What is an architecture rendering?

What is an architecture rendering?

May 3, 2024
Yannic Schwarz

Key Takeaways

  • Rendering Overview: 3D rendering in architecture transforms 3D models into photorealistic 2D images, crucial for visualizing design concepts.

  • Main Techniques: Rasterization, ray tracing, and real-time rendering each offer distinct advantages and are chosen based on project needs.

  • Traditional Workflow: Involves model creation, texturing, staffing, lighting, styling, rendering, and post-processing for optimal results.

  • AI-Powered Rendering: Offers significant speed improvements and efficiency gains, though it may sacrifice some control over details.

  • Comparison: While traditional rendering excels in detail control and quality, AI rendering presents a promising alternative for rapid visualization and cost efficiency.

rendering of a hud on a beach

What is an Architecture Rendering?

3D rendering in architecture is the process of creating photorealistic 2D images from 3D models, allowing architects to visually communicate their design concepts and ideas. Rendering simulates lighting, textures, and spatial arrangements to produce images that can look as realistic as photographs, or be stylized according to the needs of the project.

Architectural 3D rendering is utilized across various stages of architectural and construction projects by different stakeholders:

Architects use rendering to visualize and refine building designs, aligning decisions with client needs, while for real estate developers, renderings serve as essential marketing tools to attract buyers and investors before construction. Renderings also enhance communication between clients and project teams, improving satisfaction and trust in project outcomes for all stakeholders.

Most Common Render Techniques

We only provide a short overview over the main rendering techniques benefits and limitations. For a more comprehensive guide, please visit this blog article.

1. Rasterization Rendering


  • Speed: Rasterization is incredibly fast, making it ideal for real-time applications like video games.

  • Efficiency: Handles dynamic scenes with multiple moving objects smoothly, crucial for interactive environments.


  • Limited Realism: May not achieve high levels of detail and realism compared to more computationally intense methods like ray tracing.

  • Poor Handling of Light: Struggles with complex lighting scenarios, such as reflections and soft shadows, often resulting in less realistic visuals.

Rasterization is best for projects where response time and interaction are more important than visual complexity, such as in gaming or virtual simulations.

2. Ray Tracing Rendering


  • Visual Realism: Produces highly realistic images with accurate lighting, shadows, and reflections.

  • Detailed Effects: Excels at rendering complex visual effects like global illumination, refractions, and shadows for a lifelike experience.


  • Computational Intensity: Requires significant processing power, making it slower than rasterization.

  • Hardware Demands: Often needs high-end hardware for efficient processing, which can be a barrier for real-time applications.

Ray tracing is favored in fields where visual fidelity is paramount, such as in film production, architectural visualization, and high-end advertising.

3. Real-Time Rendering


  • Immediate Feedback: Generates visuals quickly, providing instant updates as scene elements change, crucial for VR and AR.

  • Dynamic Interaction: Adapts seamlessly to changes in the environment, maintaining performance across varied scenarios.


  • Reduced Detail: May not achieve the depth of detail that pre-rendered scenes can, especially in terms of complex lighting and textures.

  • Quality-Speed Trade-off: Prioritizes speed over quality, which might not suit all types of projects, especially those requiring photorealistic outputs.

Real-time rendering is essential for applications requiring immediate visual feedback and high levels of interaction, such as video games, and simulation training but is also often used in architecture.

rendering of a house in the mountains

How to Create an Architecture Rendering (Traditional Way)

The following overview gives you a rough overview of the most important steps in 3D rendering, using a real-time rendering tool such as Enscape, Lumion, D5 or similar. 

Of course, this guide only provides a rough workflow that can change depending on the tool that is used.

To really become a master in rendering, one needs to learn by doing.
The easiest way is to follow how to videos like the ones from Upstairs: I Rendered an entire house! Full break down Simply try it out yourself with the resources provided and learn it on the go!

Model Creation & Render Adjustments

Using 3D modeling software such as Revit, SketchUp, Archicad, Allplan, artists create 3D objects by sculpting 3D polygons or scanning real objects into 3D space. These techniques allow for everything from organic shapes to precise industrial designs.Before rendering a scene, many 3D designers need to adjust the model to meet visual requirements. This involves tasks such as deleting unnecessary planning details as well as properly categorizing similar asset groups. Especially by clearly defining and grouping equal elements, texturing the model in the next step can be done much faster.
Unfortunately, designers use the planning models only as a guideline to derive the render 3D-model from it, as the adjustments sometimes require more time compared to rebuilding the model from scratch.  


