3d Rendering vs 3d Modeling: What's the Difference?

rendering vs modeling

The world of the visualization industry is filled with terminologies and concepts that can often be confusing. Two such terms are 3D modeling and 3D rendering. Many people tend to use them interchangeably, which leads to further confusion regarding their differences and similarities.

This guide is here to help clarify what each of these terms means and to explore the areas where they overlap. We will delve into the intricacies of 3D rendering vs 3D modeling, providing you with a comprehensive understanding of each process. Additionally, we’ll highlight the key differences between the two and explain how they complement each other.



What Is 3D Rendering?

3D rendering is the process of creating a 2D image (often photorealistic) from a 3D model using specialized software. It’s often used in architecture, interior design, engineering, video game development, and other fields where realistic or stylized representations of 3D objects are required, and has become an indispensable tool in many of these areas.

The process of 3D rendering involves taking a 3D model and applying lighting, shading, texture, and other visual effects to create a final image, and involves complex algorithms and techniques that simulate the way light interacts with objects in the real world, resulting in realistic or stylized images. For a better understanding of how 3d rendering works, take a look at our 3d rendering basics guide.



What Is 3D Modeling?


what is 3d modeling


Although it shares similarities with 3d rendering, 3D modeling is noticeably different, and follows a different process. Firstly, rather than creating a 2d image, the final product of 3d modeling is the model itself, which can then be used for other purposes such as 3d rendering.

The process of 3D modeling involves creating a basic shape in 3d, and then refining and adding details to create a more complex object. The software used for 3D modeling provides a range of tools for manipulating the shape, size, position, and orientation of the object, as well as for adding textures, colors, and other visual elements.

Just like 3d rendering, 3D modeling is used in a number of fields, including interior design, architecture, product design, video game development, and film and animation. In each of these industries, 3d architectural models are used to visualize and test designs before they are built, to create virtual environments or characters, and to generate realistic or stylized visual effects.



3D Modeling vs Rendering – Similarities


3d rendering vs 3d modeling

Software: Both Require Specialized Software.

3D rendering and 3D modeling both use similar software tools and programs to create and adjust 3D objects and environments, and in many cases the same software can be used for both.

For 3D modeling, there are several types of software available such as Revit, SketchUp, Rhino and 3D Studio Max, which allow the user to create a 3D object from scratch, import an object from another source, or use pre-made models as a starting point. The user can make changes to the 3D object by adjusting its shape, size, texture, and other visual elements using the software’s tools.

Similarly, for 3D rendering, there are lots of different types of software, both paid and free, which allow the user to use 3D models to then create realistic 2D images or animations. The software is used to add lighting, shadows, texture, and other visual effects to the 3D model which allow for the creation of a 3d rendering or animation.

There are some types of software that allow for 3d modeling and 3d rendering, with 3D Studio Max being the most obvious example.


Visualization: Both Contribute to Visualizations.

Both 3D rendering and 3D modeling are essential steps in the visualization process, with 3D modeling serving as a precursor to creating 3D renderings. Quality modeling is particularly critical as it plays a vital role in achieving photorealistic results.

For instance, in architecture, a 3D model of the project is first created, optimized, and then utilized by 3D artists to apply rendering techniques such as lighting and shading, resulting in photorealistic images. The same process applies to 3d interior renderings

In essence, 3D modeling can be likened to the foundation of a house. Just like a strong foundation is essential for the stability of the house, quality 3D modeling is crucial for the success of the 3D rendering process. If the foundation is not done correctly, it can lead to issues down the line. Therefore, it’s crucial to give 3D modeling the attention it deserves, as it sets the stage for the entire visualization process.


Skills: Both Require Technical Expertise.

Both 3D rendering and 3D modeling require technical expertise, as they involve complex software tools and techniques for creating and editing digital 3D objects and environments.

To create 3D models, an artist or designer must have a strong understanding of 3D geometry, topology, and texturing and need to be familiar with specialized 3D modeling software, which can include complex features and workflows. Additionally, they must have a strong eye for design, as the final model must be visually appealing and accurate to the desired object or environment.

