Learn about Shaderlight Cloud Rendering

Shaderlight Cloud Rendering 

Shaderlight Cloud Rendering is the first and only SketchUp rendering plug-in to harness the power of Cloud computing.

More and more Shaderlight customers are turning to the cloud when rendering high resolution images and animations.  Not only does it free up their desktop by rendering on high-powered 64-core machines from Limitless Computing but delivers a fast and cost effective alternative to rendering locally.

If you’ve not used Shaderlight Cloud rendering before, here’s a step by step guide to your first render or animation.

To access the Cloud plugin click the ‘Cloud’ icon on the Shaderlight toolbar. You then need to create an account to register for Cloud rendering.


Cloud Log in

My Profile.

You can change your registered details under ‘My Profile’. The email address you provide will be used to notify you that a render has finished, so please make sure this is filled in correctly.

Cloud Profie1

Under your Profile you can also add users to your account so you can share your Cloud credits with others who would like to use Cloud Rendering.

The ‘Billing’ section allows you to add more Cloud Credits and to store your card details for future Credit purchases.

Cloud Credit Prices.

Pricing for cloud rendering is based on a credit system.  When you sign up you will receive one free credit to get you started.

So what will 1 Cloud Credit get you?

  • 1 Credit = 1 Scene up to 1920×1080
  • 1 Credit = 15 frames of animation at 480p

Take a look at the online calculator to work out how many credits you need for your project.

You can also log into the Limitless Computing website to view the progress of your Renders and download them to your machine. This can also be done in the ‘My Scenes’ tab, which is mentioned below.

Uploading a New Scene.

To send a scene to the Cloud you need to click on the ‘New Scene’ tab. Here you have the options to verify or change the Shaderlight settings for the scene. Shaderlight Cloud will use the scene you have open and set up in SketchUp, so make sure you are on the correct scene in your model.

Cloud New Scene1

You can then select any alternate settings for the scene. It is advisable to check the ‘Use Max Quality’ button as you want to have the highest quality render possible. Then you can also select the render size either from the preset list or specify your own size.

Once you are happy with the settings it will show you how many credits you need for the render. You can then click the ‘Start Render’ button to upload your scene to the Cloud.

My Scenes.

Under the ‘My Scenes’ tab you can see the progress of any live renders under the ‘Active’ heading. Once a render completes you will receive an email to let you know and you can then log into the Cloud and find your render under the ‘Scenes’ heading.

Cloud My Scenes1

Any completed Animations will be under the Animations heading. You can then download your images and animations to your computer. Here are a couple scenes rendered using Shaderlight Cloud:


This Render cost 1 Cloud Credit. It was rendered at size 1980 x 720 in High Quality and took 1 hour, 9 minutes and 5 seconds to render using Shaderlight Cloud.


This Render also cost 1 Cloud Credit. It was rendered at 1980 x 720 in High Quality and took 2 Hours, 42 minutes and 30 seconds.

Cloud Rendering on the go.

Users of desktop Cloud Rendering now have the power to view their renders anywhere using an Android or Apple mobile device thanks to the Cloud Viewer app developed by Limitless Computing.


  • View SketchUp Renders (scenes and animations) associated with your Shaderlight Cloud account.
  • Save files directly to your device.
  • Check the status of on-going renders on the Cloud.
  • Control users and set user permissions
  • Manage payment information
  • Download your Shaderlight Cloud renders 24/7.

Download on iTunesGet it on Google Play

Shaderlight Animation.

Animation Toolbar

When rendering an animation locally, you must set the location and filename of the frames to be rendered and the frame rate (which is the number of frames rendered for every second of your animation).

Animation Settings copyThe Browse button allows you to select a location and a filename for your rendered frames. It is best to set up new a folder for the rendered frames.

The filename will become the prefix of the frames name. Each frame will then have a frame number after the prefix. For example if the filename is: Animation, the rendered frames will be Animation_000, Animation_0001…and so on.

The frame rate sets how many frames are rendered for every second of your SketchUp animation. The more frames you render per second, the smoother the animation will appear when it is played back. But the more frames, the longer the animation will take to render.

You will see Shaderlight displays the total number of frames to be rendered for the whole SketchUp animation, based on the chosen settings. You have the option to render part of the animation or the complete animation using the Scenes/Frame Range controls.

When happy with the settings, you can click on the ‘Render’ button to start rendering your animation. You can also upload your animation to the Cloud….

Uploading an Animation.

