Learn 3D Rendering: Architectural Visualisation.

Learn 3d rendering from an industry pro. Powerful insider tips for 2022. 

Harp Collective is a leading Australian 3d rendering studio. We specialise in architectural rendering, 3d product rendering and 3d animation. We get enquiries daily from people looking to learn 3d rendering and get started in architectural visualisation. So we thought we would put together this comprehensive guide to help people start off in the right direction. 

Written by:
Nick Martin

Updated February 2022 


How to learn 3d rendering and more specifically architectural visualisation. 

In the article below you will find some really helpful info about:

1. The software that we at Harp (and the vast majority of the 3d visualisation industry) use.

2. A bunch of links to great websites where you will find a heap of tutorials and resources.

3. A quick rundown on our workflow and the steps we take to create our imagery as well as some other important stuff you should know.

So lets jump into it…

The software and plugins we use for 3d rendering

The primary suite of software we use everyday:

3ds Max 2022 for modelling and setting up scenes etc

Corona 7 as the render engine

Photoshop CC for post production on still images

After Effects for post production and editing of animation/film

Inside 3ds max we use the following plugins regularly:

Forest Pack Pro (for scattering vegetation)

GrowFX 2 (for modelling vegetation)

Floor Generator (for creating floor boards, tiles and some claddings etc)

Atiles (for roof tiles and corrugated iron)

Phoenix FD (fluid dynamics simulations)

Anima 4 (3d people and crowds)

We also use:

Marvelous Designer for cloth simulation (towels, clothes, rugs, throws, pillows etc)

Connecter for asset management (3d library and shader library)

Deadline 10 (render farm manager)

Substance Designer (material creation)


Technology is an extension of the human body.

Where to Start?

Once you have all the software and plugins setup your going to need to learn how to use them. Luckily, 3ds max, corona and photoshop are the industry standards for architectural rendering and there are a heap of free and paid tutorials online for them.

But first things first… you should start with learning how to 3d model properly.

3D Modelling

The fundamental element of all architectural visualisation is the geometry in your scene. It needs to be physically accurate and the polygons need to be clean. If you’re brand new to modelling in 3ds max then I highly recommend the Arrimus 3D youtube channel for some awesome free videos. 

Once you know the basics, we’ve made a few tutorials which will show you our process for modelling architectural scenes:

Modelling a simple bedroom in 3ds max

Modelling a kitchen in 3ds max

Modelling a house from cad files

It all starts with the humble 3d model.

How to read architectural plans

In order to model architecture you must know how to read architectural plans, elevations, sections and detail drawings. They may seem confusing at first but once you get the hang of it they’re pretty easy to understand. Luckily we made a few tutorials which will help you on your way….

How to read architectural plans

External Architectural Terminology


How, when and where to buy 3d models

For more complex objects like beds, sofas and plants, it is often more efficient to buy the 3d models rather than model them yourself. Especially if you are new to 3d modelling and your skills aren’t great yet… you might spend 3 days modelling a sofa when you could buy it online for about $10. But if you really enjoy 3d modelling then I would strongly encourage you to learn how to model everything yourself as this is an invaluable skill to master.


Design Connected

Model + Model


Creating Textures / Shaders

Next up you’ll want to be adding some textures/shaders to the 3d models in your scene. I’m not going to run you through how to do that as there are thousands of good tutorials online for that.

For every shader that you are making its important to study a real world example. You can do this by either looking at photos or finding a sample in real life. For example, if you are wanting to make a timber shader for a dining table, go and look at a timber table you have in your house…. look at it closely, study it in detail and try an recreate in your shader.

Here are some links to good shader creation tutorials:

Corona Render Youtube

 ArchViz Artist  Youtube Channel

Mograph Youtube Video

Shader creation is one of the funnest parts of the ArchViz process.

Sourcing Texture Maps

We have built up a huge library of textures over the years and the best resource for these is either a good old google image search (ie ‘wood floor texture’) or one of the many texture websites around such as:


But the real future of shaders is scanned materials. These scanned materials are the future of CGI so best to get acquainted with them:

Quixel Megascans

We also been play around with Dabarti capture for getting highly detailed normal maps and creating highly detailed custom maps of our own.

Lighting in CGI

For lighting the scenes we use a variety of different methods depending on the desired result. Lighting is very important so you’re going to want to have a really good understanding of how it works and how it affects your images. There is an abundance of ‘corona lighting tutorials’ on the web… just google it. There are also a heap of tutorials in the sites I have listed at the bottom of this page too.

I’ve heard good things about the Learn Vray 5SRW course for beginners as well.

And the guys at archviz artist also have some great, in depth tutorials as well.

Light is not so much something that reveals, as it is itself the revelation.

Which Render Engine to Use?

As I mentioned earlier, we currently use Corona for rendering. But there are plenty of other great render engines out there. Here are a few of the most popular:





They all have their plus and minus points. The most popular in the architectural visualisation industry by far are Vray and Corona. Most major studios where you might find a job in architectural visualisation will be using one of these 2 so it probably makes sense to learn one or both of them.

