Architecture

SketchUp to Photoshop visualization (with plugin)

Export composite images form SketchUp


When working in SketchUp, often we want to quickly share a visualization of what we’re working on, without having to use Layout (SketchUp own publishing tool) nor a rendering software.

The lazy method

An easy but suboptimal solution is to use File > Export > 2D Graphic as-is.

[Export > 2D Graphic option in the SketchUp interface]

 

This approach is quick but limited in options. In fact, it grabs the entire viewport content, without distinguishing the different components of the image.

The tedious method

We’d like to export separate maps (fancy term to say images whose data will later use for some manipulation) for edges, profiles, colors & textures, shadows, and maybe ambient occlusion.

Why?

Because with separate maps, we can then do a composition in an image manipulation software like photoshop, having control over the visibility and filtering options of the different elements.

A manual solution is to set different styles that control visibility settings, associate them to scenes, and then hit Export > 2D Graphic one time per scene. If we have multiple scenes, it can quickly grow on us. Moreover shadow settings aren’t saved in styles, so we’d need to check that manually.

Here is an example of the maps:

  • The edges map uses a hidden line style;
  • The profiles map is similar to the edges one but has only a thicker outline of the model pieces;
  • The colors map has only the materials assigned in SketchUp;
  • The shadows map is based on the hidden line but without edges, and of course shadows active;
  • The ambient occlusion map is actually a fake trick, that uses 10px thick edges that will be blurred to give three-dimensionality to the image;
  • The boolean map serves as a filter to tell the compositing software where the model is or isn’t.

You can download the SketchUp’s styles here.

The combination of the maps in photoshop gives this result; here a comparison with the default SketchUp export:

The lazy man with the plugin method

There’s a better and faster solution: writing a plugin making use of the good old SketchUp Ruby API!

Don’t worry. You won’t have to do that on your own. I did that for you!

 

In fact, you can click here and check out the free and open-source plugin on my GitHub profile.

And here is the link to the extension on the Sketchup Extensions Wharehouse.

 

In a nutshell what the plugin does, is what I described in the tedious method, only it takes a few seconds to elaborate, instead of minutes. For those who are eager to know more, the next paragraph will explain how to use the plugin.

How to use the plugin

To activate click on Extensions > Mattia Bressanelli > Advanced View Export. The following dialog will pop out:

You are presented with four sections:

Save path: choose the folder you want the images to be exported into, and set a name for the image;

Image size: set width and height in pixels;

Choose maps: pick the maps you need;

Auto-compose: check if you want the plugin to do the composition of the maps selected in the previous section automatically, leaving you with the final image only (this option requires you have ImageMagick installed on your computer). If you leave this option unchecked, you will find the separate maps you selected in the previous section, so you can manually compose them in the image manipulation software of your choice.

Useful references

  1. SketchUp API | https://ruby.sketchup.com/index.html

Credits

  1. The evergreen Utah teapot, introduced by Martin Newell in 1975 | https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Martin_Newell_(computer_scientist)

17 Jun 2020
Mattia Bressanelli

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