Ultimate Guide To the 3D Rendering Process

Guide 3D Rendering Hero

Whether you’re a designer, manufacturer, architect, interior designer, real estate developer or marketer, or just someone who likes to see things in 3D, you’ve probably come across the term “3D rendering”. But what does that actually mean, and how is it done?

In this guide, we’ll walk through the entire process of 3D rendering, from start to finish. By the end, you’ll have a better understanding not only of the process but also of where 3D renderings can be used business-wise.


What Is the 3D Rendering Process?

One of the industries with a great demand for 3D renderings is the real estate market, and 3D renderings created for this field are called “3D Architectural Renderings” or “Architectural Visualizations”. The 3D architectural rendering process refers to converting architectural 3D models into full-color photorealistic images or movies that present future architectural projects. Nowadays, the market offers a variety of 3D rendering software that handles this type of process.



3D Rendering Process Workflow

The 3D models required to start the process are based either on 2D technical drawings or sketches. Later on, during the rendering process, the surfaces of the models are covered with materials and are lit in a way that imitates the real world.


Step 1 – 3D Modelling 

It can be done either by architects or a studio in the type of software available on the market. Still, for photorealistic results, it will need to be imported into a program that a the 3d studio uses.

3D Rendering Process Guide 3D Modeling 3 1


Step 2 – Art Direction 

Once we start, the art director will discuss all the subtle elements to be added to make the images look photorealistic: materials, furniture, fixtures, time of day, people, etc. This process is communicated to clients via mood boards that explain the idea.

Guide 3D Rendering Process Moodboard


Step 3 – Grayscale Renderings

As the model at this stage doesn’t have any textures yet, it is fast to produce several renderings, often called “greyscale renderings.” They serve to explore different angles and find the ones that show a project in the best way. Grayscale renderings are also the stage when a client sees the rendering for the first time and can correct the geometry if something doesn’t look right.

Guide 3D Rendering Process Greyscale Renderings


Step 4 – Color Rendering 

At this stage, the studio gathers all the information from the previous steps. It will create the first photo-realistically looking rendering of the space for client review or approval.

Guide 3D Rendering Process Final Rendering


Step 5 – Revisions & Final Rendering

Very often, the renderings need to be tweaked, and that’s why the client is allowed to over-stage revisions where a 3D rendering will be to protect clients’ comments to make the image to their liking.

Most 3D studios offer two rounds of revisions, but sometimes it happens that is required more if a project has lots of elements or it’s a large-scale project. Also, when everything is in place the renderings will be delivered in high resolution and in this article you can learn how to choose a sutiable resolution for your project.



What Is CGI and How Is It Used In Different Areas?

CGI stands for Computer-Generated Imagery and is the application of the field of computer graphics. It’s also another name for 3D Renderings, which can be used not only in the real estate market but also for special effects in art, video games, films, television programs, commercials, or simulations.



CGI for movies is used in everything from animated films to realistic action movies. In animated films, all characters and objects are created with CGI, not only in the big blockbuster animations like those from Pixar but also in many less well-known or foreign films. For example, the 2009 film “Up” used 3D rendering to create its unique visuals.

Video Games

CGI is used extensively in video games. In most cases, 3D models and environments are rendered in real-time as the player explores or plays the game. The computer has to render 3D graphics quickly and efficiently. Games that use CGI include first-person shooters, role-playing games, and multiplayer online royal games. CGI in video games is the same technology that is used for creating real estate virtual tours.

Product Advertising and Marketing

CGI can create realistic or fantastical images of products, people, or environments for advertising and marketing. For example, an automobile company may use CGI to create an image of a new car that hasn’t been launched yet.

Product CGI creates 3D representations of products that are difficult to photograph. For example, if a mobile company sells a new smartphone, it may use product CGI to create a picture of the phone to show it in a unique way that’s impossible for traditional cameras.

Or, for restaurants looking to advertise new menu items without having to worry about quality over the length of a shoot, CGI can also be the answer. Global fast food behemoth McDonald’s uses CGI to recreate their hamburgers to create advertisements.



Usage of CGI in Architecture & Real Estate


Pre-Sales of Properties

CGI is used to maximize property sales potential during the advertisement, marketing and sales, so the buyers can visualize their purchase better without the property being built yet.

Architecture & Investor Presentations

3D models and fly-through 3D architectural animations are used to present the design and feel of a project to potential investors or communicate the development throughout the team, very often helping to close multi-million dollar deals where many of the participants must be on the same page.

Communicating Your Design Effectively to Your Clients

3D models, 3D renders, and animations effectively communicate your design ideas to clients. It will help them understand what the outcome looks like and the functionality of the building and actively participate in the design progress.

Design Development

CGI helps architects and engineers work out the design, kinks, and problems before construction even begins to create a design that is in place and with no costly oversights (that sometimes are tricky to identify on 2D technical drawings)

Architectural Competitions

If you are going up against others’ projects to win lucrative contracts, good-looking 3D renderings can give you the edge over your competition.

