Lighting Indoor Spaces in Google SketchUp

Adding shadows to interior views of Google SketchUp drawings presents an interesting problem: There are no lights besides the sun in SketchUp, so how are you supposed to make anything that looks halfway realistic? With a ceiling in your room, everything's dark. If you leave off the ceiling, your model looks ridiculous. Don't despair — here are some simple tricks:

  • Decrease the darkness of the shadows. Sliding the Dark slider to the right brightens your view considerably. You'll still be able to see the shadows cast by the sun coming through windows and other openings, but the whole room won't look like something bad is about to happen.
  • Make an impossible ceiling. As long as you haven't modeled anything on top of the interior you're planning to show, you can tell the ceiling not to cast a shadow. That way, sunlight will shine directly onto your furniture, casting gloriously complex shadows all over everything.

The following steps show you how to create this shadowless ceiling:

1. Adjust the settings in the Shadow Settings dialog box until the sun is shining through one or more windows in your view.

This ensures that shadows cast by objects in your room look like they're caused by light from the windows.

To make it seem like overhead lighting is in your space, set the time of day to about noon. The shadows cast by furniture and similar objects will be directly below the objects themselves. One more thing: If you have lighting fixtures on the ceiling, remember to set them not to cast shadows in the Entity Info dialog box (read on).

2. Choose Window --> Entity Info.

This opens the Entity Info dialog box.

3. Select any faces that make up the ceiling.

Hold down Shift to select more than one thing at a time.

4. In the Entity Info dialog box, deselect the Cast Shadows check box.

The ceiling now no longer casts a shadow, brightening your space considerably.

5. Repeat Steps 3 and 4 for the following faces and objects:

• The wall with the windows in it

• The windows themselves

• Any walls in your view that are casting shadows on the floor of your space

6. Move the Dark slider over to about 50.

This brightens things even more and makes your shadows more believable.

If you try the first two methods and shadows just don't seem to be working, don't bother turning on shadows. Instead, try this:

1. In the Shadow Settings dialog box, deselect the Display Shadows check box to turn off shadows.

2. Select the Use Sun for Shading check box to add some contrast.

3. Slide the Dark slider all the way to the left and the Light slider all the way to the right to add even more contrast.

4. Move the Time slider around until things look good.

Try to make walls with windows in them darker than walls that might be "lit" by those windows.

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