Architectural rendering

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Architectural rendering, or architectural illustration, is the art of creating two-dimensional images or animations showing the attributes of a proposed architectural design.

Architectural rendering of the Canada Permanent Trust Building, Toronto, Canada
Architectural rendering of an A&P Sav-A-Center supermarket plaza, commonly built in Canada and the United States in the 1980s-1990s

Computer Generated Renderings[edit]

Images that are generated by a computer using three-dimensional modeling software or other computer software for presentation purposes are commonly termed "Computer Generated Renderings".[1] Rendering techniques vary. Some methods create simple flat images or images with basic shadows. A popular technique uses sophisticated software to approximate accurate lighting and materials. This technique is often referred to as a "Photo Real" rendering. Renderings are usually created for presentation, marketing and design analysis purposes.

  • Still renderings
  • 3D Walk through and fly by animations (movie)
  • Virtual Tours
  • Floor Plans
  • Photo realistic 3D Rendering
  • Realtime 3D Renderings
  • Panoramic Renderings
  • Light and Shadow (sciography) study renderings
  • Renovation Renderings (photomontage)
  • and others

3D renderings play a major role in real estate sales. It also makes it possible to make design related decisions well before the building is actually built. Thus it helps experimenting with building design and its visual aspects.

Hand-drawn renderings or architectural illustration[edit]

Until 3D computer modeling became common, most architectural renderings were created by hand. There are still many architectural illustrators who create renderings entirely by hand. Some hand illustrators use a combination of hand and computer generated linework. Common mediums for hand architectural renderings include:

  • Watercolor
  • Markers
  • Color Pencil
  • Pen and Ink
  • Acrylics


  • The Hugh Ferriss Memorial Prize is awarded by the American Society of Architectural Illustrators in recognition of excellence in the graphic representation of architecture. It is the Society's highest award.
  • The CGarchitect Architectural 3D Awards are awarded by in recognition of outstanding achievement in the field of computer-generated architectural rendering. The awards were started in 2004 and award in five main categories: Best Architectural Image, Best Architectural Film, Best Student Image, Best Student Film, Best Interactive Presentation/Emerging Technology.


Traditionally rendering techniques were taught in a "master class" practice (such as the École des Beaux-Arts), where a student works creatively with a mentor in the study of fine arts. Contemporary architects use hand-drawn sketches, pen and ink drawings, and watercolor renderings to represent their design with the vision of an artist. Computer generated graphics is the newest medium to be utilized by architectural illustrators.

See also[edit]