You may have heard the great news of Enscape for Mac being officially available for SketchUp 2021, 2022, and 2023, which is probably why you’re here!
This article will guide you through the basics of how to use our real-time visualization plugin on a Mac operating system (if you're on Windows, hop over to this getting started guide to Enscape for SketchUp).
What this article will cover:
- How to see your SketchUp designs as high-quality visualizations.
- How to move inside Enscape and navigate the user interface in SketchUp and the Enscape window.
- How to enrich your SketchUp scene with the Enscape Material Editor, lights, and 3D assets.
- How to export your design as a still image, 360° panorama, and web standalone experience.
Enscape is not a standalone software; it's a plugin. This means even though the Enscape "e" icon may appear in your Apple Dock at the bottom of the screen, you can't start it from there.
Instead, start SketchUp with a model of your choice. Once you install Enscape, you will find the Enscape toolset floating above the SketchUp interface as its own toolbar. You will also find it in the SketchUp menu under Extensions.
Click the "Start Enscape" button, and Enscape will launch in a separate window. It'll show your design in a default empty scene containing the sky, sun, and floor.
Now you can work in SketchUp as usual, and Enscape will always show an accurate representation of your design. You'll notice all changes synchronize, whether you model geometry, change the shadow settings, hide objects, etc.
TIP: If you're working on one monitor, align the Enscape and SketchUp windows next to each other to get the most out of your workflow.
Moving around in Enscape
There are a few ways you can move around in Enscape. The first is the default navigation with the W, A, S, and D keys or the arrow keys:
- Press W or the up arrow to move forward.
- S or the down arrow to move backward.
- A and D or the left and right arrow keys to move left or right.
To look around, left-click in the Enscape window and move the mouse while holding the left mouse button to look around.
If you're moving too fast or too slow, consider changing the movement speed in the Enscape window settings. You can access it in the top right corner of the Enscape window.
TIP: To look up all of these controls – and many more – whenever you like, click the Question mark button in the top right corner of the Enscape window.
Exploring the user interface
The following buttons on the user interface help you to set up lighting and materials.
You can tell SketchUp to synchronize the camera movement into Enscape. Click the Synchronize Views button to toggle this option on or off. When enabled, you can continue moving in SketchUp, and Enscape will follow on the spot.
You can access any design scene you have set up directly in Enscape. For this, press the F key in the Enscape window, or click the view management button.
You will move the Enscape camera to a view's location by clicking it. The time of day and visibility settings will update to reflect what's set in the scene. You can create new scenes on the fly by clicking the "Create View" button.
Between the Start Enscape and the view synchronization buttons is the "Live Updates" button. This button lets you temporarily disable SketchUp from updating the changes you make to your model. This is a good button to use if you plan to perform several changes and update them all at once.
The "Active Document" button lets you switch between multiple opened SketchUp models. You can review all currently opened SketchUp designs this way, with the Enscape window only requiring to be opened once.
Below the active document button is the "Enscape Objects" button. It holds work items that Enscape adds to your SketchUp functionality. It holds two lighting objects: Spot Lights and Rectangular Lights, which you can use to add artificial lighting to your scene.
To place an Enscape light in your SketchUp model, you'll need to click four times:
- The first click is to select a surface on which you want to base the position of the light source.
- Then move the mouse away from the surface and click a second time to place the light source. Then, you'll have to identify a light target.
- The third click is to place a light target. Pick a surface to set the light target.
- The fourth and final click will place the light target.
You can change the brightness by adjusting the luminous intensity. If you set it to a high enough value, you can see the light during the day. You can also change the beam angle or add an IES profile to make things look more attractive.
Enscape provides lights that are accessed via the Enscape Objects window by using the Extensions menu option in SketchUp or via the Enscape ribbon. There are two types of lights to choose from, spot light (Spot) and rectangular light (Rect).
Accessing the Enscape Objects window via the toolbar
Spot light (Spot)
A spot light is a cone of light that emits light from a single point in one direction. You can control how much of your scene is illuminated by changing how wide the cone angle is. The width of the cone can also determine whether the light is hard or soft. It’s great for including store displays or street lights in your scene.
Rectangular light (Rect)
A rectangular light is an area of light which means it does not emit light from one small point in the space, instead, they emit light across its surfaces uniformly, which results in an entire area of light. It is great for applying light banks and fluorescent tube lights.
TIP: If you want to color the light, you can use the SketchUp paint bucket to apply a color to the light object in SketchUp.
