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.
Updated February 2022
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.
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:
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, 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.
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:
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:
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.
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…
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
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.
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.
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