IMPROVING GOOGLE TERRAIN IMAGES IN SKETCHUP
In my Sketchup models I often want to improve the quality of the imagery used for the terrain. By looking at an aerial view of the model with textures turned off, it becomes clear how effective the "Add Location" feature is in SketchUp:
However, when I turn textures back on, I notice that every section of topography is branded with Google's logo:
Looking closer, the images are also very blurry:
Fortunately, this is really easy to correct. In SketchUp, I first open up the Paint Bucket tool, and then I use the Eyedropper to select the topography I wish to change:
When I have used the Eyedropper to load the terrain image into the Materials window, I now scroll down to the area in the Materials window that says "Use texture image." There, I find a tiny arrow, and when I hover my mouse over it, it says "Edit texture image in external editor."
When I click this tiny arrow, SketchUp opens up the source file for the terrain imagery.When I right-click on this image, I am able to select the option "locate on disk."
Clicking "locate on disk" takes me to the actual location of the terrain source imagery on my computer's hard drive. By right-clicking on this file and selecting "Open with Adobe Photoshop" I am able to open the image directly in Photoshop:
Now, I have my source image in Photoshop. The first thing I notice is how tiny it is! Less than 4 square inches, and this is supposed to span something like 2 miles in my terrain model. It is clear why the image quality is so low in SketchUp. I'm not complaining, it's a great feature - just tweaking it for some improvements!
The very first thing I do is enlarge my image. I scale it up to 40" x 40":
Next, I go into Google Earth and locate approximately the same aerial view as the source imagery I have in Photoshop. When I find the same view, I go to File > Save Image and save it with the highest possible image quality settings available.
Back in Photoshop, I open the Google Earth image I just saved, position it over the base image, and scale and align it so that the two match. I now have a much higher quality image compared to the base image above:
Finally, I flatten my layers and save the image. It is important that I simply save the image, and not save it as a new image.
Next, I switch back to SketchUp, and the texture loads automatically without my having to do anything. Let's take a look. Here is a view of the model before:
And here is my model after my updated texture loads:
This process is fairly simple; depending on the amount of contextual terrain in my model, I may have to do this numerous times. For my current model, I updated 50 separate images to get a high-quality contextual terrain model. It was worth it. Here is an aerial view of my model after I edited all imagery: