What Is 3D Rendering? [A Beginner-Friendly Guide]

Velina Nenova
Velina Nenova

Updated · Jan 27, 2023


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3D rendering has been around for decades but only became popular in recent years with the advent of computers and 3D graphics software.

It has proven to be a valuable tool in various industries, including architecture, engineering, medicine, and entertainment.

We’ll walk you through everything you need to know about this process, its popular techniques, applications, and how it all came to be. 

What Is 3D Rendering?

3D rendering is a method of creating two-dimensional images from a 3D computer model. The image can be either static, like a photograph, or animated, like a video.

In most cases, 3D rendering is done using specialized software that generates images from a virtual model. It typically includes different tools for lighting, texturing, and shading.

By adjusting these factors, people can design images that look almost indistinguishable from real-world objects or go for a more artistic feel.

Photorealistic Effects

Producing realistic images is among the most important advantages of rendering.

That’s achieved by using textures, light, and shadow to create the illusion of a real-world setting.

Photorealistic rendering can be used for both still images and animations. The realism level depends on the textures’ quality and lighting conditions.

For example, a photorealistic 3D render of a room lit by sunlight will look different than one of the same room lit by fluorescent light.

By carefully choosing the right combination of textures and lighting, artists create images that are virtually indistinguishable from photographs.

That’s a huge advantage for anyone who needs to create accurate images, such as architects or product designers.

Non-Photorealistic Style (NPR)

Not all rendering needs to be realistic. In some cases, creating an image with a specific artistic style is the goal.

That’s where non-photorealistic rendering (NPR) comes in. Different algorithms can simulate traditional mediums, such as pencils, paints, and clay, and add unusual textures or lighting effects.

It’s a way to make anything from cartoons to watercolors. NPR is suitable for illustrations, concept art, and video games.

How To Make 3D Renders?

Let’s take a look at the different steps of the rendering process:

3D Modeling

First, you need to create a three-dimensional model of the object you want to render.

You can do this with various programs, such as Autodesk Maya or Blender, and the basic steps are generally the same.

Start by choosing the object you want to model. It can be anything from a simple shape to a complex structure.

Once you do, you’ll need to create a “wireframe” by adding vertices (points) and edges (lines) to define its shape.

You may also save yourself some time and use a 3D scanner for this part if you’re going for a model of a real-life object.

Then, you can go on and add detail by applying colors, textures, and lighting.

Lighting helps create the illusion of depth and dimension, while textures are essential, as they give your model a realistic look and feel.

3D Model Rendering

The next step is to choose a rendering program. There are many different options, such as V-Ray, Adobe Dimension, and Revit.

Each program has its benefits, so you should choose the one that best fits your needs. Once you’ve selected a program, it’s time to upload your model.

You’ll need to create an immersive environment for the object by adding elements like clouds, fog, or reflections. Focus on the composition of the surrounding details.

Carefully consider all factors like materials and lighting, and when everything is ready, let the software do its job and generate an image.


The final step is to add finishing touches to fine-tune your render.

You may need to adjust the lighting or textures, but once you’re happy with the result, it’s time to save it and share it with the world.

That’s it; now you know what 3D rendering is and how to do it. Even though it’s a complex process, with the right software and some practice, anyone can create stunning images.

Types Of 3D Rendering Techniques

Now, let’s check out some of the most popular rendering techniques:


Rasterization is a rendering technique that converts an image into pixels. It’s used by most 3D graphics software, including Blender, Maya, and 3ds Max.

The rasterization process starts with a wireframe model, which is a collection of points and lines that define the object’s shape. These elements are then converted into polygons, which approximate the object’s surface.

Finally, the polygons are rasterized into pixels. It’s a relatively fast and simple technique, but it can only produce an image rendering with limited detail.

For this reason, it’s often applied alongside other rendering techniques, such as ray tracing.

Rasterization is commonly utilized in game engines to allow movement and interaction in a 3D scene.

Ray Tracing

Ray tracing uses light tracing algorithms to produce computer renderings. It traces the path of light through a scene and simulates how it would reflect off of surfaces.

Ray tracing can produce highly realistic images, but it’s computationally expensive and requires a powerful graphics processing unit (GPU).

