Materials in SketchUp

Introduction

The native SketchUp material editor supports only a texture and a transparency value – not necessarily sufficient to create visually stunning images such as the ones our users usually achieve.

This is why we came up with our very own material editor specifically for SketchUp, to make sure all of our users can enjoy powerful tools such as Bump- and Reflectivity maps.

In addition to this Knowledgebase Article, you can also have a look at this best-practices blog post by Dan Stine.

Using some detailed Bump- and Reflectivity maps in SketchUp

Accessing the Material Editor

To open the Enscape material editor, either go to Extensions -> Enscape -> Enscape Materials, or click the Enscape Materials Button in the Enscape Toolbar:

Enscape Material Editor in SketchUp

This is the interface that will pop up

In your case, the window may look slightly different – the reason is that the Enscape material editor will always display the material that is currently selected in SketchUp – as long as the material is used in your model.
This way, you can easily choose any material to adjust in Enscape by simply selecting it using the Sample Paint () tool in SketchUp. The Enscape material editor will switch to any selected material immediately.

Material Types

In general, there’s four types of materials you can select in the Enscape material editor:

Generic

The “Generic” material type is suited for any materials that aren’t supposed to be rendered as grass blades, water surface, or have translucency applied.

It gives you control over the color, reflectivity, transparency, surface relief (bump) and light emission of your material.

This is the default material type and can be used for the majority of all possible materials.

The Generic Material Interface

Albedo

The Albedo area controls the basic color of the surface you’re designing. You can either select a color, or choose a texture by clicking the [+] symbol. If choosing a texture, you’ll also receive a “Tint Color” menu, allowing you to easily change the color of the texture used. Control the amount of influence on your texture using the “Image Fade” slider. Of course, Enscape will use any UV information (texture placement) it gets from SketchUp.

The Albedo area with no texture applied

Albedo area with texture applied

Albedo Texture on Sphere

Self Illumination

The Self Illumination setting, when enabled, tells Enscape to literally handle your material as if glowing, and emitting actual light. You can choose a brightness between 1 and 100000 candela per square meter (cd/m²), and the color of the light.

Self Illumination area

Checker texture applied to Self Illumination Color

Transparency

The Transparency area lets you control the opacity of your model, or, in other words, the amount of light that can travel through the surface, allowing you to see what’s behind it.

The Transparency area

  • Texture
    The Texture parameter allows you to control the transparency using a 2D image, a map. It refers to the Opacity value, so a black area (which equals zero) on the image used will result in a perfectly transparent portion of the surface, while a white area will appear perfectly opaque. Grey areas will appear partially transparent, such as glass. If you load a colored image, Enscape will automatically convert it to black and white, so you don’t have to worry about that.
  • Opacity
    The Opacity slider controls the overall transparency of the surface. If you’re using it combined with a transparency map, it will define the maximum opacity, so white areas on said map will appear as opaque as you’ve set using this slider.
  • Tint Color
    This menu allows you to choose a color that should be added to any semi-transparent areas of your material. Very much like colored glass.
  • Refractive Index
    The Refractive Index slider determines by which factor light is being bent when traveling through a transparent surface. You know this effect from looking at a glass of water, or very thick glass.
    Air has a refractive index of 1.0 – so light rays travel through it in a straight line -, water has an index of 1.33, window glass 1.52, and, for example diamonds have an index of 2.42 – they bend light quite heavily.
    For further information on this topic, feel free to have a look at the Wikipedia article.
  • Frosted Glass
    If the Frosted Glass checkbox is enabled, Enscape will blur what’s visible through the transparent surface. The amount by which it’s blurred is being determined by the Roughness value in the Reflections area.

Transition from transparent sphere to one with transparency texture applied

Bump

The Bump area in the Enscape material editor allows to utilize so called Bump Maps.

Bump maps, again, can be any black and white 2D images. They tell Enscape to interpret a surface as protruding (bright parts of the texture) or pushed in (dark parts of the texture).

This is incredibly valuable for realism in your images!

Bump maps can make for an incredible surface detail and noise, without having to use a lot of geometry or modeling. You can use this feature for noise on concrete surfaces, wood, or even full reliefs! This can go a long way in convincing the viewer of looking at a realistic picture.

The effects of a sample bump map on a sphere

As powerful of a feature this is, it’s very easy to setup. Just select an image file using the – Button. It doesn’t even have to be black & white, Enscape will take care of that for you.

Then, select the intensity the effect should be applied with, using the “Amount” slider. Negative values will invert the effect, causing dark areas to stick out and bright areas to be pushed in.

The Bump Map area

PRO Tip

If there’s already an Albedo texture applied to your material, you can just click “Use Albedo“. Enscape will then assign the color texture to the bump value. This offers a uniquely streamlined way to set up existing projects for Enscape: If you want to apply a bump effect to, e.g. an existing wood material, simply select the material in SketchUp using the tool. Click “Use Albedo” in the Bump area (and, if desired, in the Reflections area as well), select the right intensity with the “Amount” slider – Done!

Reflections

This area is all about the microscopic roughness of your material, determining how much of the environment you’ll see reflected in its surface.

