Most Popular 3D Rendering Software

RealSpace RealSpace

tags : Software
categories: 3D Artist Resources

The most popular rendering software used by architects and designers may be a subjective claim. Strictly speaking, there are a number of architects and designers of varying degrees of expertise, and the software they use may differ from one architect to another.

                        However, we compiled a list of the best rendering software we’ve seen architects and designers use for fun. This is to help anyone looking for ideas on rendering software they can get when they’re just starting out, or if you’re looking for an upgrade. If you haven't already, make sure you checkout another our comprehensive list of free 3d software


How would you like to use an Academy Award-winning software for your architecture work? VRay has been recognized for their contribution of movie making magic. This is just one of the reasons why VRay is one of the most popular rendering software in the industry.

VRay is a flexible rendering software that can be used in various industries. This includes the design of architectural models, making it a favorite among architects and designers. The software specializes in light and shadow, and aids architects and designers in creating realistic output. VRay allows a variety of camera effects by providing depth-of-field bokeh effects, accurate motion blur, and custom cameras. There is a learning curve in using VRay, which makes it difficult for beginners. However, once that is overcome, the results are spectacular.

VRay can be downloaded as a standalone software or as a plugin for existing visual rendering softwares. The latter could be a more economical choice if a hobbyist wants to upgrade his or her urrent visual rendering software. Popular 3D software such as SketchUp, Maya, and 3DS Max support the VRay plugin.

VRay is quite expensive, and is often considered an investment for hobbyists leaning to further enhance their craft, or for architecture students who want to use more professional gear.


                Maxwell is a rendering software that specializes in architecture and design applications. Used by esteemed architects such as Zaha Hadid Architects, and David Chipperfield Architects, Maxwell allows designers to create make their surreal designs into some form of reality.

                The latest Maxwell version now has a denoiser. Their denoiser preserves texture and geometry details, giving a sharper output without sacrificing the smaller details. Infinite light variations are also saved in one single renderer, allowing users to save time and effort with their designs. An increased material library is also available at the user’s disposal, giving out more options for architects to work on.

                Maxwell can be integrated to existing 3D or CAD platforms such as SketchUp, ArchiCAD, 3DS Max, and Maya. Maxwell Studio, the standalone version, can also be used for 3D or CAD programs that Maxwell doesn’t have a plug-in for yet. Maxwell also offers their multilight technology as a standalone application, to allow more users to get different lighting styles at one render.

                The render software retails for approximately 495 euros. It may be quite pricey for a newbie, but for architecture newbies getting their start in the industry, Maxwell is a good investment for future work.

Octane Render

                Octane Render is one of the world’s first GPU-accelerated, unbiased and physically correct renderers. The latest version of the software, Octane Render 3, has a volumetric light field feature and deep motion buffer for speedy VR rendering. It is an ambitious software that plans to go on par with the likes of VRay and Maxwell.

                Octane Render prides itself in being one of the most flexible render engines in the market. They have a plugin for nearly twenty-one 3D/CAD programs in the market, and even allow switching between different modelling tools. If a plugin isn’t available for your program, a standalone edition is also available for purchase and is compatible for Windows, Mac OS, and Linux.

                Octane Render has limited resources compared to its pricier counterparts, but the outputs produced are of comparable quality. Although it does require nicer computer specs to function well (such as NVIDIA graphics cards), Octane Render is a great starting point for hobbyists.

Cinema 4D

                Unlike the ones at the top of the list, Cinema4D isn’t just a renderer. It functions both as a renderer and a 3D modeling software, making it a versatile program for any 3D visualizer to have. Cinema4D is built with intuitive design and easy operation, and even goes as far as offering a help system for their functions (just right-click on the function and help is provided!).

                Cinema4D also has a growing community that helps beginners start their ropes in modeling and rendering, and where more experienced users can share tips and tricks.

                Four versions of the software are available for purchase: Studio, Broadcast, Visualize, and Prime. Studio focuses on advanced 3D graphics, Broadcast is best suited for the motion graphics artist, and beginners can get their start in 3D with Cinema4D Prime. The Visualize version is the set Cinema4D has customized for architects & designers, making it a one-stop shop for one’s architectural modeling needs.