As a result, it’s typically applicable in movie production and video game development, where the extra processing power is available.

However, ray tracing is also finding its way into consumer-grade GPUs, which are becoming increasingly powerful. So, it’ll likely become a mainstream 3D rendering technique soon.

Ray Casting

Ray casting is a 3D graphic rendering technique calculating the visibility of objects in a virtual scene.

It works by tracing a ray of light from the viewer’s eye, through each pixel in the image, and into the scene. If the beam hits an object, it’ll be rendered visible; if not, it’ll be invisible. 

With this technique, you’ll be able to create the illusion of three-dimensional space on a two-dimensional screen.

Ray casting is relatively simple to implement and can render both static and dynamic scenes.

It’s not as efficient as other techniques, such as ray tracing, but it’s faster. That’s why it’s a popular choice for many 3D applications.

Rendering Equation

The rendering equation is a mathematical formula used to produce 3D-rendered images

It takes into account the light sources, the surface reflectance, the viewing angle, and other factors to calculate the color of each pixel in the image. 

The rendering equation aims to produce realistic images that accurately simulate how light interacts with objects in the real world.

While the equation is complex, it can be used to create lifelike images with high accuracy. As such, it’s an important tool for any artist or engineer working in 3D rendering.

Now that you know the different techniques at your disposal, consider the level of detail, accuracy, and realism you need before starting your work.

How Does 3D Rendering Work in Different Industries?

As we mentioned, 3D rendering has numerous applications in many fields. Let’s see some examples:

Architecture and Real Estate

Architects use rendering to create three-dimensional models of their designs. It’s a means to visualize the finished product and ensure all its elements are in place.

Rendering is also helpful in making animations and walkthroughs of buildings to show clients how they’ll look and function.

It also comes in handy for virtual tours of properties listed for sale.


A 3D render is an excellent way to communicate ideas and designs for engineering projects.

Creating realistic images of proposed structures and systems helps engineers visualize how a project will look and function before it’s built.

This may save time and money by identifying potential problems early in the design process. A 3D rendering can also simulate a product’s performance in real-world conditions.

Product Design and Manufacturing

Three-dimensional rendering is often valuable in product design and manufacturing. It allows engineers and designers to visualize all parts of a product before it’s created.

It’s a way to create images of products for marketing purposes and to make animations that show how a product works.

Additionally, it helps design product prototypes, which can then be tested for durability and functionality before being mass manufactured.


Rendering has become an essential tool in the scientific community. Researchers use it for the 3D visualization of data and to test hypotheses.

For example, biologists use 3D rendering to map the neural pathways of animals. That helps them understand how information is transmitted between different brain parts.

Additionally, 3D rendering helps study the effects of drugs on the body. By simulating how a drug interacts with cells, researchers may develop new treatments for diseases.

3D rendering also enables research into the impact of climate change on ecosystems. By creating models of how different species respond to changes in temperature and habitat loss, scientists can develop strategies for conservation.

In the future, 3D rendering will continue to play an important role in scientific research. It’ll help us unlock the secrets of the natural world and find new ways to protect our planet.


Rendering has become increasingly popular in cinema. It allows filmmakers to create realistic images of objects and environments that would otherwise be impossible.

3D graphics can help create digital sets and locations, as well as generate realistic characters and creatures.

In fact, some of the most iconic images in cinema history have been created using 3D rendering, e.g., the dinosaur sequences in the Jurassic Park franchise.

More recently, 3D rendering has been used to produce entire films, such as James Cameron’s Avatar.

As technology evolves, we’ll likely see even more impressive examples in cinema soon.


Among the most important aspects of video game development is creating realistic and believable 3D computer graphics. In the past, this meant spending countless hours hand-crafting individual sprites and animations.

However, with the advent of 3D rendering technology, developers can now build entire worlds with much less effort.

3D rendering allows for much more detail and realism, greatly improving the player’s immersion into the game world.

In addition, 3D rendering can produce cutscenes and other animated sequences that would be impossible with traditional 2D animation techniques.

As a result, 3D rendering has become an essential tool for modern game developers.

History of 3D Renderings

Rendering is a process that artists have used for centuries. We can find the first examples in Renaissance paintings.

Later on, artists like Leonardo da Vinci and Michelangelo would use a technique called sfumato to create the illusion of depth and dimension.

