Architectural visualization – how to start doing it and keep yourself around
Updated: Mar 4
As a constantly growing industry, architectural visualization has become very appealing to many. This blog is written with an intent to help and inspire future artists, as well as to remind the veterans of why we are here and how we can help and support each other.
Straight after I finished high school in 2005, my older brother pulled me by his side to help him with some of the projects he was working on, and I am forever grateful to him for that. I was completely taken over by archviz from that moment on.
He taught me a lot, but I had to find other ways of learning myself as well. Those days there was soooo little information and resources available – and learning modeling and texturing from the books was a pain in the… One day, a friend of mine brought me a CD with video tutorials which I did not know exist until then. Boy, there was a several sleepless days and nights after that. It all made sense from that moment on - Internet, YouTube, online resources, 3D models, textures, all at your fingertips.
Getting to know V-Ray was a game changer for me. V-Ray had a great impact to architectural rendering industry as well as other CG business. That was the moment I decided I want to do this for a living.
What to Learn (it’s not only about the software and hardware)
One of the most asked questions online (forums, Facebook pages etc.) by the people that want to start creating CG content is: “What is the best program to model and render in?”. As a rule, most of the experienced artists always give the same answer: “Learn the basics of 3D. Try out a few programs and plugins and see what works best for you. It's Not the Tool, It's How You Use It. Later on, you can upgrade your knowledge and learn new ones if you need them.” And that is simply true. There is so much 3D modeling software and renderers out there and each and every one has its advantages and flaws. It’s up to you to play around and test them, find the “perfect fit”.
With this being said, it’s important to understand that learning to use the software is only a fraction of what you need to be good in this. Architectural visualization requires knowledge in so many other fields. It is implied that for starters you need at least a basic knowledge in architecture :) You need to know how light works and how all the materials interact with it, some foundation in physics, architectural 3D animation, different types and styles of art.
By my opinion, one of the most important arts needed for the arch-viz is photography. And I’m not talking about the “point and shoot” photography, but all of its rules, framing, light, color management etc. And looking at this field alone, there is so much to learn.
Also, always observe the real world around you, how materials reflect, how different light sources make different shadows, all of the imperfections of the objects etc. To achieve photo-realism, you need to replicate everything that surrounds you, all of the tiny details that make the difference. Nothing is perfect around you and that should feel in your images as well.
Motivation and Inspiration
As already mentioned, today you can find a vast sea of tutorials and other recourses online. Of course, not all of them are good, but along the process of learning you will start catching some important names, websites and workflows that make sense. There are a lot of free sources, but do not be afraid to spend some money from time to time on something you know will upgrade your skills. Each day some new solutions, software, plugins are published, so keep your self up to date as much as possible. Every time you learn something new that helps you speed up the process or gives you another tool for creation is a plus for you.
Here are a few websites I take a look everyday:
One of the oldest sites and forums for architectural visualization out there. Very large community of artists and amazing place to show of your work, ask for help, learn something new and be up to date with news and industry researches. Jeff Mottle, who is the creator and owner of the CGarchitect portal is always pushing the boundaries to create new content, travel the world for different archviz meet-ups and help artists promote themselves.
A blog by Ronen Bekerman, where you can find amazing work of art by artists, world-wide job opportunities on the Job Board, tutorials, Case Studies where people explain and go through their workflow and setup and much more.
Evermotion is one of the oldest platforms for 3D architectural renderings, where you can follow up on the latest news on software, tutorials, interviews, announcements, Making Ofs etc.
Also, there are a few top studios and artists that you simply need to check out from time to time and see what they are up to, since those guys are setting up the trends and standards. Here are some of them that we are always spying on here in Strava Studio, but there are so many more out there that deserve respect!
MIR - industry wizards and by my humble opinion – the best artists out there. Keep their site bookmarked!
Another group of mind-blowing artists which produce art. Don’t miss to check out their “Art Of Arqui9” page where you will find their personal work, mesmerizing combination of visualization and SF. They are really pushing their imagination hard. Check out their YouTube channel as well, where you can find tutorials and portfolio reviews made by its founder Pedro Fernandez, an outstanding artist (this guy is probably from out of this world :)).
