Sketchup to Cinema 4D: Understanding Material and Texture Handling

Photo of Mike Heighway

Instructor Mike Heighway

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Materials applied to objects in Sketchup can be brought into Cinema 4D quickly and easily. Learn how this process works in this video.

When importing Sketchup projects with materials into Cinema 4D, you might notice some differences between the files. This video reviews texture mapping and material management, to help you understand how the two programs exchange material data. We’ll also review texture paths, the Texture Manager in Cinema 4D and some options for you to manage your files efficiently.



- Depending on your workflow, you may begin texturing your model in Sketchup. This is certainly a viable option, though I recommend becoming familiar with using Cinema 4D's robust texturing tools to help you create convincing materials. This tutorial reviews how to apply a texture to an object in Sketchup, and then import those textures and model into Cinema 4D. We'll do a little cleaning up inside Cinema just to make sure everything looks good. Let's go ahead and open up 01Materials in Sketchup. So you'll see here that I have a box that has a Tile texture applied to it, and I have a box with nothing applied to it. Both of these boxes are 10 feet by 10 feet, and what I want to do is go into my Materials panel here and right-click to create a new texture. Within that, I'm going to go ahead and select from my Master Textures folder the Wood texture and hit Open. You'll see that it asks me the size of the texture I want. I'm going to say 10 feet by 10 feet so that it matches this cube. I'm going to now apply that to this cube. Now, I think what's happening here is that Sketchup is using something called Cubic mapping, so it is mapping this texture on each side of the cube and it's sizing it to the size that you set up here when you were creating the texture, and then applying it on here. Now, what we want to do is we want to save this. I'm going to save as "MaterialsApplied". I'm going to save this in the proper folder, under Materials. There we go. I'll go ahead and close that. Now, we'll flip over to the Finder and I'm going to go ahead and drag MaterialsApplied into my Cinema 4D file. We can leave these all unchecked in our dialog box for the importer settings, and here we go. Now, you'll notice that this doesn't look quite like my Sketchup file. Why is that? Well, if I zoom in, you can see that there is the Wood texture applied and it's tiled all over this object. What's happening is I'm going to twirl this down, so if I unfold that and I select this texture tag you'll see that my projection is set to UVW Mapping, which is a different kind of mapping than what it is set in Sketchup, I believe. So we're going to want to change this. I'm going to select this and select Cubic. Now, this is a little bit fuzzy, so let's fix something. I'm going to double-click this texture tag, which brings up this panel system in my attributes, and we're going to make sure Editor is selected and we're going to change our texture preview size to 1024 by 1024. So now very clearly, you can see the tile line. In fact, this corner should be at the very edge of this object. So what we're now going to do is right-click on the texture tag and we're going to select Fit to Object, and there we go. You can see now that this texture has been fitted to the cube and it now looks like the box in Sketchup. So that is one way to handle this problem. I really recommend building your textures out and applying them in Cinema. It's a much more robust way of working and is really tailored to texturing, whereas Sketchup is really made for a kind of quick and dirty modeling. So we'll have to do the same for this object, this polygon. I'm going to click on the texture tag. I'm going to select Cubic. I'm going to right-click and select Fit to Object, and it now fits appropriately. One other thing I just want to go over quickly with you is you may recall me earlier speaking about this folder that gets generated by Cinema 4D when you open a Sketchup file. What happens is Cinema creates this folder named after the file that we opened, and it pulls the textures in there. So it's giving Cinema an absolute path to those textures. Now, absolute paths are great sometimes and not so great some other times. So we go through this. We can see it's my user, it's my Dropbox, it's my business, it's my Cineversity folder, tutorial files, etc., etc. So you can see the absolute path to where this texture is. If, for whatever reason, you shuffle things around, rename a folder, or what not, that link is going to get broken, and then Cinema is not going to be able to find that texture for rendering. So it's not going to know what to do. Really, what you should do, I consider it to be good practice, is once you're ready to go with a project, you're just going to want to package it and consolidate all your files. So we'll click on the File menu there, and we'll come down to say "Project with Assets". When we do that, it'll create a new folder, so we'll call this "MaterialsPackaged". It'll create a new folder now with the file in it, and when I open this up