Simple Ways to Get Beautiful Sketchup Images Without Plugins or Software


A major point of modelling with sketchup is to generate imagery for presentation.  Of course, you can learn how to become a phenomenal designer and modeler with our sketchup tutorials, but chances are you’ll need to know how to get awesome sketchup images as well.  In this session you’ll learn how to get beautiful images out of sketchup without using those costly rendering plugins, additional software, or other post-production techniques.

There’s a lot of control in how you display your models in sketchup.  As the image shows below, the quality can vary drastically.

sketchup images

The left image is a useful aesthetic if you’re trying to create an 8-bit town, but in this tutorial you’re going to learn how to get something like the image on the right.

So we’re starting here…

parallel projection image

Since this is our starting point, it makes sense to take a moment and critique it.  What’s working?  What’s not?  Leave your thoughts in the comments below.

Towards Photo-Realistic Sketchup Images

We’re not going to be able to create a photorealistic rendering with sketchup alone, but we can certainly move towards it.  To start off, make sure you’re viewing in perspective.  To enable perspective go to the Camera tab and check Perspective.  A perspective is similar to how you would see your model if you were viewing it with the naked eye. Tip: If you select the zoom tool, you can then type in a degree. This degree is the field of view. Depending on what degree you choose it will exaggerate or play down the perspective.


After your perspective is setup there are some things to take into consideration.

Sketchup Edges

I’m a big proponent of the thought that a successful image doesn’t scream the aesthetic of the program it came from.  I can’t quite put my finger on what makes so many sketchup images so readily identifiable, but I know it has something to do with the edges and flat faces.  That’s a great aesthetic for communicating early concepts, but when it comes to presentation it can become distracting.  I uncheck Edges from View>Edge Style to avoid the identifiable sketchup look.  Instead, to define shapes and create depth within my model I enable View>Shadows.

The Kind of Shadows

All shadows weren’t created equal.  It’s important to take into account the kinds of shadows being cast by the positioning of the sun.  For this image, I wanted the shadows to highlight the depth of the houses, but not be too dramatic.  I chose a summer month where the sun (the altitude) was highest in the sky so that the shadows would be shorter.  If you’re looking for long dramatic shadows use a winter month.  I then played with the time of day slider to get the sun to light up the sides of the buildings facing the camera.

sketchup shadows

Reload it

The original trees and shrubs in this model were flat (literally).  I searched through the 3d warehouse for high-quality, low-poly, 3d foliage and saved them to my desktop.  In my model, I right clicked on one of the components I wanted to replace and selected Reload from the menu.  From the pop-up window, you can navigate to your saved components.  Once you find them, you can load them into your model and they will replace every instance of the component you just selected to reload.

reload sketchup component

Last but Not Least

Lastly, your view is incredibly important.  You can see that earlier image of this town didn’t really convey the quality of space.  That view of the houses is mostly of the roofs.  A lower angle helps to show off more of the architecture which gives the image more character.

3d model

The Extra Mile

If you’re still looking for more, a great way to pump up your images is to add entourage.  That is… add in people, cars, mailboxes, telephone poles, street lights, stop signs etc.  Create a narrative with your image.  What does a snapshot of this place look like?  Just be careful not to let your file size get too big.  Only add in components that you’ll see from your vantage point and select high-quality, low-poly models from the 3d warehouse to use.

If you found this helpful you might want to learn more about sketchup from our tutorial library.

What tricks do you use for your sketchup images?  Leave a comment below!


  1. hamzakhan17826 May 19, 2019 at 7:16 am #

    Ok sure, I will follow your steps before going to do exams. I hope your article will help me more.

  2. karlmistos May 14, 2019 at 10:41 pm #

    Thanks for sharing this. I’ll definitely share this with my classmates at de la salle zobel.

  3. classboat01 October 17, 2018 at 7:37 am #

    Hello there and thanks for your information, I have certainly picked up allot new info from right your post. You are also provided information about best tips for exam,Which is very helpful to me and other people also.

  4. mikemoreno September 5, 2018 at 3:48 am #

    thank you very much, verry helpfull…

  5. jogesh12345 August 14, 2018 at 1:55 am #

    Very effective and informative article.Thanks for sharing such an important tutorial.

  6. FLMIMA August 11, 2018 at 9:20 pm #

    Really helpful website

  7. Rumi July 15, 2018 at 7:16 am #

    I feel very grateful that I read this. It is very helpful and very informative and I really learned a lot from it.

  8. RJennings April 28, 2018 at 6:12 pm #

    Thank you for this website. The practice questions are helpful.

  9. Scott March 22, 2018 at 1:50 pm #

    Taking this test on Saturday. Last 4.0 exam to complete for the trio, then on to 5.0. This site is my go-to place when organizing what materials I’ll be studying

  10. shozab January 30, 2018 at 2:22 pm #

    Hi , very good article.

    thanks for sharing, keep up the good work

  11. dyba January 27, 2018 at 1:08 am #

    Good advice. Best of luck to all!

  12. KendraShirley January 16, 2018 at 4:04 pm #

    This is my favorite site for practicing for my tests! Great advise and super helpful.

  13. reximagetrim January 16, 2018 at 10:37 am #

    Nice post to read. A complete guide that can help all of us.

  14. tylerstockholm December 17, 2017 at 9:37 pm #

    Nice one… very helpful! Thanks!!!

  15. Aartiwalvekar November 21, 2017 at 8:56 am #

    Nice post

  16. Aartiwalvekar October 9, 2017 at 9:45 pm #

    Great post!

  17. Tony August 30, 2017 at 7:07 am #

    In the NCARB ARE 5.0 handbook they reference Fundamentals of Building Construction: Materials and Methods in both of their example questions for cost estimating. Unfortunately there isn’t a specific chapter on cost estimating, it’s woven throughout the content.

  18. Spencer August 30, 2017 at 1:15 am #

    What is the best reference for cost estimating for PDD.

  19. Amy July 26, 2017 at 3:24 pm #

    Thanks! Great advice

  20. Tony June 29, 2017 at 7:23 am #

    Deciduous trees should only be used for shade (especially in temperate climates). Deciduous trees lose their leaves in the fall and will have little protection against wind in the winter when it is most needed. Likewise, the leafless trees allow solar heat gain in the winter when it is desired, and shade in the summer.

    Coniferous trees are only to be used to block wind and views. Since they don’t lose their needles, they work great for these two items year-round.

  21. Shahid Logan June 28, 2017 at 4:50 pm #

    Hello. My name is Shahid. This comment is for anyone who would like to reply. On the Siteplanning test. To block the wind, can you use a Deciduous tree or must you use a Coniferous tree?

  22. Mike January 4, 2017 at 11:04 am #

    Hi Tony,

    I need to take 5.0 PPD & PDD. Do you plan on posting notes such as “Caroline’s Notes” that you had posted for the various 4.0 exams for either of those sections? I found those notes to be some of the best resources in studying for the 4.0 sections. If so any idea when? Thanks

  23. Stephen October 17, 2016 at 9:30 pm #

    Hi Tony,
    Any updates on the SS exam ? If there’s an expected release date ? Thanks

  24. DesignerHacks October 4, 2016 at 12:11 pm #


    We are releasing practice exams for the SS exam later this fall.


  25. Paige October 4, 2016 at 11:34 am #

    Will you have SS questions on here at some point?

  26. Daniel September 9, 2016 at 8:47 am #

    Great post, very helpful with the lists of suggested materials, I just passed CDs in July and am taking PPP in November so I definitely needed the list.

Leave a Reply