SUPlants is now live: Review from a first-time user 

Renders made using SketchUp 2020 + Thea Render


Duane Kemp, Multimedia Director, 3D Visualization, Reconstruction specialist, Alpha/Beta tester for various software and plugins, FB administrator

This plugin just made their public launch and you can check it out yourself at their SUPlants website here

 I provide this review as an introduction to the plugin and share my "first impression" observations, providing well deserved compliments, constructive criticism and a few concerns, comments and questions about future development. It is in no way an exhaustive study of a long time tester/user but, of a newbie being introduced to the plugin. 

This SketchUp plugin is using a proxy system of (Face Me components) instances containing 2D representations for SketchUp (keeping the model light weight) that render full 3D textured plants. Specific points about this are detailed below.

SUPlants overview with extension SUPlants overview with extension SUPlants overview with extension
SUPlants overview with variation
SUPlants overview
SUPlants overview with different tries
SUPlants overview with extension SUPlants overview with extension

Proxy plants

This method of presenting 3D plants in renders is what I've been using personally since 2013, creating my own proxy boxes with low quality 2D image representation for the model file. My proxies also include a simple flat triangle at the top nestled against the middle of the "front" side line of the box. This assures that when I'm rotating the proxies to create a variation in the final renders, I'm always aware of "front" face reference.

Top left: SketchUp Proxies
Top right: Thea Render of Proxy example


This is especially important when using numerous instances with extension tools to vary rotation. I mention this for an observation I'll include below that may be of notable interest as a "possible" drawback discovered in the difference of 2D proxy (Face Me) usage for 3D plant rendering.

Using light weight 2D proxies (instances) in SketchUp to keep the file as light as possible... is (or can be) VERY effective.

Disclaimer: SUPlants 3D material renders currently available for only V-ray (V-Ray Chaos Group) and Enscape through the "SUPlants Pro" payment plan. There are no 3D rendering abilities for the SUPlants Free and Basic billing plans (2D proxies available only).

Announcement: Rendering 3D plants with Thea Render under SUPlants Pro plan is the pipeline.

Unlike Laubwerk Player's "Plants Kit Freebie" (which gives a limited plant collection with SU proxies that render fully), SUPlants Free offers 2D Face Me proxies only, differentiating the "Free" and the paid "Basic" plans via the amount of 2D proxies available, outlined below.

This means that, unless you pay for the SUPlants Pro version, you'll never get the 3D experience the product offers and this (currently) if users render with Vray and Enscape. So, this product may not be for everyone and certainly for those who use other render software.

But, for easily populating a SketchUp file with 2D plants and rendering, the quality of the images used are reasonable with only a few that may need to be edited. So, this is more than worth taking a look at as already, it does have some advantages.

Graphically, SUPlants presents an attractive looking plugin in both toolbar and interface window. The inventory of available plants is clean, easy to read and user friendly as to how to select and insert the assets into SketchUp. There are some issues that need to be fixed (mentioned at close of this review) but, overall... a good looking plugin.





First of all, logistics of the product...

Payment plans
SUPlants is offering three different billing plans.

01 - SUPlants Free
2D plant collection

02 - SUPlants Basic (For a limited time only)
2D plant collection
$14.00 a month, billed yearly (payment of $168.00 per year)

03- SUPlants Pro
2D plant collection/renders 3D plants
$27.00 a month, billed yearly (payment of $324 per year)


A breakdown of these plans and some observations
Explanation/Clarification of plans:

- SUPlants Free
Access to 34 different 2D plants (proxies)
Landscaping tools: Array Grid with tools

- SUPlants Basic
(For a limited time only)

Access to entire collection of available 2D plants (proxies)
Landscaping tools: Array Grid with tools

-SUPlants Pro
Access to entire collection of available 2D plants (proxies) that fully render as full 3D models in Vray and Enscape Landscaping tools: Array Grid with tools

Array Tool

A very nice tool to use to visualise where exactly to insert, move and create an array of plants.