It wasn’t until the 20th century that rendering became a mainstream technology.

In the 1960s, computer scientist Ivan Sutherland developed Sketchpad, the first computer-aided design (CAD) program. It allowed users to make three-dimensional models on a computer for the first time.

The Utah Teapot is another essential part of the history and future of rendering. It’s a 3D computer model created by Martin Newell in 1975. Since then, it quickly became a standard tool for testing digital render algorithms due to its simple yet representative shape.

The work of Sutherland, Newell, and many others, paved the way for the development of other rendering programs, such as Pixar’s RenderMan.

RenderMan was used to produce the first computer-animated feature film Toy Story in 1995. Since then, rendering has developed a lot.

Today, artists, architects, engineers, and scientists utilize it to create stunning images and visualizations. And with the continued advancement of technology, the possibilities are endless.

Necessary Hardware and Software For 3D Rendering Art

In order to produce high-quality 3D images, a computer must have certain hardware capabilities. 

First and foremost, it must have a powerful graphics processing unit (GPU)

The GPU is responsible for calculating the thousands of mathematical operations required to generate a 3D scene. Without a capable GPU, renderings will appear blocky and low-resolution.

In addition, the computer should have a large amount of Random Access Memory (RAM). That will ensure that the GPU has enough space to store the data it needs to generate an image. 

Finally, the machine should have a fast processor. That’ll help ensure the rendering software runs smoothly and efficiently. 

By meeting these hardware requirements, a computer will produce high-quality 3D images.

You also need software for model rendering. Luckily, you can take your pick of different types of programs.

We discussed some examples above, but there are many more available, each with its own features and capabilities.

Wrap Up

3D rendering is a method of turning 3D models into 2D images. Many fields, such as architecture, science, and entertainment, rely on it.

Rendering helps create realistic images of objects and environments. Various algorithms and programs can do that, and the end result depends on the techniques used.

High-quality renderings take a long time to create, but they’re worth the effort, as they’ll allow you to communicate ideas clearly and effectively.

By understanding the basics of 3D rendering, you can create impressive images that accurately represent your data.


What is 3D visualization?

That’s the process of creating three-dimensional images from data sets. It’s a powerful tool for visualizing complex data and understanding relationships between different variables.

It can assist in creating static images or interactive animations. It’s a valuable solution in scientific research, engineering, and medicine. 

In recent years, this type of visualization has also become popular in architecture, gaming, and film.

While it has traditionally been difficult to create realistic 3D images, advances in computer technology have enabled high-quality visuals with relative ease.

What does rendered mean?

3D rendering creates a 2D image from a set of three-dimensional data.

This data can come from various sources, including sketches, photographs, or CAD models. Once the information is input into the computer, the rendering software will create an image or animation of the object or scene.

3D rendering is a valuable tool for creating realistic images for many different purposes. For example, architects use 3D rendering to create visualizations of proposed buildings, and product designers use it to create prototypes of new products.

3D rendering is also a popular technique in movies and video games to create realistic images of objects and environments.

What is the difference between 3D modeling and rendering?

The terms “3D modeling” and “rendering” are often used interchangeably, but they actually refer to two different stages in the process of creating a 3D visual.

3D modeling involves the creation of a three-dimensional model of an object or scene using software such as Maya or 3ds Max. 

Once complete, the model can be rendered or converted into a 2D image. That’s usually done by simulating how light interacts with the model to create realistic shadows and reflections.

How much does 3D rendering cost?

If you know what 3D rendering is and how it works, you may do it yourself, and it won’t cost you a lot.

However, it’s a multi-step process, and you might need to hire a professional. The cost will vary significantly depending on the project.

Generally speaking, simple product visuals start as low as $50, while more complex undertakings cost hundreds or even thousands of dollars

The best way to get an accurate project estimate is to consult a specialist and get a price quote.


Velina Nenova

Velina Nenova

Velina describes herself as passionate media savvy and a versatile individual with numerous different interests, most a result of her Media & Communications BA. She has also developed a keen interest in Digital Marketing and Advertising. Her never-ending desire to constantly learn new things and enrich herself and her ultimate dream to go around the globe before 45 are her driving forces.

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