3D rendering has become a part of our daily lives. It’s something we see every day but may not realize. The animated cartoons you watch on the TV, billboards you see on the streets, pictures present in the magazines you read may all be 3D rendered images.

Ever since visual content has become an important form of communication, businesses have been widely incorporating three-dimensional rendered images. The reason can be many, but the primary ones include marketing and promotion.

If you’re interested to learn more about the 3D rendering process, then continue reading. This guide will help you understand the basics of 3D rendering, including how it works, types of techniques, time, cost, and real-world applications.

What is 3D Rendering?

3D rendering is the process of generating a 2D image from a 3D model with photorealistic image output or non-photorealistic output. The process requires a specialized software program that can take in the data of a three-dimensional model and then use it to produce a 2D image. This information is usually about the color, texture, lighting, or material of an object depicted in the three-dimensional model or scene.

You can create a variety of images with the 3D rendering process, be it non-realistic or photorealistic. By photorealistic, we mean that the three-dimensionally rendered images will look just like the real photographs taken with a traditional camera and will be hard to differentiate them.

Earlier, three-dimensional rendering was only accessible to large business organizations having lots of money and resources. However, today, this technology is nearly accessible to anyone. It’s because the software and tools needed to carry out the process are widely available.

Now, organizations don’t need to have a big budget to create 3D rendered images. Businesses of any size can develop them without using up their entire budget. Let’s learn why and how it is possible by understanding the 3D rendering process.

The Basic Principles of 3D Rendering

A 3D designer should have a thorough sense of product rendering strategies and should have a clear idea of what he/she is looking to create by applying rendering techniques. Otherwise, the results may fail to meet the expectations of clients or they may not be able to meet the overall marketing goals. Here are a few points that 3D renderers should take into account:

  • Appropriate Lights

    Use of the right lighting is a vital part of creating high-quality renders. This lighting has to be photorealistic and this is what determines the degree of photorealism. With the use of realistic lights, a photographed item is bestowed its textures and shapes.

    When lights of various types and sizes are used and when the renderer strikes the perfect balance between lights and shadows, a feel of real light gets produced and this is what gives an image its photorealistic appeal.

  • Appropriate Shader

    During the rendering process, the artist should have a holistic view of various aspects. The artist cannot create a realistic render just by working on a single element. It is quite difficult to choose an appropriate shader on account of diverse material representations.

    However, with proper strategies, it is possible to minimize shader related concerns. The use of the right shader would typically depend on the background settings and on how the lighting is used. Renderers find the glass to be one of most complex materials to be rendered.

  • The Speed and Quality Balance

    Rendering consumes a huge amount of time and it is a commercial task in its core essence. Businesses should hire professional 3D artists who have thorough knowledge of various rendering techniques and technologies and can deliver outcomes while striking an appropriate balance between quality and speed.

  • Use of Appropriate Render Elements

    Render elements can add magical look and feel to an image. Among the various render elements are reflections and wirecolor which can make images look realistic. When a graphic designer has an in-depth idea about how the final products should look like, they can use render elements in an appropriate manner so as to create word-class photorealistic results.

    A 3D artist needs to have proper sense of photorealism so that he/she is able to create realistic and superior quality images of products that do not actually exist. Notably, an experienced artist can create high-quality raw renders if he/she is able to draw an achievable product image in his/her mind.

  • Use of the Right Rendering Tool

    The market offers various types of 3D rendering software that professionals and beginners can use for both commercial and practice projects. However, people should take time to make the right choice because the right software can help them speed up their work and deliver outstanding outcomes.

    The software that you choose should have adequate features that would allow you to utilize your creativity and artistry to an optimal level. We have listed the top 5 rendering software that you may consider experimenting with:

    1. Blender: Blender is a free and open-source 3D rendering program that supports a variety of functions including modeling, rigging, simulation, animation, motion tracking, etc. The Blender 2.8 version features a number of icons and tools that allow users to get started instantly and to even personalize their workspaces.

    2. 3DS Max: This software can be used optimally by professionals to create magical game environments and wonderful scenes for exceptional visualization. Using this software, you can integrate virtual reality experiences as well.

    3. Modo: it is popular for its powerful yet flexible tools allow beginners to explore its technical capabilities with ease and to learn every trick with proper care and attention. Modo provides a great platform for novice users to start their creative journey.