Although somewhat similar, 3D rendering requires different technical expertise in areas such as lighting, shading, and texturing. A 3D artist must have a deep understanding of the principles of light and shadow, as well as experience with 3d rendering software that can be highly technical and require extensive configuration. Moreover, they need to have the ability to understand a clients’ brief and work in a way that matches their vision and goals. For more information on how to achieve top quality renderings, check out our 3d rendering tips post.


Industry: Both are used in Creative Industries

3D rendering and 3D modeling are used in similar industries, such as architecture, interior design, product design, video game development, and film and animation.

In architecture, 3D modeling is used to create virtual models of buildings and structures, which can be used for visualization, simulation, and analysis. 3D rendering is then used to create photorealistic images and animations of these models, which can be used for marketing, presentations, client approvals, and local board meetings.

Similarly, in interior design, 3D modeling and interior design renderings are used to create virtual models of interior spaces, which can be used to experiment with different layouts, materials, and lighting before actual construction takes place. The same is true for product design, where 3D modeling and rendering are used to create and visualize prototypes and visualize products within different contexts.

In the entertainment industry, both 3D modeling and rendering are essential to creating visual effects for film and animation. 3D models are used to create characters, creatures, and environments, while 3D rendering is used to create photorealistic images and animations of these elements. When you see CGI in a tv shows or films, both 3d modeling and rendering have been used to make these.



3d Rendering vs 3D Modeling – The Differences

3d modeling vs rendering


Difference in Output

One of the main differences between 3d modeling and rendering is the final output of the process. In the case of the 3d modeling, the final result is the 3d model itself, whereas with 3d rendering, the result is a high quality architectural renderings.

A 3d model can be exported in various formats to use with architectural rendering software, or can be used for 3D printing, or software that is used to create animations or other types of video. Additionally, the file can be used to create a virtual model that can be viewed on a computer screen.

In contrast, 3D rendering produces a 2D image that can be utilized for various purposes such as design development, marketing, advertising and presentations.


Techniques Used

Whilst the skills used for 3d modeling and 3d rendering overlap in some areas, there are a few distinct differences. Here’s a brief overview:


  • Skills Required for 3D Modeling:
  1. Understanding of geometry and spatial relationships: 3D modeling requires a strong understanding of geometry and spatial relationships to create precise 3D models.
  2. Knowledge of 3D modeling software: Need to have a knowledge of 3d modeling software. There are some softwares that allow both modeling and rendering, but the skill sets are different.
  3. Ability to work with reference materials: 3D modeling often involves working with reference materials like photographs, sketches, or blueprints to create accurate models.
  4. Attention to detail: 3D modeling requires a keen eye for detail, as even small errors in the model can affect the final result.


  • Skills Required for 3D Rendering:
  1. Understanding of Lighting and Materials: 3D rendering involves simulating lighting and materials to create photorealistic images, so a strong understanding of how light interacts with different materials is essential.
  2. Knowledge of Rendering Software/Plugins: Again the softwares can overlap, but the skills set is different. Also requires being able to understand rendering plugins such as V-ray and Corona.
  3. Time Management with Rendering Times: Rendering can be a time-consuming process, so being able to optimize rendering times by adjusting settings or using render farms is important, especially if you have deadlines to meet.
  4. Artistic Touch – There’s a reason why creators of rendering are called 3d artists, and creating a 3d rendering requires a creative touch and an artistic eye in order to create images that stand out.


Order in the Workflow

As mentioned previously, both 3d rendering and modeling are essential parts when it comes to creating photorealistic images, with the difference being the order in which each phase is completed. 3d modeling typically proceeds rendering, and serves as the building blocks in order to create a rendering phase. In 3d rendering companies, there are usually different teams/people who take of each phase, with 3d modelers creating a 3d model of a project from CAD files or PDF’s, which is then passed on to a 3d artist, or a team of 3d artists who then take care of the rendering phase.



How to Reuse a 3d model with different 3d renders

There are numerous ways to utilize 3D models in creating different renderings. Firstly, if you create a 3D model of a house, you can reuse that same model to generate various renderings from different angles, such as the front, rear, and aerial views. Similarly, when it comes to interiors, a 3D model of a living room can be utilized to obtain images of different angles of the same space.

