Back to the Basics: Architectural Rendering 101
Back to the Basics: Architectural Rendering 101

An architect can get a precise idea of what their designs should look like by examining their customized blueprints and 2D sketches. However, few other people can do the same. All they see are complex floor plans with unfamiliar symbols sprinkled on top. While they can undoubtedly get the outline of the design, too much is left to the imagination.

That’s where architectural rendering steps in. Technological solutions have inspired significant advances in architectural rendering, transforming it into an essential field of architecture that can bring any design to life, leaving no question unanswered. So, let’s get back to the basics and examine what architectural rendering is all about.

Architectural Rendering Explained

Architectural rendering is simply an illustration of an architectural design. The concept has existed for as long as our civilization. It can involve drawings or paintings of an architectural design, miniature models, and today it involves an interactive 3D rendering that allows you to explore the design from every angle imaginable.

Modern architectural rendering took off in the 90s with the introduction of sophisticated Computer-Aided Design technology (CAD). This tech enables the creation of photorealistic renders that represent an accurate image of the project before anyone’s even laid the foundations for it.

However, not every architect is familiar with CAD, nor should they be. An architect’s task is to create blueprints and designs that are up to code, follow all laws and regulations, and have impeccable structural integrity. An artist’s task is to take these blueprints and breathe new life into them.

Artists skilled in architectural rendering don’t necessarily have intimate knowledge of architecture, construction, and civil engineering. Instead, they know the ins and outs of their architectural rendering software and can create detailed, realistic illustrations that leave nothing to interpretation.

The Goal of 3D Rendering

The goal of 3D rendering is to help everyone involved in an architectural project visualize the final design well before it’s completed. It gives a full picture of the design – the doors and windows together with their selected frame type and color, the height of the ceiling, the location of the rooms, the garden in the backyard.

The artist can create a realistic, accurate render that includes all the design features, including paint finishes, foundation materials, and specific roof shingles that the client requested.

The goal is to take the original 2D blueprints and sketches and present the project three-dimensionally, allowing you to see every aspect of the design from a new, realistic perspective.

Architectural Rendering Types

Just like architecture itself, architectural rendering is a broad field that allows artists to specialize. After all, various projects require rendering services, so there are several unique architectural rendering types. Here are some of the most common ones.

Exterior rendering

The most common architectural rendering type is exterior rendering. It’s widely used both in architecture and real estate, among other industries, as it’s the best way to present the outside of an industrial, commercial, or residential building to potential investors or prospective buyers.

As the field of exterior rendering advances, the 3D artist’s capabilities grow. Whereas just a few years ago, a render of the exterior was a simplistic 3D design of the object on a gray background, today, it’s so much more. For example, artists can render the entire neighborhood to display just how well the architect’s design fits in.

The realistic render can go so far as to accurately present how the surrounding buildings cast shadows on the property at different times of day, how the design looks in rain and snow, and so much more.

Interior rendering

Unsurprisingly, interior rendering is the second most popular type of architectural rendering. It’s instrumental in architecture as it allows the architect to showcase every minute detail of their design. It’s perhaps even more helpful in real estate as agents can attract clients by displaying the potential of the property.

Interior rendering can be critical in ensuring the client’s utmost satisfaction as designers can change or tweak any feature within seconds. For instance, if the client doesn’t like the color scheme, a single click will change it. If the client isn’t fond of a room’s overall style and aesthetics, the designer can adapt them in real-time to better suit their tastes.

Interior rendering helps avoid costly mistakes and misunderstandings, ensuring everything is picture-perfect well before the construction phase has even begun.

3D animations

A few still 3D images can usually highlight the main features of an architectural design pretty well. However, a still image is sometimes not enough, and that’s where 3D animations step in.

3D animations of architectural designs can serve several different purposes. For example, they can help market the project and attract more clients. They’re usually designed as short movies that go over every aspect of the design, so they can immerse and wow the audiences, helping architects find buyers with ease.

They can also streamline communication between different teams involved in the project – architects, construction crews, interior designers, landscapers, and more. A time-lapse animation can cover every milestone of the project to ensure everyone knows what they’re supposed to do and when.

360-degree panoramas

360-degree panoramas are one of the biggest trends in architectural rendering. They give a full view of the design from every angle, allowing the viewers to experience every aspect of the space.

In essence, 360-degree panoramas are a more interactive form of 3D animations as they enable the viewer to explore any detail they like freely. They can zoom in on the texture of the facade or see the view from the balcony. A single click of the mouse will take them around the corner where they can explore the backyard.

While 360-degree panoramas are more expensive and time-consuming, they take architectural rendering to a whole new level, delivering a unique experience that attracts clients.

AR/VR rendering

Perhaps the most exciting type of architectural rendering is AR/VR rendering. It involves the use of Augmented or Virtual Reality to allow viewers to experience a design first-hand, long before it’s actually completed in real life.

