12 mins read

Rendering has been used in the architect field for more years than you might imagine. Since the golden eras, architects have been creating drawings that accurately represent their vision and ideas in order to show the world how their buildings are going to look like.

Since the very first person who decided to recreate a painting from a different ‘perspective’ and made it significantly more realistic than before, architects have been using these types of drawings to bring their ideas to life.

The thing is, architects aren’t depending on simple drawings anymore; they are using rendering to showcase their visions to the public and relying on hyper realistic images to make sure they can accurately represent their ideas to everyone else.

The relationship between rendering and architecture

Like you might have already noticed, the relationship between this process and architecture is extremely old, and actually begun back in 1400, and evolved through time to become what it is nowadays.

However, we’re not going to talk about the history of rendering in architecture, but rather take a quick look on what is the correlation between the two of them, and why rendering is so important to architecture itself.

You see; rendering isn’t exclusive to architecture, but it is actually used in many other fields and industries such as the movie industry and the marketing/design field of many different businesses. Just think about Ferrari, General Motors and other car companies! They need rendering to create a realistic and powerful image of the brand-new car they want to build… when it hasn’t even been built yet.

In other words, rendering is a process that can be used in many different scenarios, not only in the architecture field. However, the relationship between architecture and rendering is, without a doubt extremely relevant.

It is important to understand that architects depend on rendering to bring their designs to life, they depend on these images to catch the eye of their public, their potential buyers, the customers and so many more. Without rendering, architects wouldn’t have a proper way to turn their ideas into an actual vision everyone else can appreciate.

What’s even more so, architects rely on rendering to create appealing visualizations of what their final product is going to look like? These hyper realistic images aren’t just pretty pictures of a building; they are carefully crafted to appeal to the public; they are made so others want to buy the property, invest on it, or simply live in it.

That’s why there are many details that go into rendering an image of a building/house/office/etc, because not only the building, itself has to look realistic and accurately represent the architect’s vision, but everything around it (the people, cars, bushes and trees) has to look realistic as well to really represent how the building will look in its surroundings.

Types of rendering styles

Although it is true rendering serves a single goal for architects, which is to turn their ideas into an accurate visualization, there are many different types of rendering styles architecture can rely on to do this.

Basically, rendering styles fall into two categories “Photo-Realistic” and “Non Photo-Realistic.” The first attempting to mimic reality and the second to mimic artistic traditional styles and medias such as water color or colored pencil and markers. Within those two categories are many styles.

Depending on the type of feeling they want to achieve with the rendering images, an architect might choose a different type of style that better suits their vision. That being said, let’s take a look at the various options there are. There may not be an official name for the styles, so we have had some fun with naming them as well!

#1: Realistic

Currently, this is the most common rendering style, since it’s focused on making the building as real and close to reality as possible, even if that means showing some imperfections in the process. This is a major style with many sub-categories of styles within it.

You’ll know a rendering style is realistic since you won’t be able to tell whether it is an actual real-life building that has already been built, or if you’re actually looking at a computer made image.

#2: Traditional

Prior to computers and computer graphics, this was the only major style with many sub-categories of styles within it. It is still a valid and relevant style, whether done in traditional mediums or within computer software.

You’ll know a rendering style is traditional since you won’t be able to tell whether it is by hand by an artist using “traditional” mediums or by software.

Styles such as “Water Color” are sub-categories of the ‘Traditional’ style and is basically a style imitating the traditional medium of water color painting.

#3: Futuristic

Furthermore, known as the “Mad Max” approach, this rendering style is very well known for making the building or product the only, or main, source of light in the whole image, instantly popping and catching your eye.

This particular style has been extremely trending lately, and it centers around dimming the whole lightning of the image, working with very desaturated colors, and making the building as white as possible to really reflect the light.

This sub-style can be done in “Realistic” or “Traditional” styling. If you are interested in this style and it’s basic essence check out some of the sci-fi art of early pioneers, John Berkey and Vincent Di Fate, work in traditional mediums but are the epitome of futuristic.

#4: Shanghai Sunset

During the first decade of the 2000s, a lot of Chinese rendering studios were obtaining a large proportion of commissions due to their low-price point. At this time, a certain style was apparent in those renderings, a lot of times the skies were very colorful and highly saturated and a lot of post-production was done to the renderings.

As a side note, at this time my friend Chen Qingfeng was probably one of the most technically skilled and accurate rendering artists of the time, just to be fair and not guilty of “stereo typing!”

A clue to whether a rendering falls into this category is soft colorful skys and at times during late dusk or early evening.

#5 MIResque

The name is actually paying tribute to the rendering studio ‘MIR’ who probably epitomizes this style. At it’s core, it is a “moody Scandinavian” rendering which has traits such as fog and overcast skies and ‘Sepia’ tones to the color palette of the rendering.

It may not be fair to categorize MIR into this style, but they produce very “atmospheric” renderings that have some of this quality.

A clue to this style is if you feel the atmospheric tension in the scene and feel like nature may be about to impose it’s will on the landscape.

#6: Utopic

Completely different to the realistic rendering style, this architectural style strives to make the building and its surroundings as incredibly perfect as possible, almost too good to be true.

Of course, these images still come out as three dimensional, very real images, but the building itself looks just too perfect to be true, making it seem as if something is off and avoiding any irregularity’s normal buildings might have.

#7: Watercolor

Although rendering is an artistic representation of a architectural piece, the water color style is probably the most artistic style of them all, and it resembles a watercolor painting.

This particular style doesn’t focuses on accuracy or precision, but rather giving it a more abstract form to the image and building itself, all while using vibrant colors that will show off the texture, lights and shadows of the image.

#5: Picturesque

Last, but not least, nature-centered rendering styles have also become very popular nowadays, since these renderings focus on incorporating nature into the building, almost blending it with its surroundings.

Of course, this particular style works best with buildings that intentionally incorporate these elements into their design, since it helps show off those little details that otherwise would get lost.

If you look at an image and feel like the building is in a park setting or in a beautiful country side, it has “picturesque” qualities in the least.

Keep in mind, there are other sub styles or genres of architectural rendering in which architects play around with the saturation of colors, the time of day, location or setting and weather to make their vision come across more accurately.

At the end of the day, these different styles exist to cover the needs of the architect and help them bring their vision to life exactly as they imagine, you just have to pick the one that suits your vision the best and does justice to the idea you’re trying to represent.

Russell Thomas is the Founder and Creative Director at 3DAllusions Studio a subsidiary of 3DAllusions LLC which includes sites such as 3DAllusions and MrMaterials which are resources for the CG artist, helping them hone their craft.