Finding a good architectural rendering software you can rely on is difficult and we’ve composed a list of the most popular tools to help you make the best choice.
It’s really amazing how for architectural software has gone since it was first introduced. These days architectural software is so advanced that it can help you with evacuation management, structural analysis, and other complex tasks to make things easier and less time-consuming for architects.
Still, the architectural software market has grown tremendously and these days it’s quite difficult to find which software is worth your buck! Not every software tool has the same capabilities, stability, and the same ease of use.
Furthermore, specialized software like one dedicated to rendering rarely comes cheap and you want to know that you’ve made a smart choice before investing.
Still, in a lot of cases its worth the investment, since your end results look so much better when rendered with well-made software. Having a well-written software also helps you avoid wasting time with faster rendering and an interface that doesn’t fight you at every turn.
With these things in mind, we’ve composed a list of the most popular architectural rendering software tools, since good rendering is one of the most important aspects when it comes to presenting a project.
1. AutoCAD Architecture
Autodesk products have been used by architects for a long time and it’s not a big surprise that the company went and created a specialized software solution for architects.
The AutoCAD Architecture offers a lot of pre-built things that help architects speed up certain things in their design process. To mention a few things you’ll get access to pre-built models for windows, doors, and other often used models to help you avoid wasting time. The software also offers plans for model geometry, mechanisms for elevators, and so on.
This software is not good for those who want to use the modern BIM (Building Application Modeling) application. For this, there is an alternative Autodesk software called Revit.
Being that AutoCAD Architecture is an Autodesk product, the integration with other Autodesk software goes without question.
It offers very useful and efficient keyboard shortcuts to further your efficiency. Be advised that you will need training (or take the time to learn it yourself) as this software is quite specific.
The yearly price for this software is $1,575 or you can simply get it as a part of the Architecture, Engineering & Construction Collection for $2,755.
2. 3DS Max
This software comes with three special variations focused on Architecture, Engineering and Construction, Media Work and Entertainment and finally Product design and Manufacturing. Of course, we are interested in the version designated for architecture.
Keep in mind that 3DS Max is better suited for designing project animations and fly-throughs intended for project promotion. If you want to build your project from the ground up 3DS Max might not be your best bet but we are talking about a tool that is capable of the best quality rendering and 3DS Max is definitely near the top.
It has a steep learning curve but it allows you to produce great-looking end results and is worth the effort. You can also improve its already robust capabilities with very powerful plug-ins and the AutoCAD file support helps with integration.
Being that it is sold as a part of a bundle (Other software included in the bundle: AutoCAD, Civil 3D. Revit, and InfraWorks, Navisworks Manage) the price is reasonable at $2,755.
If you are searching for software that can handle hugely complex models with precision, CATIA is a great choice. It’s not too difficult to learn and the sky is the limit when it comes to the complexity of projects you want to handle. CATIA has integrated collaboration features, Cloud functionality, and secure distribution.
There are really a lot of companies that use CATIA, which is a testimony to its quality. The downside of this is that CATIA is probably quite pricey. We say probably because there is no official price released and you’d have to ask for a quote from them directly.
4. Rhino 6
As a program, Rhino 6 isn’t really a specialized architecture software. Still, through plug-ins and third-party services, you can expand its functionalities a significant amount. BIM is one of those functionalities (for better or for worse).
Automation is also a big advantage through scripting and it can handle automated modeling.
Rhino 6 is on the less expensive end of the spectrum with a single license priced at $1,160 and the upgrade to the next version stands at half the price.
This piece of software is one of the most popular among architects out there. You will find that architects, from beginners to seasoned experts, use this software. It’s an open source software with a tremendously large community behind it. This software has great support and it’s very easy to learn.
This means that you don’t have to waste a lot of time adapting to it and can start working on your projects right away. The fact that it has been around for a long time means that you’ll be able to find a lot of resources online that can help you if you get stuck.
The only true downside of Maxwell is that it’s a bit slow when it comes to rendering but when we compare that to what it offers it really isn’t a big deal.
This software is free and this makes it accessible to professional and companies that don’t have a big budget for software.
6. Autodesk Revit
At this point, Autodesk Revit needs little introduction. Famous for the incredible capabilities of its rendering engine, this piece of software offers a plethora of tools, along with a bunch of textures and models you can use for your projects. It offers smart object connectivity and BIM functionalities as well.
Due to its popularity, Revit has a big community behind it and a very reliable support. The community is very open to questions from newcomers and is eager to share their experiences and tricks of the trade in Revit.
It’s a bit on the costly side of the spectrum with the annual price set at $2,250 but if you are not sure if its worth your investment, you can always check it out through an educational license offered to students by Autodesk.
7. Punch Home Design Studio
We tried to keep this list useful for all level of architectural software users. This is why we need to talk about Punch Home Design Studio.
This piece of software isn’t the most powerful rendering tool that architects can get their hands on but there are some upsides to it. It’s very easy to use and it’s a great tool for beginners trying to wrap their head around architectural visualization.
If you want something that can handle basic room or house architectural visualization, you might want to give Punch Home Design Studio a shot – for anything bigger than that, like buildings, complexes, and so on, you’ll need to find another tool.
Another big upside for beginners is the fact that the software only costs $25 on Amazon. If you are thinking about starting small with rendering, this tool is a great choice.
Another open source rendering tool that has a big community behind it. Blender is a very popular tool and has a massive community which is very open to questions and has generated a massive amount of tutorials, tips, and other helpful content that new users can fall back on.
This software is free and open source but this doesn’t mean that it’s not powerful. When it comes to rendering, Blender can compete with the best of them.
One of the only downsides of this software is that you need to put time into figuring it out. If you don’t have the patience or the willpower to do that, then you might want to steer clear of this one.
Ranking rendering software like this is difficult. A lot of times, it comes down to personal preference and the architect’s specific situation. Depending on your budget, previous experience, and requirements any and none of these might work for you.
This is why it’s important to think about these factors before you make a choice. You can go for the most expensive and robust rendering tool out there and still end up feeling that this software isn’t for you.
Due to these reasons, we focused on keeping our list as diverse as possible so that anybody reading this article can get some value out of it. Most of these are quite expensive to get, so make sure you check out forums, tutorials, and screen-shots to really get a solid impression about a tool’s capabilities.
Check out if they offer trial periods or some other affordable way for you to actually tinkering with the software and experience it first hand. We hope this helps and good luck!