When the Array tool is activated after a plant is selected (must have at least one instance selected), a launch point appears that, once clicked, generates a red hexagonal Array grid

SUPlants overview with extensionand the proxy can be duplicated to specific points while generating a blue "path" line behind it.

SUPlants overview with extension
- Very cool feature added
The red Array grid is editable in both hexagonal grid scale and overall grid size.

Surprise advantage

There may be a situation where one specific proxy at the base of another may be desirable, such as a large grass proxy at the base of a tree truck. In this case, it's good to know that selecting those two proxies works this way.

Another Array tool advantage, for those who may find it useful, is that it functions perfectly with other assets that are not provided by SUPlants, inserting the proxies at their component origins. Very cool to discover.

SUPlants overview with extension

-The following is rather subjective and of personal preference

Something that does not require a plugin/asset change internally but is well within the ability of the user to modify is the saturation of the 2D images. Most are, by default, surely useable right out of the box.

However, some of the texture images have allot of saturation where the pinks or reds really pounce. So... in case a user likes the plant but want to just calm it down a bit, images can be modified in an external editor or tweaked in SU itself.

For example (and not a criticism, as the colours are surely close to reality)... The Cityline Venice_Pattles' pink was just hurting my eyes. Mainly due to the lack of detail of the flowers from the original renders and looking like big bright candy on green. 


Here's the default setting rendered...







Here's the settings used after adjustment (SketchUp Materials settings capture) 








And the new render with pink a bit subdued:






- Attention/Question/Concern

The fact that the proxies (instances) are 2D Face Me components, by default, numerous copies in a single scene will create a signiture pattern.

BUT... THE PROXY DOES RESPOND to the right click "Flip Along" options. This is already a huge advantage for creating a bit of variation in a scene. Possible drawback. Disclaimer: Since I'm not able to test this as a Thea Render user, the following is assumption on my part but, worthy to note as a serious question regarding the limitations of creating variation in direction of 3D components in Final renders.

Creating repetition, that all are familiar with when using Face Me components, may be more than acceptable for certain presentation styles. However, for final renders, this creates an unwanted and often unacceptable results when attempting photorealism.

This is the reason I brought up the subject of how I build my own proxies as non-Face Me components (with or without the triangle for direction reference). After I insert my proxies, whether individually or

by using Skatter (Lindalë - Skatter & Transmutr) I use the "Scale and Rotate Multiple" plugin by Chris Fullmer to assure that all of the plants are rotated to avoid any repetition.

And though Scale and Rotate Multiple works on SUPlants 2D proxies as far as varied scale, it can't effect the Face Me attribute of the component. Even if the proxy can be flipped, it remains a Face Me com.

This means that if one is rendering a forest of trees, all trees will be, by default, facing the same exact direction and if a percentage have been flipped, all 3D trees rendered will still remain a left/right duplicate.

Again, I can't currently test this with Thea Render but, I assume the issue would remain the same under the current working render soft. I offer a suggestion below. 


- "WHOOPS" Software Launch Hiccups

The major problems experienced were issues of/with the UI (User Interface) window.

01 All plants reload after downloading
When testing the SUPlants Free plan, the UI window shows upon launch, all the current library of plants (plant library will increase).
At the very top of the window is a search bar and just below, in black background, is the word "All". Just to the right of this, is user's selected plan. Mine was the Free, so it says, "My Plan(Free).

It is not obvious immediately, but the greyed out images are those that are not accessible under the Free plan. When the mouse runs over the greyed out image, a message window appears over that plant, "UPGRADED SUBSCRIPTION REQUIRED" with embedded link to the website via the words, Subscription Settings".

When the mouse hovers over a colour image, there's no splash message and it IS the plant that is covered under your current billing plan.
When I selected "My Plan(free)", the greyed out plants disappeared and the coloured images of plants available reorganised. Some very good UI features here, for sure.
This is all good for the first launch of the plugin.

Unfortunately, after successfully inserting the first plant (Birds Nest Spruce), the UI window reloaded exactly the same way as first launch.