Cloud New Animation1

The same process applies when you want to upload an animation to the Cloud. Firstly you need to verify the Shaderlight settings. You can change the frame rate which will determine the speed of the animation. As you change the Frame rate, you will see it gives you a break down of how long the Animation will be and how many frames it will render.

Then as with a scene you can check the Max Quality box and specify the animation render size. When you are happy with the settings you can upload the model by clicking ‘Start Animation’.

When your animation has finished rendering on the Cloud, you will receive an email and you will be able to download the frames or the finished animation in a compressed video format.

Here is an example of an animation rendered using Shaderlight Cloud:

If you need any help getting started with Shaderlight Cloud rendering, then please contact support@artvps.com with any questions.

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Shaderlight contest winners announced

The winners of our third annual render contest have been announced and, once again, we have been blown away by the quality and creativity of the images we received – you clever lot!

The judges may have picked their top three but we wanted to make sure that all of our favourite images got a mention.  Here are the top 12 Royal Nursery renders from this years’ competition.

First place went to Adriano Lombre with this fantastic render.  The judges were impressed not just by the quality of the image but the innovative wide screen presentation.Yellow_room

“My thought process behind my design was classical simplicity. The nursery fits into a classic room with large windows, high wainscot, crown molding, and a tall ceiling. It is more than just a modern room holding a crib, toys, and dresser, but one of a comfortable meeting place for mom, baby, and family.”

Dane Wild took second place with a much more understated design that used a nice balance of natural and artificial lighting that made the room warm and inviting.Clouds

In third place was Connor Titus.  His render of a brought the outside in to the room through patio doors leading to a balcony.Union_jack

In no particular order, here are the renders that didn’t quite make it to the top three but we think are great!

Balloonsby Karen Whittle

Blue_roomby Sukrit Srisakulchawla

Grey_roomby Marcus Renaud

London_busby Brett Tripp

Nightby Daniel Ubalde

Red_carpetby Sterling Leyminster

Rocking_horseby John Barber

Royal_crestBy Brian Goodnough

Spotlightby Richard Thurlow

Thank you to everyone who took the time to send us their renders and congratulations to our winners. 

Thank you to our judges too – Daniel Tal, Mike Tadros and Eric Schimelpfenig – you did a great job!

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Streamline your SketchUp models for rendering with Replace Me

What is Replace Me?

We all know that too many complicated or detailed components in your model can cause the performance of SketchUp to slow down and consequently, slow down your rendering.

Shaderlight’s unique Replace Me feature allows you to render detailed 3D components without having the heavy geometry in your SketchUp Model. Replace Me components are simple, lightweight components which, when rendered in Shaderlight will appear as detailed and textured objects. The Replace Me feature is only available for SketchUp 8.0 or later.

Replace Me 1

In this SketchUp Model I have used a combination of Replace Me Tree components from the Shaderlight Library and also created my own Replace Me components. This Tutorial will explain how to use Replace Me in both ways.

Mountain scene

Shaderlight Replace Me Component Collection

We have created a series of Replace Me Trees and People on the 3D Warehouse which can be downloaded straight into your SketchUp model.

You can access them from the SketchUp Toolbar under: Window> Components. Then type ‘Shaderlight Library’ in the search bar.

Window-components Shaderlight Library copy

Follow the steps below to get your Replace Me component into your SketchUp model:

SL Library and Replace Me

Once you have found the model you want, simply select it and the model will be downloaded straight into SketchUp.

Replace Me Components

By adding the Replace Me library to your favorites, you can then access it anytime you want from the components browser favorites menu.

Replace me favourites

All of the components in the Shaderlight Library are very simple and usually have a ‘face me’ billboard  and a marker on the ground to show the ‘footprint’ and orientation of the detailed model when rendered.

Replace Me Tree

Rendering your Replace me component

When you are happy with the position of your Replace Me component you can render it and see how Shaderlight brings your model to life!

Click the Render button on the Shaderlight Toolbar:


Shaderlight automatically downloads a detailed component for each different Replace Me component in your model. This only happens the first time you render as the detailed replacement model is cached on your computers hard drive so there’s no delay in rendering.

Shaderlight will then render using the detailed model instead of the Replace Me model seen in SketchUp.

Rendered Tree

If for any reason you need to disable Replace Me, this can be done on the SketchUp Toolbar under Plugins> Shaderlight for SketchUp menu. If you uncheck the Replace Me then only the simple Replace Me components will be rendered and not the detailed ones.

Disable Replace Me

Creating your own Replace Me Component

You can use models on the 3D warehouse or models saved on your machine to create your own  Replace Me components.

