Teaching myself how to Render

Dec 9 '12 23 Last Comment
Dec 9, 12 9:44 am

Hey all-

I need to make a poster for my final project in a technical arch program. We don't learn fancy design programs, only AutoCad. I need some outside shots of my building in the field + some interior shots, and I wouldn't mind some nicely done sections (besides my standard AutoCad ones.)


I'm making my main 3-D model in Sketchup. From there I'm willing to learn more Photoshop, Illustrator, InDesign.

I do NOT plan on going into any other programs.


So once I've built my basic SketchUp Model-

- do I add textures, backgrounds etc with Sketchup?

- or Export 2-D graphics into Photoshop and THEN add textures, sky, etc? Or do you do all that within Sketchup? What's this with "Vray"?


I'm simply overwhelmed with the number of options out there. Any recs on tutorials?


If someone could outline a basic workflow for me, I'd be very grateful... Please dumb it down :p THANKS!


Dec 9, 12 10:40 am

Have you taken a look at Alex Hogrefe's Blog? He has a lot of great tutorials. I'm sure you can find something on there to help you out.

Dec 10, 12 12:52 am


this is a great site,

i know you didnt want to use any other programs, but you could save yourself alot of time photoshop rendering if you used ARTLANTIS( a render engine), its soooper easy to use just drag and drop textures, and its free, and render nice quality renders in  half an hour or so...

there you will have everything you need sky clouds and all and then you can drop it into photoshop to add some trees and people <-- if thats your thing

anyways.. if you need any help with artlantis, you can email me

i recommend it to anyone wanting easy,fast,good looking renders

Dec 10, 12 2:03 pm

Defenitely look at Alex's site

Dec 10, 12 4:24 pm

Thanks, guys!


I saw some of Alex's stuff on YouTube, I didn't realize he had a site. I'll look into it now, hopefully it's meant for beginners!


Ms. Winston- what do you mean by a render engine? Do I use artlantis INSTEAD of photoshop?


Thank you!

Dec 10, 12 9:20 pm

yes render engine means all it does is render, just put your model into Artlantis when you are done,

and it will save you so much time

and will also look good

you can do photoshop when you are done rendering to add trees, and what not

but trees, people, textures, and shadows for a beginner is pretty difficult ..

esp if you are in a time crunch of a project deadline...

if you spend the 30 minutes needed to learn ARTLANTIS, it will be worth it

Dec 10, 12 9:37 pm

Render engines are the future...Artlantis, Lumion, Unreal, Source, CryEngine, etc. They are infinitely more powerful and efficient. Artlantis and Lumion essentially do the same thing while the other three are for more advanced users. 

Single frame rendering is so 2005. 

Dec 11, 12 1:52 pm

LITS4FormZ...Life is too short 4 FormZ

Dec 11, 12 4:02 pm

Perhaps a definition of "render" would be useful for me?


I thought rendering is the process that a picture undergoes to go from looking like make-believe to looking realistic... Isn't that done frame by frame?


I will look into Artlantis.


Ok, so the process is:

1. make model with sketchup

2. stick it into Artlantis

3. Put it into Photoshop and add sky, people, etc.


Dec 11, 12 9:30 pm

*face palm*

1. make your model

2. put it into artlantis ( in artlantis you can texture, add lights, add sky and clouds) **dont add people or trees in artlantis, they can look alittle stupid***

3. then put the rendered image into photoshop and add your finishing touches, (fix any modeling mistakes if you have any, add grass or people or roads or trees... birds.. dogs hot air balloons... whatever you like...

Dec 12, 12 2:47 pm

Thank you, Ms. Winston! 


It's takes talent to break it down so well :) Thanks for helping the newbs!

