The Industry Standard Architectural Visualization Software of 2015

If you’re new to the architecture visualization industry or want to build a render studio or even a whole rendering department in your office, these are the software that you or your team will need to get started.


1.Post Production Software:

These are the software that helps you tweak your final renders or even take them to the next level by altering their look completely. Having at least one of these software is essential by helping you cut down render times since some things can be fixed or easily created in these software, rather then spending hours re-rendering or doing hundred of renders just to get that perfect lens flare, colors or bloom effect.


Adobe Photoshop

Is a versatile tool that can be used for a lot of things, in the archviz industry it’s mostly used for retouching, composing and general post production of 3d still renders. It’s probably the most useful tool since it can also be used for 3D rendering by a skilled artist using a wide variety of methods such as photo manipulation or matte painting.


Adobe After effects

Is a piece of software that’s often considered as Photoshop for videos since it’s similar versatility and amazing results. It can be used to create animations, transitions, color correct cgi animations, create vfx and a whole lot more, in the archviz industry it’s mostly used for compositing, color correction due to some powerful plugins that make it more user friendly then it’s in Photoshop.


Other Alternatives

GIMP is a piece of software that’s similar to Photoshop, but free usually recommended if you’re on a budget or you require no post production for your renders, just a fast way to create page layouts or other non advanced things.

Adobe Premiere is a post production software that’s really handy for compositing videos, doing some light post production mostly regarding color correction however it lacks the power and versatility of After Effects but it’s still a suitable alternative.


2. 3D Software :

When it comes to 3d architecture visualization software, these are the type of software that lets you prepare your scene for amazing visualizations by applying textures, setting camera angles, lighting, adding objects & foliage.


3D Studio Max

I’ve tested and worked with numerous 3D Sofware and I found that 3DS Max is probably the best one handling a large number of polys, that you sometimes have to work with, when a client sends you a 3D CAD file and you don’t have the time to rebuild the entire model. It also has the highest number of plugins related to architecture visualization as well as a solid number of tutorials available, making it quite easy to understand the process, however it’s user interface makes it really hard to get into, if you’re not 100% dedicated.



Cinema 4D, Maya, Rhinoceros, Sketchup  are all suitable candidates, however as stated above during my experiments I’ve found out that these software have a hard time handling 3D CAD files, viewport lag being the most common issue that occurs when working with 3D cad files, while import related errors being the second most common one.

If your clients don’t send you 3D CAD files or you have time to re-model the building from scratch, these are definitely useful alternatives since software like Rhinoceros, makes it really easy to explore building shapes, if you have complete creative freedom and software like Cinema 4D makes it a whole lot easier to work with a 3d software, especially if you’re new, due to it’s intuitive interface.


Other third party software that let’s you push the boundries:

If you want to push the boundaries of your CGI work then Z-Brush and NDO2 are two pieces of software that will let you create amazing things, by pushing the realism in your scenes.

Zbrush is a sculpting software that let’s you create realistic looking buildings or decorative architectural elements that are suitable for people looking to have a more atmospheric look, like in the case of a decayed or damaged building look.

NDO2 on the other hand is an amazing Photoshop plugin that lets you create realistic textures, that are previewed directly in Photoshop without having to leave the program, thus each tweak you make to a texture will update in real time and thus you’ll be able to create ultra-realistic textures that will push the realism in your scenes.


3. Render engines:

These are the software that actually creates the render, that calculates how light bounces on each pixel of the image, creating a photo-realistic or surreal render.


No doubt V-ray has been the king of archviz render engines for years, there were multiple attempts to overcome it by other competitors however with each release V-Ray keeps getting better and better, lowering render times, coming up with new features and shaders as well as new technology.

Overall v-ray is the best choice for architectural visualization due to it’s power, ease of use, community and resources available plus multi-software support means no matter what 3D software you’re working with, there’s probably a plugin for it. Although each year we see new renders popping out, for some reason v-ray manages to quickly catch up and improve with each release, making it a overall good starting point.

Other Alternatives:

There are quite a lot of renders out there, but the most notable are Maxwell Render,  Mental ray , Corona Renderer which are just as powerful as V-ray but they don’t have such a solid number of resources available for architectural visualization.

Each render engine has it’s own strengths and weaknesses however some of the differences that you might stumble across are lower or increased render times, possible lack of real-time visualization support, standalone software rather then a plugin for your 3D software and other minor things.

My recommendation is to start researching some of the resources  that are available only, such as tutorials & other training options before you commit as well as compare their differences as well as their assets.


4. Plugins:

If you’re just starting your own business and want to cut down on costs, plugins are a way to save up some money since their main benefit of using plugins in your workflow is that they help you work faster.

3DS Max Plugins: Railclone, Forest Pack Pro, Floor Tiles Generator are a set of 3Ds Max plugins that are used to speed up the process of creating the architectural visualization renders, by making it a whole lot easier to work with a large number of elements that sometimes need to be repeated or scattered across a scene.

Photoshop Plugins: Nik Software Color Efex Pro, Knoll Light Factory are two of the main photoshop plugins used for post productions, they are mostly used to improve or completely change the mood of the final image or to add more complex lens flare.


5. Scene assets and other resources:

Probably one of the most critical things that you have to buy alongside your render engine are assets. These help you deliver results faster and reduce significantly the time needed to prepare the scene while also increasing the realism of your scene.

3D Objects: objects, modelplusmodel, designconnected

Foliage:, X-Frog Plants, Forest pack pro, GrowFX

HDRI Skies: Peter Guthrie HDRI, Dosch Design


Gradinar Razvan
Gradinar Razvan
I've been in the industry for over 9 years and as a Senior Designer I've managed to gather a solid knowledge in a wide variety of fields such as UX, graphic & web design, architecture visualization as well as earning some awards & recognitions. Nowadays I work with clients from across the world doing all of the above, depending on the project & clients need. If you would like to know more about me feel free to view the about section of this website or visit my LinkedIn profile.
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