What is 3D Rendering?

3D rendering is the process of creating a 2D image or video from a 3D model using 3D computer graphic rendering software. Some of the more common applications of 3D rendering include architectural renderings of buildings and developments, interior design renders of rooms and homes, and, renders of products, and designs or inventions for such professions as entrepreneurship. 3D modeling and rendering is very flexible, so it is possible to create a 3D render of just about anything imaginable.

Understanding the 3D Rendering Process

The process below describes the 3D rendering of 2D images, as animated video differs in certain ways. Although the process below is described as though it is linear, a 3D artist may jump between the final few stages. As well as, understanding the client’s vision is a continual thread throughout.

Understanding the client’s vision

In order to build a model, a 3D artist needs to understand the project. Using plans, sketches, and reference images provided by the client, a 3D artist starts by visualizing the project in his or her head.

3D modeling

The 3D artist uses specialized 3D modeling software to create a digital model. This phase is analogous to building the structure of a physical model, except that the model only exists digitally.


The 3D artist applies images to the 3D models to make them look as realistic as possible. This step is analogous to painting a physical model, or gluing materials and photographs onto it.


The 3D artist sets up lights in the 3D scene to replicate lighting in the real world. This stage is similar to the way a photographer or videographer would set up lighting equipment before shooting.


The 2D image or images are generated from the model. This phase is the actual rendering process. It is analogous to taking a photo of a physical model, and it is the only way to see the digital model that exists in the rendering software.

Rendering can take anywhere from several seconds to several days, depending on the complexity of the model and the quality desired. This process is completed solely by the computer.  In some cases this will be done on large rendering computers called render farms.


The drafts that are provided to the client for feedback are low quality renders using the same process as the final render will be, in order to speed up the revision process.

Revisions are made to the scene, textures, and lights and the process is repeated until the desired result is achieved. Generally, changes can be made independently: for example, most changes to the model do not require the texturing to be updated.


The agreed upon final 2D image or images are provided to the client, ideally, by no later then the agreed upon deadline. Depending on the desired resolution the images will be provided in a specific format to support the way in which the image will be displayed.


There are two main ways that rendering projects are priced: a custom quote for the project, or a price per image. At Realspace, we exclusively custom quote projects because we feel that every client’s project and needs are unique. For more information read our full rendering pricing guide.

Beyond that there are generally two different price points for a project:1.The Basic project: ideal for gaining approval from regulatory bodies, this project is generally cheaper in cost and is used to serve simply as a communication of plans or an idea.2.The Premium project:  These projects are generally used to “wow” customers.  They are higher quality, more realistic and overall more visually stunning renders.  They tend to cost more.
It is recommended that you communicate what your needs are prior to the start of a project as most companies are capable of offering these different price points.

Uses for 3D rendering

  • Architectural Rendering
  • Movies
  • Medical Imaging
  • Safety Training
  • Environment Simulations
  • Product Prototyping
  • Engineering
  • Virtual Reality
  • Video Games

3D Rendering Buyer’s Guide: Who it’s forFirst time

  • 3D rendering buyers looking for still 3D renders or animations.
  • Past buyers looking to make a more educated decision or to get better results on their 3D visualization projects.


Turnaround time really depends on the client’s needs. Many companies advertise a 48-72 hour turnaround time, be cautious with this as it is likely you will get a cookie cutter image with no customization.

It is best to budget 1-2 weeks of time for your rendering project to ensure you receive a high-quality, photorealistic image. This way, the company will work to satisfy your needs and complete your project properly.  If you are on a tight timeline some companies will charge an addition rush fee.


Like most things in life, 3D renders are not all created equal. Some characteristics to look for are:

  • The clarity or sharpness of the image.
  • Obvious noise, graininess, or errors.
  • Repeating patterns, particularly in wood, stone, or grass.2 dimensional elements – these are added later with a photo editor.
  • Off-scale elements.Obviously duplicated objects.
  • Matte colored elements. Artistic composition of the renders.
  • Unrealistic or out of place elements.
  • As a general rule, if a render looks good then it probably is good.

Rendering Styles

A render can be done in several different styles, and each should be evaluated differently. Click here to read our rendering style guide.


Most rendering software can create still images and animations. It generally requires a similar amount of labour to model a scene for animation and for multiple still images. The only additional work required for animation is to create the path that the camera will follow. The main cost in an animation is rendering time.

An animation is comprised of 24-60 frames per second depending on the standard being used. This means that for every second of video, 24-60 images have to be rendered. Although they can generally be lower in quality than still images, this ends up taking a considerable amount of time to do. Additionally, for every revision required, many frames will have to be re-rendered.