maxwell for sketchup tutorial part 1



This article is the first of two parts tutorial about the use of the Maxwell for SketchUp on architectural visualization.
This plugin has been designed for rendering in SketchUp and you don’t need to export your scene anywhere.
The software used is Sketchup 8, Maxwell for Sketchup, for 3D trees and vegetation I used Arbaro (a free tree generation software) and Photoshop for postproduction.

Final images from different projects done with Maxwell for SketchUp.





The project selected for this ‘making of’ is a private house designed by [reform] arkitekter, an architecture practice based in Malmö, Sweden; where I work.
Modelling with Sketchup is so simple, and has a key role on the design process at the office.
Everything starts with handmade sketches, then we create a sketchUp 3D model, we use the pro version to prepare the layouts for permit drawings. Plans, sections and elevations are then exported to a CAD software to prepare the construction documents.



Once the design is defined, I add a little extra details to my model like beveling edges and corners with Fredo’s plugin for SketchUp Round corners.


NOTE: Maxwell Render simulates light exactly as it is in the real world, this means it is important to keep your Sketchup 3D model on real world scale and units.

Landscaping / grass
The grass is done with the use of Maxwell’s grass feature.
First I created the geometry of turfstone pavers and tiles as SketchUp components.


In order to add some variation to the pavers I used Chris Fullmer’s plugin for SketchUp Scale and rotate multiple.


Then used Random select by TIG, to apply random materials with slight variations. Used the same technique for tiles on the exterior.

Grass is generated per group, I created a plane and converted it to group, then mapped my density map as shown (greyscale map to crontrol where the grass will grow).


To avoid having rendered the plane with the density map, I duplicated the plane grass group, disabled the grass feature from this one and applied a soil texture from CGtextures and moved this plane 5mm above the grass group.


Select the grass group and click the Maxwell grass button, this are the parameters used.


Turfstone pavers and grass


Lanscaping / trees
Trees, bushes and shrubs are generated with Arbaro, I took as starting point one of the default tree definitions and tweaked its parameters, once the tree was ready it was exported in OBJ format (make sure to check the thickbox UV coordinates for stems and leaves).
To give textures and uv map to the trees geometry, I used Blender. Import the OBJ file into Blender, make sure your texture comes in PNG, when ready export as collada, store the PNG and DAE files at the same location.
Open a new Sketchup file (erase the default human figure and purge the file), import the collada file, it should be inserted in the origin point (0,0,0).


Open maxwell scene manager and adjust the materials parameters.


And run Maxwell Fire, while it is rendering, browse to My Documents/Maxwell/Sketchup/Temp folder.


Find the file ‘temp.mxs’ make a copy of the file to your working folder and rename the ‘temp.mxs’ file to something like ‘tree-01.mxs’. Now it is ready to be used as MXS reference.

Before scattering the trees, first I inserted each different kind of tree as Mxs Reference. To scatter the trees on the scene I used another plugin for SketchUp: Compo spray by Didier Bur.
In the plugin’s dialog box I selected my 5 types of trees, set the spray type to’point’ (this way I selected manually the point of insertion of each tree), the rest of settings as following.


Then just hit the ‘spray’ button.


Thanks for Reading this, and don’t miss tutorial’s part 2.


About hdz arkitektur

Victor Hugo Hernandez is an architect specialized in architectural visualization, member of the Swedish Association of Architects (Medlem i Sveriges Arkitekter), based in Lund, Sweden. Currently working for Malmö based architectural practice [reform] arkitekter.


  1. Stephen

    Looks great! Any chance you can provide a link to the sketchup models to follow through with tutorial?

  2. Hi Stephen, thanks for following! sorry I’m afraid I can’t provide the house model it belongs to the architecture office I work for, but if you are interested I could provide the turfstone + grass model, please let me know if you want it, thanks.

  3. Stephen

    That would be great! Thanks!

  4. Stephen, I will provide you a link to the model and to the textures used tomorrow, thanks for your patience.

  5. Stephen

    Thanks a lot! I look forward to seeing more of your work. Hoping to create something of a similar quality one day!

  6. Hi Victor,
    A follow along would be very helpful! Maybe in a future update provide a ‘generic’ simple model and scene so that people can follow along exactly and get more or les same results (and scale!). Then it is good for everybody to start experimenting. I am also interested in the turfstone model/ scene…

    Thanks for sharing!

  7. Hi Albert!
    thanks a lot for your suggestion, I will keep it in mind for future articles.
    Concerning to the turfstone pavers scene, I provided a link to download it in a new post called ‘free turfstone pavers + grass scene’
    best regards

  8. Stephen

    How did you create your density map? Struggling to think of a simple way to create one.

  9. Hi Stephen, once I modelled the turfstone pavers, in SketchUp I set the view to orthographic top view, then exported as a 2D image one module (14 turfstone pavers), then opened in Photoshop and painted black where grass does not grow and let white there where grass must grow, it is a very simple way to create maps, hope this is a help for you.

  10. perfect
    check this please

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