Stan Zaslavsky

Top Ten Tips to Making Sure Your 3D Renders Look Awesome

Do you find that your 3D images come up to the level of your expectations or do they come out looking flat and lifeless? Do your 3D suppliers create WOW or just ok visuals?

In our world of creating high-end 3D imagery, we often come across renders that have glaring errors and then there are some which with a tiny bit more effort, could have really created a stand out image.

Be it composition, lighting or small things like fencing texture not being right – all these small factors can subtly change an image from looking like a photo to something that potential purchasers pick out as 3D and potentially downgrade the value of your development in the eyes of the buyers.

We wanted to go through a top ten list of tips to help you deliver better and more effective 3D images for your projects. We also showcase some of the imagery from our own portfolio to highlight the specific key points discussed. If there are any technical terms used in the discussion – please get in touch and we’ll be happy to clarify and guide you along. So let’s begin.

1.      Start Early

One of the biggest keys to having awesome 3D images is allocating enough time to the rendering stage of the image. We are not magicians and if the architectural plans are delivered to us in 2D format, they need to be converted and built up into a “renderable” 3D model.

Typically for an apartment project of up to 20 or so units, the modelling time may take 3-4 days or for larger complexes may be longer. And then once this stage is complete – the rendering process starts with assigning materials and colours through to lighting it appropriately and then processing it in graphic programs for further effects and lifestyle scenery. All in all – the more time there is to the rendering stage – the more iterations could be done in case something needs a slight adjustment.

2.      Day or Night

When setting up your images – keep in mind the purpose of the images and if the extra appeal can be gained out of getting the image at a different time of day – go for it!

On the other hand (as per the discussion in an article on Marketing vs. Town Planning photomontages) – if the images are going to be used for planning, the building only and the context are more important – so daylight is a much more appropriate lighting setup.

3.      People or No People

This is one of the trickiest components of a 3D rendering scene to get right for a number of reasons. Firstly the people must match the demographic of the area, secondly, the lighting on the photo of the person that is being montaged into the 3D render needs to match the exact lighting of the scene and lastly, the resolution of the person’s cutout image needs to be high enough to allow for high resolution rendering so it doesn’t get distorted in brochures or on billboards.

If the budget allows, hire your own models and take photos with a green screen and then compose them in as required. This will also ensure that you own the copyright to the images and can freely use them throughout the marketing campaigns.

Or if it’s all too hard – keep the scene without any people. I know it’s not as exciting – but it’s better to have this rather than ending up with an image with people looking out of place.

4.      Designer Furniture

Another one of the detail points for interior 3D perspectives is on the subject of furniture and “objet” styling. “Objet” is a term used to describe knick-knacks and the like to make the interior space look lived in and designer magazine like.

Typically property developers are not interior designers nor do they need to be successful, but in order to make sure that your interior images look stunning – hire an interior designer to put together a cohesive styling guide that your 3D team can follow or work with a 3D supplier that has someone like that on staff to guide the work internally.

5.      Professional Landscaping

For exterior 3D perspectives, especially in cases of House and Land packages where the landscaping is not quite as defined – often this is the detail that lets down the realism of a 3D render.

What we have found in the past, it is best to have a conceptual landscaping design for the project than nothing at all and having to play around with different plants as we see fit. Our role is to specialise in accurate modelling, rendering and lighting effects and asking your 3D team to deliver appropriate landscaping within the images is unrealistic.

6.      Cars and Other Transport

This one is relatively straightforward. Minor things like international number plates or headlights of cars not lit in a nighttime scene give away the fact that it’s a computer-generated image versus photorealism.

Another composition factor when it comes to transport is often its paint colour – the cars or any other vehicles are there as background scenery and shouldn’t stand out and draw attention. They are merely there to act as a backdrop and scale estimate for what your project is going to be like in real life.

7.      Let There Be Light

Lighting in 3D scenes is critical. In exterior scenes, buildings with unlit interiors (not necessarily with turned on lamps internally) screams “un-realism” if such a word existed. Similarly in interiors – turning on lights creates much more mood and excitement in 3D to captivate your buyers’ hearts.

Often in exteriors, you can use dark areas in the foreground to create nice contrast for the buildings ahead if they are lit up. Remember mood is created primarily through the lighting of your project and the first impression of your development is a huge factor for a purchaser to decide whether to inquire further or move on.

P.S. Light flares are so last century – but it’s purely personal preference and if they turn you on, use sparingly.

8.      Blue Skies or Clouds

Another major area in an image is what kind of background your building is sitting in – if the nearby context is not appropriate or attractive for marketing purposes, perhaps an artist impression is better than a photomontage of your project. And in this case, you have full flexibility to the skies and surrounds of the development.

Often a hint of a cloud and perhaps some birds in the sky add extra detail and flair to the image – once again see “Light flares” point above in regards to birds – often referred to as “cheese” in the architectural visualisation circles.

9.      Deliver a Message

We believe your images are produced to deliver a message.

Whether it’s this building is appropriate to this location or its “by living in this development, you will be really cool” – the images have to be consistent throughout the message.

Keep this in mind throughout the generation of the 3D images and the overall style will be consistent and comprehensive to what you are aiming for.

10.    Pick the Right Team

And last but not least – no matter how good the project’s drawings are, if your bet is on the wrong horse – then no amount of polishing will get the imagery up to scratch.

Often it comes down to the price of the images, the higher the amount the better the quality of your 3D renders – however in most cases it’s not quite so simple. Working with budget constraints, finding the best supplier that will deliver and have a pleasant and smooth experience in the process is not easy.

You need to understand the capacity, the team and set appropriate KPIs in place to ensure that you can pick out early warning signs if something isn’t going quite right. Then when they do show up – there must be a framework set in place prior to engaging the 3D team to deal with issues as they arise.

Fingers crossed it will be smooth sailing, however in seeing many of our counterparts go out of business over the time we’ve grown, tells me that the chances of everything going completely perfect are fewer than the potential for mistakes that can cause the overall delivery to fall short of original expectations.

Please let us know how you found the top ten above and if you have any questions – feel free to get in touch either through the form below or an email by clicking here.

To your development success,


Stan Zaslavsky

BEng (Mech with Honours) / BTech (Industrial Design), LREA, VPELA

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