Which Tools do 3D Visualization Artists Use
Which Tools do 3D Visualization Artists Use

It's hard to imagine any project without 3D visualization and using different 3D design skills. Modeling, rendering, sculpting, photo bashing, all these are crucial parts of 3D visualization projects today.

Compared to 2D drawings, 3D offers so many new possibilities for design and innovation, not to mention some benefits with the use of this type of art:

  • Speed ​​and efficiency;
  • Project visualization;
  • High level of accuracy;
  • Human error reduction.

Today, many industries rely on 3D artists and visualization: architecture, engineering, entertainment (movies and video games), science, healthcare, marketing, etc. Since the emphasis is on hyperrealism, 3D artists must be masters of these skills to be able to offer the best solutions to clients. This means they need to master all programs and software to deliver traditional and modern projects and keep up with all 3D innovations.

As we mentioned, there are multiple parts of project development, and each part has its own requirements in terms of different tools and skills usage, especially in architecture. Let's go through the most recommended and valuable programs for every successful architectural project.

3D rendering tools

Rendering is related to creating a two-dimensional image based on a set 3D scene. It involves a 3D model in the form of images or animation. As one of the most important components of a 3D project, rendering is more similar to photography because the image can be generated through the rendering process based on predefined data like texture color, lightning, and material. This way, we get a highly realistic image.

Architectural rendering software enables architects and interior designers to create the most realistic visualizations, and this is the best way to show off the project to the client(s). This is achieved by using the right lighting and shadows, composition, proportions, and atmosphere. The main goal of 3D rendering is to capture the same atmosphere as in real life based on light and reflection angles. The artist will achieve this by using various techniques like rasterization, ray tracing, casting, and equations.

The most common software used by 3D rendering artists in creating realistic renderings are:

1. SketchUp

Worldwide known design tools, SketchUp is the software that has the most straightforward user interface and is intended for both professionals and beginners. This tool is intuitive, approachable, and easy to use. Although it is better known as a modeling tool, it can also be used for rendering with various plugins and products: SketchUp Pro, 3D Warehouse, LayOut, and SketchUp Viewer.

2. Autodesk 3D Rendering

With this software, you can play with almost any visual effect, from shadows creating and implementation, reflections, and lightning to blurring and texture-mapping. It allows many sorts of renderings (cloud, vector, software, and hardware rendering) and has awesome rendering features:

  • Alias;
  • 3DS MAX;
  • Revit;
  • Arnold;
  • Maya;
  • Worth.

3. Blender

This almighty software supports almost all 3D components:

  • Rendering;
  • Animation;
  • Rigging;
  • Modeling;
  • Motion tracking;
  • Simulation.

Within this program, artists can play with tools such as 3D painting, filling bridge, grinding, sculpting with brushes, and for hyper-realistic images, it offers a Cycles Render Engine tool.

When it comes to lighting, it also supports:

  • GPU and CPU rendering;
  • HDR lighting;
  • VR rendering;
  • PBR shaders;

3D sculpting tools

When you hear sculpting, you can't help but imagine how you shape and change clay or plasticine as you wish. 3D sculpting is a similar process where you can treat a 3D model in the same way with certain tools as you would in real-life. The advantage of 3D sculpting over modeling is that you can insert various details that you would not be able to in traditional 3D modeling. Depending on the model represented, the program can use geometry in the form of voxels and pixels or polygonal shapes.

1. ZBrush

Combining 3D modeling, texturing, and painting, this program uses 3D pixels technology for creating its models. Each "pixol" (pixel) is a little package that contains values such as:

  • Material;
  • Color;
  • Depth;
  • Orientation.

2. Mudbox

This tool is the right choice for 3D artists who are fans of 3D printing and modeling. Developed by Autodesk, it uses a polygon mesh geometry in modeling, and every part of the model can be subdivided and modeled by using different tools. Mudbox is an application offering unique features:

  • High-resolution digital sculpting;
  • Texture painting;
  • Displacement.

3. Sculptris

This 3D sculpting software is user-friendly, easy to learn, and suitable for digital modeling beginners. Even if you don't have prior experience, using both Zbrush and Sculptris and importing files from one to another allows you to upgrade your skills and knowledge.

Modeling tools

1. Autodesk 3DS Max

Multi-purpose program specialized in 3D animations, video games, and simulations. It includes the following features:

  • Skeletons;
  • Character controls;
  • Skinning;
  • Cloth simulation;
  • Inverse kinematics.

When it comes to modeling, Autodesk 3DS Max offers modeling with polygonal geometry and supports Non-Uniform Rational B-Splines (NURBS). It allows the usage of various rendering systems like Renderman for generated images.

2. Rhino

According to users, Rhino is a master when it comes to curving surfaces like in real life. This feature is very important for 3D modeling cars, all sorts of vehicles, or aircraft. This program will sculpt objects and models and easily work with meshes that you import from other programs.

Using plugins like Grasshopper lets you get even more functionality within the workspace and ensure automatization of actions like detailing and modifications.

3. Autodesk Maya

Maya is one of the first commercial systems to introduce hair and fur in modeling and has since become the standard in 3D modeling programs. It provides realistic options for more detailed character modeling and supports movements that occur in contact with natural elements such as water, wind, fire, and explosions.