you can see that there's a Texture folder with our two files in it, Tile and Wood. Now, what I want to illustrate here is that when I double-click on the material, you can see that my texture path has now changed. It just says wood.jpeg, and there's nothing prepending the file name. What that means is it's using a relative file path, and that's what happens when you package folders or you start a new project. Cinema will by default create a Textures folder, and that's where it'll ask you to copy things into, your texture files, etc. So if I were to, for example, create a new material in this file and let's say Load Image, I'm going to go into my Business folder here and find a texture, and I'm just going to select one of these randomly, you'll see it asks me if I want to copy this into the current location. If I say "Yes", then it'll take a copy of that file and put it in the Textures folder. I can't keep this in here. Since I've downloaded this from, I'm not allowed to redistribute those. But that illustrates the internal workings of Cinema and how it wants to handle these files. One other quick thing I want to show you is in the Edit menu, under Preferences. There are texture paths. Now, this is going beyond the scope of our tutorial session here. But often if you're working with larger groups, this is a really handy way to have a Master Textures folder. So that, we all have different users but, hey, look. It's looking for this Master Textures folder somewhere, and it'll be looking for the image files associated with those textures in that folder. So if you don't have an absolute path linked to a texture and you don't have a relative path, it will automatically go to here as the next place to look for those textures. So again, this is sort of outside the scope, but I wanted to make you aware of this. So this then wraps up how textures and materials are handled by Cinema 4D once you pull them in from Sketchup, and I hope that sheds some light on the subject. One last thing I'd like to show you with regards to materials and textures is the Texture Manager. If I go to Window and select Texture Manager, it'll bring up this dialog box. In it, you will typically have a list of textures associated with your project. I have no materials or textures associated with this project, so we need to make some first. Let's go ahead and close this, and before I make any textures I want to show you one thing. If I go to Edit and Preferences, I actually have a texture path set. So now if I create a new texture, Create New Material and add a texture, so I'm going to Load Image and in Master Textures folder here I'm going to say "Pink Wood", and you'll see that this is in fact a relative link. Well, that link is relative because I have my preferences set to have a texture path. So if I delete this and hit Return... I'm going to go ahead and delete this material. What I want to do is I'm going to create an object, just any primitive is fine. We're going to create a new material, and we're now going to apply this texture to that path. It's going to ask me if I want to create a copy at that location. Now, it's asking me this because I don't have that preference set to have a default texture path for Cinema to look at. So I'm going to say "No", and what it's going to do is it's going to create an absolute path to that texture. I'm going to go ahead and apply this on here to this material just by dragging it onto this object, and what I want to do is show you if I go to Window and select Texture Manager, you'll see that the status is checked Good, and that the texture name is Pink-Wood. Then, it gives me the absolute path, or the suggested and the absolute path. Now if, for example, for whatever reason this file name changes in the Finder, let's go in and say "Tile-Wood2", I have now broken this link. So I'm going to go back in, and if I hit Render, well it'll render there. Let's have a look at what's going on. It might be still in memory, so I'm going to reload the image and you'll see that it now can't find the image. So if I try and render again, it's going to bring up an Asset Error dialog box that says, "I can't find the Pink Wood, wherever it is." So I'll say, "OK." So now, nothing renders. One quick way, let's pretend you have a lot of different materials, or textures associated with materials, you can go in and you can load up your Texture Manager and you'll get a list, and you can see that in fact this one is missing. I can select it and I can say, "Pink-Wood is going to get replaced with Pink-Wood-2." We'll replace it and it has actually found that new path, or it has replaced that path. Thus, allowing us to render out, or I can click that to render it out. I just use the quick key, Control+R. That then allows us to quickly and easily go back in and change, and relink that texture within that material. Or if that texture is used across multiple materials, it will relink for you. So this is a very handy way to manage your textures, and it'll help keep track of any errors you might have. This is particularly important once you start having larger, more complex files. So I hope that helps you with some of your management.
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