This page provides an introduction to exterior lighting in V-Ray for SketchUp.

Page Contents



This tutorial covers the basics of lighting an exterior scene using V-Ray in SketchUp. It will include using a variety of V-Ray Lights for both day and night renders. By the end, you will gain an understanding of the general lighting workflow for exteriors in SketchUp.

To follow this tutorial, you will need to have the V-Ray for SketchUp plugin installed. This tutorial is a companion to go along with the QuickStart video posted on our YouTube channel and available here:





Tutorial Assets

To download the files used in this tutorial, please click on the button below. This SketchUp scene is provided by Bartłomiej Ordon.




Tutorial Steps

Open the Example Scene

Begin by launching SketchUp. Open the project file QS2_st.skp, which can be downloaded from the Tutorial Assets section above.




The V-Ray Lights Toolbar will be used for creating lights in this tutorial. It is a floating toolbar by default, but it can be docked.




Open the Asset Editor and go to the Lights tab. This is where all V-Ray lights in the scene will be listed and where their properties can be modified. By default, a V-Ray SunLight will automatically be added to your scene.




To make lighting the scene easier, navigate to the Settings tab and turn on Material Override. This will temporarily place a grey material on all objects in the scene so that the lighting and shadows are easier to judge on all surfaces.




To further speed up the initial render, disable the visibility for the roof and facade layers in the SketchUp Layers tray.

Start an Interactive Render.


Here is the scene so far with the Material Overrides in place:




Adjusting the V-Ray SunLight

Now that the interactive render is prepared, the default V-Ray SunLight can be adjusted. Start by using the SketchUp Shadows toolbar to change the Time of day as well as the Date. Set it to March in the morning.




In the Lights tab, expand the Asset Editor to display the settings for the SunLight.




Here are some settings that can quickly change the sun's appearance. Feel free to experiment with them.

  • Sky Model – Changes how the sunlight looks through the atmosphere, such as on an overcast day.
  • Turbidity – Affects the haziness of the sky.
  • Size Multiplier – Changes the size of the sun. Lower numbers will produce sharp shadows and larger numbers will produce softer shadows.


For this tutorial, keep the Sky Model to Hosek et al, keep the Turbidity to 3, and set the Size Multiplier to 15. In the Shadows toolbar, change the Time of day to late afternoon to make adding interior lights easier.




General Lighting with V-Ray Sphere Lights

Next, general lighting inside the house will be added using V-Ray Sphere Lights. Move the camera to get a better view of the second floor. Click the Sphere light icon in the toolbar.




To create the light, click once to place it inside the room, move the mouse to set the radius, and click again to set it in place. When lights are created, they are considered as components.




Move the light up so that it is off the floor and close to the ceiling. Next, copy and paste the light. Move the second light to the adjacent room. 




Open the Asset Editor's Light tab or the SketchUp Components Tray, and you will find only one Sphere light listed. Copying lights with this method will not create new separate lights. This allows multiple lights to exist in a scene that can be controlled simultaneously as if they were one light.

Copy and paste three more lights and move them downstairs. Space them out around the room by the windows.




Copy a fourth light and move it back towards the kitchen.




Overall, these sphere lights will add general lighting inside the structure when rendered from outside. Since these lights are not separate lights, they can be edited simultaneously in the Asset Editor.

In the Scenes section, double-click the Scene 3 tab to return to the starting view and reset the visibility of the roof and facade.

Click Render and see how the scene looks so far with the new lighting inside.




Notice how the lighting is currently very dim and that the Sphere lights are visible through the windows. First, let's adjust the lights so that the actual spheres are hidden from view.

Expand the Asset Editor to get access to the Sphere light controls. In the Options section, enable Invisible for the Sphere light. If the lights in the scene are also being reflected through the glass windows, disable Affect Reflections as well.




Here is the result:




Next, let's adjust the Sphere light's Main settings. Set the Color to an amber hue to emulate an incandescent light. Then set the Intensity to 2000 so that the effect of the light will be noticeable in the scene.




When the interactive render refreshes, the current Intensity might be a bit much, so reduce it to 1800. Now that the house interior lighting is set up, the exterior lights can be fine tuned.



Setting up the V-Ray Dome Light

The default SunLight is great for quickly setting up scenes, but the V-Ray Dome Light can be used to provide accurate image-based lighting. 

