within SketchUp’s interface.

If you own or have owned, SketchUp Pro – there is a very good chance you know about this already.

Use the sliders on the left to control the quality of the models within your search parameters.

Take note… these models are not quality-checked before being uploaded to the warehouse – which means that you can end up with a real mixed bag in terms of quality.

To be safe, we always recommend saving the desired models into their own files, rather than importing straight into your scene – as this protects your master file from any latent errors that may be present within the imported models!

We run over how to make the best use of the 3D Warehouse on our Access into SketchUp online course.

 

Without over-complicating things…

A CGI demonstrating the quality of furniture 3D models sourced from websites such as design connected, 3d sky and the 3d warehouse
High-quality 3D models bring your CGIs to life. Invest time in sourcing the best quality 3D models available to you.

If you are looking for consistent, high-quality 3D models – we recommend Design Connected.

Variety, on the other hand, is a real strength of 3D Sky.

If you are looking for free models – 3D Warehouse is the source for you.

 

Still doesn’t answer your question?

Model it yourself!

Join us for our next 3-hour, Bitesize course where you can learn to Model with Photography – follow the link for dates!

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