3D Rendering World

The Beginner’s Guide to 3D Rendering – Everything You Need to Know

The Beginner's Guide to 3D Rendering - Everything You Need to Know


For those new to 3D rendering, take heart – with dedicated practice, you too can start producing beautiful visualizations. This guide aims to provide a helpful introduction to get novice renderers going on their 3D rendering journey.

What Exactly is 3D Rendering?

When beginning any new project, it’s important to understand the fundamentals. So what exactly is 3D rendering? In simple terms, it is the process of taking 3D models made in programs like Maya, 3ds Max, or Blender and generating 2D images and animations from them. But it involves so much more than just pressing a button. To breathe life into these assets, an artist must carefully craft materials, and light scenes, adjust cameras, and tweak endless settings to achieve the perfect look. The end goal is to turn that 3D data into realistic imagery, whether it be a still product rendering, animated film effects, or a video game environment.

Types of 3D Rendering

There are a few common types and methods of 3D  architectural rendering, including:

Types of 3D Rendering
  • Real-Time Rendering

Real-time rendering creates dynamic rendered imagery interactively in games, simulations, and some 3D modeling software. The 3D assets are rendered on the fly as the camera viewpoint moves around the scene. This allows for quick iteration and animation but has simplified lighting and materials.

  • Pre-Rendered Visual Effects

For visual effects shots in live-action films, animation studios will pre-render complex 3D assets individually as frames. These are compiled and integrated with plates during compositing. Pre-rendering enables high quality imagery not possible in real-time.

  • Offline Rendering

Offline rendering is used for still images requiring high realism and detail. This includes architectural visualizations, product renderings, automotive designs, and advertising. Scenes are set up in a 3D program then rendered using ray tracing, global illumination, and other complex techniques.

  • Non-Photorealistic Rendering

While most aim for photorealism, non-photorealistic rendering applies artistic styles and abstraction to 3D models. This includes cel shading, painterly rendering, hand-drawn looks, and other stylized effects.

Essential Tools for 3D Rendering

Essential Tools for 3D Rendering

Two primary types of software are needed for 3D rendering:

  • Modeling Programs: These create the 3D models and assets. Common options include Maya, 3ds Max, Blender, ZBrush, and Modo. 
  • Render Engines: These generate the final pixels and images from scene setups. Common engines include V-Ray, Arnold, Redshift, Octane, and Cycles.

Other helpful programs add capabilities for texturing, lighting, animation, cloth, hair, and compositing. Examples are Photoshop, Marvelous Designer, Houdini, and After Effects. Game engines like Unity and Unreal provide real-time rendering capabilities.

Overview of the 3D Rendering Process

While every artist follows their own unique workflow, 3D rendering typically involves these key steps:

  • Modeling: Creating 3D models and assets out of polygons
  • Texturing: Adding color, surface textures, and material properties
  • Rigging: Building bone structures and controls for characters and objects
  • Animation: Posing and animating the models over time
  • Lighting: Illuminating the scene with light sources, shadows, and reflections
  • Rendering: Generating the final 2D images from the set up 3D scene
  • Compositing: Combining rendered elements and enhancing the final images

Together, these steps take 3D assets from start to finish to achieve the desired visual look and style. In the following sections, we’ll go over some tips to start learning these key phases of the 3D rendering pipeline.

Tips for Getting Started with 3D Rendering

Tips for Getting Started with 3D Rendering

For beginners new to 3D rendering, here are some helpful tips:

  • Master the basics of 3D modeling before jumping straight into rendering. Start simple before increasing scene complexity.
  • Study real-world lighting and use photo references when texturing to achieve realistic results.
  • Learn about PBR (physically based rendering) and how to use it.
  • Leverage existing asset libraries to save time instead of modeling everything from scratch.
  • Watch speed modeling/sculpting videos to quickly learn techniques from experts.
  • Experiment with different rendering software and try real-time engines first to get instant feedback.
  • Start with simple scenes before advancing to highly complex environments.
  • Rendering takes patience and practice – keep at it!


The world of 3D architectural visualization offers immense creative potential. In this beginner’s guide, we provided an introduction to the fundamental concepts, tools, techniques, and workflow to help you get started with 3D rendering. Mastering the basics of 3D modeling first is key before jumping into rendering more complex scenes. Experimenting with different software and starting simple allows you to progressively build skills. Using photo references and studying real-world lighting lends realism to your 3D visualizations. With regular practice and patience, your rendering abilities will continuously improve. 

Mastering 3D rendering unlocks opportunities in film, television, product design, architecture, engineering, and many other fields. We hope this beginner’s guide has sparked your interest in exploring the exciting creative possibilities of 3D architectural visualization. Please let us know if you have any other questions as you embark on this rewarding learning journey!

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Frequently Asked Questions

3D rendering is useful because it allows the creation of realistic imagery from 3D models that would be impossible to capture in real life. It enables artists to have full control over lighting, camera angles, materials, and other qualities to achieve the perfect look. Rendering takes digital 3D assets to the next level for films, games, product visuals, architecture, and more.

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