Just a quick tutorial looking at the shadow settings of Kerkythea. While adding soft shadows really increases the rendering time, the extra realism that is achieved seems worth it. The video also describes a quick way to change the lighting to an overcast day. I use this setting often when creating diagrams or just to change things up a little.



I have not had much free time over here, but jet-lag has has kept me up so I thought I would post some HDR (high dynamic range) photos that I have been playing around with. What is interesting about these particular photos is that I did not use the DSLR camera, and my little point and shoot does not have exposure bracketing capabilities. How I got around this was by increasing and decreasing the exposure and levels of a single image in Photoshop to get three differently exposed images. From there, I imported the three images into into HDR software (Photomatix) to get the final result. If you want some really impressive model pics or documentation of built projects, definitely look into this process. My other HDR POST HERE goes into a little more detail about HDR images and the benefits of this process

 Original image

Final HDR image


Original image

Final HDR image





The video describes the steps I use when creating a base image for architectural illustrations. Kerkythea is simple to get started with, but has sophisticated settings to produce very professional final outcomes.

Kerkythea and the Sketchup Plugin can be downloaded HERE. The Plugin can be found under Integration along with easy install instructions

If used correctly, Kerkythea can be quick. However, as you fine tune the rendering settings, add more lights, soften the shadows, give the material textures and bumpmaps, you will quickly find out that the rendering times exponentially grow. I will most often do the bare minimum, to get my rendering times down, then put more effort in post processing. However, there are times when spending the extra effort to add nice textures and lights outweigh the time it takes to post process in photoshop. Either way, it's good to know what pieces significantly alter rendering time.

Things that extend rendering times:

Multiple lights. Adding more lights slows the rendering time. Lights that are made up of many surfaces, such as a sphere, make it even worse.

Lots of geometry. This one is obvious, but using a lot of trees or just really big models will really increase rendering times. Deleting part of the model so that only objects in view remain is something I do a lot.

Complex textures. Textures with a lot of reflection or shininess really slow things down. Use these textures sparingly.

Soft shadows.

Presets. Choosing the right preset makes a big difference. Photonmap-High+AA03 seems to be the quickest for me. Metropolis Light Transport looks the best, but can take days to render.




Check out this website for a huge archive of Photoshop brushes. Ive used this place for years and it has really changed the look of my work.  I tend to focus in on the grunge brushes and the dry paint brushes. The effects can be see in the night Jindu rendering sky that I posted a while ago. They are also great for breaking out of the clean "illustrator" look that is easy to get into when working on portfolios and presentation boards.




I'm pretty excited about this video. It explores the idea of Ambient Occlusion shading to easily and quickly add realism to Sketchup images via Photoshop. This is done without ever using a rendering engine such as MAX or VRAY. The idea behind Ambient Occlusion is basically a really fast way of adding realism to a rendering by adding shadows in corners where geometry meets. You will often see me adding this affect in a lot of the videos I created using the BURN tool in Photoshop. This video demonstrates how easy it is to get a really cool effect using just images exported from Sketchup, and a few tools from Photoshop.

If any of you have watched my Kerkythea clay model tutorial, you will notice that you get a similar look. The rendering engine is doing all of the work for you. The idea behind this new video is to show the power of the BURN tool in Photoshop, and how it can be applied to architectural illustrations. If there isn’t a lot of complex geometry in the image (in my case an aerial view of my design) than this method serves as an option to bypass using a rendering engine such as Kerkythea altogether and still get a really nice looking final result. Also, if your final illustration is looking a little flat, its an easy way to add a little punch to it.


Exported Linework from Sketchup

Exported SU image with shadows turned on, line work turned off

Final Image after using the Burn tool and Gaussian Blur filter in Photoshop

A couple of notes:

I may have overdone it a little with the blurring of the shadows haha. The main idea to take away from this part is to avoid having really sharp shadow edges. The shadows cast by a building will usually have a little falloff, adding more falloff as the shadow moves further away from the building

You will notice that in the beginning, I export an image with no lines, shadows turned on, and in shaded mode. I then take it into Photoshop and tweak it so that I am left with just shadows. Sketchup 7 will not let me export just shadows in hidden line mode. So this is a little work around I came up with. If you have any better ideas on how to export just shadows, feel free to post them.