Dec 12, 12 4:12 pm

So you make a model and then import it into artlantis, then do the texturing, lighting, and possibly camera setup there, then render.  and it's not a single frame rendering, so still images (or the more unique printed image) isn't really what the program is designed for?  or still images from artlantis are just as good as from anywhere else?  can you do animations so you can sort of present to a group, or is it just an interactive thing where your audience may have to be somehow involved?

what if the model changes?  you have to retexture everything?  do you develop some kind of workflow to segment your model in such a way that you might only replace pieces if such an event were to happen?  remember, we like lots of iterations in architecture and we may have an almost complete design/model before we scrap it and nearly start over.

i use 3dmax and mental ray because i'm old.  my office is switching to sketchup because it's better (?).  i'd like to try out cryengine or something like that, but  i just haven't prioritized it.  i've messed with bethesda's creation kit but didn't dive too deep before that also slipped into a low priority (i have an awesome tardis for skyrim though).

Dec 12, 12 4:54 pm

I wouldn't recomend Artlantis, I never got the desired renderings, too many options to twindle with, also harder to make abstract renderings.

A better option would be a Vray or Podium plugin for Sketchup where you can render directly from sketchup. The Podium plugin is very easy to use I hear.

Here's a good site with tutorials :

Dec 12, 12 8:07 pm

When you're crunched on time, its not the time to learn a new software and meet the deadline too.  Rendering can take time and many trials to do it well and get what you want.

For someone trying to meet a deadline, I'd suggest:

1) building the model

2) rendering it out in one light (monochrome) with shadows etc

3) open it in photoshop, overlay your textures experimenting with the different layer modes in photoshop.  Adjust color, contrast etc according to your needs and what you see in front of you.

4) Add, trees, plants, background, and other elements as you need and adjust like the step above.

Dec 12, 12 9:08 pm

its architecture school, you will always be under a deadline...

you rarely have time to just sit around freely learning software unless you are in a class..

if you dont learn how to do it efficiently now, you will just keep falling back on "what you know"

which  from what your telling us dosnt seem to be the best process method to produce the best results... suck it up and learn something .. thats what your in school to do... being safe and choosing not to learn things is not a good attitude to have in this job market.. those types of decisions will be reflected in your portfolio

form good habits and work flows now.. and it will get easier as you go...

Dec 13, 12 12:01 am

Yes, students will always be under deadlines in architecture school but I don't for a second believe your saying that you rarely have time to just sit around freely learning a new software/technique unless you're in class.  There is always time to learn new softwares and techniques outside the deadline timeframe.  Skip partying, socializing, daydreaming when its downtime and learn new softwares and techniques then, or atleast do it during your internships.  Infact, that tells more about your good habits, ability to prioritize and makes you more efficient because you aren't the type who wastes time learning a new software or new techniques during deadlines or when forced to.  You're passionate enough to do that on your own downtime.

You completely missed the point it seems, Ms. Winton.  I don't know what school you go to but I'm guessing it isn't very competitive or likely one that favors fancy images and digital architecture over strong concepts/ideas.  On a scale of importance, renderings were probably at the very bottom in my school.  Infact, students who didn't submit realistic and fancy looking renderings often did better than students who did because they spent more time designing, developing and strengthening their concepts.  Unless you plan to become one of the rendering specialist in a firm, it will do you much better to learn to prioritize and become a good designer than a rendering expert. 

Keep learning and soaking in new knowledge like a sponge, but use your time wisely and prioritize.  Always remember Murphy's Law.  80% of all your time should be spent doing 20% of the most important things.  20% of your time should be spend on doing things that don't matter in the big scheme of things (aka learning new software during a major deadline or spending hours trying to push out a 'realistic' looking image when that time should be spent on your main concepts/ideas.)  We aren't in architecture school to learn how to use software or produce fancy realistic looking images.  We're here to think, generate and come up with compelling ideas.  People who can push a software button are dime a dozen.  People who can actually think, create and prioritize arent. 

