Enhanced Materials

The world is full of different materials: stone, glass, curtains, plywood, sheetrock, brass -- and as many ways of describing their variations as there are materials to describe! Is a stone tile for a shower, a kitchen counter, a driveway? This is a hard problem and we'd like to present our approach: one that keeps VIsualizer's straightforward character while still letting you design and communicate expressively when you need to. We call it Enhanced Materials, you can see a before-and-after comparison in the image below:

Kitchen Before and After Enhanced Materials Are Activated

In these two pictures, the picture on the right is different from the one on the left simply because the Enhanced Materials have been turned on, by pressing the button at the top of VIsualizer's view.The Enhanced Material Button in the Active State Enhanced materials have more sophisticated reflections and highlights, and so the icon displays either simple light (one bouncing arrow) or enhanced reactions to light (multiple bouncing arrows).

By examining lots of models from our users and the 3D Warehouse, we've come up with a good set of looks for the standard SketchUp materials, along with a few extra ones that customer designers have most requested. For most models made with standard materials, click the Enhanced button and it should immediately give you a better, more natural-looking picture, no further tweaking required. Try it out yourself!

What If I Want to Tweak?

Sometimes you do need a little more -- for example, SketchUp has no built-in "mirror" material, but it's a very big deal if you're designing a dance studio or a vanity table. So we've also added further customization based on names of materials (and occasionally, on the names of textures, if no special material can be identified).

For example, if you have a material called "red brick" then Visualizer will recognize it as a kind of "brick." These materials override the existing handling, in case your red brick started life as a default SketchUp material. The names (and some synonyms) currently recognized are listed below, along with some typical uses:

  • wood, bamboo, cherry, birch, maple, oak, pine, spruce, walnutFloors and cabinets — moderately bright polished highlights (except for the special unfinished woods defined by SketchUp, "wood_board_cork" and "wood_osb")
  • granite, marbleKitchen counter tops — bright sharp reflections
  • mirrorMirror glass in baths and dressing rooms — smooth clear reflections
  • glassWindows, glass furniture — as before, even if SketchUp opacity is 100%
  • fabric, textile, cloth, curtain, draperyCurtains, awnings, screens — a surface that can be transparent without being shiny
  • metal, brass, copper, gold, silverPolished door knobs — bright tinted reflections
  • plastic, shinyBath fixtures — enamel-like shine
  • tileKitchen, bath, and floor tiles — bright and bumpy with tinted highlights
  • brickWalls and fireplaces — textured and bumpy with slight shininess
  • waterSwimming pools & ponds — refractive and reflective, this named material requires closed ("watertight") geometry
  • matteConcrete, cladding, matte walls — The standard, default surface. Including "matte" in any name overrides all other materials

In addition to these common material names, you might also add a few key adjectives:

  • bumpy, rough, courserustedrusty: increase the bumpiness of the surface, which will also spread-out and soften any highlights (see the brass bunnies, below)
  • smooth, flat: these do the opposite of "bumpy" -- they decrease any inherent bumpiness.
  • shiny, glossy: increase the brightness and sharpness of reflections.
  • dull, satin: These "semi-gloss" labels decrease the brightness and sharpness of reflections (and are also pre-applied to the two SketchUp woods that should not be shiny: "wood_board_cork" and "wood_osb").

Here are a few shots of a decorated bunny (a well-known test model) using different SketchUp materials, in both plain and enhanced views.

Just Plain Bunny Default, un-enhanced basic bunny

Everything Bagel Bunny: Tile Mosaic Multi Rough Smooth Shiny Enhanced: A bunny who has everything: Tile Mosaic Multi Rough Shiny

Mirror background objects Enhanced: A bunny with mirrors

Unenhanced Dark Wood Floor Unenhanced wood flooring 

Enhanced Shiny Wood Floor Enhanced: Shiny wood floor

Enhanced Dull Wood Floor Enhanced: Dull wood floor

Metal Brass Ceiling Enhanced: Metal Brass Ceiling

Metal Brass Ceiling Shiny Enhanced: Metal Brass Ceiling Shiny

Metal Brass Ceiling Rough Enhanced: Metal Brass Ceiling Rough

When in Doubt, Try It Out -- as we've said, many, if not most, models should look great right away, even without fiddling with material names. Here are a few more we found on the 3D Warehouse, we're looking forward to seeing what you will create!

Woody with Airstream