Listen kids, this is about the be the least informed, but hopefully the most helpful V-Ray tutorial you have ever read. If you're a professional CG artist or seasoned V-Ray user, I apologize in advance, this post will make you crazy. It was written for interior designers and architects (young and old) who didn't learn V-Ray in school and need to figure out how to use it fast. It won't tell you why anything works the way it does, it will just tell you what to do to get a rendering out the door.
I learned V-Ray through a few quick tutorials from a coworker, a lot of trial and error, a TON of research online, and about a million lighting tutorials on Youtube (they're strangely addicting). It is at the same time a lot more complicated and a lot easier than you'd think. Yet, as long as you don't mind not knowing why on earth certain settings work the way they do, it's pretty easy to figure out. No one will mistake your rendering for a photo, but you will get pretty decent images out of it all the same. Let's get started.
V-Ray is a plugin that can be installed into Sketchup, Revit, Rhino, 3ds Max, Maya, and a bunch of other programs I hadn't heard of before doing research for this post. It is not a separate program on it's own, it is installed as an extension to whatever modeling program you are using already. I use V-Ray for Sketchup, (specifically Sketchup 2016). To use it, you open up your model and operate V-Ray from within Sketchup itself.
To make sure that you have successfully downloaded V-Ray, make sure it shows up under the Extensions drop down menu in the main toolbar (in between Window and Help). After it has been installed, two menu bars will pop up on your screen that can be integrated into the normal tool set. If you can't find them, go to View > Toolbars, and make sure "VfS: Lights" and "VfS: Main Toolbar" are checked. See the image on the right towards the bottom for reference.
This post is an introduction to those two toolbars, and will get you acquainted with the buttons and what they do. I will be writing separate posts about the Materials Editor, the Options Editor, and V-Ray lighting later on. For now, here are the basics.
The Menu Bar
Materials Editor: In addition to the normal Sketchup Materials Editor (the paint bucket icon), the V-Ray Materials Editor is where you control how glossy an object is, whether or not it has a 3D texture, whether or not it emits light, and a whole host of other things. There is no need to over-complicate it though, you can produce great renderings simply by adding reflections and texture.
Options Editor: This menu controls how V-Ray will render the image. Everything from the overall size, saturation, brightness, clarity, smoothness, and level of detail can be manipulated through the Options Editor. Knowing your way around this menu will allow you to produce the best quality image V-Ray is capable of, and seriously decrease the amount of post-render Photoshopping that will need to be done.
Render: This button starts the rendering process.
RT Render: RT Render is an interactive rendering engine that allows you to start the rendering process and make changes while it's still going. This is a HUGE help when you are sorting out Camera settings as it allows you to adjust the brightness and see immediate results. As opposed to tweaking it, rendering it, tweaking it, re-rendering it, and so on.
Batch Render: This allows you to render multiple scenes at once.
Help: This takes you to the manufacturer (Chaos Group) website so you can look up the problem you are having.
Frame Buffer: When V-Ray renders and image, a window pops up to show the progress. It starts out black and slowly the rendering comes in. The window itself is called a Frame Buffer. Even though it pops up automatically, pressing this button will bring it back if you accidentally exit out of it.
V-Ray Sphere/V-Ray Infinite Plane: I know that these are plugins, but I have no idea what they do and I literally never use them.
Import/Export V-Ray Proxy: Again, I have no idea what these do (even after Googling it) and I never use them
Set Camera Focus: This has to do with the Depth of Field adjustments in the Option Editor, but I never bother with it.
Freeze RT View: This is pretty self explanatory :)
The Lights Bar
I'll do a full post on V-Ray Lighting eventually, but for now here is a general overview of what each button does and the type of light that it emits.
Omni Light: This is a spherical light that creates ambient lighting. I use it in floor lamps, table lamps, etc to create light the same way a light bulb would.
Rectangle Light: This creates a flat plane of light that also emits ambient lighting. Sometimes, if an area in my interior just isn't getting enough light from the outside, I will use this to light the area evenly.
Spotlight: Instead of emitting light from all around (like an Omni Light), the Spotlight aims the light in one direction, just like a *gasp* real spotlight.
Dome Light: I never use this.
Sphere light: Or this.
IES Light: On of the ways to make a light source look more realistic is to use an .ies file instead of letting V-Ray decide how the light will be distributed. IES files look like this:
We did it! See V-Ray isn't as complicated as you thought it was. Stay tuned in the coming weeks for a more in depth explanation of each setting and my process. Have a great week!