3D renders are an essential part of any architecture or building design outfits offering and for decades they have been aiding in competitions for briefs, submitting council DAs and working with clients and builders in achieving a desired design result. 

The quality of 3D renders being crafted have come ahead in leaps and bounds in recent times, thanks mainly to the sophistication of Computer Automated Drawing (CAD) software which now permit architects and designers to create 3D models synchronously within their 2D drawings.

While the tools for rendering are becoming increasingly sophisticated and available to building designers, there is still a growing demand for Architectural Visualisation (Archviz) services, mainly due to time constraints on designers. However, digital artist and Archviz expert Christian Behrendt says building designers can achieve quicker and more realistic renders if they’d only consider the following processes:


There are several ways of turning an architectural drawing into a 3D model quickly for rendering. But according to Behrendt, the best way get your 2D drawing ready for modelling is to literally “do nothing”.

By nothing, Behrendt actually means that architects planning on producing a 3D render should already be designing in 2D/3D synchronised software so that 3D models don’t have to be created separately from 2D sections and elevation drawings, as was the case with the CAD software (and hand drawings) of the past.

“Planning and drawing your designs directly in 3D not only offers you great feedback in your planning phase, but often times the resulting 3D models can be used directly by the artists or altered by the architect without much effort,” says Behrendt.

While Behrendt says that some CAD applications work better with 3D programs such as lighting and texturing applications, most will have to at least have one or two good file formats which will provide the necessary cross-platform for models to be altered in 3D applications.

“It’s all about understanding your capabilities and the requirements of your software,” says Beherendt.  

Trojan House and the polymodelling alternative:

Christian Behrendt: As I'm not an architect myself I don't have a lot of working experience with most CAD software so I chose to polymodel in Cinema 4D as it is pretty straight forward.

If an architect was to choose polymodelling they’d have to plan ahead as it is a little less fluid than CAD modelling. Whereas in CAD your drawing lines and volumes are converted into polygons by the application, in Cinema 4D you directly control and modify these polygons.

There are advantages to it, as you have a lot more control over your mesh, which can come in handy when rendering, as a messy mesh can produce problems when rendering. But as mentioned above there are also some disadvantages to it, as you're a little less flexible.


Compare the finished product: to the left is an photograph taken by Emma Cross and to the right is Behrendt’s finished render.

Texturing can make or break a rendering, say Behrendt, and there are many things to be aware of.

“With texturing the more obvious things to consider are the correct scaling of your texture, maintaining the correct amount of texture tiling and making sure you’re your orientation and positioning are perfect,” says Behrendt.

Apart from these considerations, Behrendt says that there are less obvious effects that you can use on your render to enhance your overall realism. Although, he does admit that architects aren’t all that fond of them: 

“In my experience most architects don't like to hear that adding dirt and imperfection will go a long way to making your project’s realism,” he says.

“Think about where your model could experience effects like weathering and try to incorporate them. Also colour variation on repeating elements and stuff like slight bump mapping on reflective surfaces break up the ‘uberclean’ Computer Generated Imagery (CGI)-look and in the end provide a much nicer overall picture.”

As for material creation, Behrendt says science, and the program you’re using, are the big players in achieving a realistic looking render.

“It all depends on which renderer you're using as they all provide different systems of material creation,” he says.  

“Although there are some things you should consider, regardless of which program.”

“For example, your colours and textures should never go above a brightness value of 80 per cent - even a perfectly white piece of paper has no higher diffuse white value than 80 per cent.

“This is a common mistake and if you push your values too far, then not only will your rendering will look unrealistic, render times will also increase.”

The same, says Behrendt, applies to dark values where brightness values should never dip below 10 per cent.

Behrendt also advises that further research (found in online forums) should be done to assure the best reflective and refraction values of materials are achieved.

A follow-up article on Architecture & Design will touch on the immeasurable possibilities to enhance Architectural Visualisations through lighting, rendering and postwork.