Kerkythea 2008 Echo - A superb 3D rendering program


Updated: March 11, 2011

I'm a big fan of 3D art. After several years of blissful modeling in Google SketchUp, I happened to read the Wikipedia article on the program and saw a beautiful image of a C-130 Hercules airplane model created in Google SketchUp and rendered with Kerkythea. The quality of the work really amazed me. But what piqued my interest even more was the reference to the rendering software used for this project, Kerkythea. Well, I had to explore, and so a whole new saga of 3D art was born.

You've seen my 3D art, you've also seen the few lovely mockups I've made using mainly GIMP. Today, we will focus on Kerkythea. P.S. If you're impatient, just jump toward the end and see what gives!

Teaser

Mission: Make realistic 3D models

All right, so what I need to do is take my more or less well-laid out models and skin them with realistic materials, so they appear as if created by human hand. In other words, make stunning work that is as real as it gets. Transition from basic to divine.

An example of a decent work:

Tank example

GIMP-ed really well:

Tank example

Another specimen:

Flying carrier example

With some extra work:

GIMP-ed flying carrier

Not bad, but not perfect either. I want this kind of quality:

C-130 example

All right, that's a little ambitious. But hopefully, I'll get there. For now, I want to show you what Kerkythea looks and feels like, how simple it is to setup and use, a few basic usage cases, and more.

Get Kerkythea

Works for Windows and Linux. Plus it comes with the SketchUp plugin, allowing you to import models from Google's software. Combined with running SketchUp on Linux using Wine, this could really pimp up your 3D experience.

Speaking of Linux, the installation is very simple. Just download the archive and extract it anywhere. Then, run the binary from the directory. Fully self-contained and works well. I've tested both on 32-bit and 64-bit Ubuntu. Quite lovely. The only thing that looks out of place is the non-native theme.

Main window

Now, you need to setup a new project and start working. But first, read the manual, as it explains the subtle points, like proper dimensions and scaling, the physics of lighting and perspective and other geeky characteristics. The program is designed for people with decent art skills and a reasonable understanding of space and light.

Working

The testing went really well. I was able to make my first images quickly. Just choose the light source, set your sky angle and whatnot, and you'll have the model rendered. Of course, the quality of the output will determine how quickly the software will complete its computation. The higher the quality and more complex the settings, the longer the processing, naturally.

Rendering options

Materials

Kerkythea comes with a basic set of shapes and materials. You will need to add more, that is, import them. Head into the download section and grab the available materials, which include fabrics, plastics, metals, wood, stone, and others. From within the GUI, you'll be able to add the zipped material bundles, after which they will show in your list. Not the most intuitive, but doable.

Materials

Add material

Here's an example of a rendered medium-quality plastic ball:

Plastic

And one of stone:

Stone rendering

Resource usage

Kerkythea loves CPU. It did not eat the memory, but it did rev the processor. You should probably aim for a multi-core high-end processor if you intend to work on complex models, unless you don't mind your machine chugging in the redline zone for a while.

CPU usage

Good things to come

Now just a little teaser for you ...

Superb work

Superb model 1

Superb model 2

Superb model 3

Yup, those are my models, rendered in Kerkythea! BOOM! Sweet!

And here's one of the more advanced renders that I've been making lately:

Very good

A full blown revolution coming to 3D art section very soon! And that's all for this review slash tutorial. Very basic, just an intro, just a sweet, sweet teaser. We shall convene again. I will show you how to setup the SketchUp Importer and start working on your models, and then, we will make all of them into reality beasts.

Conclusion

Kerkythea is an excellent tool. I really like it and I'm looking forward to mastering it properly. The artistic challenges are enormous, but this is what makes it all the more fun. On a technical level, the program is easy to setup and fairly easy to use. There's no coding to be done, which makes it easier for ordinary people, plus the GUI shares a lot of component with the typical design software, making transitions smoother. Overall, the program gets 9.75/10, with the manual import of extra components being the only nuisance.

Now, we'll get back with Kerkythea for at least one more round, when I get my models imported and polished. We'll also talk about Blender, and we have another goodie in store. Take care and enjoy your 3D art.

P.S. The Hercules image is in public domain.

Cheers.

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