Light Effects in Google SketchUp


SketchUp is three-dimensional modeling software that is available for free from Google. The application is used alone or in conjunction with a rendering plug-in to create architecture and industrial design models. To create more realistic renderings, Google has a sun model, compatible plug-ins and importable light models to illuminate scenes. Although illumination is limited compared with other modeling programs, these options do accurately render shadows in exterior and interior spaces.

SketchUp Sun

  • Google SketchUp provides a sun model that you can move to a preferred latitude and adjust to any time of day. This is an excellent feature when exploring day lighting and shadows, as well as providing three-dimensionality to SketchUp drawings. To access the SketchUp sun model, open Google SketchUp and select "Shadows" under "Window." A new window will open with options to turn on or off the the shadows and adjust the shadows for specific locations at specific times of day.

Sun with Transparent Ceiling

  • Although SketchUp's shadow feature is great for exterior objects and views, the lighting options for interior views are limited. Without using a plug-in or imported model, the only way to provide interior light is to model an interior space and create a transparent ceiling, allowing the light from the sun to create interior shadows. You can create a transparent ceiling by drawing a ceiling, double-clicking the ceiling to select the whole geometry and selecting "Materials" under "Window." Click the brick icon and move the scroll bar to "Translucent." Select a material, adjust its opacity and drag the material to your ceiling. The ceiling will now be transparent.

LightUp Plug-In

  • LightUp produces high-quality renderings like many other Google SketchUp Plug-Ins, but it is the only one that provides accurate interior lighting and analysis. You can place and view direct, spot and omni-lights for different interior lighting effects with the plug-in and then create realistic renderings. LightUp provides a trial version, but you will need to purchase the plug-in if you desire to use it for more than 30 days.

Google 3D Warehouse

  • Google's 3D Warehouse provides many different models uploaded by the SketchUp and Google Earth communities. There are many different objects to download, but there are also a limited number of operable lights, created by Google. These lights can be downloaded and adjusted for use inside SketchUp. No additional plug-ins are necessary, but the choices of lights are limited. Nevertheless, the 3D Warehouse provides an alternative to LightUp and transparent ceilings for interior lighting.

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