Artists then add textures to these 3D models. Textures may represent various materials like wood, metal, or fabric, adding color and details that enhance the realism of the objects. This step transforms simple shapes into detailed and lifelike representations.


After texturing the model, the next step is to populate the 3D environment with context by adding either a 3D environment or simply adding contextual 3D elements.

Adding 3D environments

Sometimes it is important to show how a building will look in a broader context with neighboring houses and streets. Tools like Enscape therefore allow you to search specific addresses and to import the full 3D environment of the scene. Afterwards, you can seamlessly integrate your plan into the future space. Unfortunately, the 3D models are usually untextured. Thus, designing a ultra realistic rendering from a birds’ eye perspective needs finishing touches with Photoshop in which a photo of the environment is mapped onto the 3D rendering exported from Enscape. Newer tools like Pelicad are able to use the online 3D Google Maps model which allows you to directly view the model in its real environment and use AI to derive a high-quality rendering from it.

Adding single 3D elements
This step is known as "staffing," where 3D objects such as cars, people, trees, and furniture are added. These assets are typically selected from a 3D asset library included with the rendering software. Incorporating these elements helps to simulate real-world scenarios and gives scale and life to the scene, making it more relatable and visually rich. This step is crucial for architectural renderings and animations where human interaction and environmental context are important for the final visual presentation.


Proper lighting is essential to integrate 3D models into their environments realistically. Settings for light direction, intensity, and type are adjusted to mimic natural lighting conditions, which is crucial for architectural visualizations to make the designs appear functional and appealing. Most renderings have preselections of scenes that are easily applied to your model. Afterwards, you can adjust the weather, sunstand, seasons, and make unique adjustments to it. 


Once the 3D objects have been modeled, textured, and lit, the next step in the rendering workflow is "Styling". This stage involves modifying the visual appearance of the scene to match specific artistic styles or thematic requirements. Common styling techniques include applying filters to simulate hand-drawn or sketched looks, desaturating colors for a more subdued tone, or adding vibrant color schemes to make the scene pop.

Styling is particularly important in projects where the final output needs to resonate with a specific audience or fit within a particular artistic genre, such as advertising, animated films, or video games. It provides a final layer of customization that can significantly impact the viewer's perception and emotional response to the rendered image. In some cases however, the styling is done manually after the rendering process is complete - often in Photoshop.


Finally, the rendering process captures a snapshot of the 3D scene. This can be a single image or a series of images to simulate motion. Rendering techniques like real-time rendering and ray-tracing are selected based on the desired quality and effect.


Once the rendering process is complete, the final step often involves post-processing in software like Adobe Photoshop. This stage is crucial for enhancing the rendered image or addressing issues that are difficult to manage within the rendering software itself. Limitations such as inadequate lighting effects, desired stylistic touches, or color corrections are typically resolved during this phase. Photoshop allows for detailed manipulation of the image, from adjusting brightness and contrast to adding complex effects and textures that the rendering software may not support directly. This step ensures that the final image meets the specific aesthetic and technical requirements of the project.

Due to the complexity of the workflow, architects usually estimate a minimum of 8 hours to create 1 rendering, varying based on the complexity and size of the project. Therefore, new AI render approaches, like the one from Pelicad, aim to significantly reduce the time needed to create high-quality images.

3D Render Tools 

Here's a list of some widely used 3D rendering software for architectural use cases, along with their advantages, disadvantages, and pricing information. Please note that we can’t take any responsibility for the correctness of the information provided. In this blog post we also offer a larger array of available software solutions that are not included in this listing.


  • Advantage: Known for high-quality imagery and compatibility with major 3D creation suites.

  • Disadvantage: Can be resource-intensive, requiring strong hardware for optimal performance.

  • Price: License options vary; specific pricing is available on request.


  • Advantage: Fas and user-friendly, excellent for architectural visualization.

  • Disadvantage: High cost for professional versions.

  • Price: Standard version at $1,817; Pro version at $3,636.

Cinema 4D

  • Advantage: Offers robust features for drawing, sculpting, and animation.

  • Disadvantage: Can be expensive for some users.

  • Price: Starts at $149 per month.


  • Advantage: High-quality renders with realistic lighting.

  • Disadvantage: Slow rendering times for complex scenes.

  • Price: Node-locked license starts at $595.


  • Advantage: Integrates directly with Revit, SketchUp, and other popular tools for a seamless design and visualization workflow.

  • Disadvantage: No free version available.

  • Price: Starting at $46.90 per month


  • Advantage: Excellent image quality and flexible subscription plans.

