3D Architectural Visualization: Best 3D Exterior rendering

Like every other field, the arena of architecture has become savagely fierce in a competitive way. Simple sketches and drawings, though highly effective early on, no longer bring anything new to the AEC industry today.

When an architect or developer takes the effort to present their work in a 3D design, it carries more influence because investors or clients aren’t always that great at reading and understanding simple drawings. Aside from the fact that sketches are difficult to understand, investors and potential clients need a certain amount of imagination to clearly understand and visualize what the AEC professional is trying to display.

This is why more and more AEC professionals are turning to 3D exterior rendering services to help them boost their portfolios, evoke an emotional experience, and become a thought-leader in their industry. 3D exterior visuals are a lot more compelling and better understood by the client.

So, what exactly makes the cut to be an epic 3D exterior render? And how can Faraday 3D help you achieve that high-quality realistic composition for your architectural marketing journey?

Let’s talk about “high-end 3D exterior rendering details” in our article “3D Architectural Visualization: Best Exterior Render” and show you how atmosphere, lighting—and budget—can impact the future of your architectural business.

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 by Faraday 3D

Exterior 3d visualization by Faraday 3D

Just one note to make: even if your project is small and yo think it’s not worth spending your money on creating great visuals, take a look at the above render and ask yourself: would you like to have such a cabin in the mountains?

More works from this project see on Behance

Example 1

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

 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.

 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:

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:

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.

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.

Example 6

Artist Kirill Chernyy uses a striking perspective to enhance the realism of this architectural rendering. Based on an actual street in New York City, this project was a way for Cherneyy to hone his 3D modeling skills. Every visible building is a model of his own design.

Kirill Chernyy

Here’s why it works:

The dramatic lighting from the fog and the reflections on the wet pavement add to the moodiness as the buildings simply fade away into the distance. A mysterious figure in the middle stands out from the crowd, acting as a focal point and showing the massive scale of these city skyscrapers. Every car headlight and glowing storefront sign has a corresponding reflection on the ground, placed with meticulous attention to detail.

The Macy’s sign in the bottom right and the traffic light in the top left corner serve to anchor the image in the real world. Paired with the grainy quality of the shadows and the expertly set depth of field, this provides the viewer with a sense that a physical camera lens was used even though it is fully computer generated. The buildings in the foreground lean slightly away from center, and the gaps between blocks are uneven, which are exactly the kind of imperfections one would expect to find on a city street like this one. Although the buildings take up most of the image, the non-building elements are essential to setting the scene and drawing the viewer into the world.

Example 7

This work by artist Nikolay Antonchik, titled Vega House, drops the viewer right into the mountain scenery. The building is simple and clean, which contrasts with the rugged terrain. The colors of the building mirror that of the landscape. It feels like the building was designed specifically with this topography in mind. Rough white rocks are interspersed naturally with a wide variety of highland vegetation. The wood grain of the building’s surface appears smooth and slightly shiny.

Nikolay Antonchik

The setting is so tangible that the viewer can almost feel the damp chill of the air. Inside the house, the windows glow with a warm, inviting yellow light. Soft hazy lighting pushes the house into the middle ground and draws the red flowers in the bottom right hand corner into sharper focus. The misty weather fades the focus of the entire image. This is a useful technique because it adds realism without adding details, which saves time on the rendering process.

Two adjacent windows on the far-left corner of the house allow the viewer to see straight through to the mountain on the other side. Shrubs grow up the base of the mountain in the background. Two chairs sit out on the deck. Small details like this are exactly the kind of thing we’re looking for in the best exterior 3d rendering projects.

Example 8

This is a wonderful example of the best exterior 3D rendering available. The attention to detail is exquisite, with lanterns broken on their string, graffiti on the lamppost, and garbage along the edge of the alleyway. The woman with the umbrella is modeled after the artist Nhan Le’s wife, as she returns home after a long rainy day.

Nhan Le

Inspired by the lights and billboards of Tokyo, Le focuses heavily on lighting. For example, look at the post closest to the camera. The section where the lanterns are attached reflects the orange light coming through the red and white paper. The same color touches the bottom edges of the sign further up the post. Towards the base of the pole, the paint texture is clearly visible from the yellow light of the streetlamp, which refracts off the walls of the building and the water on the ground. Further up the post, however, the details fade into the shadows where light is unable to reach. The bluish fluorescent lights from the buildings in the background reflect off the clouds and the wet pavement, giving it that distinctive city glow.

Le plays with a wide range of textures on every surface. The asphalt is pocked with cracks, bumps, and maintenance hole covers. The cement of the buildings on the left is worn with age and covered with pipes and electrical wiring. To the right, a stone wall and a chain link fence deepen the complexity of the image.

This is extremely high-quality work, barely distinguishable from a photograph. It would take ages to notice every last detail, which is exactly how it is in a real city.

Example 9

This is a rather unusual project by the artist Bartosz Domiczek that won several awards in 2018 for its detail and ingenuity. The monolithic tent cabin is situated on the edge of a rocky lake. A woman in the middle of the image is silhouetted against the glow from within the cabin, which is accurately reflected in the water. The same colors of the tent are picked up in the setting sun behind the clouds, which makes for a more cohesive image. The project features several different lighting scenarios and even shows the tents in various locations to give a more complete sense of the design ideas.

Bartosz Domiczek

All the details in the sky and water around the rocks work to bring the landscape to life. The foreground is dark but not lacking in texture on both the rocks and the water. Smaller pebbles litter the larger slabs, and the water froths where it meets the rocks. The surface of the water has some movement to it, and the clouds appear stormy.

While the exterior rendering of the building is indeed symmetrical, it is imperfect in some places. The camera angle is slightly to the left of center, and the creases in the tent material are varied on each side. The light only reaches about halfway up the height of the tent and the objects inside cast shadows on the surface. The project also includes close up images of the tent’s interior and exterior so the viewer can imagine what it’s like to actually be there.

Example 10

These exterior renderings of a polar research station were done by Roman Roschencko. It’s a fairly futuristic project featuring spherical buildings and 6-wheeled excursion vehicles. Since the architecture is so experimental, it is all the more important that it be shown in context, with a detailed and refined setting. The Northern Lights are visible in the night sky which places the station in the far northern hemisphere, and the cluster of windmills peaking over the ridge indicate a windy climate and a reliance on green energy.

Roman Roschencko

As usual, lighting is of the utmost importance in 3d rendering, and this project is no exception. Roschencko shows the buildings in a full range of lighting and weather scenarios. In one image, the sun breaks through the clouds in rays, highlighting each individual tree of the surrounding forest and the shiny metal of the round buildings. In another, two specially designed all-terrain vehicles zoom back to the station over the frozen lake, their tires a blur and their headlights blazing the path before them. The snow softly reflects the light from the windows, which look warm in contrast to the freezing conditions outside.

The awesome landscapes and vegetation place this otherworldly research station firmly in the real world, giving polar real estate developers a tangible look at what the future may hold.

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?

Check out these articles too:

The Best Architectural Rendering Companies You Can Find Online
What should the best interior 3d rendering look like?
3D Rendering Cost & 3D Visualization Prices for 3d studios
3 Reasons Architects are Not Pursuing Your 3D Visualization Company

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