the 3D process… explained!

I thought I’d write a post to explain a little about the 3D rendering process. For starters, what is a 3D rendering, you ask? The answer is more complicated than you might think, especially if you head over to Wikipedia for a detailed breakdown, your head might start to spin. The easiest way I can think to describe it is this:

3D Rendering : creating an image using three-dimensional data stored within a computer


At Capital Pixel, we specialize in architectural 3D rendering. The end result is always a beautiful depiction of a building, space, or architectural environment. Sometimes the image is artistic and creative, or maybe it’s very photorealistic, or in other cases the result can be diagrammatic or explanative.

Either way, 3D rendering is a creative process. It is similar to photography in some ways. We spend time setting up a good composition and thinking about the lighting on our subject. The biggest difference though, is that the scenes are imaginary and do not exist in the real world. In a 3D rendering, everything you see–from cars to trees to the sky–has to be created in the computer. The shapes are created with a modeling program, the textures are made in Photoshop and assigned to surfaces, then sunlight or moonlight is simulated to create the scene. Then we hit the “render” button and wait for the computer to think through complicated algorithms and give us a rendering. Whoa! It’s not a quick or simple process, but, we have total artistic control over what you see in a 3D rendering.

Here’s how it works, step-by-step, at Capital Pixel:

1. First, we discuss your project. Here are some good initial questions:
  • What is the audience for your final image? Are you trying to convince someone to buy a new condo, show the architectural features of a building, or explain a potentially confusing new space to the community?  Images tell stories, what are you trying to convey?
  • Where will the image be displayed? What is the scale? When we create all the tiny little details for an image, it makes a big difference if the image will be used on a website, inside a printed brochure, on a projector screen, or perhaps as an over-sized billboard.
  • How many views do you need, and from what angle? Do you want to look at your project from a high bird’s-eye aerial view, slightly elevated off the ground, at eye-level, or from a worms perspective? All of these things help us decide what to actually model. If we only want to look at one facade of your building, we will not waste time modeling the whole thing! It only makes sense to spend time modeling what we will “see” in the final imagery.
  • Is there a style or look you are going for? Go to Google Image search and type “3d rendering.” Go. do it! The possibilities are endless. If you see a style you like, let us know! Imitation is flattery. We can create renderings to match any specific style… sketchy, painterly, photo-realistic, greyscale, hard, soft, dreamy, cartoonist, bold, etc etc etc
  • What is your time frame? This is an important part of the planning process. Sometimes, you needed something yesterday and it only needs to be conceptual. Maybe your design isn’t quite finalized. Other times, renderings are part of the design decision-making process, ie: should the panels be “Warm Beige” or “Light Tan” –  and we can take our time testing different palettes.
  • What is your budget? At Capital Pixel, we charge by the hour for every project. Before we start, we will create a detailed estimate based upon what you need. It explains exactly what parts of the project we will model and how many views to create. Different styles and levels of details take different amounts of time to create. Let’s talk about what you need!
2. You send us as much information about your project and as many files as you can. Sketches, site photos, project PDFs, CAD files, SketchUp models… if you have it, we’ll take it. If all you have is a doodle on a napkin, we can work with that, too.


3. We create a 3D model from your designs. We bring that 3D model into our rendering program and add some lighting and textures. It looks very basic at this point. We’ll send you a preliminary version of the image. Don’t be scared! This is not final. We just want your feedback along the way: do you like the view angle? does the form of the model look correct? Should we add an extra mullion? Should we remove that telephone pole that is blocking up the view, or do you want to keep it there? This is your chance to make initial comments. We don’t want to go too far down the wrong path.

here’s what it looks like in our software


here’s the preview we’ll send you

  4. We take your comments and go back to fine-tune everything. Then, we’ll send you another rendering, this one is more finished. But it still needs another round of comments from you. Do you want to add more people or change the brick color?


5. We’ll take care of your final comments, and send you a high-resolution file of the image for use on the web, for prints, marketing, design meetings, anywhere you choose.

6. Capital Pixel keeps all your model files for the future. If the project comes back in a month with design changes, we’re ready to update.


Questions? Email us!



Capital Pixel is a design company based in Washington, DC.

We specialize in 3D imagery and architectural visualizations for real estate marketing.

We are a Certified Business Enterprise (CBE) in the District.

Our goal is to tell your story through compelling imagery.


3D Architectural Modeling

3D Architectural Rendering & Visualization

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