Discover the power of 3D rendering software

High-quality images made using 3D rendering software appear in films, advertising, magazines, and social media. We explain exactly what 3D rendered images are, why they are so popular, and what rendering software the experts choose.

What is 3D rendering?

Let’s start with the most obvious question: what is 3D rendering? In simple terms, a 3D render is a high-quality 2D image of a three-dimensional computer generated model. You can think of a 3D render as being somewhat like a photograph, except that a 3D render depicts a digitized object, instead of a physical one. 3D renders can be created to look exactly like real objects, or they can be purposely made to look non-realistic.
Photorealistic 3D rendering is often used in advertising, education, product development, and other purposes that require visuals with a high degree of realism. These images are so finely detailed that it is often impossible to tell the difference between a photorealistic 3D rendered image and an actual photograph.
On the other hand, non-realistic 3D rendered images are intentionally not supposed to look like real objects. These images are often cartoon-like or fantastical. Non-realistic 3D rendered images are highly stylized and based on traditional artistic techniques like drawing or painting. They are commonly used in artworks, animation, and video games.

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How does 3D rendering work?

To create a 3D rendered image, a designer first needs to use CAD design software to create a 3D model. This model is refined by adding lighting details and complex textures. The designer will then use dedicated CAD rendering software to take the data from the 3D model and transform it into a high-resolution 2D image. The designer may then choose to further refine the 3D rendered image with additional textural or lighting details to embellish its features.

The 3D rendering process – an example

You can think of the 3D rendering design process in this way: Imagine a sculptor making a statue. The sculptor does this by forming a ball of clay into the desired shape. Once it has been completed, the statue exists in three dimensions, so it can be viewed from any angle. The sculptor can improve the statue by adding details such as coloring or textures to make it more lifelike or to exaggerate its features. These first steps are representative of the 3D modeling and texturing process.

The sculptor decides they wish to photograph the statue. The statue is placed in front of a background and the lighting is carefully arranged. The camera captures an image that shows how the light reflects off the statue. This is indicative of how 3D rendering software generates a 2D image from a 3D model.

The difference between 3D rendering and 3D visualization

The term 3D visualization is used to describe the entire process of creating a realistic digital image. 3D rendering is one of the last steps in the visualization process.

The difference between 3D modeling and 3D rendering

As we can see from the example above, 3D modeling is the process of creating a digital model that replicates a real object. 3D rendering is the process of taking that 3D model and creating a high-quality 2D image from it.

How 3D rendering is used today

What is 3D rendering used for? A wide variety of industries use 3D rendered images to communicate with customers and colleagues. Because 3D images are able to show incredibly detailed and lifelike representations of any object, they are used by almost every type of business imaginable.

Television, film, and video games

Originally, 3D rendering was used mostly by television, film, and video game companies for animating characters and creating special effects. It now plays a fundamental role in creating captivating visual sequences. Animation sequences are created by compositing several 3D rendered images together. Blockbuster movies, children's television programs, and best-selling computer games seamlessly integrate visual effects crafted by sophisticated 3D visualization software, employing advanced techniques such as ray tracing for lifelike renderings.

Architecture and Construction

The way we design, build, and decorate our homes and offices has been drastically changed by 3D rendering. Architectural companies now use photorealistic renders to provide clients with detailed visualizations of proposed building projects. Interior designers can create realistic mock-ups of how a room may look. Some 3D CAD rendering programs allow designers to create virtual tours of buildings.

Industrial design and product development

Photorealistic product rendering allows the industrial design process to be faster and more cost-effective than ever. Designers and engineers utilize 3D models and renders to exhibit and assess products, components, and machinery without the necessity of physical prototypes, employing advanced graphics and animation techniques to simulate real-world effects.

Advertising and marketing

3D rendering product images are also often used in advertising and marketing. It is usually quicker and much less expensive to produce a 3D render than to stage a photo or video shoot.

The different types of 3D rendering software

CPU-Based 3D Rendering Software

This software creates 3D rendered images by using the power of a computer’s inbuilt central processing unit (CPU).