Brittany WinstonBrittany Winston
Dec 13, 12 12:48 am

i never used the word realistic.. for startes

two i am not a student... i have graduated.. from a pretty competitive school

and i think that.. to say your idea is better than your presentation of said ideas is false..

realistically no one is going to take the time to HEAR about how great your concept is in a review they need to see it.. presented well..

as my professor would say "its not called archiTALKture 

produce... good effective drawing/rendering efficiently..

frame by frame rendering is not efficient.. if this kid.. likes this project later on down the road and wants to include it in his portfolio, but wishes he had a few more views..

thats way more time taken outta this kids life to produce them

there are plenty of firms that do great rendering without looking realistic.. LTL is one of them..... 

i rarely partied when i was in school... and um "socializing" is a part of life..

if you must cut out socializing all together to make it through architecture school.. then you probably not that good to begin with...


efficiency is about creating a work flow.. in which you are able to do it all

great concept/ great design/ and great presentation.. if you cant do those things...

you should take up accounting...

when you first get outta school no one gives a shit about your CONCEPT ( not usually) but they do care how efficient you are..

i mean can i say it enough efficient  efficient efficient efficient efficient

Dec 13, 12 7:56 am

i think ms. winston's perspective more closely matches my own experience.  also, socializing in school will probably build the most important skill you can take from college.  getting jobs and getting clients and getting work is typically built around building relationships.  if you have to sacrifice something, i wouldn't let it be socializing.

Dec 13, 12 8:28 am

Whoa whoa whoa guys, this wasn't meant to be combative, just helping a very new person on the block learn some skills...


I'm in a technical architecture program outside the States. We learnt AutoCad. I've spent more than a year working on a project and it's about time to make the 3-d's... I didn't want to outsource for 150$ a PICTURE to get it rendered, I wanted to learn myself.


I am VERY GRATEFUL for all the help. Indeed, I DO have a bit of time now. I've taught myself Sketchip, I'm now teaching myself Photoshop and have just started toying around with Artlantis.


I just wanted a CLEAR and BASIC idea of what a workflow should look like, since I'm operating in a vacuum and don't have anything to aspire towards. Though design IS important, I want some fancy graphics to back up all the hard work I've already put into this process.


Thank you all.

Dec 13, 12 9:46 am

unfortunately, there is no one right answer.  we've developed different workflows with different software.  often we come to hold our own perspectives in high esteem and feel the need to defend those views.  that's why it becomes combative.

i think from the discussions above you can start to understand that artlantis has some drawbacks.  you can try vray instead, which may or may not be a stronger solution for the specific problem you are looking to solve.  ultimately, it will be best to spend the next few years learning at least a little bit about the various options, picking one or two to focus on, and then posting (often anonymously) on internet forums about how your solution and your workflow is better than everyone else's. :)

Dec 13, 12 10:15 am

Thanks, curtkram.


Could you please list a Workflow for V-Ray they way Ms. Winston did? Where do you start, where do you add textures/sky/people/trees/etc? 


1. ...

2. ...?


Dec 13, 12 11:50 am

personally, i don't do vray.  sometimes i think about looking into it but never have. 

i make a model in 3dmax, and then mental ray is a plug-in that comes standard with the software.  so, it's really just make a model and add materials, lighting, cameras, and everything else.  it's all in one package.  i can change any of those without effecting the others.  for that reason, i would advocate using a program with an integrated renderer or use a plugin (v-ray should be available as a plug-in for sketchup, so same process but i'm not speaking from experience) instead of a stand-alone product.

1. make model

1a. optional: redo model over and over again.

2. texture and light model in same software.  textures are modified in photoshop during this phase, too. (optional, trees and people can be added here.  it's somewhat easy with sketchup, but it taxes the renderer in ways i don't like.  others i work with prefer this method.)

2a. optional: redo this stuff over and over again.

3. render in same software.  start with low resolution, low anti-aliasing, low everything.  change settings and re-render because it look like shit.  repeat ad-nauseam

4. post-process in photoshop.  this should mostly be adjusting brightness and contrast (but with the levels button or the exposure button or something that gives you more precise control than the brightness/contrast button).  fix your mistakes, but you didn't make any mistakes because you repeated ad-nauseam.  (optional.  if you did not add trees and people in step 2, add them in photoshop.  i honestly think sky is more or less irrelevant.  if it's added in step 2 or 3, the edge of the building might look better.  adding here may help you iterate through multiple skies faster.)

Dec 13, 12 4:59 pm

Thanks for spelling it out so clearly!

lolz Steps 1a and 2a :)

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