SketchUp to Photoshop – no render engine required

By Alex Hogrefe

As the title implies, this architecture illustration tutorial doesn’t use a rendering engine. I have done a few other tutorials in the past that don’t involve a rendering program, however this tutorial does things a little differently, and in less time. You will probably notice some similarities to the Ambient Occlusion tutorial I posted a while back. I realized after making the ambient occlusion tutorial that I could take advantage of the export options of SketchUp, and use the line work of the model to generate the shading. Because of this, the process is extremely streamlined and can be done in minutes.

Lets get started!

1. In SketchUp, save a Scene under View>Animation>Save Scene, that you want to use for the illustration that way you can get back to the same view later if need be.

2. Switch the Face Style to “Hidden Line”. Under View>Edge Style, check “Display Edges.” Make sure Shadows are off.

Step 2. Change Face Style

3. Go to File>Export>2D Graphic and save the image as a JPEG.

4. With the Face Style still set to “Hidden Line”, turn on Shadows and again export the image as a JPEG.

Step 4.Turn on Shadows and Export Image

5. Now, switch the Face Style from “Hidden Line” to “Shaded with Texture.” Again, export the image as a JPEG.

Step 5. Change Face Style to Shaded With Texture

6. With the 3 images complete, it’s time to combine them in Photoshop. Begin by opening the first image (SketchUp export with only line work, no shadows) in Photoshop. Right click on the Background layer (Click in the space next to name of the layer) and choose “Duplicate Layer”.

Step 6. Duplicate Layer

7. At the top, select “Filter>Blur>Gaussian Blur”.

Step 7. Apply Gaussian Blur

8. When the dialogue box appears, choose a Radius of about 6.5. This number may need to change depending on the resolution of your image.

Step 8. Choose Radius

9. With the lines now blurred, we need to darken them. I prefer to use Levels although you can probably get away with adjusting the contrast. For Levels, go to “Image>Adjustments>Levels”. Move the left black triangular slider to the right until the line work darkens to almost black.

Step 9. Adjust Levels

Below, is what the image should look like at this stage.

Image so far

10. Next, duplicate the layer just created and move the new layer to the top. This duplicated layer will be blurred again using the Gaussian Blur filter. However, use a higher Radius such as 35 this time.

Step 10. Duplicate Layer and Apply Gaussian Blur

11. I want the original line work Layer to show through the two, now blurred Layers just created. To do this, select the two blurred Layers and set the Layer blending mode to “Multiply”.

Step 11. Set Blending Mode to Multiply

12. The next step is sort of the “secret sauce” of the tutorial.

a. Open the SketchUp exported image that showed both the line work and shadows.

b. Drag the new Layer to the top of the layer stack. Set the Layer blending mode to “Hard Light”.

Step 12a. Open Line Work and Shadows Image

Step 12b. Move to Top and Change Blending Mode

13. Add some color to the image.

a. Open the SketchUp exported image that had the face style “Shaded with Textures” turned on.

b. Drag the new Layer to the bottom, just above the “Background” Layer.

Step 13a. Open Shaded with Textures Image

Step 13b. Place Layer above Background Layer

14. I like to add color overlays to my illustrations to give them more of a mood. Create a new Layer and move it to the top Layer. Select the “Brush Tool”, and adjust its settings to have 0 Hardness as well as lower the Opacity down to 25 to 30%. Begin painting in areas where you want more color.

Step 14. Add Color

15. Set the Layer blending mode to “Overlay”.

Step 15. Blending Mode to Overlay

16. One last thing, I want the shadows to be a little more darker. To do this, select the Layer with lines and shadows that was set to “Hard Light” in Step 12 and “Duplicate” it. Now, select the new duplicated Layer and change the Layer blending mode from “Hard Light” to “Multiply”. You can adjust the Layer Opacity if the shadows are too strong.

Step 16. Duplicate and Change Blending Mode to Multiply

For the final shot below, I added some vignetting (Tutorial Here). I also overlayed another exported SketchUp image with the face style set to “X-Ray” mode for more detail in the light areas of the illustration.

Final Image

That’s it! It may seem like a lot of steps, but I think once you go through them a few times, you will realize they are relatively simple and the whole illustration can be created in a matter of minutes. I hope you found this tutorial useful and you can maybe introduce it into your own workflow, especially when you need something really quick and simple!

Thanks for reading..

Alex Hogrefe

Check out Alex’s other tutorials here at SketchUpArtists:

SketchUp to Photoshop – lighting

Daytime Rendering – SketchUp to Photoshop

Exterior Night Render: SketchUp to Photoshop

Check out Alex’s own website for more of his  great work – Alex Hogrefe Architectural Blog

8 Responses to “SketchUp to Photoshop – no render engine required”

  1. nomeradona on September 23rd, 2011 10:25 am

    another excellent tutorial from alex.. tfs

  2. zoha on October 3rd, 2011 6:32 am

    thanks alot for your easy tutorials, they helped me alot

    do you have any tutorials on how to use photoshop to render nice floor plans and sections as well?\

    kind regards

  3. kropped on October 27th, 2011 4:35 pm

    Nice tutorial – makes sense really, just doing manually what the render engine does.

  4. mta on March 27th, 2012 9:05 am

    FNX 4 tutor, bro!

  5. Santiago Carnerero on July 24th, 2013 6:48 pm

    Congratulations!!!!, simply and effective effect, nice tutorial, many thanks!

  6. Felipe Roesler on August 28th, 2017 2:00 am

    Sorry but I can’t do this, in the part of the shadow and color it simlply goes wrong and I dont know why, Im so fuckin frustrated like I tried somany times… please help, my photoshop is the cs6, many thanks !!

  7. admin on October 6th, 2017 1:43 pm

    Can u be more specific Felipe?

  8. Kiarash Kiai on August 23rd, 2019 5:18 pm

    thank you Alex for sharing such a helpful and easy to follow advice. it was so effective. the best part was it isnt complicated precess.

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