This is an attempt to show the best process for creating tree components from photos. I also tried using Adobe’s new Photoshop CS5 tool, Refine edge, in the process. In terms of rendering a the photo’s edge, the traditional methods using Select by Color Range proved superior. SketchUp seemed to show Refine Edge’s marks in the .png of the tree.
The new technique that seemed to speed up the component process was using Photoshop to find the tree’s edge using the Magnetic Lasso tool, then converting that selection edge into a Work Path. The Work Path was exported to Illustrator, then exported as a .dwg. In SketchUp, the image is brought in as a texture and the .dwg is imported for the outline. With some scaling and rotating they are put on the same plane. The square surrounding the image is erased, the new .dwg outline is hidden and the component is made.
The largest benefit is the speed by which the outline can be created and the reduction in edges needed (999 in the dwg process compared to 2592, in this example).
Try the process and let me know if you have similar results.