Producing realistic three-dimensional models is not easy but getting the lighting and modeling right leads to convincing results. Of course, it helps to know a few rendering tricks to create visually stunning 3D images! In today’s guide, we are outlining pro techniques for creating photo-realistic 3D renders:

Rounded Edges

Observing real-world objects is paramount to creating life-like 3D images. In nature, objects have soft edges. Even manufactured objects do not have razor-sharp edges; there is always a slight roundness to where two opposing surfaces meet.

Unfortunately, many 3D artists make the mistake of leaving the edges sharp, which tends to make objects appear stark and unrealistic.

Make sure that the edges of your models are slightly rounded, never sharp, so these details catch the highlights properly. Beveling the edges of objects also brings out more details in the scene, helping add realism to the images. If you’re unsure where to start, explore our many animation and special effects courses here.

Motion Blur for Animated Renders

Some level of motion blur is needed when it comes to rendering animated scenes. This effect helps blend the frames as a subject move too quickly in a scene, an effect that older cameras used to capture. These days, however, cameras have high-speed shutters, which virtually eliminated motion blur.

Each frame stands still in time and without applying the motion blur effect, the movement of the characters or objects won’t smooth at all.  By using the motion blur effect, the frames move smoothly and the objects appear natural. The animation looks as if it was captured on a camera.

Blurred Background

Blurring the background is one of the simplest ways to sell the believability of your renders. Applying depth effects adds realism to certain scenes because the effect is something we associate with real-life photography.

Photoshop is one of the most popular programs to use for applying depth effects. Use a shallow depth of field to highlight the subject, adjust the depth effects in the background. Do note, however, that depth effects can be calculated during render time within your primary app or applied in post-production.

If you’re on a tight schedule, apply the depth effects in post-production, this is the quickest way to do it. That said, setting up the depth of field within your 3D application offers more control over the blurring effect.

Color Aberration

Color aberration is often seen in real-world photography. This effect occurs when a lens was unable to render all the color channels at the same convergence point, which results in a subtle show of red or blue outline in high contrast edges.

Color aberration does not occur naturally in CG lighting but it can be managed using Photoshop. Simply offset the render’s red and blue channels by a pixel or so. Although color aberration could add photorealism to a 3D scene, do not overdo it. This is the kind of effect that requires subtlety.

Add Asymmetry

Turning on symmetry makes modeling or sculpting a character much easier for most artists. But for creating life-like renders, consider turning off this feature. Asymmetry allows you to create realistic and dynamic scenes by adding asymmetric variance to your character. The asymmetric effect adds exceptional appeal to your final image.

Linear Workflow

Linear workflow refers to an approach to shading, lighting and rendering. This concept ensures that the calculation of color and light from render to post-production is correct. The fact is, a computer monitor present images differently, making an image appear dark when it shouldn’t be dark at all.

You cannot simply brighten the image to make it less dark because the image could look washed out. Color bleeding is also likely to occur if the calculation was wrong. You have to apply gamma correction to a render to ensure that the image is showing correctly on the screen. The concept of linear workflow can be confusion for beginners that’s why it’s important to read up and know more about it to improve your 3D renders.

Mimic Real-World Lighting

The right lighting makes a world of difference to 3D renderings. Light affects how we perceive objects in a scene. Lighting can be used to set the mood of the scene and the illumination could make a scene appear natural. This is the reason why lighting is an important element in conventional photography and paintings.

For 3D renders, you can use ordinary light sources to enhance the photo-realism of the image. V-Ray and other rendering engines could mimic the natural distribution of light into the 3D rendering. Experimenting with direct and indirect lighting could also enhance the photorealism of your renders. You can also use IES light profiles to mimic real-world lighting.

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