    4. Maya: Maya supports modeling, 3D animation, simulation, and rendering and it is specially noted for its integrated toolset. You can create characters, stunning environments, and motion graphics. You can even use this software to combine 3D visuals with virtual reality effects.

    5. KeyShot: This will help you create amazing graphics. This has a workflow that produces real-time results and with this, the time to create realistic images gets reduced. This software promotes an easy creation of scientifically-correct objects as well as presets. This software also supports high-end editing as well. With this, you can create highly-engaging product imagery that can be used in marketing campaigns.

  • Use of Actual Scales

    Renderers should understand the impact of scaling. They should make sure that they choose scales of the right size so that they can add create photorealism through an optimal combination of the best lighting and the best background settings.

How does 3D rendering work?

Three-dimensional rendering is a complex process. This can be especially true for those who are new to the domain. To make it easier for you to understand, we have broken down the process into five stages. But, there are a few things you will need first.

To render a final product that looks professional and appealing, you need to have the right software and tools. In addition to that, you will need to have some experience to plan a strategy to create the 3D render.

In general, the process of 3D rendering primarily includes the following stages.

  • Stage 1: 3D Modeling

    To render an object or scene in 3D, you first need to have a digital model representing the surface of that particular object or scene. You’ll need software to develop the three-dimensional models. If you don’t know how to create a 3D model, then you can use the help of a 3D modeler or artist.

  • Stage 2: Lighting

    In this stage, you’ll create lighting effects like motion blur or refraction to create the illusion of a three-dimensional image. To do so, you need to use the 3D modeling software to simulate professional or natural lighting sources.

  • Stage 3: Texturing

    In the third stage, the software gathers information regarding the light and color variations to map the texture of the surface of a 3D object or scene. Texturing is the most critical step in three-dimensional rendering since it aids in imparting the photorealistic look to the rendered images.

  • Stage 4: Rendering

    In this step, the modeling software generates a high-resolution image by converting the three-dimensional model. You can further incorporate this image into different types of visual content.

  • Stage 5: Refining

    If done with 3D model rendering, you can carry out additional editing to refine the 2D image. You may further add light, texture, or implement other photo editing processes to fine-tune it. After the refining is complete, the photorealistic 2D image will be fully rendered and ready to be used in different applications.

Types of 3D Rendering Techniques

Various types of 3D rendering techniques have been developed over time to meet varied business needs. Nevertheless, the objective still remains the same, i.e., capturing the image in which the light hits an object in real life. Here are the different techniques used for the same.

  • Technique 1: Rasterization

    Rasterization is one of the oldest methods of 3D rendering. In this technique, a three-dimensional model will be treated as a polygon mesh, where each polygon will have vertices projected onto a plane normal to the perspective. These vertices will contain information related to color, texture, position, etc. Now, keeping the vertices as the border, colors will be added to the remaining pixels.

    The technique is similar to what we did as kids while painting, i.e., creating an outline and then adding the colors. This type of rendering is still popular today, especially while producing real-time renderings like interactive GUI, simulation, and computer games. Moreover, the technique has been recently improved by anti-aliasing and higher resolution.

  • Technique 2: Ray Casting

    Even though rasterization is useful, there’s a drawback. It faces issues if overlapping objects are present. So, if the surfaces of the objects overlap, there’s a high possibility that a wrong object will be rendered.

    To overcome this issue, a concept was developed that involved a depth sensor indicating which surface is above or under in a particular view, known as the Z-buffer. However, the concept soon became unnecessary after ray casting was introduced. Unlike rasterization, ray casting doesn’t face the problem of overlapping surfaces.

    In the ray casting technique, rays are cast onto the three-dimensional model from the point of view of the camera. The rays will be drawn out to each pixel on the plane of the image. The first surface which the rays hit will be rendered and any other intersection after that won’t be considered.

  • Technique 3: Ray Tracing

    Despite having a lot of advantages, the ray casting technique was unable to stimulate refractions, reflections, and shadows properly. That is when ray tracing came into play.

    The ray tracing technique is similar to ray casting but it is better when it comes to depicting light sources. Here, the primary rays are cast onto the three-dimensional models from the camera’s point of view for developing secondary rays. Once it hits the model, the reflection, refraction, or shadow rays will be emitted depending on the properties of the model’s surface.