  • Disadvantage: Not the best for architectural visualization compared to other specialized tools.

  • Price: Monthly fees are $45, annual subscription at $360, and a 3-year plan at $1,025.

Chaos Corona

  • Advantage: Easy to use with good quality renders and effective integration with other Chaos tools.
  • Disadvantage: Limited host software compatibility, primarily available for 3ds Max and Cinema 4D.
  • Price: Solo license at $29.90 per month or $358.80 yearly.

These tools offer a range of features suited to different needs and budgets in the architecture and design industries. Depending on the specific requirements of a project, such as speed, quality, or specific visual effects, one may be more suitable than another.

Speeding up the Rendering Process With AI 

AI rendering techniques are dramatically transforming the 3D rendering workflow, leveraging automation to reduce the time required from an average of 8 hours to just 30 minutes. Here’s a detailed explanation of how AI streamlines the entire process:

Model Creation & Render Adjustments

  • Automation: AI uses machine learning algorithms to simplify complex planning models automatically, converting detailed BIM (Building Information Modeling) data into render-ready 3D models. This reduces the manual effort needed to adjust models before rendering.

  • Efficiency: By analyzing BIM data that includes metadata about planned 3D objects and assets, AI can efficiently organize and prepare models for texturing, which cuts down the preliminary preparation time significantly.


  • Auto-Texturing: AI leverages BIM metadata to automatically apply textures to the 3D models. This step ensures that materials look realistic without manual intervention, based on the properties and characteristics predefined in the BIM data.

  • Neural Materials: Architects often struggle with finding the exact material that they envision for their project. By providing example pictures of the material, various material suggestions can be created by the AI, streamlining texturing tasks for architects.


  • Populating Scenes: AI can intelligently populate scenes with contextually appropriate objects (like cars and people) by understanding the scene's setting and purpose. This automation maintains scale and life in the environments without manual placement of each item.


  • AI-Driven Lighting: Generative AI networks analyze 3D metadata to create realistic lighting scenarios automatically. This includes determining the best lighting conditions based on the time of day, geographic location, and the physical properties of materials within the scene.


  • Style Adaptation: AI modifies the visual appearance of scenes to match specific artistic styles or thematic requirements. By understanding the desired end look, AI can apply filters and adjustments that replicate styles like sketching, desaturation, or vibrant coloring without manual tweaking.


  • Accelerated Rendering Process: Finally, AI optimizes the rendering parameters in real-time, adjusting aspects like resolution and ray tracing to produce high-quality images faster. This adaptive rendering reduces the need for re-renders and manual corrections.

Benefits of AI-Powered Rendering

  • Speed: Dramatically reduces rendering time, allowing more iterations and faster project completion.

  • Quality: Enhances visual quality by optimizing texturing, lighting, and styling automatically to produce cleaner and more realistic images.

  • Cost Efficiency: Reduces the need for extensive hardware setups as AI can optimize rendering to be computationally less intensive which allows AI rendering machines in the cloud.


  • Reliance on Data: AI rendering heavily depends on the availability of high-quality data and trained models, which might restrict flexibility.

  • Infrastructure Requirements: Might require advanced computational resources and specific software capabilities, which could be a barrier for smaller firms or individual users.

  • Control over Details: As many parts can increasingly be automated with AI, 3D designers often have less control over specific details within a 3D scene. Therefore, upcoming AI render workflows must include possibilities to do granulated changes to the environment that are considered as AI inputs. 

By automating much of the manual labor traditionally involved in 3D rendering workflows, AI-powered techniques enable quicker turnarounds and free up creative professionals to focus more on design and less on the technicalities of rendering. This not only speeds up the production process but also opens up new possibilities for innovation in 3D visualization.

AI Render Tools

Here's an updated overview of AI render tools that integrate generative networks and are available in the cloud. Again, this list is not complete. You can find a more extensive list of available AI tools in this blog post.


  • Advantages: Processes not only 2D sketches but also 3D planning data, resulting in outputs (geometry, surroundings, materials) that are much more accurate and better suited to the needs of architects and designers.

  • Disadvantages: While offering more precise control and detail, it may require more complex initial data preparation compared to simpler sketch-to-render tools.

  • Unique Feature: Unlike other AI tools that primarily process 2D sketches, Pelicad's ability to handle 3D data allows it to maintain critical details and control over the final render, significantly enhancing the usefulness and accuracy of the results for professional design applications.

  • Advantages: Transforms sketches into renderings quickly, facilitating rapid visualization.

