Visualization Tools Only the Pros Use
Visualization Tools Only the Pros Use

Being a professional 3D visualization and rendering artist means using only the best, most powerful software tools to put your work at the top of the class. Of course, mastering and using these programs to their full potential not only requires years of experience, it requires the willingness to invest in the progression of your own career.

Because, as we all know, 3D rendering software doesn’t come cheap.

And while this certainly isn’t always the case (there are plenty of free 3D modeling and rendering programs available), if you want to be producing the best work you should be using the best tools, and on a machine that can cut down on the time it takes to model and render.

The following tools are a collection of software and hardware products that professional rendering artists use to make their living. If you are pursuing a career in visualization, consider putting a few of these things on your next letter to Santa Clause.


There are no two words more daunting for a young 3D rendering professional than “learn Maya.” It’s something we hear the very first time we step into a classroom, and something that sets off a chain of frustrating, hair-pulling, and eventually gratifying events that leaves the weak-hearted to waste in a pool of their own melted resolve.

But, trudging up the steep learning curve that comes with Maya’s hefty price tag you must, as doing so unlocks the most powerful modeling tool used by the TV, movie, and videogame industries. Gear up and get to work.


ZBrush is a sculpting and 3D paint tool used by character designers, video game developers, and anyone who specializes in digital artwork. ZBrush doesn’t have quite a steep a learning curve as Maya, but can produce results that will give you work a level or professional shine that will turn heads and earn you jobs.

I concept art is something you’re considering pursuing, you should familiarize yourself with ZBrush. It’s a program that aptly reflects the artists vision and ability to create something beautiful from scratch.

Digital Drawing Tablet

There are a number of great tablet options and an even greater number of apps that help with digital visualization. And whether you’re an iPod guy, an Android gal, or one of the 5 people who own a Microsoft Surface, chances are you get a lot of value out of it from a standpoint of visualization production.

When it comes to modeling and even rendering, the tablet has a long way to go to match the speed and precision as a good old mouse and keyboard. But, for post-production and digital painting, a tablet is a tool that can add a tremendous amount of professional polish to your work.


vRay has been atop the rendering market since computer graphics were still in diapers. It’s a program that has grown alongside the industry itself, and is still one of the most widely-used engines you can use.

But, for all the good things vRay has going for it, accessibility isn’t one of them. It can do more for the quality of your work tan a mini fridge full of Mountain Dew, but only if you’re willing to put up the time to learn and unlock its many powerful secrets.


For architectural visualization, there are few more polished and professional-grade tools more universally accepted by the community as Rhino. It is the modeling tool used by the largest studios in the world, and is compatible with almost every high-end renderer on the market.

Rhino has a surprising amount of commands, settings, and tools to master, so anyone looking to learn the ins and outs should know they’re in for a battle that could take years to overcome. Drawing simple shapes is easy enough, but for more advanced techniques and scripts, prepare for all out war with your computer, your patience, and your sanity.

VR Headset

While the future will only tell if VR is designed to catch on with the mainstream digital consumer, there’s no denying its place right now in the visualization business. More and more architecture firms and design studios are enlisting the power of virtual reality to help tell a digital story of their designs.

Clients are  blown away by the ability to view the building they are paying for without a single foundation being poured, and as a visualization artist it should be something you use on a regular basis. Implementing VR can be cumbersome and temperamental, so the more you familiarize yourself with the tech, the better you’ll be at making it a mainstay of your business.