The Basics of 3D Rendering in Architecture
A front view of a modern three-story house with a few palmsThe Basics of 3D Rendering in Architecture

3D rendering has become a popular buzzword in the world of architecture. Different industries are utilizing the latest digital technologies to improve their processes, and 3D rendering directly results from sophisticated computer technologies combined with the right set of skills.

Some people are still skeptical about 3D rendering in architecture and other industries, but people are always suspicious of innovations and changes. That doesn’t mean it is pointless – you can benefit from it both as a customer and a 3D artist.

If you want to learn about 3D rendering, you’ve come to the right place. Today we’re going to share all the essentials you need to know.

The concept of 3D rendering explained

There’s a lot of misinformation on what architectural 3D rendering is. It’s the practice of creating computer-aided imagery to present existing spaces, structures, or designs that someone will build in the future.

The results are highly detailed, complex, and realistic images that encompass all the characteristics of the future physical design. You can find 3D rendering in engineers, manufacturing, game development, and many other disciplines.

Creating images that give an exceptional overview of designs can help key stakeholders visualize landscapes, buildings, machinery, equipment, products, etc. Architectural rendering has its own unique characteristics as it’s focused on illustrating designs of architecture projects.

How it works

Architectural 3D rendering is done on computers using rendering software. People who do this professionally are called 3D artists or visualizers, and their jobs are to take a look at projects and turn them into remarkable imagery.

In other words, these people don’t design the projects and decide where different elements will be located or implement new architectural solutions. Architects do the projects, and 3D artists just work presenting them as realistically as possible using computer-generated imagery.

Even though artists don’t focus on recognizing mistakes within projects, they can point out issues or potential future problems and provide alternative designs to architects. Many professionals will provide alternative versions with the necessary “fixes” to help architects succeed with their projects.

History of rendering

Visualization, in one form or another, has been used unofficially for centuries and even millenia, and it has been developing and improving the whole time. Even cave paintings can be seen as a form of visual communication. Romans and Greeks used different materials and textures to express something.

When perspective and axonometric drawings were introduced, 3D visualization became a part of the architecture world. Interior designs were created using basic showcase designs, geometric furniture, and fundamental colors to create the first-ever visualizations.

The first rendering software appeared during the 70s and was named Sketchpad. IT allowed 3D modeling of simple geometrical objects on the computer. During the 80s 3D visualization programs started improving, and in the next decade, we saw the start of 3D rendering software as we know it today.

Different types

Architectural renders can come in many different forms. First of all, it’s possible to create an individual render image, but you can also create walkthroughs, video presentations, animations, and panoramas. Modern rendering tools offer real-time rendering, and people can look at property using a VR headset and see renders in real-time.

All these formats have their own uses. For example, some focus more on interior design, others showcase the exterior, and some give an aerial overview. These different perspectives give valuable insights into how the project looks and what it will be like when finished.

There are no projects or situations when you can’t use visualizations to help you understand how a project will look and clarify design solutions to everyone involved.

3D rendering steps

Talk to your client about their ideas

The first step for 3D artists is to talk with their clients so that they can understand their vision. Get your client’s references, sketches, and plans before you start visualizing their project. Try to familiarize yourself with the client’s ideas as best you can.

Work on 3D models

3D artists work with 3D modeling tools to create a realistic digital model. You could say that this stage is like building an object using a physical model but in a digital world. 3D models allow artists to create any shape they want with high production capacity.

Texturing and creating materials

Visualizers must add imagery to their 3D models if they want them to look realistic. It’s the same as using paint to give more details to a physical model. Modern 3D visualization tools have countless materials and textures artists can use and customize to get what they want.

Check out the project

Artists have to get the full project from their clients to provide an accurate depiction in the end. It’s essential to take the time to review the whole project and understand the tiny details before starting the work.

Add lighting and shadows

Lights and shadows help create an atmosphere and make the renders more believable. It’s similar to how photographers make sure to set up the lighting before taking photos to get the desired results.

The rendering step

The rendering step is creating 2D images out of the previous steps. Depending on the size and complexity of each project, the rendering process can last anywhere from a minute to a couple of days.


The refining stage is when customers look at your work and offer suggestions on what they would like changed. It’s a revision stage, and most 3D artists charge extra for this work.


These were all the fundamentals of 3D visualization in architecture. If you want to become a 3D artist, you’ll be happy to know that more and more companies are looking for visualization services.

There is a huge explosion of freelance artists making money online while enjoying their freedom. However, keep in mind that this is still a developing field where things change quickly, and you will have to keep up with the competition to stay relevant.