By Shawn Khoo
3D architectural renderings have become an increasingly popular tool for architects to show clients what a completed project would look like, in a way that is more realistic than using scale models or artist's drawings. But in order for an architectural rendering to be successful, it has to be as photo-realistic as possible. Here are some tips on how to achieve an increased level of realism in your renderings.
1. Chamfer your edges. Even in man-made objects there is no such thing as perfectly sharp edges. By beveling your edges using a chamfer tool in the rendering software, you not only make your rendering look more realistic, you also bring out more detail by letting the edges capture highlights from your lighting source.
2. Don't use colors that are 100% black or white. In order to show that an object has volume, you need to have areas that are highlighted and shaded using mid-tones for contrast. If you have a virtual material that is totally black, your model will look flat because the differences between the shaded areas and the mid-tones will not be visible. Same with a totally white model, except that in this case, it is the differences between the mid-tones and light areas that are not visible.
3. Use blurred background or depth of field effects in your 3D architectural renderings since a certain amount of blurring is something that is associated with photographs from real life to indicate movement. You can apply depth effects during the actual rendering or they can be added in post-production using the lens blur and z-depth pass features.
4. Use specular maps. These maps add more realism to your renderings by telling the render engine which parts of it should have high glossiness (specularity) and which are more diffuse. But you can also use specular maps in rendering objects that are supposed to have a uniform finish, such as ceramics, by highlighting naturally-occurring irregularities such as dings and scratches.
5. Use area shadows. When you are doing exterior renderings, you should be aware of the time of day it is supposed to be so that you can reflect it in the shadows that are being cast. For example, if it is supposed to be morning, the shadows should be soft and not sharply defined. On the other hand, at mid-day, shadows are crisp. The type of lighting that you are using in the rendering is something you should also take into consideration; for example, sunlight creates softer shadows compared with artificial lighting, which can cast a shadow that is sharper.
6. Add some dirt and disorder to the image. In real life, even things that are supposed to be brand new are not pristine and will have some imperfections. So add these details to your renderings, such as tiny cracks. Or when you do a room, avoid making it look too neat by adding some disordered details, such as a few scattered objects.
7. Include asymmetry. In nature, things are never completely symmetric. So once you're finishing off your 3D architectural renderings, add some asymmetric variance in order to make them look more realistic.
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