    In case the surface causes a hindrance in the shadow ray’s path before it reaches the light source, then the shadow will be cast onto another surface. When it comes to a reflective surface, the resulting reflection ray will emit from an angle and illuminate any surface it will come across.

    Due to this, the technique is sometimes referred to as recursive ray tracing. In the case of a transparent surface, the resulting refractive ray will be emitted if a secondary ray hits the surface.

  • Technique 4: Rendering Equation

    With further developments in 3D rendering, the final technique that we are about to discuss is introduced, i.e., rendering equation. This technique attempts to accurately showcase how light is emitted not just from a single source but from everything.

    Unlike ray tracing, the equation will consider all the light sources in the render instead of using only direct illumination. An algorithm was also developed with the help of this equation called indirect illumination or global illumination.

How long does it take to 3D Render?

The time to create a 3D render is dependent on various factors, such as your starting point, the 3D rendering software you use, the context, etc. So, it is hard to mention a specific time for creating a three-dimensional render.

For instance, let’s say you have an eCommerce site and you want to create rendered images for your product catalog. Then, depending on the number of products, the work may take up to several days. But, as compared to the traditional product photoshoot, it will be faster.

Let’s consider another possible application of three-dimensional rendering, i.e., creating 3D renders for product customization. This will enable shoppers to customize products in real-time while shopping on the website.

They can easily change the features or color of a product to see what it looks like via product visualization. For this, you’ll need an interactive 3D application to develop the real-time 3D renderings of the products instantly.

Let’s talk about another scenario where you need to develop the rendered images from scratch. In that case, it will take some time to develop the renders since you have to create a three-dimensional model first. However, in the above examples, you will probably have a 3D file for your product that is ready to use.

What is the Cost of 3D Rendering?

Three-dimensional rendering is much affordable now than it was decades ago. This is due to the ease of availability of 3D rendering software. However, when it comes to the cost, it may vary depending on how you use it.

Let’s discuss the 3D rendering costs as compared to its popular alternatives.

Through three-dimensional product rendering, customers can manipulate the product to view it from different angles. They can also view the products in GIF or other file formats. The images will be smaller and hence, less data-intensive as compared to videos.

Besides, some brands are using 3D rendering along with technologies like virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR) to create rich visual content. This has become quite popular and companies employing these features will be prepared to give a tough competition to their competitors, especially in the field of eCommerce and entertainment.

Applications of 3D Rendering in Real World

Ever since virtual product images helped in efficiently communicating complex information, 3D rendering has become a valuable asset across many disciplines. It first became popular in the entertainment industry and was widely used in filmmaking, TV production, and video game development. But, now, it is being used in a wide range of industries, such as

  • Real estate and architecture, for developing virtual 3D home tours, architecture 3D designs, furniture 3D designs, and 3D interior renderings
  • Retail, for displaying eCommerce products in an interactive 3D environment and creating photorealistic product prototypes
  • Automotive design, for creating real-life working models of automobiles and vehicles which is cheaper than developing blueprints
  • Engineering, for developing technical illustrations of engineering projects
  • Aeronautics
  • Medical imaging, etc.

From this, we can conclude that as more brands and industries discover the benefits of 3D rendering, the more growth and development it will see in the upcoming years. Also, due to its ease of accessibility, many industries will use it to make their processes faster, efficient, and cost-effective.

Besides, 3D rendering can not only help to transform the brands but also consumers. With better e-commerce product images, customers will have higher levels of satisfaction and an amazing shopping experience.

So, if this article motivated you to use 3D rendering for your business, we assure you that will be a wise decision for your business. It will help your company easily communicate complex visual information in a clear, precise, and cost-effective manner. If you’ve zero experience in the field and don’t know where to start, then maybe choosing a platform offering 3D rendering services can help.

We are also a 3D design company holding immense specialization in providing 3D rendering services. So, if you need help with creating photorealistic 3D renderings that can help your business gain more customers and sales, reach ThePro3DStudio! We would be happy to help you and your business prosper.

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Sushmita Roy   linkedin   instagram   twitter

A seasoned 3D professional with a creative focused, and a knack for diverse 3D designs, software and the technology. She's associated with ThePro3DStudio for long enough to prove her mettle and make every 3D projects successful. When she’s not busy working for a new project, she shares valuable insights from her own experience.