And this process of numerous clicks between plant inserts became an aggravating point of contention. Obviously the plugin registers my account upon login and reminds me that my plan selected is the Free version... but insists on showing me/displaying the plants I don't have access to each time I load an asset. This added enormous amounts of time downloading the plants I could access and place in SU.

Current issue was explained by developer, "when you load a plant that is local on your hard drive, the catalog works as expected. Its when you download a plant from the server, that the page reloads and does not respect where the users was and this is being fixed" This explains why it was reacting this way and as well, why after downloading all of the free assets... there WAS a change in this behaviour.

Upon a relaunch of SU and the plugin, this corrected itself somehow. When clicking on "My Plan(Free)" it started to show just the plants available to me. So... IT'S WORKING correctly... but, it was a bit buggy to start with.

The developer says that this will be fixed immediately! As a matter of fact, while finishing this up, the developer shared this got fixed.... just tested it... and it is.
So cool to see the rapid fire attack on these issues!

02 Freaky UI layout loss after expanding window

The real hiccup came when resizing the window... revealing display issues that would encourage most to quit the plugin and relaunch. The UI window can be expanded beautifully,...


Example of all plants











Right: Example of My Plan (free)

SUPlants overview with extension

SUPlants overview with extension

But, once it has been enlarged, it covers or hides the SketchUp window behind it. Of course, reducing the UI size is obvious but, at this point, the Layout freaks out and the assets lose the ability to be organised again autonomously, leaving great black spaces between
plant images that require major scroll bar use to get to the bottom or last plant. When looking at the following images, pay attention to the location/position of the scroll bar on the right of the UI.


Scroll bar position 01 to 04







When expanded back out, the problem persisted

Scroll bar position 01 to 03




And when we bring the window to a normal column width the issue visually was even more evident.


This was a complete surprise to the developer and is an immediate Fix priority. But, it is shocking that this was not discovered by the beta team before launch and I can see the reason for the justifiable reaction by the developer.

Today, the hypothesis/Explanation from the developer is the following (which allows all to wipe the sweat off the brows of worry),
"From my understanding the problem arose yesterday when we implemented a bug fix. That fix caused this error. We simply screwed up and pushed too fast.

Were working on it as we speak. Its really quite embarrassing. The good news is.....we will not have to release a new version, its just a web fix."

After closing the plugin, the SU file and relaunching to continue testing, I have been required to enter my login information upon each new launch.

This is after the fact of entering the information correctly the first time and selecting the "Remember me" check box. Yet... each time I relaunch, I've had to repeat these steps again because, specifically... it DOES NOT remember me.
Now, that said, I did use the UI user option (My Account) to Logout. And... without quitting the plugin or relaunching SU, I was able to Login again without issue. So... it remembers me as long as the session is open.

But, again, with the developer this time, I relaunched SU, started the plugin and upon launch, it requires me to enter the same login info. The developers response was that it will be looked into to find out where the problem lies and be fixed.
For a fist time user, these issues were quite the surprise to discover at the time of a public launch and really does effect the "first impression" factor while testing this.

Yet, the immediate response from the developer, a great attitude that welcomed the discoveries and invited more feedback if there was any... was a real confidence booster in the future of this plugin.

Clean up the UI issues (acknowledged and prioritised). As a matter of fact, this issue may be fixed by the time some of you read this.
For SUPlants Pro: Offer a non-Face Me alternative component that can be responsive (for model and rendering) to Chris Fullmer's "Scale and Rotate Multiple" plugin to vary plant direction within 360°.

To wrap it up:

Overall, this plugin has allot of potential. I wish that the free version had some 3D renderable assets for people to test and even for the "Basic" priced plan, I'd think that some 3D renderable assets "should" be included.

It is something I'd like to test with Thea Render one day just to get a feel for how I'd really use it. But, already, for those not requiring 3D plants, the 2D proxies are worth subscribing for. I wish them success. Good job, guys.

More about SUPlants