From a Sketch to a Realistic 3D Render: Understanding the Process
From a Sketch to a Realistic 3D Render: Understanding the Process

In the digital world of today, 3D rendering is all around us, crawling through every vertical of the most important industries in the world. 3D rendering technology has come a very long way since its inception. The reason why this technology became so advanced is that it went through a lot of advances that made it so powerful.

Nowadays, creating incredibly photo-real animations, visualizations, and images, has become a standard, all thanks to this powerful technology. This is the biggest reason why 3D rendering is present in almost every industry in the world, most notably gaming, entertainment, marketing, advertising, real estate, architecture, and construction.

3D technology is a form of modern communication. It is a means that artists use to express themselves and tie their ideas up in a profound way that gives real, visible results. There is an entire world of art behind 3D technology. To understand the process of creating the most realistic 3D renders, you first need to understand the basics of 3D rendering.

3D Rendering: The Basics

Designers and architects have got themselves a completely new form of a canvas - modern graphic design. With a wide range of the most excellent 3D rendering tools, this technology has become the next best thing in the evolution of computing technologies.

3D rendering is: "a 2-dimensional representation of objects based on a computer wireframe model". Materials, shadows, texture, lighting, and color are added to that digital canvas to create photorealistic images called renders.

You can see examples of these renders each time you turn on your television and watch movies, especially animated movies. Used also in live-action movies, 3D rendering is responsible for the most incredible achievements in 3D animation.

To create photorealistic 3D renderings, an artist needs two types of tech tools: modelers and renderers. Here is how to create a 3D image in three easy steps:

●       3D modeling – everything starts with 3D modeling. At first, it will be nothing more than flat geometric shapes that are grouped to form polygons.

●       3D model manipulation – once you have a basic 3D model, you can start manipulating it by using all available software tools until you create a raw version of the final product. This is what is known as a raw wireframe object or scene.

●       Finishing move - to refine your rough sketch, you need an adequate finish. This is where you use filters, artificial light sources, shading, texture, and color to define all the features your 3D rendering should have.

Now, since you have a basic understanding of how 3D rendering works, let's delve deeper into how animation and 3D rendering can be of use.

Animation and 3D Rendering: The Applications

There are countless uses of animation and 3D rendering in the world's industries. This technology has become the main driving factor for success. The majority of industries rely on technology to complete their projects, especially gaming, construction, engineering, entertainment, and architecture.

In entertainment, both animation and 3D rendering are mostly used in big-budget movies. They are both excellent tools for creating amazing special effects, but most of the time, these technologies are used to process and render whole environments. That's how you get to see the vast mind-bending reaches of the universe and incredible earthly locales.

When it comes to design and architecture, the coming of architectural rendering technology literally helped architects eliminate incredibly time-consuming and tedious traditional ways of drawing blueprints by hand. Instead of doing that, they can easily do all rendering using a computing machine.

Aside from being much more efficient and effective, 3D technology also allows architects and designers to add more motion, depth, and texture to their works.

In terms of communicating ideas with clients, architects can use 3D rendering to give their clients real virtual tours by providing animated and illustrated views of projects. Clients can explore every aspect of a project from all angles and sides.

3D rendering is also instrumental in interior design as it helps to see any space in a redesigned form. This adds a totally different realistic sense to the entire space.

If you're an interior designer who's about to showcase some interior space to your clients, you can use a wide range of software tech to show your clients the best features and the final form of your interior design.

With all this in mind, let's see what understanding the 3D rendering process means and how to turn a simple sketch into a realistic 3D rendering.

3D Rendering Process: Step-by-Step Guide to Realistic 3D Rendering

Since 3D rendering requires skill and expertise in lighting and staging scenes to capture the most photorealistic image, we can say that it's essentially a form of virtual photography.

To create such photography, here is a step-by-step guide that will take you through the entire 3D rendering process, each step of the way.

1. Everything starts with the client

Before any artist sets up the final delivery, they first need to understand the client's vision. This initial creative consult is where the clients provide all necessary elements and components of a project, such as reference images, sketches, plans, and so on.

Once you've gathered everything you need to understand the basic requirements, you can start conceptualizing the main vision of your project. Each image has certain details that need your comprehension so that you can decide the best approach.

Since a majority of clients are business-related, it's essential to understand what the main point of the 3D image is. Ask the following questions:

  1. Is it for the company branding?
  2. How and where will it be used?
  3. What's the target market?

The answers will help you understand and streamline the process.

2. Project design and analysis

The next step in the process starts with a summary of the project. This helps you understand the main points of a project, its features, the client's main requirements, etc. It enables you to find out all about the specific features that your client wants to be highlighted.

These particular features will probably be used as the main selling points when your 3D rendering hits the target market. That is why it's vital to carefully understand all the specific aspects of these features to give your clients exactly what they want.

Once you go through these focal features, you can move to the next step – the design phase. Determine the best and most effective camera angles, or use the client's recommendations if you have any. This is also where you determine the individual elements of your design, like colors and textures.

3. 3D modeling

We mentioned earlier that everything starts with basic geometric shapes. You have polygonal models, and you have individual elements. By placing elements correctly, you're envisioning the way your 3D rendering should look like.

This is how your raw sketch starts getting shape. 3D artists usually use 3D modeling software tools to turn a simple polygonal model into a complex, detailed 3D version of the final product.

4. Texture and material

Each 3D rendering software comes with a heavily detailed library of different materials. This is crucial for your success – the level of photorealism of your 3D renders depends on how accurate and supplied your material library is.

This depends on the quality of your rendering software. The higher the quality, the richer the library. Set up and create all needed materials and make sure you include all relevant details like the finish of each material into the equation. Key factors like additional design options, material features, and so on, allow you to build color, texture, and dimension.

5. Lighting, 3D rendering, and refining

When creating reflections, angels, and shadows of light, the goal is to make it look as close to real-world as possible. This takes a lot of knowledge, skill, understanding, consideration, and creativity to achieve the exact desired ambiance.

This is what helps you beat your competition and keep your clients happy. The level of photorealism is what really matters in modern 3D rendering. In terms of rendering, it all comes down to the time required to complete it.

The more your idea is complex, the more time it takes to complete it. Time is essential here because the quality of your work depends on the time invested, but it also depends on choosing the right 3D rendering technique.

Finally, let’s talk about refining your work. This is where you gather your client's feedback for the last time to make sure all necessary edits and tweaks are accounted for.


3D rendering is already a key factor across a wide range of industries, and it will continue to play this vital role in the time to come. The more 3D rendering technology keeps advancing, the more complex and detailed 3D rendering requirements will be.

What comes next remains to be seen, but we can already tell that the world is in for the most exciting times, especially in the fields of interior design, construction, architecture, and real estate.