Achieving the realistic rendering in 6 (not so easy) steps

Achieving realistic and impressive rendering in archviz is not a matter of choice, it is mandatory! And today I want to show you the 6 steps to achieve realistic rendering. But remember that these steps are interconnected like the steps of a staircase. One doesn’t work without the other.

1 – Using the right tool

Nowadays, there are many, MANY computer programs for rendering architecture. They all claim to be the best, the fastest, the most realistic. But the truth is that these software programs are very limited precisely because they are too niche to render architecture, and sometimes they are overly simplified. After all, their target audience includes architects and designers who have no interest in learning advanced computer graphics techniques to create renderings. They just want the finished render without much trouble.

However, as an archviz artist, you need flexibility in a software program that allows you to find innovative creative solutions that were not intended by the software developer. That’s why my recommendations are always Blender 3D or 3DS Max.

Since I have been a Blender user for many years, I will obviously recommend Blender because it is free, has advanced modeling and procedural modeling, traditional and procedural texturing, sculpting, texture painting, and it already comes with two fantastic rendering engines. Cycles and Eevee, which are great for rendering archviz without much complication. And if you need to create a very specific solution for your project, you can use the advanced modeling, texturing, and animation tools that Blender has to offer.

I know that 3DS Max has similar features, but honestly… I prefer Blender and that’s why I always recommend it.

Archviz modeling made on Blender

Final rendering by Augusto Cezar

2 – References and Inspirations

This part of the process is not just about selecting some pretty images on the internet and putting them in a folder to later copy some of their characteristics into your renders. Thousands of artists do that, and their renders end up soulless, lacking emotions for those who view the images or animations.

References are the nourishment for your artistic soul. As an artist, you need to feed yourself with aesthetically pleasing images, immerse yourself in inspirations that evoke visceral emotions, and with that, overflow with ideas to express in your renders.

You should look at the reference, feel something different in it, and then ask yourself, “Why am I feeling this when looking at this image?” Once you’ve done that, you break down the elements of that image that make you feel something. And with that in mind, you have the ammunition to evoke emotions in others by reproducing it in your images.

Therefore, the process of searching for references is not merely a moment to pick a few things on the internet that resemble what you want to represent. It’s a moment for you to dive into your emotions and search for what moves you in different photos and artworks.

That’s how you find your artistic voice, and only then will your work be meaningful and inspiring to others, to the point where you become someone who cannot be replaced by a generic artificial intelligence.

That’s why I include photographs, works from other artists and studios, and I look at them every morning. I look, feel, ask myself why I felt that way, and break down the artistic elements and my emotions in a process of absorbing art and self-discovery.

Here are some websites for inspiration and references:

After downloading your reference images, it’s a good idea to organize them in an infinite canvas like Pure Ref. Here’s the link:

Exemple of pure ref been used

3 – Modeling

With your mind filled with ideas and beauty, it’s time to get your hands dirty, and in 3D, everything starts with 3D modeling. However, an archviz professional doesn’t need to be extremely skilled in modeling. Having simple modeling skills, being able to create precise measurements, and having a basic understanding of sculpting terrain, the professional should be able to model walls, floors, ceilings, and terrain relatively easily. Because everything else, from the sofa to the grass in your scene, can be downloaded from the internet.

Some of these assets are free, while others are paid. But in general, it’s not worth it for an archviz professional to spend three days modeling a sofa or creating a lawn from scratch when these assets can be purchased at very low prices online, saving a lot of production time.

Modeling process of a kitchen in Blender

Therefore, archviz professionals always rely on asset libraries to ensure the quality and efficiency of their renderings and animations. Work smart, not hard.

Recommended sites and asset packages for archviz:

Grass, forest, and nature distribution:

Cars and streets:

Asset libraries for interiors and exteriors:

Other sites (with models not exclusively made for Blender):


4 – Realistic Materials

The same rule applies to realistic materials as with modeling. You don’t need to photograph and create your materials from scratch if it’s not requested by the client. Usually, most marbles, granites, concretes, woods, and all kinds of materials can be found ready-made on the internet for free or on paid websites.

The only significant issue is that you need to understand that having high-quality materials is not just a visual matter but also a matter of not distracting your viewer from the experience.

If someone looks at your render and sees that something is not realistic, they “feel” that something is wrong. Consequently, they will be distracted from the environment and won’t be able to emotionally imagine themselves in that space. Realism is not just about visuals; it’s an emotional experience provoked by visuals.

Therefore, having realistic materials is crucial for immersing people in your renderings. A well-executed render with good materials doesn’t need to be viewed through virtual reality goggles to be immersive. With good materials, you can make people feel immersed in your renderings, even if they are static images posted on Instagram. You just need to know how to use modeling and materials to evoke the right emotions.

Sites for high-quality realistic materials:

5 – Lighting

Without light, nothing you’ve done so far can be seen. That’s why you must learn how to properly light interior and exterior environments. Learn to deal with spaces with limited natural light (small windows) and understand the most important aspect: Light evokes a visceral emotion in us, humans.

Light is the foundation of how we perceive the world with our eyes. The sensations of warmth and coziness are associated with warm lights and colors (yellow, orange), while the feeling of coldness, loneliness, or dampness is related to cool colors (shades of blue). By understanding this, you’ll know that light is crucial in setting the mood of a scene and indicating how the viewer will feel when looking at the image.

This way, you won’t simply use a sunset because it looks beautiful, but because you know the emotion a sunset evokes. With this understanding, you can align your scene so that the materials, modeling, and lighting all speak the same language, emotionally impacting whoever sees your render.

To create great realistic lighting, you can use free HDRI maps, which you can find here:

Or you can use Blender add-ons that create realistic atmospheres, such as Pro-Atmo Sky ( or Cloudscapes ( for realistic clouds.

However, never underestimate the power of using Blender’s built-in lights or the Nishita Sky texture. You can achieve a lot with the basic lighting options available in the 3D software.

6 – Camera

Finally, with everything ready, it’s time to showcase your work to the world. In most cases, it will be through a still image that your render will be presented before anyone watches an animation or VR experience.

That’s why you need to know how to use a camera and take photos like a professional photographer. After all, the camera will be your perspective on that scene. And for that, you need to understand how real cameras work.

For instance, you should at least know how to use different types of lenses to capture different types of renders. For example, a render taken with a 22mm lens will capture more information and provide a wide and general view of the scene, but it may distort objects closer to the camera or at the corners of the image.

Shot 22mm

Shot 80mm, much flatter

Depth of field: Exemple of a use case

Bokeh effect caused by the blurring of lights that are further away from the camera. This effect occurs automatically in Blender when using depth of field but can be further enhanced to bring even more realism.

A crucial part is understanding that cameras are not perfect. Besides these optical effects, there are various imperfections in a photo. Reproducing these characteristic camera imperfections can bring even more realism. Digital perfection is, in fact, imperfection.

By mastering these 6 steps, you will certainly be able to create architectural renderings that are much more impactful and powerful. Your renders will be loaded with emotions and visual quality, allowing people to take an imaginary journey within the render without the need for VR goggles.

Did you like this tip?! Comment down below what you think is the most important point on this list.

Until next time!


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