Moreover, a 3D model can also be used to create other products related to a particular project. For instance, the same model that was used to create a 3D rendering of a house can be utilized to develop architectural animations or virtual reality tours.

Another way to utilize 3D models is to create or add them to a 3D library, which can be used in future projects. This includes 3D models of furniture, vegetation, and vehicles, among other things. By developing a library of 3D models, you can expedite the modeling process for future projects while maintaining consistency in design quality.



How to Simplify the 3D Modeling and 3D Rendering Processes

3d architecture render at night

Both the 3d modeling and 3d rendering process can be simplified and optimized to improve your flow and enhance your results and these can be used in both areas. Firstly, using references like sketches, photographs, or blueprints can help you create accurate 3D models and speed up the modeling process, as well as using pre-made 3D assets like models, textures and materials, instead of creating everything from scratch.

Optimizing your software settings can also make a big difference, with both 3d rendering and modeling software having settings that can improve performance and optimize your speed. Render presets are another way that can help speed up the rendering process to help save time and effort. Finally, practice makes perfect, the more experience you gain creating renderings or models will allow you to optimize your workflow and remove any steps that may be unnecessary.



3D Rendering vs Modeling – Which One Should I Choose ?

3d render of a property example

Deciding which career path to pursue, 3D modeling or 3D rendering, depends on your interests, skills, and goals. Both fields offer exciting career opportunities and require different sets of skills.

3D modeling is a good fit for individuals who enjoy working on the technical and creative aspects of creating 3D models. If you have a passion for design, architecture, product development, or game development, and enjoy working on creating complex 3D models, then 3D modeling might be the right career path for you. If you’re interested in learning more about a career in 3d modeling, then we recommend taking a look at this article.

3D rendering is a good fit for individuals who enjoy creating photo realistic or stylized 3D images or animations. If you have a more artistic side, and like the idea of working on lighting, texture and materials, then 3d rendering could be a better fit. enjoy working on lighting, textures, and materials, then 3D rendering might be the right career path for you. Strong skills in software are required for both.

In conclusion, when it comes to choosing between 3D modeling vs 3D rendering as a career path, it ultimately depends on your interests, skills, and goals. While 3D modeling is more technical and creative, 3D rendering requires a strong artistic side and a focus on photo-realistic or stylized images. Both fields offer exciting career opportunities, and each requires a different set of skills. It’s essential to assess your strengths and interests to determine which path is right for you. Whichever path you choose, strong skills in software are crucial for success in both 3D rendering vs 3D modeling.



Frequently Asked Questions


What is the difference between a 3D mesh and 3D model?

A 3D model is a digital representation of a three-dimensional object or scene created using 3D modeling software. A 3D model can be made up of one or more 3D meshes.

A 3D mesh is the basic building block of a 3D model. It is a collection of vertices, edges, and faces that define the shape of an object or scene. The vertices are points in 3D space, the edges connect the vertices, and the faces define the surface of the object or scene.

In other words, a 3D model is a complete digital representation of an object or scene, while a 3D mesh is a component of that model that defines the shape of the object or scene.


Can you start rendering without having 3D models?

In the world of 3D visualization, a 3D model serves as the foundation for the entire rendering process. Without a 3D model, it’s nearly impossible to begin the rendering process as it provides the starting point for 3D artists to create photorealistic renderings.

While it’s generally not possible to start the rendering process without a 3D model, there are a few tasks that can be accomplished in its absence. For instance, creating mood boards or storyboards can be carried out without a 3D model, particularly in the case of animations. However, it’s important to note that without a 3D model, the 3D artist has nothing to work with, making it challenging to produce high-quality renderings. Therefore, having a quality 3D model is critical to the success of the rendering process.



Contact NoTriangle Studio, a leading 3D company specialized in cutting-edge 3D architectural visualization, today if you’re ready to start your 3D rendering project.


Shane the author


Author – Meet Shane, the Chief Project Officer at NoTriangle. With a remarkable background in architecture and 3D animation, Shane possesses over 15 years of experience in both fields. Armed with Honors degrees in Architectural Engineering and 3D Design and Animation from two prestigious UK universities, Shane brings an abundance of knowledge and skills to our blog.

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