This rendering was created around the same time the Jindu Pool rendering and Jindu night rendering were made. Similar to many of the renderings I create, this one is almost entirely naturally lit (sun). So much time is saved by just adjusting the sun to enter the space opposed to placing artificial lights (point and spot lights) in a rendering engine which can take forever. If I'm short on time, I will almost always go the naturally lit route.  On top of that, I just like the look of cast shadows running across the scene and the warm light from the sun rising and setting.   

A lot of people have been asking for more Kerkythea tutorials as well as a more in-depth look at the Jindu night rendering. There is a lot to cover between these two topics, but I hope to begin these videos in January. Let me know if there are any other topics you want to see


Sketchup screen capture

Kerkythea Rendering

The final rendering. A ton of post-processing went into this. It helped that there was some site photos of existing buildings that could be dropped into the background. Many of the techniques used in the Jindu pool rendering to get that "early morning" look were used here as well. More on the Jindu project designed by Paul Lukez Architecture can be found here



When I don’t have time to fully render sections in Kerkythea due to time constraints, I fall back on this method to get me out of jams. In fact, I used this method to create sections for my final thesis project and finished all three of them in an afternoon. This method provides not only interior spatial information by the section cut itself, but also the architects intent in lighting the interior spaces.

When using this technique, it's important to remember which direction the light is coming from and how it will bounce off of different surfaces. I treat the light more like a cloudy day, so less harsh shadow lines and more diffused, soft shadows.


Scaling: This video doesn’t explain scaling, but typically, I would also export the SU section into CAD. From there, I would plot the file as a PDF to a predetermined scale then open the PDF file in Photoshop. I would then resize the rendered section to the size of the CAD PDF.

Line work: In the video, the section is poched in Photoshop. For cleaner line work, there are ways to poche in SU, and obviously in Illustrator. Personally, I don’t think this is necessary. If done correctly and at a high enough resolution in Photoshop, the line work will look more than sharp enough. On the other hand, in terms of editing, line work in Photoshop probably is not the way to go. More on this later.

Oiginal exported Sketchup Model

Final image after post processing

Thesis Sections


Photoshopped landscape tutorial

The illustration in this tutorial was used for a competition that another student, Jeff Kruth, and I worked on a few years ago in grad School. The video explains the work flow used to add tall grass to an otherwise dull Kerkythea rendering. Some important things to pull from this video are how default Photoshop brushes can be used to get rid of the clean edge lines left over from the rendered image. In this case, a default grass brush in Photoshop was used to soften the edges of the landscape. The burn and dodge tools were used to add shadows and highlights to the vegetation.

In order to cut down the length, I didn’t really take my time with the clipping and making selections. Normally, this would be done a little more carefully and precisely. The base rendering isn’t at a very high resolution either. The video moves pretty fast, but there is a lot of information I am trying to fit in a small amount of time. You may have to use the pause button quite a bit.

(Above) Base Kerkythea rendering with sky and background elements Photoshopped in.

(Above) Grasses added through Photoshop.

The full project and original illustrations can be seen on the Portfolio page




Adjusting the depth of field is an easy way to punch up many types of architectural renderings. I have been using this technique for a while now and have applied this concept to final presentation illustrations, model pics, and my graduate portfolio. There are probably better ways to do this, however, once you get use to the concepts, this technique can be applied in a matter of a few minutes. For those interested and using Sketchup, there is a tutorial on YouTube called “Sketchup and Photoshop: lens blur.” This tutorial uses Sketchup and its fog settings to create the layer mask. While the work flow is pretty creative, it’s a little overkill for me and one more thing to set up in sketchup and export into photoshop. The final results will be so similar, it doesn’t seem worth going through the extra effort to set everything up in sketchup.

Below are some examples that I have applied this technique to in the past. One thing to notice, when this is applied to a large scale building site, the final result looks more like a small-scale physical model instead of a full scale 1:1 building. Still, I think it’s a cool look.




I wanted to get in video form, some of the techniques I use to add people into my illustrations. This video outlines 3 situations I run into often including reflective surfaces, typical shadows, and people in motion. The libraries of people don't always fit the lighting situations in the scene, so the video also describes a way to  add highlights to better integrate people into the scene. There are tons of examples of more artistic ways to add people into an illustration and I have plans to develop some tutorials later on down the road testing out some these techniques.