Improve your Marketing Portfolio

As some projects might take years to be built, 3D photorealistic renderings help show off your design in the portfolio without waiting until the construction is completed, which is an excellent way to keep your potential clients up to date with what you have designed.



Who Are 3D Renderings Useful For?

All parts of the sales cycle can use 3D rendering to their advantage, with the people using it most being Real Estate Developers, Architects, Interior Designers, and Real Estate Agents.

Real Estate Developers use 3d services to advertise and market new construction developments to help sell units before they are built. They also use them in the pre-development phase to better understand the building’s site, layout, design, and how different materials will look. For more information on this, check out this article on How Real Estate Developers use 3D rendering.

Architects adopt 3D rendering to communicate their ideas to clients, other architects, and engineers. 3D models help them understand the proportions of the building, how light will enter the space, and how people will move through it. 3D rendering is an excellent way to explore different design options before committing to a final design. Check out this article for more details.

Interior Designers use 3D rendering during the development process to understand how different materials, colors, and furniture will look in the space. Interior architectural visualisation is a great way for designers to communicate their ideas to clients, show different designs they have come up with and customize the interior to the client’s tastes.

Real Estate Agents use 3D rendering to help market properties for sale. 3D property renderings can be used in listings, websites, and social media posts to help potential buyers better understand the property. 3D renderings can show how different furniture arrangements would look in the space or how different finishes would look on the walls. For further info, check out this article.



Common Types of Exterior Rendering

Guide 3D Rendering Common types of exterior renderings



These renderings are used to create 3D images and animations of buildings that will be used for commercial purposes, such as office buildings, shopping centers, and hotels. These renderings are usually done on a larger scale than for residential buildings as they need to show the exterior of the building as well as the interior.


Used for buildings that will be used for residential purposes such as houses, apartments, and condos, this type of rendering is usually done on a smaller scale than for commercial projects as they mostly only need to show the exterior of the building. Interior may also be used, but it is less critical as this is more the dominion of interior designers.


Working on skyscrapers isn’t your typical architectural job, so special renderings are needed for these buildings. Renderings of Skyscrapers are done on a very large scale and include detailed close-up shots. These buildings sometimes go for hundreds of millions of dollars, so detail here is king inside and outside.


Think parks, gardens, and large estates. 3D landscape renderings show how the land will look once developed. Having these images is vital for developers as it helps them to sell the land before it has been developed.


Townhouses are a type of residential building usually three or more stories tall and attached to other townhouses. Townhouse renderings are done on a smaller scale than commercial projects but are more detailed than renderings for other residential projects.



Common Types of Interior Rendering

Guide 3D Rendering Common types of interior renderings



Restaurants utilize 3D renderings to help design the restaurant’s layout, choose furniture, and decide on the color scheme.  These renderings are usually done on a large scale so that the client can see how the different elements will look in the space while keeping on brand and having a look the restaurateur has in mind.


Interior designers use renders to help design the bathroom layout, choose fixtures, and decide on the color scheme. These images can give a more accurate idea of how the finished product will look. This tool is essential for ensuring that everything fits well and that the client is happy with the result.


Give a more accurate idea of how the kitchen will look while also ensuring the kitchen runs efficiently with 3D renderings. For example, you would need to ensure that specific cooking equipment is located together, depending on the chef’s section requirements. It ensures the kitchen works in tandem and allows the chefs to work to their best.


3D rendering has become essential for interior designers working on retail projects. 3D renderings can help to visualize how different furniture and finishes will look in the space and can be used to create detailed walk-throughs of the finished project in terms of a customer journey through the store.


An essential tool for office project interior designers has quickly become 3D renderings. 3D renderings may illustrate how various furniture and surface treatments will look in a room. This is crucial for ensuring that everything fits correctly and providing different departments with the correct office attire and are in the vicinity of other departments they closely work with.



Cost of 3D Rendering

The cost of 3D rendering can fluctuate massively depending on several different factors. Usually starting from about $800 per image, you can go all the way up to a few thousand. 3D rendering cost is generally worked out per project or image basis, and the more images the project has, the cheaper the price per image.


There are a few factors that affect 3D rendering costs mostly:

  • The type of 3D rendering you need (commercial, residential, landscape, etc.)
  • Size and complexity of the project
  • The number of images (and other products) in the scope
  • The level of detail required in the renderings
  • Skills of the artist involved in the process
  • Turnaround time
  • Purpose of the renderings


3D rendering can be a relatively expensive service, but it’s all about return on investment. You can avoid costly mistakes, increase sales speed, and win a contract over competitors by having good quality renderings to aid you.

Generally, projects will fall within the mid-range tier of $2,000 to $5,000 for professionals like architects and interior designers that have a relatively small project where a few images are enough to show the idea. If you’re looking to make a skyscraper or a super mall, your 3D rendering costs will go further up the scale and hit the more high-end prices quoted individually.

Also, cheaper does not always mean better. Many professional studios offer elevated prices, but they come with experience in the field, making the process smoother. They would guide you and advise on the process, which is extra value that saves your time and increases the final results.



