If you are familiar with using Google SketchUp as a design concept modeling tool, you will have at one time or another been challenged to create a reflection in water. My friends who have developed the SketchUp software have deferred the task of modeling reflections to other software developers. If you do not have rendering software, you can create water reflections within SketchUp by “faking” the reflections through duplicate modeling. The steps shown below are from a small model I created to demonstrate both the simple SketchUp reflection option and a second, more effective option using SU Podium, a photo realistic rendering plugin.
Basic SketchUp Model. For the purpose of this demonstration, I built a "stage set" SketchUp model showing a small swimming pool and building located on the edge of a lake. Simple shapes without much detail.
Added Model Entourage. Trees and people were 2D and the furniture was copied from a previous SketchUp model. I added a blue color to the water and adjusted the sun angle and shadow settings (Light 80 and Dark 60). The scene was saved with a normal 55mm focal length.
Flipped Component. I selected the entire scene minus the base and created a component. Using the scale tool, I then dragged the blue scale about the opposite point - basically creating a 3D mirror image of the component!
Reposition Component. I moved the mirrored component beneath the original model to establish the 3D model reflection. Always create your models using components and layers to keep your projects organized. Save often.
Adjusted Shadow Setting. I unchecked the “Display: On Ground” in my model's Shadow Settings dialog box. This prevented the lower mirrored component from being shadowed by the terrace and ground.
Adjusted Water Transparency. This reflection was very muted due to the transparency of the blue material I used for the water. I edited the color and made it more transparent to achieve the optimum effect of a reflection. Always look for methods in which you can improve your model by adjusting view angles, materials, sun and shading, and overall composition.
Improved SketchUp Water Reflection. Without spending a lot of time with this demonstration model, I was able to create the illusion of a water reflection using a duplicate model positioned beneath the original. This reflection effect can also be accomplished using Photoshop using multiple images spliced together.
SU Podium Rendering Without Water. Using the photo realistic SketchUp plugin SU Podium, rendered the scene without setting any reflective characteristics for the water material. The resulting image was a nicely rendered building and glass, but no reflection in the water. It is important to keep adjusting and readjusting your reflection settings in SU Podium to achieve the best results. Be patient!
Completed Water Reflection. I adjusted the reflectivity of the material that I used for water and rendered the scene using the SketchUp plugin SU Podium. Compare this photo realistic rendering with the image made strictly with SketchUp and compare the differences in shadow variations, water reflection, glass transparency and overall color. If you have future SketchUp modeling projects, become familiar with the many different software programs that will enable you to improve your modeling!
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