Architectural rendering software

In this fast-paced world we live in today, change is inevitable. It isn’t necessarily a bad thing, especially if it’s for the better. The same goes with architectural design. Over the years, it has undergone a massive transformation, especially with the advent of the digital age.

Just like all changes, the great strides made in the industry particularly in architectural rendering software have been met with a lot of resistance. Traditionalists would always revert to traditional methods. Many construction projects even today still prefer 2D drawings over their 3D counterparts; which is kind of absurd because 2D drawings are derived from their 3D models anyway. Not only is it redundantly counterproductive, it squanders every little advancement in architectural rendering software that materialized over the years.

That being said, industry insiders, visionaries and movers and shakers have all embraced the potential of architectural rendering software. It is undeniably the future of architectural design because it seamlessly combines old-world craftsmanship with new world technology which would in turn make the planning of a construction project that much efficient and cost-effective. There have been a myriad of advancements in architectural rendering software and it is very hard to keep track of them.

The trick is just to pick out those that really stand out; the ones that users and consumers rave about not just because of their capabilities but their relative ease of use. What good is an advancement in technology when only a handful can effectively use them right? The role of technology is make things easier; not make them more problematic. So, with that in mind, here are the latest advancements in architectural rendering software:


Building Information Modeling (BIM) is all the rage these days and Autodesk Revit is specifically built to address this need. What it does is it incorporates intelligent data into a 3D model and emulates the real nature and composition of buildings in the designing process. It’s the closest you can get from the real thing so it’s very helpful in accurately illustrating your early design concept.

The best thing about Revit is that it’s very extensive as the data that you use for the 3D model can also be utilized for other construction related purposes like facility management, planning, documentation and most importantly, marketing visualizations.

Revit is 4D BIM capable which means that it has powerful tools that allow you to plan and track the various stages of your construction project’s life cycle; beginning with theory and conceptualization to the actual construction process itself and eventually its imminent demolition. It’s that powerful! That’s why, the who’s who in the construction business consider Revit to be at the forefront of architectural design and rendering.


Perhaps not as powerful and extensive as Autodesk Revit but what it may lack in functionality—which is really not that much—it more than makes up for its usability. If you’re looking for a user-friendly 3D modeling software, then SketchUp is for you. Who says architectural design and rendering should be boring? With SketchUp, you can start drawing lines and shapes in a matter of minutes.

So long as you know basic computer, you should be able to effectively use this software. You don’t even need to start from scratch when designing because SketchUp has a comprehensive 3D Warehouse where you can find 3D models of just about anything: chairs, tables, plants, even animals, you name it, SketchUp has it! No wonder it’s regarded as the world’s biggest warehouse for free 3D models. Not only that, you can even store or share your 3D models for everyone to see. It’s reliable, fast and interactive, what’s not to like really? And when you’re done with your 3D model, you can turn it into a document or a set of drawings with SketchUp Pro’s LayOut feature.

You can add dimensions, graphics, callouts, model views to pages etc. basically anything you need to get your message across. And once you make changes to your SketchUp model, it automatically reflects in your LayOut.

There are plenty more amazing features in SketchUp but I’m just highlighting those that make it stand out from the rest. Perhaps the best thing about it is that it’s very easy to use. Pros and beginners alike can use it with relative ease because the learning curve isn’t that steep.


Arguably the world’s most versatile 3-D modeler as it utilizes NURBS or Non-Uniform Rational B-Splines. NURBS are mathematical representations of 3-D geometry which can accurately illustrate any shape imaginable. Anything from a straightforward 2-D line, curve, arc or a circle to the most elaborate and intricate organic free-form 3-D solids or surfaces; there’s simply no limit to what it can do.

With more than 2,000 enhancements as well as modeling and editing tools, you can design anything and everything under the sun. Plus, it is compatible with other software because it supports over 30 Computer Aided Design CAD file formats for exporting and importing purposes without the help of external pug ins.