  • Using a 3D Warehouse Model…

To do this, on the SketchUp Toolbar select Plugins> Shaderlight for SketchUp> Replace Me Creator. You can either make a simple component or select a component you want to replace in your model. You will see the component name appear in the Replace Me Creator.

Replace Me Creator

To replace your Component with a model from the 3D Warehouse you need to copy the URL of the Warehouse model. To do this select the ‘Download Model’ button and right-click on the download link, then select ‘Copy Shortcut’.

Replace me Warehouse

The shortcut needs to be pasted into the Source box on the Replace me Creator:

Replace Me link

Then when you render, the component will be replaced with your 3D Warehouse model!

Replace Me Creator render

You can then duplicate the Component and watch your Render update as you go!

Multiple Replace Me

  • Using a model located on your machine

To create a Replace Me model using a component saved on your machine, the process is very similar. The benefits of this are that you can modify the model and change the finishes so you are happy with the model before you use it as a Replace Me.

You need to open the Replace Me creator box and select the component you wish to replace. Next, use the ‘open’ button and then navigate to the model you would like to use as a replacement component.

Replace Me computer

You should then find that the source code will appear once you have selected the model on your machine. Then hit render and watch your Replace Me component transform your SketchUp model!


If you have any questions about getting the most out of Shaderlight , please head to our forum or check out our YouTube Channel.

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Rendering Glass

Rendering Glass in Shaderlight

We often get asked about how to render glass – a difficult question to answer as it really depends on the type of glass you are trying to create. For example a double glazed frosted window would require different settings to a single pane of glass.

The simplest way to render a glass material is by using the SketchUp Translucent Presets in the Material Editor.  These will then be set to ‘Auto’ in the Shaderlight Material Editor giving you glass.  Alternatively, you can change the Shaderlight finish type or use any other material and change it to be Transparent or Translucent to get the effect you want for your final image.


Glass Colour Settings   Transparent1jpgShaderlight’s Transparent setting is probably the most frequently used for creating Glass.

Transparent material is opaque and can also be coloured. It will produce reflections in the same way you would expect for normal glass.

Thin Glass Vs Thick Glass

What is the difference between Thin and Thick Glass?

The main difference between the two is that thick glass will refract where as thin glass will not.  Refraction means ‘The bending of a wave, such a light as it passes from one medium to another medium of different density.’

So if you are wanting to render an object which has more than one face, for example a double glazed window, then it would be best to use Thick Glass to that the light is refracted and reflected in the window. If you are creating a single sheet glass panel, then Thin Glass would be suitable.

Here is a render showing a wine bottle & glass. The colour used is just ‘white’ then in the Shaderlight Material Editor I have set the glass to be ‘Transparent’, ‘Thick Glass’.


Wine Bottle & Glass Settings

A little Tip…

We often have questions about glass material not showing as ‘opaque’ on all sides. SketchUp will see a single sheet as having 2 faces – a front and a back so you need to make sure that all the faces of your object are set to the same glass material for it to render correctly.

When you have a box or cube which you want to be glass, the same applies that each face has a front and back. So if you find one of the sides is not showing as opaque glass in your render you need to check all the faces are set to the correct material. There are 2 ways in which to do this:

1) Select the face so that it highlights in SketchUp, right click Reverse Faces. This will then flip that face round to expose the other side so you can check the material settings.

2) If the object is big enough navigate until you are inside so you can see the internal faces to check the materials.

All Glass


Glass TranslucentTranslucent1

Translucent Material is generally more cloudy and therefore does not reflect as much as Transparent Material.  It can be used to create a frosted window or anything where the glass is to be less opaque.  Again, Translucent Thin material will not refract the light, where as Translucent Thick material will refract.

The image below has been rendered using a ‘Translucent’ finish on the window. When you are creating a moody scene, I find that the Translucent finish often adds a nice feel to the overall render as it is not so shiny and reflective.

AutoSave_Chess-RoomTranslucent snipet

We hope that you have found this Rendering Glass Tutorial useful. If you have any questions about getting the most out of Shaderlight , please head to our forum or check out our YouTube Channel.

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Rendering a Night Scene in Shaderlight

A simple guide to rendering a night scene.

Night scenes can often take a bit more time to set up than a daytime scene. The tricky part is getting the right balance between exposure and lighting.

In this quick tutorial I am going to show some basic settings for rendering an exterior night time scene.  First thing to note is that I have the Shaderlight settings on ‘Exterior’.