With VR headsets, the viewers can take a virtual tour of the design, “walk” around the individual rooms, crouch down to explore the hardwood floors, and climb up the stairs to reach the balcony. All without leaving the architect’s office.

On the other hand, with AR technology, the viewer can go straight to the construction site where the foundations have barely been laid and still see the completed project through the lens of their smartphone camera.

AR/VR renders are becoming increasingly popular as they deliver an interactive experience that can’t but astonish the audiences.

How the Process Works

Although the process behind architectural rendering is quite complex, requiring the artist to have years of experience and great skill, the process of finding an artist and receiving the render is quite streamlined.

3D artists have extensive online portfolios that give insight into their unique skills and talents. Once an architect has found an artist they like, they can get in touch with them and send their original blueprints, plans, sketches, 3D models, interior and exterior design ideas, and more.

The architect will also need to communicate their preferred finishing touches, landscape ideas, color scheme, or send design examples.

It can take several days or weeks for the architectural render to be complete, depending on the type of rendering it is. After that, the artist can make any edits necessary should the architect change their mind about the finishing touches.

In most instances, architectural rendering services are charged upon project completion.

Benefits of 3D Rendering

3D rendering brings an abundance of benefits, regardless of whether it’s interior/exterior rendering, 360-degree panorama, animation, or AR/VR rendering.

Getting a clear image of the design

One of the main benefits of 3D rendering is that it provides a clear image of the design, answering all potential client questions and leaving no room for misinterpretations.

3D artists follow the exact instructions of the architect and use their original plans and blueprints to develop their designs. They work hard to make their render as true-to-life as possible, including all the relevant details – the exact ceiling height, the perfect texture of the sofa material, just the right shade of wall paint.

They stay in touch with the architect throughout the entire process to ensure that their renders are accurate and realistic.

Easier project approval and marketing

Many architectural projects come with too much uncertainty – how does the building fit in with the neighborhood, does it disrupt traffic, will it obstruct the view of the surrounding buildings? Leaving all these questions unanswered or just giving vague estimations can delay project approval and make it more difficult to obtain all the necessary permits. Not to mention that it can make it more challenging to advertise the design and attract investors and buyers.

Architectural renders eliminate these problems almost entirely. They can clear up any misunderstandings and answer all questions. They allow the viewers to explore the design from every angle, removing all doubt and making it easier to expedite project approval.

Furthermore, being immersive and interactive, 3D renders can be the perfect tool for marketing. Architects can upload the renders to their site, share them on social media, even create traditional TV advertisements with them.

Fixing mistakes before it’s too late

Reading the 2D blueprints leaves too much room for error. That’s how you get mistakes like staircases that lead to nowhere, inaccessible spaces, crooked walls, and foundation cracks. Architectural renders can fix these mistakes before they even occur.

Architectural renders give complete insight into the design, allowing viewers to examine every nook and cranny and catch design mistakes early on.

Secondly, using sophisticated tools and software, the artists can analyze the building and notice compromised structural integrity, poorly placed windows, missing doors, height and size problems, and more. Additionally, they can even catch stylistic mistakes like a poor choice of the facade or the wrong texture of the bathroom tiles.

Fixing these mistakes before they’re made can help save time, money, and effort, allowing the project to be completed quickly and efficiently.

Ensuring client satisfaction

Every architect has dealt with an indecisive client at least once in their career. First, they want a large walk-in closet. Then, they want a small office instead. Next, they want green kitchen cupboards, then they want an all-black kitchen because they recently saw such a design on Pinterest.

Architectural renders can help the clients make up their minds and allow them to create exactly the space they’ve always envisioned. They can see what a green kitchen looks like, and they can see the black one. They can explore what a small office brings to their interior, and they can see whether a walk-in closet is a better choice.

3D renders remove all doubt and create designs that are 100% up to the client’s expectations.

Software Used for the Process

The quality of the architectural render depends on two things – the artist’s skills and the quality of the software they’re using. With a poor choice of software, the renders can seem cartoonish and incomplete, pushing audiences away instead of immersing them.

Fortunately, there are many excellent 3D rendering software solutions that can make photorealistic designs with ease. The best ones include:

  • V-Ray
  • Blender
  • Maxwell
  • Octane Render

It’s always a good idea for architects to find out which software their chosen artists are using as it can be a great indicator of what kind of results they should expect.

Who Benefits the Most

Architectural renders benefit all parties involved in the project – the architect, their team, their client, even the construction crew. They can simplify communication between all parties and ensure that the process goes smoothly without any hiccups.


Architectural rendering is becoming a highly sought-after service in the fields of architecture and real estate. It can streamline communication, prevent mistakes, cut costs, and ensure the utmost client satisfaction.