Google SketchUp (available at is a surprisingly advanced modelling program. Created in 2000 and bought by Google in 2006, it has since won many plaudits. A set of plug-ins enhance its capabilities; here, we look at Shaderlight.

Aimed primarily at architects, designers, students and enthusiasts, Shaderlight hastens and simplifies the task of creating photorealistic renders for your projects. It’s suitable for both professional and novice users.

Once installed, Shaderlight is accessed via a four-button toolbar within SketchUp. A range of render settings, material and lighting editors are available. Zoom and pan controls help you fine-tune the process, while a snapshot feature lets you capture work-in-progress renders.

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Shaderlight adds realism to renders with physically based lighting effects. It also brings images to life by making flat or dull objects appear more rounded. It automatically calculates the most suitable parameters for SketchUp’s library materials, and you can then adjust the type, finish and bump map. The choice of material types have a range of finishes to avoid everything looking the same.

Available as a free or paid-for plug-in, the latest version has a number of appealing new features. A parallel projection camera can create photorealistic images of elevations and plans that are compatible with Google Layout presentations. And a Chalk Render mode allows Shaderlight Pro users to produce simple but effective form studies, complete with ambient shadowing that highlights the form and structure of SketchUp models.

Several image-based lighting environments and backgrounds are supplied by Moofe, and Shaderlight also includes 90 professionally photographed custom backgrounds. ArtVPS has also improved handling of Google SketchUp’s components and groups.

Shaderlight for Google SketchUp

Step 1. Getting started: Google SketchUp is an intelligent 3D-modelling tool. It can be used to create sophisticated models of, for example, buildings, appliances, cars, landscape and people. The program offers a vast array of learning resources, including video tutorials and forums.

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Step 2. Resources: Compatible files are available for free at Google’s 3D warehouse. Here you can search using tags, share and download 3D models. Buildings can be viewed on Google Street View and Google Earth, and are part of wider collections such as those for London, Paris and New York.

Shaderlight 2

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