  • Disadvantages: Lacks depth in controlling important details due to reliance on 2D data, which can be a limitation in generating detailed 3D visualizations.

  • Unique Feature: Modelo allows designers to quickly view and share their 3D model across tools by making them available in the cloud. This allows faster sharing and better collaboration across stakeholders.


  • Advantages: Specializes in fast rendering from sketches, enhancing design workflow efficiency.

  • Disadvantages: Faces challenges in precision and detail control, as 2D sketches do not provide sufficient information for fine-tuning generative networks.

  • Unique Feature: ArkoAI allows designers in early planning stages to quickly iterate between rough design ideas that don’t require high levels of detail.

  • Advantages: Offers quick rendering capabilities from initial sketches as well as various planning features in early stages.

  • Disadvantages: Similar to other sketch-based tools, it struggles with detailed architectural elements due to the limited information in 2D sketches. Also, it lacks possibilities to change AI outputs post-production with keeping other elements steady.

  • Unique Feature: Planners are able to create 2D floor plans very quickly and seamlessly iterate as well as visualize them.


  • Advantages: Efficient in turning sketches into digital renderings.

  • Disadvantages: The simplicity of 2D sketches can lead to oversimplified renders that might not fully capture the intended design complexities.

  • Unique Feature: The generative networks of Visoid are trained to understand screenshots of various 3D models that are either untextured, textured or already rendered models and adjusts itself accordingly.


  • Advantages: Enhances presentations with real-time cloud visualization and interactive 3D tours.

  • Disadvantages: Faces limitations when converting simple sketches into complex 3D models due to insufficient detail in the source material.

  • Unique Feature: Shapespark stands out with its availability of cloud in combination with smart editing features which allow native collaboration across stakeholders.

Comparison Between Traditional Rendering and AI Rendering

Here's a comparison between traditional rendering methods (like ray tracing and real-time rendering) and the emerging AI rendering technologies based on various factors:


  • Traditional Rendering
    Both ray tracing and real-time rendering have improved in speed with technological advancements, but ray tracing remains relatively slow due to its computational intensity, which simulates the physics of light in detail. Real-time rendering is faster, as seen in applications like gaming and virtual simulations, but at a cost to visual fidelity.

  • AI Rendering
    AI rendering significantly speeds up the process by automating tasks such as converting sketches to 3D models or optimizing render settings based on the scene’s data. AI tools like Pelicad can process renders in minutes, a task that traditionally could take hours.

Quality of Output

  • Traditional Rendering
    Ray tracing is renowned for its high-quality outputs, producing images with accurate lighting and shadows that are photorealistic. Real-time rendering offers good quality but often less detailed compared to ray tracing.

  • AI Rendering
    While AI rendering can quickly produce high-quality visuals, the fidelity can vary significantly based on how well the AI has been trained and the quality of the input data. Some AI tools may still struggle to match the level of detail that manual ray tracing achieves.

Control of Details

  • Traditional Rendering
    Offers extensive control over every aspect of the rendering process, from tweaking light settings to adjusting textures and materials manually, which can be crucial for achieving specific visual effects.

  • AI Rendering
    Although improving, AI rendering sometimes offers less granular control over fine details compared to traditional methods. It's more about efficiency and speed, although tools like Pelicad aim to balance control by processing detailed 3D data.


  • Traditional Rendering
    Allows artists to experiment extensively with different techniques and styles, which can foster creativity but often requires deep technical knowledge.

  • AI Rendering
    Potentially limits some creative processes due to automation but can also open new creative possibilities by allowing designers to quickly iterate and visualize multiple scenarios.


  • Traditional Rendering
    Tools like V-Ray, Lumion, and Cinema4D are widely available but often require substantial hardware setups.

  • AI Rendering
    Emerging AI tools are becoming more accessible and are designed to be user-friendly. They typically require less intensive hardware, relying instead on cloud-based platforms or lighter software installations.


  • Traditional Rendering
    Can be quite expensive, not just in terms of software licenses (which can run into thousands of dollars) but also due to the hardware needed to run them efficiently.

  • AI Rendering
    Often offered on a subscription basis that can be more affordable. Additionally, the reduced need for high-end hardware lowers the overall cost barrier for users.

In conclusion, while traditional rendering still holds the advantage in high-end production scenarios requiring meticulous detail control, AI rendering presents a promising alternative for rapid visualization and iterative design processes where time and cost efficiency are paramount. As AI technology continues to evolve, it's likely that these tools will become even more capable and widespread, potentially narrowing the quality gap with traditional methods while offering unique new capabilities.