3D Architectural Visualization is on the rise nowadays. if 10 years ago all we had were raw and unrealistic renderings, today we can hardly tell a 3D rendered image from a professional photograph. But such results require a great deal of time and effort.

So, if you are an architectural visualization company or a construction firm, how do you choose the right designer, given that almost any portfolio features works that look real enough to you? After all, you order 3D renderings to get results: you want your prospective customers to look at the pictures and say: “Wow! This is the cottage I want to live in! This is the house where I’ll have my future apartment”!

Only truly high-quality 3D graphics can yield such a result. This is why we recommend looking at the following four criteria when evaluating the visuals:

Devil in the details

Each object should have all the small imperfections it does in real life: scratches, reflections, rust, slightly uneven tile joints in the bathroom, shadows on the furniture, etc. It takes time, trial and error, but the results are striking: these renderings are virtually indistinguishable from real photographs. Thus, for a fraction of the cost of a photographer you can enjoy perspectives no photographer could offer.

Appropriate surroundings

Where does that house stand: just out there in the street, or in environs perfectly chiming in with its exterior? It would be odd to see a tiny rural getaway amid a bustling metropolis. Pay attention to the creativity and rationality of the designer’s choices.

Accurate lighting and atmosphere

Designers can opt to set the scene in a range of weather conditions: a sunny noon, a frosty winter morning, a cloudy autumn day, and so on. Usually they will go with the first option as the simplest one. Others require much more attention: rainy clouds, for instance, should look thick with the image a little darkened. The viewer must literally sense the chill coming from the skies and feel the urge to stride inside that house and wrap herself in a warm blanket.

Realistic composition

Consider an artistic technique called “destruction of symmetry”: for example, a book lying on the table might have its upper part slightly offset from the lower one. Imperfection is part of reality — if the designer neglects such small things, you never know if she’ll be careless about bigger ones.

To illustrate the above points, let’s have a look at five examples:

Example 1

This exterior, created by Tianyi Zhu, conveys the atmosphere of an evening in a rain-soaked city

3D architectural visualization by Tianyi Zhu

Tianyi Zhu

Here are some details that come naturally in a photograph but require utmost care from a 3D designer:

  • Garland on the tree, a small detail giving the image a peculiar charm.
  • Correct reflections in the puddles, not causing a subconscious feeling of oddity.
  • Street lighting so elaborate that it looks totally like the real thing.
  • Dirty slabs, just as they should be in a rain.
  • Blurred silhouettes of people, as on a long exposure photograph, further enhancing the feeling of realness.
  • A very important point: you won’t find two windows with the same interior behind them, a flaw particularly common to lower-quality works. When visualizing a building with lots of windows, most designers would just create two or three different ones and then clone them over and over again. This image is different: each window, including the showcases, has a unique interior behind it.

According to the Tianyi Zhu, this rendering took her two weeks to create. High-quality visualization favors the patient.

Example 2

Here’s another meticulous work by Tianyi Zhu. This one took her even more than two weeks.

3d visualization by Tianyi Zhu

Tianyi Zhu

Main points to look at:

  • Painstakingly elaborate atmosphere. The fog hits the spot in conveying the depth.
  • Realistic, waving light instead of a mere blur around its source.
  • Snowflakes dancing in the rays of light — something seemingly too negligible to pay attention to, but making the rendering look even more real.
  • Snow with detailed footprints, wheel tracks, ruts, and all the other small stuff most of designers never even think about.

As you can see, a truly professional 3D exterior is composed of details diligently crafted down to the tiniest, almost imperceptible level. The central building it pictures is just the beginning of the story.

Example 3

This work made by Gilvan Isbiro is worth special attention because it is virtually indistinguishable from a photograph:

Architectural visualization by Gilvan Isbiro

Gilvan Isbiro

You would think that this is a good professional photo, but this is actually what a truly high-end 3D looks like.

  • Rails: imperfect, cracked, slightly aged, with lights reflecting in them.
  • Bumps and notches on the asphalt.
  • Over-exposed headlights.
  • Masterful details such as dirt on the asphalt, reflections in the puddles, and surface roughness.
Example 4

This work by Fama Advertising Agency meets all the criteria mentioned above:

Architectural 3d rendering by Fama Advertising Agency

Fama Advertising Agency

  • Absolutely realistic atmosphere of a rainy autumn day. The image is slightly dimmed, just like it would be on a picture taken in this time of year. But in reality it’s “just” the designer’s thoroughness in conveying the atmosphere.
  • Unpolished building exterior with rain streaks running down the glass, just as they should when in such weather.
  • Different shades of light on the windows and interiors behind them. As already mentioned, lower-quality works will always have some kind of repeating pattern.
  • Puddles placed irregularly, just as they would be in real life. The author even added cracks on the asphalt for additional photo realism.
  • Sidewalk covered with leaves — likely siblings of the ones spinning in the air, torn off with the wind. You’ve got to keep reminding to yourself that this is a 3D image, for such details are worth a high-end photograph!.
  • Mist from under the tires of the cars rushing by — a small but important detail resulting in a truly photo realistic image.
Example 5

Our next showpiece is a work created by Kostas Anninos and his team in their spare time. This fictional building is inspired by Roman Polanski’s The Ghost Writer. It took them several months to make it, so let us look at what they spent their time on.

Architectural 3d rendering by Kostas Anninos

Kostas Anninos

  • Seemingly simplistic atmosphere with its unique charm and glamor, perfectly rendered and with light which is slightly brighter on the left and dimmer on the right, towards the hill.
  • Carefully colored plants, not of that caustic green we’re used to seeing in cartoons, but of realistic tints, painstakingly chosen for each individual bush and leave and making the green surrounding the building look as though taken from a photograph. By the way, how many plant species do you think are there? To save your time: more than 45. Take a few of them away, and the photo realism is gone. And who would have thought? After all, it’s just a bunch of bushes and grass, right? Wrong.
  • Not a trace of any pattern. That’s what professionalism is.
  • Gently rolling landscape, further contributing to photo realism.
  • Many tiny interior details, visible only when zoomed in: a plate, a bookcase, other furniture, and so on — something completely uncommon for lower-quality works.

3D Architectural Visualization: Conclusion

So, let us summarize the results. Here’s what distinguishes a truly high-end 3D rendering:

  • Thoroughly elaborated minor details, sometimes not even perceptible at first sight.
  • Beautiful composition, with each object telling its own story and placed exactly so as to convey the emotions that the designer wanted to evoke in the viewer, and not just because “there was that empty space that had to be filled somehow”.
  • Accurately rendered lighting and atmosphere, the lack of which makes the image flat, bland, and anything but photo realistic.

To achieve such a result, we need at least three components:

  • Professional designers.
  • Sufficient budget.
  • A lot of time.

Then we can make the rendering truly indistinguishable from a photograph.

Now you know what to pay attention to when browsing through designer portfolios. Pay for the expected result and not just for a 3D visualization, and your investments will work for you for years to come.

You can enjoy the works of true professionals, learn more about their techniques, and find out their approximate rates at 3DArtistsHUB

As a little bonus, here is a short video made by Alex Roman, true masterpiece. Everything you will see in this video – 3D Visualization:

This is all nice, but what if I don’t have that much money to spend?

If you are a small business or do not have a sufficient budget at hand, but still want to save your face and let your clients know you care about them, you need a compromise: a good 3D exterior for reasonable money. Want to know how to tell whether a visualization is good enough?

Stay tuned for our next article!

3D Visualization Rendering: What Makes a Good 3D