                Interested 3D artists have the option to purchase between a single-seat and multiple-seat license. The former only allows the license to be used for a single computer while the latter lets a number of computers use the same software simultaneously.

                Although Cinema4D is quite pricey, the fact that it’s a 3D modeling software and renderer combined make it a good investment for anybody looking to go serious with their modeling work.

Blender’s Cycles

                Blender is best known for being the open-house 3D modeling software that can rival its higher-end counterparts. Their in-house render, Cycles, isn’t as talked about, but it’s a noteworthy addition to the list.

                Cycles helps take all that 3D work done in Blender and polish it to a realistic finish. It is a ray-trace based production render engine and allows GPU and multi-core CPU rendering to optimize the process. Cycles takes into consideration every tiny detail with their geometry function. Hair curves and meshes, and different lighting conditions help bring to life models.

                Architects and designers may enjoy using Cycles as the render engine uses adaptive subdivision and bump mapping to help provide more physically possible depth into landscapes, and helps provide realistic lighting.

                CPU users may also rejoice as the engine may also be customized through Open Shading Language. Although it’s a bit on the trickier side, code-savvy users may get unlimited ways to further improve the engine at the tip of their fingers.

                Blender is free to use and download, and is supported in Windows, Mac, and Linux operating systems.


                Lumion is a 3D rendering software made with architects and designers in mind. With the goal of empowering architects and designers to create beautiful image and video renders without prior experience, Lumion provides intuitive and beautiful renders at a fast pace. Users can edit work in real-time, and learn how to create videos, images, and panoramas within fifteen minutes.

                Lumion is the most approachable render engine in the market, which makes it perfect for architects and designers new to digital modeling, or for experienced workers looking for a no-fuss render engine.

                Perhaps the biggest reason why one should get Lumion is the fact that it’s compatible with almost every 3D model or CAD software in the market. Lumion works well with SketchUp, Autodesk Revit, and more!

                There are two versions of Lumion available for purchase: the standard Lumion, and the Lumion Pro. The Lumion Pro is more expensive by 1,000 euros. Additional features in the Pro version include sound import for 2D backgrounds, real-time fly through, and a workflow. However, the standard version is still a good package for its cost, and will be an investment to most architects and designers focusing on architectural modeling.


                Modo is another kind of one-stop visual modeling and rendering program. Modo is underrated in the modeling industry, but it’s beginning to get the recognition it deserves. If you have a 3D model/ CAD program that you’re already comfortable with, Modo’s rendering engine is one to look out for: it’s easy to use and  its performance is comparable to the render giants in the industry.

                Anybody wanting to try Modo out can avail their free trial for 30 days. For those who like both the render engine and want to adopt the software, Modo provides annual payment options for interested users for less than $1,000. On the other hand, a permanent license costs below $2,000.

                Modo is great for anyone looking for a fuss-free program that gives similar output to more expensive programs. This makes it perfect for any one to use in their journey from 3D newbie to expert.

Punch Home Design Studio

                Punch Home Design Studio isn’t the most advanced rendering program in the list. However, for those looking for a basic render program, it’s a great and lightweight alternative.

                The software specializes in home and landscape design, making it a great tool for architecture hobbyists or students. One could say it’s the architectural render software for beginners!

Users can design their home from scratch, or remodel your current classic layouts. Punch! Home has an extensive library of products, materials, and furnishings to make it a useful tool for architects and designers alike.

                Punch! Home is available for Windows and Mac. Three versions are compatible for Windows: Home & Landscape Design Architectural Series, Home & Landscape Design Essentials, Home & Landscape Design Premium, and Home & Landscape Design Professional. The versions compatible for Mac are the following: Home Design Studio Complete, Home Design Studio Essentials, and Home Design Studio.

                And that concludes our list! Did your favorite render engine make our list? Let us know if it did or didn’t and tell us more about what makes a render engine the best for you. Happy rendering!


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