Modern architecture depends on the latest 3D rendering technologies to progress and evolve. Many disciplines, such as visual effects, virtual engineering, freelance CAD drafting services, and 3D modeling, heavily rely on 3D rendering techniques to get the job done. 3D rendering is the process of taking 3D models and converting them into 2D photos.
The most used 3D models for rendering are wireframes. There are many different rendering styles, but the most used ones are diagrammatic and photorealistic. If you're an architect, there are many fantastic programs you can use to get the job done.
The internet is swarming with an incredibly wide range of advanced modeling tools that allow architects to create mind-bending 3D visualizations. SketchUp, Blender, and 3DS Max are among the top rendering software used by architects.
You can improve the utility and usability of these rendering tools by using plugins. Advanced 3D rendering plugins allow you architects to turn their 3D models into incredibly real and professionally finished renders. With that in mind, we're going to mention the most commonly used 3D rendering plugins in architecture.
Price – 99.00$
Pro – Artificial lighting support
SketchUp has many 3D rendering plugins, but Brighter 3D is probably the most commonly used in architecture, aside from being one of the most known plugins for this rendering software. The plugin package includes both full pro and free trial versions. The paid version provides a full set of features, and the price is $99.00.
The free trial version offers a limited range of features, most notably the resolution you use for rendering. Because of this, it would be recommended that you go with a full pro version as this provides a range of advanced noiseless rendering techniques that allow you to achieve incredible and competitive results.
What's great about Brighter 3D is that it's user-friendly, which makes it an excellent solution for both professionals and beginners.
The reason why Brighter 3D is so popular with architects is its absolutely mind-bending library of lighting features and materials. There is no better 3D rendering plugin for artificial lighting than this one, and its system requirements are not too demanding.
Price – $59.95
Pro - Natural lighting support
If you need a 3D rendering plugin for natural lighting, SU Podium should be your number one option. Coming from the SketchUp plugin family, it's a more cost-efficient solution than Brighter 3D, but it offers just as much. More importantly, this is probably one of the best plugins for photorealistic rendering, a thing that is high in demand these days.
This is an excellent plugin for creating natural landscape renders and architectural design due to its massive library of useful materials. Architects mostly use this plugin to create photorealistic environments and surface textures with bump maps, shadows, and reflections.
However, the feature that most architects are after is Podium's ability to create natural lighting for both exteriors and interiors. The reason why this plugin gives such impeccable results is simple – it provides its natural light features by utilizing or mimicking two natural sources of light, such as the sun and the sky.
This helps create beautifully balanced and dynamic renders with photorealistic lighting tones and effects. SU Podium also comes with a post-processing tool that allows architects to make the finishing edits to the final bitmap.
Price – N/A
Pro – Streamlined asset management
When it comes to the best 3D rendering plugins, especially for SketchUp, V-Ray is a well-known industry standard. Pretty much every architect uses this plugin, one way or the other. While it provides an exceptional range of useful features, this plugin isn't without its downsides – it's quite complex and pretty expensive.
If you're new to 3D rendering, this might not be the best option to get into rendering. However, if you're skillful with these kinds of tools and money isn't a problem, you'll be amazed by the quality and photorealism the V-Ray plugin can create.
The features are many. Asset management, an incredible selection of textures and materials, render control; these are but a few worthy of a mention. V-Ray also gives you full control over rendering aspects such as adaptive lighting, white balance, and exposure.
Price – N/A
Pro – Real-world environment simulation
BLAM is a very common 3D rendering plugin for calibrating the 3D camera within Blender rendering software. Architects use it to interpret the focal length and orientation of the camera by using a taken photo to calibrate Blender's camera.
Many architects use this calibration technique as it helps with creating real-world simulations, animation, special effects for movies, and projection mapping. One of the most significant advantages of BLAM is that it's easy to use and simple to set up.
The user just needs to provide vanishing lines based on a reference image. BLAM will automatically use that photo to calibrate its camera by reconstructing the photo's geometry. Using this same technique, architects can reproduce any real-world environments like a staircase or a room. All they need is a photo.
Price – N/A
Pro – Speed Up Rendering Time
Since we mentioned Blender plugins, we can't but mention Amaranth – one of the best and most commonly used plugins for 3D rendering in architecture. The range of customization this rendering tool offers is simply out of this world.
If you're familiar with Blender, then you'll simply love this fantastic plugin. It's loaded with excellent features and options, as well as system settings that you can use to remove or add functionalities. In its essence, this plugin is meant to help you with time efficiency.
It can significantly speed up your workflows, but you have to be a dedicated user. It's even better if you use Amaranth with Blender as it enhances the software's workflows and simplifies certain processes within it. Additionally, it also adds a wide range of additional tools to introduce extensions and shortcuts to Blender's most essential rendering features.
Aside from making Blender more user-friendly, Amaranth is a key tool that architects use to save time. You can save rendering time by using one of the most popular shortcuts, Camera to Render Border. It eliminates all rendering options that aren't included in the final shot.
Instead of letting Blender render all options, Amaranth allows you to narrow down the selection of options to the essentials, which, in turn, helps save huge amounts of rendering time.
Price – N/A
Pro – Advanced lighting management
If your scenes require advanced lighting management, Gaffer is the best add-on for you. It allows you to get amazing lighting by organizing multiple lights settings. Still, it's most essential feature is providing all the necessary options and settings for easier access to lighting in convenient panels.
This plugin allows you to achieve a better lighting effect, which is essential for working in complex scenes. Architects are required to manipulate several lights in different scenes. Relying on Blender only to get this job done might leave you with a clunky result.
In a way, Gaffer helps you save time and make your work more efficient as it provides a range of essential lighting settings, allowing you to focus on your work rather than on finding the right lighting solution.
Use one of its many features to fine-tune individual lights without disrupting the composure in your scene. And, if you're working with HDRI, Gaffers also provides HDRI features that you can use to achieve the wanted lighting quickly.
Price – 230$
Pro – Object distribution
MultiScatter is a perfect 3D rendering plugin that allows for even distribution of objects inside your scene. Every exterior or interior scene has repetitive elements like trees, stairs, houses, roads, home items, etc. Instead of bothering with these tiny details, you can use this plugin to ensure even distribution of these objects.
Based on VRayScatter technology, MultisScatter works with V-Ray, but it's also compatible with FStormRender, Octane, Maxwell, Mental Ray, Corona, and Arnold. It can help you with fixing the level of scene complexity, which significantly saves time and speeds up your workflow. Set it on random or regular and scatter objects on either a spline or surface, the choice is yours.
So, you have seven fantastic 3D rendering plugins before you, each commonly used by architects and with their own fantastic features. These plugins will help you harness the full potential of your rendering software and allow you to maximize your efficiency and save time while working.
Some of them are easy to use, others require some skill, but if you're a serious architect, looking for an effective way to beat your competition, these plugins might help you achieve your goal. While there are many more plugins available, these 7 are the cream of the crop.