Adding life to your design scene
Adding high-quality 3D models or editing materials can elevate your design scene and help communicate your design intent better.
Enscape Asset Library
The Enscape Asset Library is located underneath the objects button. It opens a window that gives you access to over 3,000 high-quality 3D models, which you can place in your scenes to add detail and bring them closer to reality. You can select from a range of people, vehicles, vegetation, furniture, accessories assets, plus so much more.
To place assets, select one, left-click it, and left-click in your SketchUp scene where it's supposed to be placed. For easy navigation, use the search function, categories, or tags to narrow down your search.
TIP: To prevent the Enscape Asset Library from loading too often, click the "Offline Asset Library" checkbox so everything stays stored locally on your machine.
Enscape Material Editor
The Enscape Material Editor lets you enhance your existing SketchUp materials. You can add details to make your visualizations look more realistic.
Select the material from the list of materials on the left side of the Material Editor. You can pick from seven material types: generic, grass, water, foliage, clearcoat, carpet, and self-illuminated. You can get many exciting materials by editing the base attributes, like color, roughness or reflections, metallic value, or transparency.
Enscape will only access your project's existing materials, called "colors." If you want to create a new color material and apply it to a part of your design, you do it all in SketchUp.
You can use up to four textures at a time to create an Enscape material. Textures are used to control the color, transparency or opacity, fine detail, and roughness of a material. There are plenty of websites where you can download your favorite rendering textures. A 2k resolution is enough to offer outstanding results without reducing your computer performance.
TIP: If you don't know where to start when looking for materials and textures, have a look at this list of free 3D visualization resources.
To share your design, you can export your model in three ways:
- Still image rendering
- 360° panorama
- Web standalone
Click on one of the buttons to start the export:
Still image rendering
But before you start exporting, it's always best practice to do some preparation work.
Prep work for a still image
You might want first to change the resolution. You can do that in the visual settings, which you can find in the top-right corner of the Enscape window. The output tab is where you can change the resolution, the image file format, additional passes to be exported, and so on.
By enabling the safe frame option, you can see the extent of your image to be generated. Use this to set up the perspective you want.
TIP: If you are in a closed room and don't have enough space to get the right view for your export, change the field of view angle. You can find it back in the Visual Settings. If it's grayed out, it's because you're synchronizing the camera from SketchUp. Disable the View Synchronization, and you'll be able to edit the field of view. Zoom out a bit, and you'll be able to frame every scene.
Alternative types of perspective include a two-point perspective and an orthographic perspective.
You can use the shift and the right mouse button to change the daytime, so the sunlight (or artificial light if you choose night) can play an interesting role in the picture.
TIP: Before hitting export, you might want to save the location so you can make additional renderings from this perspective in the future!
Click the view management button, and select "Create View" at the bottom. This will create a new scene in SketchUp from the current perspective, saving the time of day.
The Visual Settings let you see your image in various ways, such as:
- Adjusting the cloud density
- Adding outlines for an abstract look
- Picking a more interesting horizon source in the Sky tab
To add a little depth of field to an image, enable depth-of-field in the main tab. Once enabled, you can disable autofocus to finetune the distance at which the image will be the sharpest.
Once you're happy with your image, hit the rendering button. Enscape will ask you where to save the image. Pick a location, and you'll have the finished picture within a few seconds.
Prep work for a 360° panorama
You can share your design as a 360° panorama. Click the panorama button, and Enscape will generate it from your position.
You can find generated panoramas in your Manage Uploads interface, which you can see in the SketchUp toolbar. While you can save the panorama as a regular image file, sharing it using the Enscape cloud may be more convenient.
Once the panorama is in the cloud, open it in your browser. You can click the ellipsis (three dots) to copy the direct link or the QR code, which you can scan with your mobile phone to review immediately.
Prep work for a web standalone
A web standalone exports your model as a read-only 3D file rendered in a web browser. To share your design, go to the tab in the "Manage Uploads" interface, which guides you to the web standalones you can generate from Enscape. Press the last of our three export buttons. The standalone will be uploaded automatically, and you can then access it through the link.
Many of these topics are covered in our Enscape for Mac video tutorial. Take a look at this visual step-by-step walkthrough of the features and functionality now available.
Experience real-time visualization on your Mac
This guide is designed to give you a basic overview of how to get started with Enscape on your Mac. To learn more about each feature, visit the Enscape Knowledge Base.
Enscape for Mac is available for SketchUp 2021, 2022, and 2023. To experience the speed and ease of real-time visualization, sign up for a free 14-day trial.