A little tip…



Something we do here at the Shaderlight HQ when rendering a night scene is to create a custom ‘nightsky’ jpg to use as the environment background. This is just a small dark blue image file which will then bring some light into the scene giving it that ‘blue’ night time glow.

Under the Lighting heading in the Shaderlight Render Settings, set the Type to ‘Custom’, then under Image navigate to the location of your ‘nightsky.jpg’.

Night Settings copy


The next thing is to set the exposure. Auto Exposure works just like your digital camera.

  • If your lighting is very bright, the exposure is automatically adjusted so that the image isn’t burnt out.
  • If you have very little light, the exposure is adjusted so that you don’t have a very dark image.

For this particular night-time render, I have turned off Auto exposure. This then allows me to have full manual control over the exposure levels and to be able adjust them accordingly for my render.

Gherkin Night Scene


The scene lighting has to be balanced using a combination of light Intensity and scene Exposure levels. In this scene I have used Spotlights and Area lights to cast light up the sides of the building. You can see the Light Intensity is not that high, which is because I don’t want them to be too bright in my night render.

Spotlight setting Area Light Setting


I have used the ‘Lighting Environment’ for the Background setting, which means that Shaderlight will render the environment that is lighting the scene instead of the SketchUp background. You can then upload your background image and adjust the Brightness levels to suit your scene. It is best to check you are happy with your settings as you do them by rendering on a low quality. This will allow you to change them if you need to and using ‘Auto’ update you will be able to see the changes happen as you make them.

Once you are happy with all your settings, you can the render your model at high quality.


If you have any questions about getting the most out of Shaderlight , please head to our forum or check out our YouTube Channel.

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Learn about Materials

Shaderlight’s Material Editor has been developed so that it works out of the box.  If you have applied a Material from the standard SketchUp collection, Shaderlight automatically assigns properties so that the material renders correctly. 

In order to create the perfect finish for your SketchUp model you may want to edit the Material Type and Finish.  For those of you not familiar with the options available in Shaderlight’s Material Editor, here is a quick overview.


SL-Material Editor

By default Shaderlight will use the Auto Material option however there are 8 preset Material types that can be selected as an alternative or used for new Materials you create yourself. You can change the colour, opacity and add ‘bump’to your Material.

The Materials will look different depending on which Lighting presets are used in the Shaderlight render settings.

The following slides show the variation of the different preset finishes available in Shaderlight.


Shiny Material.


Objects and light sources show as well defined reflections in the material.

Satin Material.


Strong light sources show as highlights, but other objects do not reflect.

Glossy Material.


Objects and light sources show as blurred reflections in the material.

Metal Material.


Reflections in the material are affected by the colour of the metal.

Transparent Material.


Material you can see through but can be coloured.

Translucent Material.


Material that you can see through, but it may be cloudy.

Self Illuminating Material.

Self Illuminating copyLED 2 cd/m2Self-Illuminating materials are to represent light emitting materials. They do not actually cast light, but to get the effect of light shining from them you can apply lights to the front of the Material. They are used for things like televisions, computer monitors and other similar devices.

There are a range of light intensity’s to choose from in the Self-Illuminating Material drop down depending on the how bright you want your light to be:

Luminous Paint 0.1 cd/m2

LED 2 cd/m2

10 cd/m2

CRT Monitor 150 cd/m2

LCD Monitor 300 cd/m2

Neon Sign 1500 cd/m2

10,000 cd/m2

100,000 cd/m2

1,000,000 cd/m2

10,000,000 cd/m2

Rendered image using different Shaderlight Materials.

To give you an idea of how different material types and finishes can transform an image, we’ve detailed the material options chosen for each element of this scene.

Rendered Materials

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Shaderlight helps develop the future of architectural design

Steve Vasilion was the owner and lead designer of Vasilion Architects, a full service architectural firm based in Batavia, Illinois.  The firm was acquired by Prairie Forge Group last November and Steve is now now their Director of Architecture.

For more than 8 years Steve has been using SketchUp to develop his designs but would often have to outsource his presentation quality rendering to ‘professionals’.

The simplicity and affordablily of Shaderlight has finally enabled him to bring photorealistic rendering in house.  Steve believes that being able to produce quality images on a daily basis not only saves him money but offers him an edge over his competition – crucial in a challenging economy.

“People are always wowed by the photorealistic quality that I can now produce.  They are often willing to pay more to achieve this quality, which results in more income for my firm.  They have no idea how easily Shaderlight steps up the quality of my work!”