Timeline of a 3D Rendering Project

The timeline of a 3D rendering project can vary depending on the size and scope of the project as well as detail requirements. For smaller projects, the timeline may be as short as a few days. For larger projects, the timeline may be weeks or even up to months.

When looking at a project timeline, there are two main rendering types – the exterior and interior rendering times. We have listed a breakdown below of each type of project with roughly estimated times required for each.  Also, it’s worth mentioning that many studios offer expedited timelines, which are shorter than those listed below but usually come with higher fees.


Exterior Projects


Single Family House, 7-10 days

This type of project usually requires a few images to show the entire project, so it can be wrapped up relatively quickly, especially when the project materials are well-organized. The exceptions are only big mansions or classical buildings.

Multi-Family Townhouse, 2-3 weeks

Many attached buildings usually cover a large area and require a higher amount of 3D renderings than single-family houses, which reflect on the timeline. However, smaller townhouses can also be considered for a shorter turnaround time.

Hi-Rise Building, 3-4 weeks

The sky’s the limit with this one. Skyscrapers can be incredibly complex and detailed. The size will significantly impact the timeline as well as the size of the area that should be shown within.

Large-Scale Urban Area, 6 weeks +

When talking about an entire cityscape, the timeline can become relatively long. This type of project is usually done in phases, and many parties are involved. Projects of this scope will often start at a few weeks and progress depending on the area requirements and how many building and infrastructure is to be shown.


Interior Projects


Residential Space 5-10 Days

The timeline depends on how many rooms you want to show within a project. Smaller rooms like bedrooms or bathrooms usually require just one view. However, living areas, especially those with dining and kitchen together, are suitable for two views.

The increased amount of rooms doesn’t significantly increase the timeline as many studios can work on them simultaneously. Also, the factor that can increase the timeline is custom furniture. If you need very specific pieces, then the studio will need to model them.

Commercial Project 2-3 weeks

Anything from an office design to a restaurant layout, these projects are the largest interior designs required. They can often be broken down into smaller 3D rendering projects, but the overall time is generally a few weeks as there are many details to attend to. Moreover, the timeline depends on the space size as it can go from a small office space to a large shopping mall interior.



Choosing a CGI Studio and starting the job

Choosing the right CGI studio can be a difficult task. You want to ensure you find a reputable firm with experience with the type of project you are working on. Here are a few things to consider:


1. Their Portfolio

You first want to look at the studio”s portfolio to give you a good idea of their past work and what kind of projects they are capable of handling. While with the portfolio, you will gain a level of understanding as to what type of services they provide. If you’re looking for a specific type of 3D rendering, make sure the company you’re looking at has experience with that particular service and it fits your profile.

2. Reviews

These can be found on the internet, but reputable studios usually will be happy to provide you with contacts for their previous clients. Also, very often, they publish their reviews on websites.

3. First Communication 

First impressions are everything. Choosing a CGI studio is no exception to this rule. The first communication with a studio will tell you a lot about how the whole process will go when working with them.

Pay close attention to the small details, like how quickly they respond, whether they listen to your specific needs, and provide valuable solutions. Also, it is equally important that they follow your preferred mode of communication, i.e., email, zoom, call, etc.

3. Evaluate Their Service

When you’ve found a firm that you’re interested in working with, the next step is to evaluate their service. To start the evaluation process, begin by requesting a quote from them and seeing how long it takes for them to get back to you and how professional the proposal is. If you’re interested in evaluating our service at NoTriangle, then we suggest looking at our homepage to get an overview on how we work.

You want to ensure they can answer any questions about the 3D rendering process. A good firm will be able to walk you through the entire process and help you understand what’s going on every step of the way.

Finally, you’ll want to ensure they can work with your schedule and meet your deadlines. 3D rendering can often be a time-consuming process, so it’s crucial that the company you choose hits deadlines. Start with a small part of the project to get a sample, then move on to the entire project once you are satisfied with their service.

4. Choose the Right Type of Visuals

Choosing the right type of visuals is an essential part of the 3D rendering process. The type of visuals you choose will depend on what you’re using the 3D renderings for. Also, you might need different products for your development such as architectural visulization or real estate virtual tours (see here for more info).

If you want to sell or market a product, photo-realistic 3D renderings will be your best bet. These 3D renderings look like real photographs and are great for getting people’s attention.

If you’re not looking to sell or market a product, then non-photo-realistic 3D renderings may be a better option. These 3D renderings don’t look like photographs but can give you a good idea of your product’s appearance and are easier and faster to produce.

5. Prepare Your References 

Providing references helps a studio understand your preferences. The more references you provide, the better understanding of your idea the studio will have. Ultimately, this benefits both parties and helps keep the process smooth.

Your references include drawings, sketches, and photos of your project. 3D rendering artists will use these references to create the 3D model. Make sure you have high-quality references that are easy to understand. The better your references, the better your 3D renderings will be.

If you don’t have any references, don’t worry! A good studio will be able to help you create them.


Conclusion – When Do I Need 3D Rendering?

3D renderings have various applications today, including investor presentations, selling properties, communicating design, developing design, improving your marketing portfolio, and even for architectural competitions.

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


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