Maxwell for Google SketchUp


Among rendering die-hards, the name “Maxwell” has long been synonymous with jaw-dropping realism. Maxwell Render’s makers have offered a SketchUp-to-Maxwell solution for a few years, but it required modelers to have access to Maxwell Render Suite—the full, standalone version. For SketchUppers on a budget (or who only need to make the occasional rendering), this wasn’t an ideal arrangement.


A delicious Maxwell render by Rune Skjøldberg. 

To accommodate more people, the folks behind Maxwell have just released something they’re calling Maxwell for Google SketchUp. It’s a dedicated photo-renderer, based on the venerable Maxwell rendering engine, that operates entirely inside of SketchUp. Best of all, it has the Big Three qualities going for it:

  • Cross-platform. It works on both Windows and Mac systems.
  • For both free and Pro. It works on both SketchUp and SketchUp Pro.
  • Two entry points. There are free and licensed versions available.

As you can see in this straightforward feature matrix, the free version allows you to render in Draft mode and limits your resulting image to a resolution of 800 pixels. The Licensed version adds Production mode (faster rendering of complex lighting) and increases your maximum output resolution to 1920 pixels. At only $95/75€, the paid version is a bit of a bargain.


Another render by Rune Skjøldberg showcasing multiple light sources. 

If you’re looking for all the bells and whistles and extra pixels that Render Suite offers, the “bridge” plugin for sending your SketchUp model to R.S is still available. So really, SketchUp modelers who want Maxwell’s delicious, unbiased results have three options.

Google Earth Imagery: The end of October

What do Elvis’ Graceland and Iran’s Marmar Palace have in common? Both estates have been updated with new imagery in Google Earth and Google Maps!

Over the last few weeks, the imagery team has updated hundreds of images. To give you a taste of this new data, today we’ll look at several interesting features that have been updated with new imagery from across the globe.

First, I’d like to look at a fantastic and majestic terrestrial landform known as the star dune. Star dunes form pyramidal shapes that grow upward and are characterized by multiple radiating dune crests. Shown below is a perspective satellite image of a star dune field within the Badain Jaran Desert of China. The desert contains Earth’s tallest stationary dunes, reaching heights of 500 meters!

Perspective view of star dunes of Badain Jaran Desert, China
One of my favorite hobbies is scrambling around volcanic sites throughout the western United States, and many of my favorite areas are located in Idaho’s Snake River Plain. Within this river plain, one of the youngest volcanic flow features of the region comprises the Hell’s Half Acre lava flow field. In the aerial image below, taken this past September, you can see “windows” of older river bed material (now farmland) that were not buried during lava flow emplacement.

Farmland enclosed by lava flow, Snake River Plain, Idaho
Can you identify the unusual feature relationship seen in the satellite image below? Yes, train tracks cut to the northeast across the airport runway! Those tracks belong to the Kyber Railway, and their two vintage steam locomotives take passengers 42 kilometers to the town of Landi Kotal in Pakistan’s mountainous Kyber Pass.

Peshawar International Airport, Pakistan
Below is a fun water sport activity captured in high resolution aerial imagery of the southeastern coast of Auckland, New Zealand. You can see the kayakers paddles as well as the submerged sandbars and boulders of Thorne Bay.

Kayakers in Thorne Bay, New Zealand
We can see the Marmar Palace of Tehran, Iran, a.k.a the Marble Palace in the updated satellite image below. It is associated with the Pahlavi dynasty, and is still used today by the Iranian government.

The Marble Palace, Tehran, Iran.
In my opinion, most good things start and end with Elvis references, so our last example showcases updated imagery of Graceland, including the private customized Convair 880 jet Elvis used while hopping across the globe.

Graceland, Memphis Tennessee
If you’d like to receive an email notification when the Earth and Maps Imagery team updates your favorite site(s), we’ve got just the tool: The Follow Your World application!

These are only a few examples of the types of features that can be seen and discovered in our latest batch of published imagery. Happy exploring!

High Resolution Aerial Updates:
USA: Bellingham, WA; Bemidji, MN; Brookings, SD; Davenport, IA; Emporia, KS; Grinnel, IA; Idaho Falls, ID; Klamamth Falls, OR; Lawrence, KS; Lovell, WY; Nephi, UT; Pittsfield, MA; Portland, OR; San Francisco Peninsula, CA; Scottsbluff, NE; Seattle, WA; St Louis, MO; Terre Haute, IN; Wasco, OR; Williston, ND; Wolf Point, MT

Spain: Huesca, Logrono

Countries/Regions receiving High Resolution Satellite Updates:
Angola, Antarctica, Argentina, Australia, Bahrain, Brazil, Cameroon, Canada, Chad, Chile, China, Colombia, Cuba, Côte d’Ivoire, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Ecuador, Ethiopia, Gaza Strip, Greenland, Hungary, India, Indonesia, Iran, Israel, Jan Mayen, Japan, Jordan, Kazakhstan, Latvia, Libya, Lithuania, Malawi, Mexico, Morocco, Mozambique, Namibia, New Zealand, North Korea, Pakistan, Paraguay, Peru, Philippines, Poland, Romania, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Senegal, Slovakia, South Africa, Spain, Svalbard, Taiwan, Tanzania, The Gambia, Turkey, Uganda, Ukraine, United States, West Bank, Yemen, Zambia, Zimbabwe

SketchUp: The textures

If you’re into such noble pursuits as geo-modeling or photo-realistic rendering, there’s a good chance that you spend a ridiculous amount of time hunting for photo-textures online. Flickr and other photo sharing sites are goldmines for content, but who has time to compile a folder of bookmarks that point to the best ones?

Our friend John Pacyga, apparently. He’s just posted a long list of his favorite texture sources — for both SketchUp and Photoshop. Some are free, some have Creative Commons licenses, and some cost money, but all are worth browsing. Set aside some time, though; this kind of thing is addictive.

If you’ve found a seamless texture (one that can repeat attractively when you paint it on a surface), here’s how you load it into SketchUp:

Instructions for Windows:

Instructions for Mac:


I found the rock texture in the screenshots above on lee.ponzu’s Flickr Textures set. Want to make your own seamless texture images? These tutorials on YouTube are a good place to start.