Another studio for which I would let their images speak for themselves.
Fabio Palvelli - https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCFN4VpkoUDkgvFzGb5E8Yhw
This guy is busting his ass of trying to educate, motivate, inform and update everybody who loves archviz. He will always be there to help you or advise you and he is dedicating a huge amount of time to prepare the videos about the art, as well as about the business part of the work. He is traveling to many conferences and makes vlogs, thus giving you the opportunity to at least look and feel a bit of the atmosphere and concepts. This means a lot, since no one can afford financially or timewise to attend all of those places. Be sure to give him your support and follow his channel.
Explore as much as you can and keep on finding something that inspires YOU. There is many different styles and techniques, make sure to find yours and work as hard as you can. Every day people are working to make one-click solutions, but there will always be new challenges and ways to stand out with your work.
Conferences and Meet-ups
Like I already mentioned, I understand that it is hard to spare some time and money to attend the conferences, but that is one of the things I highly recommend if you get the chance. The opportunity to meet some of your idols and to meet the people that share the same passion as you, as well as same problems is priceless. Here are the few great ones:
D2 Conference - https://vienna.d2conferences.com/
Held in Vienna, Austria. This event is my personal favorite because of its amazing atmosphere and organization made by great guys – above mentioned Fabio Palvelli, Jason Bergeron and Christian Kobierski. They will make sure you have a great time!
Held in Mogliano Veneto, near Venice, Italy. It is a greatly organized event with many of the amazing speakers each year.
Total Chaos - https://www.chaosgroup.com/total-chaos
This one is LARGE! It’s held in Sofia, Bulgaria and has over 9000 people each year. It’s organized by Chaos Group, creators of V-Ray.
Popularity of this type of events is growing each day, so be sure to check if there is something near you.
Pricing Your Work
One other question often asked by the beginners is how to determine the price for their work. As I always explain to the clients as well – there are so many factors that affect the price of the image, animation, VR project etc. Some of the things that could affect the price are the scale of the project, complexity of the architecture, number of the images, specific weather conditions that need to be shown etc.
Basic way to determine the rough price is to take in consideration what is the monthly outcome you would like to earn, plus add the expenses (electricity, render farms, hardware, software, 3D model purchase, outsourcing etc.), calculate how much your working hour costs and multiply it with the hours you need to finish the final product. It’s not easy in the beginning (I’m sometimes still struggling with pricing), but that’s something that comes easier with experience.
Important thing is to be realistic with your current knowledge and possibilities, as well as to appreciate the industry and do not dump the prices too. There are many artists that price the project too low, working extreme hours just to earn something, probably not understanding that they could go with significantly higher prices, and not lowering the standards for the other artists. It’s better to lose a few clients that will not appreciate your work and only trying to go as cheap as possible, and to reach to the ones that will know how much time and effort went in the process of learning to make images (or animations), as well as knowing how much you invested in the equipment and software. Always work hard on raising your quality and efficiency and that should pay off over time.
When stepping up your game, consider the business part of what you are doing and start asking your clients to sign a contract where your collaboration is completely defined. I also recommend reading of the following article by CGarchitect’s creator Jeff Mottle about “The Credit Revolution” started by a DBOX founder Matthew Bannister:
In the end, it’s important to see beyond just a profit in this. You should really be a freak about it, always learn new stuff, inspired to push your self further and love what you do. If you only want to start doing architectural visualization because you heard there could be a lot of money in it, you will probably not achieve anything. I’ve been told many times my work is great and I’m just playing around, making models and I agree with it, that’s exactly why I love it myself. But hard work and long hours are always there as well.
Appreciate the community and share your knowledge as much as you can. Help other artists, be fair. You will see that all the best artists out there are doing it selflessly – follow their example. Try to always pay your software, especially smaller developers. That way you support further improvements and new features.
Feel free to write us to our mail: firstname.lastname@example.org and my team and I will try our best to help you with your questions.
Thank you very much for reading this text.