The Differences Between 2D and 3D Model Rendering

by Render Pool

August 7, 2020

As a designer, an architect, or a CG artist, one question that will most likely come up when communicating ideas to your clients is: What is the difference between 2D and 3D model rendering? Keep reading as we explain the differences of each option when proposing services to your clients.

2D Model Rendering

Rendering as a process has had quite the evolution in modern history. Before there was 3D model rendering, the process laid solely on the shoulders of 2D artists — either technical drafters or creative designers — whose job it was to project life, despite the limitations of the pencil and paper.

Restricted Point of View

Perhaps the most obvious limitation is that every aspect of a 2D model is restricted to the two-dimensional plane. While creative license can be adopted here, precision is key.

Though rendering models in 2D has nothing immediately to do with math, it has everything to do with math. It works in symmetry and shapes. Perspective and line strength play a large part in producing quality 2D rendered images, for example when designing architectural illustrations. Understanding basic perspective and line value is the difference between an average and an excellent rendering. Furthermore, there are no opportunities to change the point of view as this requires changing the camera field of view, which is only possible when modeling in 3D.

Easy to Insert 2D Assets

Not every 2D render is hand-drawn, however. Some assets may actually be cropped or repurposed real-life images sent from clients or their photographers, such as high-quality shots of display furniture or accessories that are superimposed onto the presentation board. Photoshop tends to play a large role in processes like these.

Less Considerations for Making Adjustments

Another difference between 2D and 3D model rendering is that with 2D, the artist has the ability to create the illusion of perfect perspective while maintaining direct control over the image, without any of the complications that come with making changes to a 3D render.


So why exactly do 2D services still exist in the industry? It’s cost-effective. Not every potential client has the necessary budget for outsourcing a 3D model. As such, many design firms make themselves available to fulfill the need for much simpler renderings for a very affordable price.

3D Model Rendering

When done right, 3D model rendering offers a near-perfect, photo-realistic reproduction of any scene. This helps your client to better understand the space in every nuance and aids them with understanding how to exactly place items within it, which also can be quickly altered and changed at the client’s whim depending on the 3D modeling software used.

Limitations with Pre-built 3D Libraries

It may be slightly challenging if some assets in the pre-built 3D library are not readily available or are difficult to independently build. This means the designer may end up having to repurpose 3D models that aren’t the same as the client’s request. That said, therein lies an advantage that 2D can’t provide: the ability to build your own libraries of furniture, environments, and accessories that can be easily repurposed for future projects.

Adjustable Point of View

Along with software providing accurate and broad perspectives, aesthetically pleasing camera angles, and even digital fly-throughs, it can give 3D images a much wider look of the model overall. When positioning the camera in the desired location, there is no issue with the accuracy of the angles. They are mathematically positioned. The rendered image is modeled from the computer without ever having to concern yourself with framing or any of the details within the image. A render, based on the iterations or samples of the output, will determine the emphasis of the details that cover each pixel of the image.

Another important feature of 3D model rendering is the resulting high-quality depth — 3D offers sharp perspective anywhere within the camera field of view.

Life-like Results

When 3D rendering software is fully utilized, the life-like results can oftentimes be indistinguishable from real photography. The rendered result tends to have a convincing realism along with being quite satisfying to look at, given the more realistic shadows and natural light that are difficult to imitate with 2D illustrations.

Which Option is Best for Your Client’s Project?

Both have their strengths and weaknesses, but these differences also can make it easy for the client to choose which services they want to pursue. As with any project, there are many factors to take into consideration beyond cost.

  • If your client is more of a traditionalist looking for the visual appeal of a more classic illustration, then it’s likely that drafting a 2D image is the most appropriate option.
  • If your client’s on a deadline or has a penchant for realism, then you may be more inclined to go with a 3D presentation.

2D renders are best for artists capable of effectively conveying space and depth. But of course, it isn’t for everyone. Some artists are not as capable at visually communicating spatial differentiation, so mastering 3D model rendering can definitely aid any professional in fulfilling the needs of the client and effectively communicating the vision of the project to all stakeholders.

As a designer or illustrator it’s important to get into the mind of your clients by showing them as much variety in your portfolio as possible to help you understand what they find appealing. If your clients respond more positively to 3D images as opposed to 2D, you should do your best to accommodate their sensibilities. Even if your skills primarily lie within one or the other, you should always attempt to improve your toolbox in order to cater to the ever-changing needs of today’s clients.

If you’re a business looking for model rendering services or want to explore how some of the world’s best firms are pushing the boundaries of 3D rendering, we suggest checking out our list of top architectural rendering companies in 2020.

Happy Rendering!