How to Make Sketchup Models More Realistic (Without Rendering)

SU min

I love 80′ cartoons as much as I love using Sketchup to do my 3D modeling, what I don’t like is that my Sketchup models look like 80’s cartoons.

If you came to this topic because you are thinking the same as me, Sketchup is a great design tool, but those caricatured colors, the marked edges of the models, give such a “fake” look to the models.

And of course, they are models, 3D representations on a computer, but, at some point, we wondered if there is not a way to make them look a little more real, fortunately, the answer is yes!

The cover photo of the topic is a model that I made in Sketchup, not that it looks super real, obviously, I didn’t use any rendering or postproduction program, but it does have a different look, and all that by making some of the adjustments that I’m going to mention in this topic.

Here I will share with you some tips that I have discovered over the years using Sketchup to make my models look more “real”, without using rendering programs.

1-A real sky inside Sketchup

The sky is one of the most representative visual aspects of the Sketchup program, and not that it is bad, in the styles that the program has by default have a somewhat acceptable sky.

Even in those styles the sky comes with a gradient which gives an even more realistic touch, and there is even a way to change the color, and this is precisely the tool that we can explore to get even more out of including “real” skies in Sketchup.

First, you will need a tool that gives you the color values in RGB.

I use a Google Chrome extension called “Colorpick eyedropper”, it’s free, with this extension, just hover your mouse over any color, and it will give you the RGB values.

If you don’t use google chrome there are also online tools called “color picker” to take the values of any image.

Now we are going to type in the search engine “real sky images” and we will enter the images tab of the search engine to see the skies of preference.real skies min

Now, select the sky of your choice, and select your color picker tool to select the RGB colors of some point in the image.

color pick min

Now open your Sketchup model, go to tabs > style> edit> background settings, and you will see the box with the option of the sky.

Click on the color box next to sky, change the color wheel to RGB and enter the color values you took from the image.

In my case, it will be 145,191,230

backgrounr settingschoose color

After entering the values, click OK, and the Sketchup sky will change to the same color as the image you chose.

Voilá! a more realistic sky inside Sketchup, without rendering, but there are a few more things to do.

2-Changes the color of the model edges

Ok, we understand that in Sketchup the lines (edges) and the faces are the protagonists of everything, these conform to the faces, which in turn conform to volumes, everything in Sketchup is conformed by edges and faces.

But Sketchup uses very thick black edges that stand out too much and this, in my opinion, is the element that is paid less attention to when trying to improve the visual appearance of an element in Sketchup.

Many people who model in Sketchup remove the edges entirely from their models to try to make them look more realistic looking, objects, in reality, are not outlined by black edges.

But by removing the edges in a Sketchup model, the division between the joints of the faces is lost a bit which makes the model look flatter and less interesting.

An ideal solution to keep the edges in the Sketchup model and at the same time avoid them looking too black is to change their color to a light gray color.

Go to the style tab> edit>edges setting At the bottom where it says color you can click on the color box on the right and change the color on the color wheel or by adding an RGB numbering.

styles edge

By changing the color of the edges, along with changing the color of the sky, you will start to notice a big change in your Sketchup model.

3- Add real-quality textures to your model

Yes, having good, high-quality textures on your model will undoubtedly make it look much more realistic, although this will also contribute to making it a bit heavier.

But well, the goal of this topic is to make the model look more realistic, if you want to know how to make a Sketchup model lighter I wrote another topic about it.

There are a couple of very complete websites with a huge collection of high-quality textures, you can use them for free if you want.

This is one of the websites I use to get high-quality textures, I also collect models with flashy textures found in the warehouse and I copy the textures to them.

4-Add real-looking vegetation to your models

Lastly, this is the most obvious tip, when I refer to adding realistic-looking vegetation to your model, I don’t mean those plants with lots of polygons and super heavy, they don’t really look that realistic and will simply make your model too heavy.

There is 2D vegetation in the Sketchup warehouse that looks great! They have no polygons and are super light, use this vegetation, but don’t abuse it in the model.

What other elements help to create a more realistic model in Sketchup?

Other elements that can help are playing with the volume of the terrain and making terrains with slopes with the sandbox tool in the case of structures resting on the ground.

Softening the shadows is also possible, in the shadows tab in Sketchup you can make the shadows a little softer and look more diffused.

And there are some other elements, but the ones mentioned in this topic will help you to achieve a model with a different and cool look.

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