V-Ray 5 for SketchUp Review

This big release promises to be a game changer for all SketchUp users. Let’s take a dive in our review…


SketchUp has been around for over two decades with many notable artists around the world making use of it as their primary modeling tool. On the surface, it doesn’t look like it’s changed much from its Google Earth days and when Google gave it a global platform. If we look a bit deeper we might think otherwise. Now owned by Trimble it doesn’t seem to be quietly fading into the background but instead has recently received a major boost from Chaos Group with the release of V-Ray 5 for SketchUp. Today we’ll take a look at the new features and why this is such a game changer for SketchUp.

V-Ray Vision

The major selling point for this release is called V-Ray Vision. The VP of product management at Chaos Group, Phillip Miller, says “V-Ray Vision is going to transform how designers work in SketchUp, bringing an always-on real-time view of every project”. That sounds substantial and it is. It’s a game changer for SketchUp users and it not only reduces that gap between design and final visualization but completely eliminates it. That’s impressive.

A project becomes something of a continual crafting of the final output rather than building something, only to then add the materials and lighting hoping it’ll all come together; visualization becomes the centerpiece of the project from beginning to end, rather than just something you do at the end. This will be particularly good news for anyone who designs their work in SketchUp including architects and product designers. It also streamlines the process of keeping clients updated and in the loop. You can send progress visuals quickly and easily, avoiding time consuming and unnecessary hold ups at the end of the project as you try to figure out exactly what the client wants in terms of look and feel.

Friendly usability

So, what’s it like? As with any V-Ray solution it is well integrated and easy to use. If you’re familiar with any other V-Ray products then you’ll slot straight into the driver’s seat with this one. You can quickly move around your scene, add materials in and set up your lights and cameras – all the while V-Ray is working in the background, delivering you instant real-time photorealistic results. The fact that it seamlessly updates as you work means that V-Ray effectively fades into the background. This real-time solution means you can quickly iterate ideas and deliver results to your client in a quick and efficient manner.

Light Mix

That’s enough talk about V-Ray Vision. Let’s take a look at some of the other features included in this release. First up there’s ‘Light Mix’. If you’re familiar with V-Ray in other packages such as 3ds Max then you may have already come across this. Using the new V-Ray Frame Buffer you can now make changes to the contribution of each of your lights in post rather than having to re-render again. This includes the strength and color of lights. This feature is not as useful in Sketchup as it is in other packages, mainly because V-Ray for SketchUp is designed to be real-time anyway. It’s therefore possible to make these on the fly changes at any time without needing to rely in post. That being said, it’s a helpful feature to have and will no doubt have its purpose.

Light gen

Next up we’ve got ‘Light gen’. This is really cool! In essence, this tool creates a series of thumbnails of your scene, each with a different lighting scenario. The scenarios include different times of the day and different sky setups so you can see what lighting setup makes your scene look the best. Rendering one of them is as simple as choosing it and hitting render. I love features like this because it shows V-Ray are thinking about the user. They want to make your life easier and streamline the creative process. They’ve certainly done that with this feature.


We can’t cover all the features but I’d like to draw your attention to materials in this release. They’ve given users a new layered V-Ray material as well as an improved material library. The layered material is perfect for creating materials that have a coat or sheen including metals, woods and fabrics. The material library has been extended to give you access to over 500 ready-to-go materials. This will be particularly useful for some users who would prefer to focus on the design of their building or environment rather than on complex material settings. These materials can be used straight out the box and they work well.

As with any piece of software, and something that is real-time at its core, you’ll need a certain level of hardware to make it work smoothly. V-Ray recommend a 1st Gen Intel® Core™ or compatible processor with SSE4.2 support (x64) along with a minimum of 8GB RAM. In terms of utilising your GPU you’ll want Maxwell-, Pascal-, Volta- or Turing-based NVIDIA card(s) with latest video driver or at least version 411.31. V-Ray Vision also requires a Graphic card with DirectX 11 or DirectX 12 and Shader Model 5.0 capabilities. It’s always worth making sure you have the necessary hardware when work with real-time solutions because if it doesn’t work efficiently then it’ll quickly become frustrating to use.

Is it worth it?

You can get V-Ray 5 for SketchUp on both Windows and Mac OS but unfortunately V-Ray Vision is not currently supported on a Mac. This is apparently coming in an upcoming release. Chaos Group enables you to use this software on both a subscription model and a one-time perpetual model. For the subscription you can either pay monthly (£45) or annually (£270). If you want to own the software then you can pay £610 for the privilege. For the capabilities on offer here I think it is more than worth the money. The annual subscription is much more cost-effective though, compared with the monthly option but that could come in handy if you only want to use it for certain projects and not every single month. If you’re still not sure, try it for free and give it a spin.

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