A true ambassador for 3D design, alongside his day job Steve runs a high school mentoring program where local students, interested in a career in architecture, can develop their 3d design and presentation skills working alongside local business owners and city officials.


Steve customized the program to ensure students were given a realistic view of the architecture profession.

We asked Steve to explain more about the program:

How did the mentoring program come about?  

While running Vasilion, I was contacted by a group called “ACE” ( Architecture-Construction-Engineering), an organization formed to interest high school students in a career in the construction industry.  It was formed in response to a noticeable drop in young adults choosing a career in the building trades.  The ACE program was sponsored by the local contractor’s association who would visit area high schools and enlist interested students.  The students would choose between architecture, engineering, or contracting mentors.  I participated in the ACE program for a couple years until they cancelled their funding for the program.  It was unfortunate: the year they cancelled students had already signed up and were ready to begin the program.  I decided to continue the program on my own.  I contacted the drafting instructors at the high schools and asked them to still send their students.  I then customized the program to fit my interest in providing the students with a realistic view of the architecture profession.

What does it involve? 

I have six students each year, two each representing three area high schools: Batavia and Geneva High Schools and the Illinois Math and Science Academy (IMSA).  The students are all juniors or seniors.  The students meet every Wednesday from September through the following April.  The Batavia and Geneva students participate on their own time, arriving at 5pm and working until 7pm.  The IMSA students earn school credit, arriving at 8:30am and working until 7pm.  The project is hypothetical in that it is not an actual commission.  But the site is real and the program is realistic.  The students have to study the zoning ordinances and city master plan documents.  They analyze the owner’s building program.  They have to interview our volunteer ‘owner’ and volunteer ‘city official’.  This allows them to learn about the different goals of the two entities.  Then they are ready to begin designing.


Projects require detailed planning before the designing begins.

They usually have some experience with Autocad and SketchUp, but none have used a photorealistic rendering program like Shaderlight.  They will periodically meet with our owner and city official to review their progress.  At the end of the year, the IMSA students make a school presentation as part of their final examination.  The entire team also makes a presentation to their teachers, parents, and city officials.  Then they make one more final presentation to the City Council of Batavia.  This provides them an opportunity to work on their presentation skills, which are critical for architects as they attempt to sell and gain approval of their designs. 

Who else is involved in your programs?

My volunteer owner (Austin Dempsey, of Batavia Enterprises, Inc.) actually owns most of the various properties they have studied over the years.  In exchange for him volunteering his time he receives an excellent study of the possibilities that exist for the development of his various properties.  My volunteer city official is an actual zoning or planning official from the City of Batavia.


Students present to their teachers, parents, and city officials.

“Success is determined by exposing the students to as realistic a view as possible of what an architect actually does”

How has the course helped you students? 

The success of the program is not determined by how many students choose a career in architecture.  Success is determined by exposing the students to as realistic a view as possible of what an architect actually does… before spending tens of thousands of their parents’ dollars on a specialized college education.  They have no idea how much planning and research goes into a project before actual design begins.  They have no idea how the architect navigates and negotiates with the city on behalf of the owner.  And they have only a vague idea about how good architecture blends functionality with beauty.

What have your students gone on to do?

About 1/3 of the students continue on in architecture; about 1/3 choose a related field (engineering, landscape architecture, construction management, etc.); and 1/3 want nothing more to do with the profession.  The program succeeds because it either cements a student’s interest and passion for this profession, or reveals to them that it is not the career choice for them.

The course has proved its worth in educating young people in to the intracacies of a career in architecure however when it comes to the software, Steve has been keen to pass on his knowledge of 3d modelling and rendering. 

image 2

Student’s use Shaderlight to gain rendering skills.

Why have you chosen Shaderlight for the course? 

Shaderlight offers the students one more opportunity to express their finished design concept, and also exposes them to one more career option: that of a professional renderer.

The degree of realism that can be achieved is dramatically heightened by Shaderlight.  The sophistication of the shadows, the added depth of material textures and reflectivity, and the ability to add lighting fixtures all enhance the effectiveness of the renderings.

This photorealism provide a great ‘wow’ factor for the students.  When they see their designs come to life, first in SketchUp then in Shaderlight it is very satisfying to behold.

image 1

Shaderlight lets students add realism to their SketchUp models.

Here is an example of one of the student project videos using SketchUp.  More can be seen on YouTube.

Prairie Forge Group is full service Architectural, Design|Build and Construction Management firm, located in St. Charles, Illinois, USA.  http://www.prairieforgegroup.com/

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