Photo bashing tools

This is a painting technique that involves careful overlapping of photos and images till compositing them into one finished piece.

With this technique, artists are merging and blending multiple photos to get the perfect photo texture. It's a very useful tool when, for example, your 3D scene is in New York; it's faster and easier to adapt the scene by overlapping a few details from several photos, so you get a realistic ambiance.

This is not an easy technique, and artists must understand lighting, shadow movement, image composition, and propositions. To get as realistic 3D images and scenes as possible, these are the best photo bashing tools:

1. Photoshop

Unarguably, this is known as the most popular tool when it comes to image and photo processing. It is the cheapest and most effective because it contains all the tools that can make a picture perfect. Supports painting, erasing, sketching, overlapping, blending, blurring, coloring, shading, reflections. If you find high-quality images, there is no question that you'll get the job done perfectly with Photoshop.

2. Krita

This program has an intuitive interface that is very flexible, so you can adjust the workspace and elements suited just for your needs.

It comes with more than a hundred brushes and all sorts of visual effects when it comes to tools. It can even stabilize your hand if your sketch is shaky or outlined.

It also supports helpful management tools :

  • Drawing assistants;
  • Full-color management;
  • Layers management.


This is a free, open-source application for image processing and photo manipulation. It comes with more features, and it covers:

  • Retouching;
  • Format conversion;
  • Drawing;
  • Support for vector graphics.

Tracing tools

Lighting and light movement are essential components in rendering. The image can be as realistic as the light on it is simulated. That is why a 3D artist must know these techniques to transmit light, movement of rays faithfully, but also shadows depending on the situation.

The most common programs artists in uses Ray tracing to convey an image realistically:

1. Arnold

This software is a master of heavy datasets and complicated scenery design. It can support challenges lightning which often comes with hair and skin lights and shadows. By using Arnold Tone Shader within this program, artists can build customized shaders for unique scenes and character creating.

2. DIALux

This software is the most suitable tool for creating professional 3D models, including real-life reflections and lightning scenery. One of the advantages is that it can automatically apply trace algorithms to a 3D model and have many available light effects in its library.

3. RayViz

This software is of great help to students and beginners to better understand the movement of rays from light to eyes. To make a realistically looking image, RayViz will help by providing the guidelines on how different ray paths and algorithms affect the final scenery.

Project management tools

The concept of project management was developed in the United States during the implementation of major military programs and projects, and today it's successfully used to manage the performance of a business, military, research, and especially complex, long-term, and expensive development and investment projects. This means that we must provide an efficient organization that allows the best use of available methods of planning and control, material resources, financial resources, and people in the process of implementing an architectural project.

Whether you work remotely or not, architectural projects need easy and fast communication in a team. To ensure organized, productive, and professional team communication, here are some useful tools:

1. Basecamp

One of the earliest PM tools, promoting transparency so the team member can have easy access to shared documents or chat boards for brainstorming ideas. It's a very simple and efficient system with rich features like:

  • Task assignment with due dates;
  • To-do lists;
  • Follow-up on overdue tasks;
  • Message Boards;
  • Check-In.

2. Asana

Great PM tool suitable for teams, individuals, startup projects, and larger companies. It has nice project tracking features where the team can follow up all the assignments of their colleagues and the timeline for finishing tasks.

3. Trello

Debuted in 2011, it now has wide adoption in many industries. It has a system of boards, cards, and lists that are easy to manage and use. These features and work items can be moved, subdivided through the different lists, and so on, providing an easy tracking task management concept.

Communication tools

The communication of a team working on a project must be fast, easy, and efficient. Live meetings are still unavoidable because they are the best way to approach project planning, but programs and applications facilitate online communication when the project has a deadline, and everyone knows their tasks; programs and applications facilitate online communication.

Let's mention some of the communication tools:

  • Project and discussion board tools — PivotaTracker, Jira, Basecamp;
  • Chat tools — Slack, HipChat;
  • Email communication;
  • Weekly reports;
  • Daily meetings, briefings, and sync-ups;
  • Zoom meetings.

Time management tools

The biggest point of time management is that you and your team properly allocate time for all tasks. Working on a project is mostly based on wasting as little time as possible, and if you succeed, you can arrange it so that you work without pressure, relax and still give the maximum in productivity and creativity.

Here are some guidelines for successful time management:

  1. Having project goals, tasks and obligations prominently displayed so that the whole team can see them;
  2. Organize your time on a day and week level. Scheduling time spent in advance;
  3. Prioritizing tasks and team members' obligations. In other words, everybody should know what they should do and when;
  4. Record and analyze all the time spent as well as work to date and progress on the project;
  5. Coordinating and communicating properly with your team. Listen and be there for your colleagues;
  6. Organize short briefings to go through daily tasks and possible problems.


No wonder skilled 3D artists are increasingly valued today. The need for visualizations in architecture is growing, and it's hard to imagine any project without these artists and without software that makes their work easier, faster, and more creative.

Mastering all these skills and programs is not an easy task, as technology advances and so do innovations and new programs. Architectural projects and clients are becoming more complex and demanding. Only hard-working and skilled artists will be able to keep up with daily improvements and upgrades to rendering programs and tools.