The Reflections area

  • Roughness
    The smoother the material (Roughness -> 0%), the more it will reflect it’s environment. The rougher the more it will diffuse incoming light.
  • Texture
    Again, you can also use 2D Images to control the reflective value per location on your surface.
  • Metallic
    The Metallic-slider tells Enscape to treat the surface either as a non-metallic (e.g. plastic, ceramic..) reflective surface, or as a metallic one.
    Let’s say metallic surfaces behave more like a mirror, reflecting a clear image of their surrounding, while non-metallic surfaces show more of their actual surface, reflecting the environment rather vaguely.
  • Specular
    This value controls the amount by which light is being reflected when hitting a non-metallic surface at a steep angle, as opposed to light that’s hitting it rather from the side.
    If you’re not too familiar with this setting, it’s best to leave it around 50% for realistic results.

Sphere with checker texture applied for reflectivity

Grass

The Grass type material, as seen in the material editor, looks almost the same as the Generic type. While it’s lacking the Transparency part, it instead features a Grass Settings area. Apart from the Albedo area, which you can use to color your grass (also using a texture), the Bump– and Reflections parts are only useful if you plan to toggle the Grass Rendering setting on and off (this can be found in the Enscape settings -> “Advanced” tab).

Grass Settings

'Grass' selected as material type

  • Height
    The Height slider will stretch the sprites being used as grass blades, making them appear larger, making for higher grass.

Changing the grass height

  • Height Variation
    The Height Variation slider adds a random factor to the grass height. This makes for a wilder looking, ragged grass.

Randomizing the grass blades

Water

Setting the Water type for a material will tell Enscape to treat any surface it’s applied to as physical water, including waves & caustics.

  • Water Color
    Choose a color your water should be tinted in. No textures to be used this time – water color is set globally.

Separate faces and materials have been used in this image

Water Settings

Control the water movement. Change the speed and the direction your water is flowing to simulate e.g. a river.

Wind controls

  • Intensity
    Control the speed in which the water is flowing.
  • Direction Angle
    Control the overall direction water is moving in.
Attention Don’t be surprised, water in Enscape will stop moving as soon as you stand still and stop moving the camera. This is intentional, and will not happen in video exports or VR.

Wave Settings

Fine tune the look of your waves, whether it’s the overall scale to match the proportions of your model, or just the height to control whether your water looks rather wild or calm.

The Wave Settings sliders

Height: The Height slider controls the height – or intensity – of waves in water materials.

Size: The Size slider controls the overall scale of your water. This way you can adjust the water behavior for various project sizes, close ups etc.

Detail Settings

  • Caustics Intensity
    Caustics occur when light is being refracted through waves in water. Control this beautiful effect using this slider. Keep in mind you will only see this effect as long as there’s a surface beneath the water to reflect the light.

No caustics to 100% caustics visibility

Foliage

When selecting “Foliage” as material type, the Enscape Material Editor interface will look identical to when selecting “Generic” as type.
The difference this material type will cause is only visible on single-face objects. Please make sure the object you apply this material to doesn’t have any depth, and also that the material is applied to both sides of the face.

If these conditions are met, Enscape will apply Translucency to objects this material type is applied to. This means that, if the Sun (yes, this doesn’t work combined with artificial lighting) is located behind said surface, it will be illuminated on both sides. This is common in nature for example with leaves, which is why this is the most common use case for this type of material.

You can apply a material to two sides of the same face

Regular material on the left, Foliage material on the right

Texture Editor

All texture slots used & their texture buttons above the settings

You can use up to four textures at a time per Enscape material. Textures are being used to control Color, Visibility, Surface Detail and Roughness of a material.

By clicking any of the texture symbols at the top of the material editor, or any of the blue and underlined image file names next to “Texture”, you’ll enter the actual texture editor interface.

Here you can

  • Choose the image file for your texture
  • Change the brightness
  • Invert the colors of your image
  • Apply explicit texture transformations, if you don’t want to use the ones delivered from SketchUp

The Texture Editor interface is the same for any texture type. It’s meant to allow for simple image editing operations without having to leave the material editor.

The Texture Editor

Naming Keywords

Before introducing the Material Editor, Enscape would let you decide material properties using keywords you simply had to include in the material name. This framework is still included in the Enscape feature set, and can be used freely alongside the material editor for greater comfort.

These are the keywords to include in the SketchUp Material name to tell Enscape how to display it more realistically.

Keywords and their effects

KEYWORDEXPLANATION
Water, Ocean, RiverDraws the material as a water surface.
Vegetation, Foliage, LeafAdds translucency to thin surfaces (single face).
EmissiveEmissive material based on the material color.
Grass, Tall Grass, Wild GrassRealistic grass material based on the underlying surface color.

Keywords and their effects

Those keywords change the material parameters without changing their color. The color is still defined by the SketchUp texture. The SketchUp default roughness is 1.0.

KEYWORDEXPLANATIONSPECULAR HIGHLIGHT
Glass, Glazing0,0
Chrome, Mirror0,0Metal
Steel, Copper, Metal, Aluminium0,3Metal
Carpaint, Polished, Acryl0,02
Ceramic0,1
Marble0,2
Plastic0,5
Fabric, Cloth0,8

Video Tutorial

Have a look how at useful tips & tricks regarding this topic.


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