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The benefits of 3D rendering

You may be wondering just why would a company choose to produce a 3D rendered image rather than a drawing or a photograph. While traditional drawings and photos still have their place, it turns out that there are several benefits to using 3D rendered images.

The amount of control that a designer has over every aspect of the image can result in more realistic and incredibly precise depictions of an object. For instance, a 3D rendered image allows designers to have absolute control over the lighting. There’s no need to wait for perfect conditions or waste time setting up a lighting rig.

Using a 3D rendered image enables designers to create exact visualizations of objects before they are physically created. Every feature of a proposed product or building can be represented in the finest detail. This drastically increases the marketing potential, allows for faster design iterations, and cuts development costs.

Common 3D rendering techniques

Ray tracing

Used to render light and shadows by tracking digital photons in lines to mimic how light reflects and refracts in reality.

Global illumination

This technique simulates the way the light bounces indirectly. It is also used to depict color bleeds.

Path tracing

Similar to ray tracing, however, instead of tracing numerous light paths, a computer algorithm traces only one light path.

Scanline rendering

Also known as wireframe rendering, this process uses algorithms to determine visible surfaces.


Radiosity is used to depict shading and how light diffuses and reflects on surfaces.

Real-time rendering

Also called interactive rendering, this process generates animated images so quickly that they appear to be occurring in real-time. Real-time rendering is used in video games and animation.

Pre-rendered image

Sometimes referred to as offline rendering, this method is used to create realistic images that appear at a later time, unlike real-time rendering which produces images instantaneously.

Interactive 3D models

Interactive 3D models are highly realistic models that exist in a digital space and can be manipulated by users.

The history of 3D rendering

The early beginning

Architects, engineers, and artists were using wireframe models and illustrations to plan out their creations as far back as the Italian Renaissance. Metal wires were used to build three-dimensional objects that provided a visual guide for buildings and equipment. These rudimentary wireframe models were to form the basis for the powerful CAD software that was to come.


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The future of 3D rendering

Just as it would be impossible for someone in the 1960s to imagine how the simple wireframes of Sketchpad would lead to the innovations of today, it is difficult to precisely say what the future holds for 3D rendering. However, we can make a few educated guesses as to what developments may occur in the coming years.
As technology advances, we are sure to see increasingly hyper-realistic 3D rendered images surpassing even the highly sophisticated images we have now. Future developments in 3D rendering will allow us to experience realistic, completely immersive digital environments. Augmented reality and virtual reality are sure to expand the ways in which 3D visualizations can be utilized as entertainment, as educational tools, and for architectural and product design purposes.

3D rendering, conclusion and perspectives

In modern life, we are literally surrounded by 3D rendered images. 3D images fill our visual space as we watch our televisions, learn new concepts, browse social media, flip through magazines, or relax while watching movies or playing video games.
The flexibility and versatility of 3D rendering software give professionals the power to develop new ways of designing products, create mind-blowing entertainment, and construct more sustainable and resource-efficient vehicles and buildings. 3D rendering is now a crucial tool for an incredibly diverse range of industries such as healthcare, architecture, graphic design, and aerospace, to name but a few. It is clear that the power of 3D rendering will continue to shape our world.

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3DEXITE Product Communicator and the 3DEXPERIENCE platform

Using the 3DEXPERIENCE platform in conjunction with 3DEXITE Product Communicator gives designers the ability to securely store and share files and collaborate with team members at any time, on any device, anywhere in the world.

3DEXITE Product Communicator integrates fully with all 3DEXPERIENCE, giving you more scope, power, and functionality than any other program on the market. The intuitive and user-friendly interface allows even novice designers to create and share quality 3D models and 3D rendered images.

Partner with a world leader in 3D rendering software

For more than 40 years, Dassault Systèmes has been at the forefront of CAD design software. Our range of innovative and powerful solutions enables engineers, designers, and artists to bring their visions into reality and discover new, previously unattainable possibilities. From the automotive sector to the construction industry to renowned digital artists, Dassault Systèmes software is used by design experts across the globe.

Whether you are a beginner or a seasoned professional, Dassault Systèmes can provide you with exceptional 3D rendering software. Find the design solutions that you’ve been searching for. Explore the entire range of Dassault Systèmes CAD applications today

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