As a flexible and powerful software, Rhino3D is actually relatively easy to learn and use effectively. Because of this, you can focus solely on architectural design and rendering without the software getting in the way. It’s just like illustrating an idea or concept using a pencil and a paper but only in a digital and much more advanced format. Plus, it is quite fast as it can operate at full capacity using an ordinary computer; no fancy hardware or set up needed.


It has been widely recognized as the first BIM and CAD product on a personal computer, capable of generating 2D and 3D geometry. It’s also regarded as a revolutionary software for it can store incredibly large amounts of data in a 3D model. And now, its latest version Archichad19 is faster than ever with its industry first background processing technology.

What it does is that it takes advantage of unutilized computer space by preempting what you might do next and preparing for those actions in advance. This way, the responsiveness of the application dramatically increases which means that there will be no more waiting time for a view to load. A lot of things get done because the workflow is smoother and faster and you can concentrate on the design rather than being bothered by your workstation.

Archicad prides itself as the only architectural rendering software in the market today that has been designed and developed by architects for architects. And it shows as it boasts a high performance rendering tool, capable of producing some of the best if not the best photo-realistic videos and pictures in the industry.


Perhaps Maya’s strongest suit is animation. Case in point: It has received an Academy Award for Technical Achievement on March 1, 2003 and it provided graphic and animation work for award-winning films (via Pixars Renderman) such as Avatar, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, Spiderman, Matrix, Frozen, Monsters Inc. and Finding Nemo just to name a few. It also created special effects for critically acclaimed and top rating TV shows like Game of Thrones, The Walking Dead, Boardwalk Empire, South Park and more as well as for Video Games like Halo 4 among other things.

So it goes without saying that Maya is perfect for architectural rendering. With its powerful and comprehensive CG pipeline core, you can tackle any 3D designing and rendering challenge imaginable. If you want to create a different dynamic and depth to your presentation, Maya provides you with highly capable simulation, modeling and animation tools that would make your imagination and design ideas come alive.

The results and awards don’t lie. Maya definitely is one of the best if not the best in the business as far as 3D animation is concerned so no wonder it’s been preferred by many as their go to software for 3D architectural walkthrough and rendering.

AutoCAD Architecture

For a much more streamlined design and drafting, AutoCAD Architecture is the right software for the job. The name itself says it all. A flagship product of Autodesk, it’s a true classic in every sense of the word as it’s been around for decades, catering to every architectural need imaginable. Its latest version is specifically created to help you design more efficiently and document your work effectively.

It’s highly flexible architectural drafting tools and functions let you draw components and materials like windows, doors, walls etc. that mimic real-world behavior and intelligently interact with one another. These intelligent architectural objects are both represented in 2D and 3D and are dynamically linked with construction data and specifications. Such arrangement makes for a far more detailed and meticulous project outputs.

Since AutoCAD is specifically built for architects, it boasts design and documentation features that make laborious and repetitive drafting tasks that much easier, faster and far more accurate; thereby increasing the efficiency of the entire process. With AutoCAD, architectural designing and rendering will be just like a breeze.

3ds Max

It’s the ultimate three-dimensional model creator for it can seamlessly operate with most rendering software and other programs such as Adobe Photoshop and After Effects–ultimately resulting in much better, high-quality renders. Though it’s regularly used by video game developers, many film or TV studios and especially architectural rendering studios prefer 3ds Max because its features and tools are versatile, robust and collaborative.

It closely resembles AutoCAD–no surprise there as both are products of Autodesk–that’s why both programs work well together; with 3ds Max mostly taking care of the 3D rendering and animation aspects/needs of the construction project. It also offers digital continuity with Revit (another Autodesk standout) based products so you can explore, validate and execute design concepts fluently and compellingly.