Stop the Interactive render and then click the Dome Light icon.




Simply click once to place the dome light. When rendering, the dome will automatically surround the scene.




Notice that in the Dome Light Main settings the light has an HDRI Texture map enabled by default. This texture will be used to light the scene and can be changed if needed.




To use the Dome Light's HDRI for the outdoor lighting, the SunLight must be disabled first. In the Asset Editor, select the SunLight and turn off Enabled.

Start an interactive render. As it resolves, notice how the sky changes to the HDRI image and how the lighting changes.




The Dome Light has similar settings to the other V-Ray lights covered thus far. Increasing the Intensity of the Dome Light will make the scene brighter, but this value will be kept at 1 for now.

Open the Options section of the settings and enable Lock dome light. This locks the orientation of the HDRI environment map to the Dome Light, allowing the map to rotate with the dome Light.




Select the Dome Light in the SketchUp scene and rotate it to your liking. In the interactive render,  observe how the environment map has re-oriented in the sky, changing the clouds. The light direction has slightly shifted as well.

All of the lights for this daytime render have been set up now.




Setting up the Day Production Render

Now that the lighting is in place, the interactive render is no longer necessary. Stop the Interactive render by clicking the Stop rendering button on the upper right corner of the V-Ray Frame Buffer.




The scene needs some additional preparations before starting the final render. In the Asset Editor Render Settings, turn off the Material Override.

Select one of the two large ground objects in the foreground.




Click the Fur icon in the V-Ray Objects Toolbar.  V-Ray Fur's default settings will quickly add grass to the scene, but it will only be visible when rendering. Select the second ground component in the foreground and apply V-Ray Fur to it as well. In the Asset Editor, navigate to the Geometry section to see the two V-Ray Fur objects added to the scene.




In the Asset Editor, click the arrow below the Render with V-Ray Interactive icon to access the Render with V-Ray icon. This will switch the renderer from V-Ray Interactive to V-Ray to produce a higher quality final render.




Click the Render with V-Ray button or the Render icon in the V-Ray Toolbar to begin the render. The render will take some time to resolve, but the final product should look like the render below:

You can save your image from the VFB's Save Channel option when the render's process has completed to a satisfactory result.






Adjusting the V-Ray SunLight for Night

Now, let's create a nighttime render of this scene. Start by enabling Material Override again in the Render Settings tab of the Asset Editor. In the Geometry tab, right click on the V-Ray Fur objects and delete them both. The Fur will be added back later, but removing it now will speed up the interactive render. In the Lights section, disable the Dome Light, and re-enable the SunLight. Start an Interactive render.




Expand the Asset Editor for the SunLight. To make the scene dark enough for night, set the Intensity to value to 0.014. Set the Filter Color to be a light purple.




With these changes, the scene is now at night.




Creating a V-Ray Mesh Light

The next step is adding some outdoor lighting by converting an existing component into a V-Ray Mesh Light. Adjust the camera to find and focus this component under the overhang by the windows.




With this object selected, click the Mesh Light icon in the toolbar, and it will be turned into a light.




Set the view back to Scene 3 again, and start a new Interactive render. The new light is visible but not quite bright enough.




Let's match the Mesh Light's color to that of the Sphere Lights inside the house. In the Asset Editor, select the Sphere light, right-click on its Color and choose Copy. Select the Mesh Light and right-click on its Color and choose Paste. Increase the Mesh Light's Intensity to 350.




The interactive render should update to show more light at the front of the house. The lighting for the night time scene is set, and the final render will be prepared next. Stop the Interactive render.




Setting up the Night Production Render

Disable the Material Override in the Render Settings. Next add the grass back in by applying V-Ray Fur to the two ground components in the foreground again.

Click the arrow below the Render icon in the Asset Editor and select the Render with V-Ray icon, and then click it to start a production render of the nighttime version of this scene.

After some time, the render will resolve as shown below:




Adjusting the Render with the V-Ray Frame Buffer

The final render can still be easily adjusted in the V-Ray Frame Buffer during or after the rendering process. Click the Show corrections control icon at the bottom of the VFB.




The VFB will expand to show several image controls.




Open Color Balance, and click Shadows to control the color of the darks in your render. In this case, some red will be added. In addition, the Highlights and Midtones can be modified to your liking, as well as Exposure, Levels, etc.