HOW-TO: Advanced circuit board rendering with SketchUp and Kerkythea

Posted on Wednesday, May 2nd, 2012 in 3D Model, how-to by DP


See the latest version of this tutorial on the wiki.


Kerkythea is an open source rendering application that makes life-like images. A community developed plugin can import Google SketchUp 3D models into Kerkythea, so we can use it to render boards make with EagleUp.

Since Kerkythea is open source there are no restrictions at all, unlike the Maxwell plugin for SketchUp. You can render images at any quality or resolution, though it is somewhat more complicated to work with. The goal of this tutorial is to help you make your first lifelike PCB rendering with Kerkythea.

Install Kekythea and the SketchUp plugin

You’ll need to have a model built and SketchUp installed on your computer. If you haven’t done this already, check out our “Build 3D models from Eagle files” tutorial.

Once you have a model, download the following:

Run Kerkythea2008.exe to install the application. Extract (Kerkythea SketchUp plugin), and follow the su2kt_Install.txt file to install the SketchUp plugin.

Install material libraries

You’ll need to download some material libraries to make lifelike renderings of plastic, metal, etc. Kerkythea has a material repository, there’s even more materials in their forum.

We recommend the following (do not extract the files):

Download them into a folder of your choice.

To install the material libraries:
1.Start Kerkythea
2.Select File->Install Library
3.Select all the zip files you downloaded
4.Hit OK

Edit model for export

Before we export the model into Kertythea there are a few thing we can do to get the best rendering results. Soft edges look more natural, and consistently named materials and colors make updates easier.

Soft edges

Softening the edges makes them look more realistic in the final rendering. Follow these steps to soften the edges on your parts:
1.Select the part you’d like to soften.
2.Right Click on it, and select ”Soften/Smooth Edges”.
3.A small slider will show up, by moving it left or right you can adjust the amount of softening you want.

  1. We adjust the softening until the sharp edges just disappear. Watch out not to overdo it!
  2. If you don’t want all of the edges to be smoothed, open the part model by double-clicking it and select just the edges you want to adjust.


Since its a high probability that most of your models are from external sources, you’ll need to make sure that all the colors have the same name.

Click the Paint Bucket tool, the Materials GUI will open up. Select the Sample Paint tool.

  1. Click the various surfaces of your models to see color information about them
  2. Use the Paint Bucket tool to assign similar materials the same color

Exporting to Kerkythea

To export your model click on the Export model to Kerkythea button in the Kerkythea toolbar.

Use the same settings as shown in the example above, click ”OK”. Next select where to export model and hit ”OK”.

The model will be converted and the Kerkythea Rendering System will start.

Editing the materials

To get photo realistic effects you’ll need to edit the materials in your model. The material libraries we downloaded earlier will be our templates.

Materials are listed in the left side bar under ”Models”. Double click on one. The part of the model wire-frame associated with that material will turn yellow.

Right click on the material and select ”Edit Material”. The ”Material Editor” will open.

There are two types of materials. Some are a single color, others use an image. They require a slightly different setup process.

Single Color

Left click on the color in the ”diffuse” section.

Check and remember the RGB values. Close that popup.

Left Click on the material preview (usually a ball with a checkered flooring).

Select the material you to use as a template. For IC packages and the board we suggest ”Basic_Plastic_perfect_reflection->IOR_ 1,100”.

Select the ”#0 layer” and click on the ”diffuse” color.

Now input the RGB values we found previously. Hit ”OK”, then ”Apply Changes”, and finally ”Close Editor”.

Image Background

Materials that use an image as the background, like the circuit board, use a similar process but an image is used instead of a diffuse color.

Follow the same process as before:

  1. Left-click on the material preview
  2. Select the material you’d like to use as a template, we suggest ”Basic_Plastic_perfect_reflection->IOR_ 1,100”
  3. Right click on the ”diffuse” color(blue) and hit the X button to delete it

Right click on ”diffuse”, and select add Bitmap. Choose the image for that material. Hit ”OK”, ”Apply changes”, then ”Close Editor”.

Repeat these steps for all your materials.


  • For metals, we get the best results using the metals library templates without any changes to the diffuse color.
  • You can play around with the Shininess characteristic if you feel like it.


Once all the materials are assigned, it’s time to make that killer photo real rendering of your next great project.

Use the middle mouse button and hand tool to put your model into the best position for the rendering. When you are happy with the viewpoint, select Start Render.

Choose the resolution you want. The higher the resolution, the longer it will take to render.

We like to use the ”No.17 Path Tracing – Progressive” setting. It renders indefinitely until you stop it.

Once you are satisfied with the quality, hit the ”Stop Render” button. To save your rendered image, click on the ”Image” button, and hit ”Save”.


That completes our three part series on rendering life like circuit boards with Google SketchUp. Be sure and check out every tutorial in the series.

When you make your killer renders be sure and share them with us in the forum, or via the contact form.

This entry was posted on Wednesday, May 2nd, 2012 at 5:00 pm and is filed under 3D Model, how-to. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can skip to the end and leave a response. Pinging is currently not allowed.

One Response to “HOW-TO: Advanced circuit board rendering with SketchUp and Kerkythea”

  1. Bogdan says:

    Kerkythea is a freeware, not an open source software. It seems to be closed source.

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