Render Resolution

We typically render our final production images at 5k (5000px wide) and save them as 32 bit .exr files which we then import into photoshop for post production. For animation we typically render at full HD 1920 x 1080 and composite in After Effects. Which leads me to my next topic…

Post Production

For still images we generally use photoshop and for animation we use after effects. In photoshop we use a couple of plugins called Arion FX and Camera Raw for some subtle effects when required. But generally we like to get as best a result possible directly out of corona and leave the post work to subtle colour grading and basic adjustments (contrast, curves etc).

There are a million things you can do to achieve just about anything in post production so it really does depend on what you are trying to achieve with your image

Render Elements

There are a few important corona render elements we use for masking in pretty much every scene. They are:




If setup correctly these 3 render elements will allow you to easily select pretty much any part of your scene so you can apply whatever corrections you want in photoshop or after effects etc.


Here is a very quick/basic run-down of how we approach a simple architectural visualisation project:

Step 1. Reference Images and planning. For most projects we like to start by gathering some reference images of the type of style, look and feel we are going for in the image. We often scan design websites like archdaily or the local project for some inspiration. And then we plan out how we are going to approach the project to get the result we are looking for.

Step 2. Modelling. Model the structures of the scene (building, landscape etc)

Step 3. Add basic lighting, cameras and textures. Setup your lighting (daytime, night, twilight, interior etc etc) and get some rough textures on your model. You’ll need to tweak both textures and lighting later so don’t spend too much time on it now… just get it looking ok. Add your camera and work on a rough composition (you should do a few tutorials on image composition and try and learn how the great photographers compose their images).

Step 4. Add detail. Start adding in the props such as furniture, plants, artwork, cars etc etc

Step 5. Tweak everything. Once you have all the objects and the rough outline of your image its time to start tweaking everything (composition, lighting, textures, styling).

Step 6. Render out the hi resolution image. Once your happy with your scene and test renders you can go ahead and render out the final image as a 5k 32bit exr.

Step 7. Post production. Import the exr into photoshop and adjust until you get the desired look. Done. Then sit back and admire your work.

Passion & discipline

If you really love what you do you’ll actually enjoy spending hours watching tutorials and working on your images. At Harp we look for people who are really passionate about 3d visualisation and CGI and love what they do. And the more time you spend at it the better you will get. It takes years of practice to be able to produce really high quality imagery so don’t get too bummed if your images don’t look amazing straight away.

More CGI Resources

Here are a bunch of links to some cool sites that have a wealth on information that will help you get started architectural visualisation:


Ronen Bekerman


There are so many tutorials, making of’s, tips and workflows on these sites that you should be able to find pretty much everything you need to know about architectural visualisation there.

I encourage anyone who is really keen and passionate about archviz to get involved with these sites… read as much as you can and learn from all the great people who have got some amazing wisdom to share. And start practicing! Create some personal projects. Find a real life architectural photo that you really love and try to replicate it.

Critical bonus tips…

Real world settings

Vray, Corona and most other render engines are setup to replicate real life. Therefore it is critical that you set up your scenes using real world settings.

Cameras – approach a cgi scene the same way as a real life photographer would approach a scene. The camera settings (Fstop, IS0, Shutter Speed) should all be the same as they would for the equivalent scene in real life.

Lights – set the values of your cgi lights to real world values. Set the colour temperature in kelvins and the power/intensity in Lumens. Learn what real light bulb settings are and use them.

Scale – make sure you model everything and set your texture scales to accurate sizes.

Scene Organisation

Its always best to run a tight ship when it comes to scene organisation. Especially if you will be working as part of a team.

Layers – use your layers religiously! And always keep them well organised. Having your scene split up into well thought out layers will help you in numerous ways when it comes to manipulating and navigating around your scene.

Naming – its a great idea to get into the habit of naming objects in your scene. Especially things like lights and cameras. And be specific…. give every different light an obvious name like ‘ kitchen downlights’ or ‘living room lamp’. And if you have multiple cameras in you scene its a good ideas to give them descriptive names as well ie ‘kitchen mixer close up cam’ or ‘bedroom angle 01’.


So I hope all the info above is helpful and will at least point a few people in the right direction.

We are always on the lookout for great talent and often have multiple opportunities available. So check out our careers page to see our architectural visualisation jobs board. If you think you have a really great portfolio we’d love to see it. Send it through to

And if you would like to be updated when we post new tutorials and articles please sign up to receive the Harp newsletter below…

Thanks for reading and good luck in your new architectural visualisation career.

Share this Page:

Read more articles

October 2021

Property Development 3D Renders: Selecting the Right Balance of Angles to Maximise Performance

July 2021

High Performance Visuals : The Sciene & Statistics Behind Strategic Image Making

April 2021

How to Get Started in Architectural Visualisation: Powerful Insider Tips for 2021