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How to set up a Cardboard VR scene for Sketchfab

With our new Cardboard VR button, Sketchfab has become the easiest way to view your designs in Virtual Reality. You can now literally publish your model to Sketchfab and view it on your Cardboard in under a minute.

As Cardboard relies on mobile devices, there are some extra things to keep in mind. In addition to displaying a regular Sketchfab model on the lighter hardware of your phone or tablet, we now render each image twice (once for each eye). So it won’t come as a surprise that you need to keep some things in mind when designing a Cardboard scene.

This tutorial will give you an overview of the most important limitations and will help you to quickly teleport yourself into your first Cardboard experiment.

Restrictions of Mobile devices

To ensure smooth playback on mobile devices, be mindful of the following:

  • Keep the geometry complexity low – like in game development, use a low polygon budget and work from there.
  • Use sensible texture map sizes and pack your textures together in a texture ‘atlas’ if you can. This will reduce the amount of video memory that we’ll need to use and will increase performance.
  • We fully support animation playback on mobile devices, but mobile WebGL (especially on iOS) has a limitation in the number of bones that you can use. Again, the exact number depends on the hardware (and in VR it’s twice as low), so be sure to test!

Of course, the latest devices have much better specs than older hardware. If you’re designing something for a client, be sure to agree on the specifications of supported hardware. Make sure you have the actual device to test on, too!


You’ll find that a VR camera behaves a little differently from the default Sketchfab camera, and that it may require several rounds of tweaking to make it feel right. The main differences are the field of view (FOV) and the camera’s height. For the best results:

  • Try to place your camera at ‘eye level’. This will convince your brain that you’re actually ‘inside’ the scene.
  • Orbit Mode: This is the default mode, it’s best for examining an object from outside, or looking around a scene from a fixed position. If you’re making a scene, try setting your default camera inside the scene.
  • First Person Mode: You can switch to this mode to to also look around from a fixed position. Pressing the Cardboard button let’s you “walk” forward

For now, we don’t support setting two cameras in your scene (one for web-based viewing and one for VR). So if you want your audience to enjoy your work both from a browse and with their cardboard, I recommend you set up two versions just add ‘[VR]’ to the title of the VR version.

No Post processing

All post processing is disabled in Cardboard mode as we found it simply required too much processing power for a smooth playback.

Using transparency

Transparent parts can cause depth-sorting problems. This is nothing new, but in VR mode it can become extra-pronounced. If you see artefacts in your model, then carefully examine your transparent geometries and ensure that:

  • They are not intersecting with each other.
  • You have split up transparent parts into separate objects.

You can find in-depth information about transparency in our Help Center.

Using normal maps

It’s a known issue that normal maps aren’t ideal for VR because there’s no actual height data associated with them. This will show in VR if you make the effect too strong, so be sure to use subtle normal map effects.

Thanks for reading!

I hope you enjoyed your first visit to Virtual Reality with your cardboard! If you created a model specificly for VR, we’d love to see it – go ahead and post it in the comments below (just leave the link to your model in your comment and it will expand into our viewer).


Head of Community at Sketchfab. 3D Scanning enthusiast and Blenderhead. Running BlenderNation in my spare time.

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3 comments, add yours.

It took me hours to find out how to switch to First Person Mode in Chrome on IOS 8.4 – but finally I got inside my architectural model by clicking the bottom of the left “glass” – and a dialog appeared, where I could switch camera mode.

    Ops – its IOS 9.35, sorry

    Bart Veldhuizen


    I’m not sure about Chrome on iOS, but I suppose you’d have a better ‘first person’ experience on Desktop as you’d need to navigate with the cursor keys?

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