The Art of Rendering

Rendering in SketchUp: From Modeling to Presentation for Architecture, Landscape Architecture, and Interior Design
is a comprehensive manual designed to teach SketchUp users how to generate photo-realistic images using integrated rendering programs (IRPs). The author, Daniel Tal, ASLA, is a licensed landscape architect who has been working in the architecture and site design industry for over fifteen years. Tal has tailored the book to suit the needs of a wide range of professionals who want to digitally render models and produce inspired images. They include architects, landscape architects, interior designers, set and stage designers, and product engineers. The book is useful for students of those professions who are new to the rendering techniques that are increasingly becoming a standard in many design programs.

Several levels of SketchUp users can benefit from the book, but it’s not appropriate for absolute beginners. The book doesn’t offer basic instruction, so users need to know the essentials of modeling in SketchUp before getting started. The book also focuses on three IRPs, third-party plug-ins that are installed and work within SketchUp. They are Shaderlight by ArtVPS, which the book references most often, and SU Podium and Twilight Render, which Tal covers in the accompanying online chapters. These companion chapters are a useful resource. They review settings and tools for the IRPs, which are constantly changing.

The manual consists of ten parts ordered in linear progression. Part one gives an overview of the general concepts, including the order and objectives of each step in the rendering process. The book explains how rendering actually works and provides computer specifications and requirements for optimum performance. Parts two through seven cover the three-part process for rendering. This process includes preparing models for rendering in SketchUp, using IRPs to create graphic images, and enhancing final images in post-production. Part eight demonstrates the entire modeling and rendering process with a step-by-step example that uses the various programs’ tools and settings. The last two parts are the companion chapters for IRPs available online.

The first part of the rendering process covers preparing a model in SketchUp. The manual describes how to create and edit textured surfaces, insert, and adjust details that provide context and scale, and add appropriate lighting. The book also explains how to use the camera tools to compose and adjust different views. In addition to technical advice, Tal shares helpful tips for organizing and expediting this process. He shows users how to build an external texture library and link it to SketchUp. Tal also tells them where to find details like pre-made models of elements like furniture and vegetation.

The second part covers using the IRPs to provide render values to a model. The book demonstrates the various settings of the IRP Material Editor, which accentuates textures so they take on realistic qualities when rendered. These settings affect elements like an object’s surface condition and reflectivity. Here, Tal describes the IRPs’ various light settings, as well as how to insert and adjust the different types of light sources. This portion of the process requires extensive trial and error. The manual offers helpful suggestions for optimizing it, such as how to determine the resolution for draft versus final renders to save time when working through multiple iterations. It also offers a method for saving and organizing draft renderings, and a criteria by which to evaluate them for final output.

For the third part, Tal demonstrates how to use external photo-editing software to enhance the generated images. He mainly refers to Adobe Photoshop for CS 5.5 for the post-production process. He explains how to make light and color adjustments and how to add atmospheric effects such as haze, blurred objects, and light lens flares. The book also demonstrates how to make entourage modifications by  placing realistic vegetation, enhancing water, and including backgrounds, skies, and objects in the images. These tips are merely a starting point for finalizing a rendering. The guide suggests a couple comprehensive post-production guides for further information.

Overall, the book delivers a clear and thorough explanation of the rendering process. Tal covers the technical aspects in detail, guiding users through complete step-by-step examples. He also instructs users to approach rendering as an art form to create hyper-realistic images. The book provides numerous examples of rendered images, most in various stages of completion to highlight the effect of different techniques. It also suggests several outside references to aid in developing graphic image making ability. With its thorough approach, Rendering in SketchUp is an ideal guide for those who want to refine their digital design process.

Explore the book and the sustainable design SketchUp animations Tal created for ASLA.

This guest post is by Shannon Leahy, former ASLA summer intern and recent Master’s of Landscape Architecture graduate, University of Pennsylvania.

Image credits: (1) Wiley, (2) Daniel Tal, ASLA

One thought on “The Art of Rendering

  1. Peter 11/26/2013 / 12:49 pm

    Great article. I’ve learned a bunch from Daniel’s presentations over at Land8.

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