If I had a nickel for every time someone asks me which renderer they should use with SketchUp, I’d have a fleet of helicopters perched on the turrets of my castle. One look at SketchUp’s Fan Photos page on Facebook is all you need to understand our community’s obsession with delicious photo-realism. There are piles of fantastic rendering tools to choose from, and more become available all the time. Happily, most of them have a “free mode” that you can use to try things out.
Shaderlight, an awfully-impressive (and relatively new) offering from ArtVPS, is one such rendering tool. Its interface is clean and straighforward, there’s a free version available and the video tutorials are easy to follow and comprehensive. It’s currently only available for Windows, but I’m told that a Mac version is in the works. Here are some tasty sample renderings to whet your appetite:
In the interest of fairness to all of our rendering friends, our plugins page lists some of the other tools you can investigate if photo-realism is your bag.