Perhaps the best thing about 3ds Max is that some of its features and enhancements are user-requested like the ‘Camera Sequencer’, ‘Dual Quarternion skinning’, ‘A360 Rendering Support’ and ‘Enhanced ShaderFX’ just to name a few. All of which were custom-fitted to make the architectural designing and rendering processes more collaborative and efficient. The creators actually listen to the concerns of the consumers and the ‘Desktop Subscription’ feature gives every user access to the latest updates and releases as well as priority support in forums, one-on-one web support and flexible licensing among other perks.

Vectorworks Architect

It’s architectural design and rendering without restrictions. For one thing, VectorWorks Architect has a highly adaptable Parasolid 3D modeling engine that allows you to draw any geometric shape you want or tackle any complex architectural 3D design imaginable. You can bend, push, deform, pull or do just about anything to your model and from any view or angle as its instinctual interface automatically derives and interprets working plains as you move your cursor.

Also, its Building Information Model BIM actually works for you. This means that you can create or introduce BIM without having to change your or your team’s approved design process. It not only increases efficiency and productivity, it also streamlines cost.

Aside from having powerful and flexible BIM capabilities, the Vectorworks has intelligent tools that allows for great documentation and efficient and fluid workflows. You can jump from one task to the next and can even collaborate with other professionals without compromising the quality of the output as it provides a robust and flexible digital environment that allows you to import or export materials and images at will. With Vectorworks, you’re most certainly at the forefront of collaborative digital practices in the industry.

Chief Architect

It is the foremost developer and publisher of 3D Architectural home design programs for architects, designers, builders and even Do-it-yourself (DIY) home design enthusiasts. It has a lot of product lines but the two most popular are Chief Architect® software for the pros, and Home Designer® for the beginners and DIY home design market. Both product lines are compatible so professionals and novice designers can share ideas and collaborate with each other with relative ease.

Chief Architect has got everything you need for residential and light commercial design. As you start to draw your design and incorporate intelligent architectural objects like windows and doors, the program automatically creates a 3D model of what you just created and produces a Materials List on a real-time basis. Through the help of its powerful building tools, it simultaneously creates Section Details, Framing Plans, Site Plans, Construction Documents and Elevations.

And since Home Designer barrows a lot of technology from Chief Architect, it’s got all the perks of a professional grade architectural home designing software minus the steep learning curve. It’s fun, easy and functional that’s why it’s one of the most preferred 3D software for DIY outdoor living projects, interior design and home design.

Honorable Mention:

Lumion 3d

Unlike the programs mentioned above, Lumion 3d is not a modeling program. Its main function is making architectural rendering. You will have to create your 3D model using other software like Revit, ArchiCAD or Sketchup and import it to Lumion. What makes it special however is that it only takes a few minutes to set up and render and you can view it anywhere because it works on desktop computers, tablets and phones.

Using the Lumion software package, you can breathe life to your 3D model by populating it with people, vegetation, trees and weather among other things. Once you’re done with the enhancements, you click a button to enter mode. Using this mode, you can pick and choose the viewpoints that you want to define to make your architectural rendering stand out. And once you’re done, you simply hit the render button and Lumion will do the rest by combining the images into 360 panoramas.

The link to the finished product will then be sent back to you via your email. You can forward the link to your colleagues and friends to share the experience. It’s architectural rendering with a touch of social media so it’s worth a try.

So there you have it, the latest advancements in Architectural Rendering Software. There might be some programs out there that I haven’t mentioned but that is because technological advancements in recent years especially in architectural design and rendering are happening at such a rapid pace that it’s very hard to keep tabs on all of them. For this reason, finding an architectural rendering software that best works for you might be overwhelming at first as there are plenty in the market offering/promising amazing services.

What’s important is that you do a little bit of research and find out the exact things that you want and need from a rendering product or software. Each one offers powerful tools that make designing and 3d rendering process that much easier, efficient and realistic. It’s just a matter of choosing the software that enhances your designing strengths and instincts. And in the cutthroat and brave new world of architectural design, finding a program that can make your design vision come to life via a compelling and practical 3D rendering can mean the difference between getting that dream project and landing on the garbage heap of uninspired ideas.

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