5 Fundamentals to Make Your Digital Render Look Professional

by Render Pool

March 1, 2022

Previously, we have talked about the balance that clients must weigh between experience and price when hiring a 3D designer. Whether you are a freelance designer or are interested in working for a large design firm, having a keen eye for assessing and creating quality renderings can make you a more attractive choice during the selection process. When it comes time to create digital renders, it is very important to keep the following visual aspects in mind.

1. Color

Great designers use a well-coordinated color scheme to bring their scenes together. In the art world, regardless of medium or application, a strong color palette creates an inviting and captivating image that will impress. If a required palette is given by the client, it can be used to help achieve a more accurate representation of what they seek in your work, while still providing you with flexibility to choose complementary colors that effectively take the render to the next level.

For the inexperienced, the most egregious issue is over use of color. Overcompensating for a lack of color theory by adding a multitude of colors without any consideration to where color should be applied is a detriment to your work.

Keeping things simple and relying on a palette that consists of four or fewer colors is a much more constructive way of utilizing color to appeal to a client’s sensibilities. Your output must communicate the client’s vision while being impressive and impactful to their customers. Attempting to include a variety of colors without methodology is more likely to sabotage your work than support it.

2. Materials and Surface Properties

Having a comprehensive grasp of material and surface properties, and understanding the effects of the materials that naturally occur on the objects in your scene, is an excellent skill to acquire — perhaps even more so than a mastery of color. Gloss, reflective, and refractive surfaces all deal with light and contrast differently, and can greatly alter the result of your digital renders if you do not pay close attention to the properties as you work.

If your project has you handling materials that can be found in the real world, a great way to educate yourself to their behaviors in real space is to take photographs or research pre-existing images online that visually are similar to the aesthetic you are seeking.

3. Normal and Displacement Texture Mapping

In the real world, there are no completely flat surfaces; you will always find bumps, cracks, and imperfections. In the world of CG, the means of achieving the illusion of this real-world phenomenon are the Normal and Displacement maps.

The Normal map is connected to the lighting, since it tells light where to cast a shadow on the surface of an object without having to augment the geometry of that object. Displacement maps actually make augmentations to the geometry, without having to do it manually. The natural intricacies and deformities that occur on surfaces are hard to do on one’s own, so these maps assist in quickly creating that realism without having to spend time laboring over them.

Just as having realistic materials is essential for achieving high-quality renders, understanding how those materials work on an imperfect surface in the real world is just as important. Regardless if it is an exaggerated or hyperrealistic scene you or your client is seeking, the desired effect is suspension of disbelief. The objects must look and feel as if they belong in the space they occupy. Paying close attention to images that embody what these materials may do in real lighting situations, as well as their surrounding environments, is a great way to better understand their behaviors and make a much more convincing product.

4. Lighting

For many artists, lighting is the first aspect under consideration when planning a scene, while for others, it can be thought about after the objects are given more time and attention. Whichever camp you are in, lighting is undoubtedly the most important aspect to a compelling digital render.

However, light is also a very temperamental element to the completion of a render. It is what gives the image depth, contrast, and volume, as well as amplifies the color and details of a surface’s materials. Multiple lights can be used to either accentuate or outright change the aesthetic of an image. Changing a light can be as drastic as showing the object in a day setting or a night setting. Your level of the understanding and mastery on how light functions could be a render’s greatest feature or its greatest flaw.

5. Composition

Finally, after all the other components have been accounted for, composition is the final element to consider.

This is what separates the novice designer from the professional artist, who must carefully choose their frame and what objects belong in it, meanwhile keeping the balance of all the visual elements mentioned above without compromising the presentation.

Compositing and composition are not the same thing. While compositing refers to the amalgamation and fine-tuning of AOV layers, composition refers to the presentation, catering to the frame on display and how well it captures the attention and interest in the eyes of the viewer. A great composition is akin to plating a Michelin-star class meal.

Improve Your Digital Renders with These Five Fundamentals

New designers and CG Artists may not be capable of knowing what to pay attention to when creating professional-quality 3D work, especially when the rendering process is involved. It is more than just the image that you have to take into account when engaging with a potential customer or client.

By paying particular attention to the key fundamentals above, your digital renders will be better positioned to get the best and most positive reactions from both your clients and their customers. Though they may seem obvious to a seasoned artist, remembering them will help you make your work stand out and go from mediocre to exceptional. So, be sure to keep this checklist in mind when you are preparing a new rendering for presentation.