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.
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 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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