The Basics of a Good Render

The Basics of a Good Render

Over the past few decades, 3D rendering has gone from a technique accessible to only a few to the common and essential method of presentation. And with advancing special effects and software, it is not too hard to achieve a photorealistic 3D rendition of your inner visualizations and 2D representations. Here, we walk you through the essentials that play a key role in achieving what is considered as a good render.

Let us first breakdown what “good” means here

A good render has three basic requirements:

. Detailed

The render has to be rich with details, with the right kind of lighting to properly edited materials.

. Realistic

The image has to deliver to the client an exact picture of what they will be given. This is the main purpose of a commercial render- to be able to visualize the built form.

. Mimics the expected activities

A good render is able to give the client a clear idea of what their experience within the space will look like. Scale and proportions should be precise and the day-to-day activities should be described through object and/or people photoshopped into the image.

So how do you achieve a render that fits this definition?

There are a few key aspects to focus on here: Materials, Lighting, Background, Scale and Context

Master your material settings:

One of the keys to a realistic render lies in how well you recreate the actual visual effect of the material in the model. You can’t have stainless steel that looks dull and grey and carpets that look like paper. Texture also plays a huge role in this and placements of bumps and specular map adjustments should be made to mimic real life texture. The rough texture of stone cladding is a must to ensure that it doesn’t look flat, glossy, and above all, artificial.

Good Lighting Technique:

Lighting design can make or break the ambience of a space. Choose your type of lighting based on the actual need. There are several IES profiles that you can use to add flair to your render. Experiment with cove lighting and other forms of diffused light. The key to telling if your render’s lighting needs work or not is whether your image looks flat or not. This can be avoided by using a 3-point light system that makes use of key light (the main light), fill light (to lightly fill in the shadows) and back light (placed behind the object).

Background graphics:

Finding the right background is an essential part of any render. The scene should be as realistic as possible- including the natural lighting. The time and place are two key aspects that need to be taken into consideration while setting the background. There are different ways of setting a background for your render. You can load an HDRI map into the scene or you can integrate a photo into the completed render. HDRI maps allow the background to be imbued with various properties that match its appearance (such as light and its properties- especially in the way it falls on the building surface). Don’t be afraid to experiment with different lighting settings.

Visually readable scale and context:

A simple render of a plain box can be changed drastically with just a few small additions emphasizing scale. Were you to seat a large model of a person on it, it would transform into a chair of sorts; but on the other hand, were you to scale down the model to a size one-third the box’s height, it transform into something else entirely- a shelter. This is the power of a simple human figure in the model. It can make the model’s scale readable to the untrained eye, while also adding clarity of purpose to the design.

Good camera angles

A good camera angle plays an important role in perception. It is important to ensure that the image does not have significant distortions due to poor camera angle. The render has to appear as if one were viewing a photo. Hence, depth is an important property that can improve a render greatly. Use Focal planes to create a gradual blur that allows focus on the key element of the render.

Experiment with render styles

While photorealistic renders serve the purpose best in architecture, don’t be afraid to try other render styles as well- especially in the initial stages of conceptual development. Collages and photoshopped conceptual models in artistic styles help you gain the interest of prospective clients. These can be done in all kinds of stylized formats and can serve to explain the true intent of your design and the process behind it. After all, a story sells products better. So why would it be any different in architecture? And if you get the opportunity to show off your architectural rendering skills in game design, let your imagination loose and go wild. Colors, textures, lighting, materials- experiment with these to your fullest! After all, you aren’t limited by a real time or location, just a theme.


While all of the above points are key to a good render, don’t forget that a well-built base is a must here. A poorly built model can make it harder to apply textures at a later stage and make renders look untidy. Hence model detailing and attention to surfaces can make things a lot simpler at the later stage and it is good practice to clean and group your components accordingly. That said, do try out these tips and let us know which of these had the biggest impact on your render.

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