Basic principles of creating realistic exterior renderings

Today we decided to share with you our experience and lifehacks in the exterior renderings. In this post, you will find some advice from us and get the answers on how to create beautiful and realistic exterior images. 

1. Composition

This is the main aspect that affects the rendering work. Choose dynamic views that show the volume and structure of the building as fully as possible. Choose a wide-angle lens in the camera. Stronger perspective distortions add dynamics to the frame and enhance geometric planning.

When exposing cameras, think about the height of the shot. Imagine that you are filming a building, holding the camera in your hands. Therefore, the height of the camera from the ground should be 1.5-1.8m. To increase the role of the foreground, you can reduce the height to 0.7-1m.

2. Planning
A very important aspect for interior visualization, but much more important for exterior visualization. Try to include at least 3 views in your render:

  • Foreground (small details, paving elements, low vegetation, etc.) Pay special attention to its elaboration.
  • Middle ground. As a rule, the building itself is shown in the middle ground. It is the center of the composition and the key element of the entire image. It also requires attention to detail. Work on the interiors that are visible through the windows. Arrange outdoor furniture, add cut-out people. All this brings the image to life.
  • Background. Many artists neglect the need to work out backgrounds considering them unimportant. This is totally wrong. The background forms the context of the architecture, shows the scale and proportion. Although high detail is not required in the background, pay attention to the relief forms and buildings' study in the background 

There is an exception when the background is the second important thing. These are cases when we show a building or object from a bird's eye view. Such images are much more difficult to perform since most of the details and surfaces of the object itself are visible in the frame. In such cases, the background requires no less elaboration than the middle ground.

3. Lighting
In daylight shots, choose the sun position between 15-17 o'clock. A lower position produces long shadows, soft light, and a warm atmosphere. When illuminating the facade of a building, try to place the sun on the side. This technique also lengthens the shadows, gives relief.
A very important aspect is chiaroscuro. Additional volume and atmosphere can be achieved by illuminated and shaded areas. If you throw shadows from branches and leaves of tall trees on the facade, you get the impression that the building is located somewhere in the park. Although the trees themselves may not be in there. This is a psychological life hack that takes your work to a higher level.
When doing a visualization with evening lighting, break down the diagram into two parts:

  • global illumination of the stage with the blue light of twilight and a sunset spot of the sky.
  • artificial lighting, which is turned on in the evening.

While everything is generally clear with global illumination, artificial lighting can be difficult. It's worth remembering which lights will be included without fail (indoor lighting through windows, street lights, headlights, lights of cars), and which lights are added for an artistic effect (facade lighting, tree lighting, landscape lamps, and so on) There is no universal advice here, but it is important not to overdo it so that the object you are trying to show does not disappear in the lights of a big city.

4. Vegetation
Pay attention to the quality of the plant and tree models, as well as the relevance of the plant species to the region in which you are drawing the building or object. Agree that it is strange to see pine or birch trees in Australia, and palms and succulents in Siberia.

Be observant. Take a closer look at how trees are planted in real life, how landscape designers form compositions from plants, how layering in height creates different effects. It's difficult without having an idea of ​​how buildings are designed and built, to draw it realistically, just as it's difficult without delving into the field of landscape design realistically and beautifully draw a garden or a park.
As for wild vegetation, it is also very important to note here that even a forest does not grow with the same trees. Some plants grow at the edge of the forest, while others grow in the depths. Some trees grow in groups, forming open areas. Observe, memorize and reproduce these natural processes in your works.

Also, we would like to note the participation of vegetation in the formation of volume and composition. Above, we mentioned the chiaroscuro from the trees. So, greater depth and planning can be achieved by introducing plants to the foreground in the defocus of the camera. On the one hand, blur covers the imperfections of the plant model, on the other hand, it creates the effect of presence in the viewer, as if he is sitting in the grass or under a tree and looking at the building.

5. Atmospheric effects
Of course, the introduction of atmospheric phenomena (fog, haze, rain, snow) gives the work liveliness and undoubtedly atmospheric effect. Use these effects not only in post-processing images but also in rendering. This process gives realistic effects not only of depth but of the interaction of light with fog. That's why it's important. Remember this!

In this section, we would include experiments with different seasons (winter, autumn).

In conclusion

Before starting any work, you need inspiration. Study the terms of reference carefully. Imagine the scale of your future work. Look for stylistic and compositional references. Don't try to do everything at once. Test different lighting schemes already at the stage of developing the building model. Gradually saturate and introduce new elements, refine the composition at each stage, look for a high point in every angle.
Your task is to create a Wow-effect with your work! But on closer examination, the viewer should be interested in looking at the picture in detail.

We wish you good luck and creative success!