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Architectural Renderings (Photoreal) and 2D Architectural Illustration (Non-photoreal) are the two main types of depicting architecture, design, and real estate. Both methods are tools for marketing, concepts, and design strategies to portray the results of the architecture to the end-user.

Architectural renderings – today.

According to Wiki and through the prism of my senses:

Architectural Renderings, as we know it today, is a result of the advanced technological progress and manifestation of the visual selling demanded by the end-user in the real estate field, which until 1985 was known only as Architectural Illustration.

In other words, we want to know and see what we are going to buy or invest in. In Wiki is stated that there are three sub-types of rendering:

  • exterior rendering
  • interior rendering
  • aerial rendering

If you wish to know more about architectural rendering, continue reading this article. Below, we dive in and compare the new and traditional methods of rendering (computer-generated) and (often hand-drawn) illustrations. You will find side by side price comparisons as well as the advantages – disadvantages, and differences between both methods.

What is 3D Architectural Rendering? (simple answer with images)

3D Architectural Rendering is the process of depicting unbuilt architecture or interior design into realistic computer-generated images (CGI), a branch of the architectural design, whose purpose is to show how buildings will look before being build. Modern architectural renderings fall into two main categories: pre- “design-study,” by which an architect develops the initial concept of a proposed building, and “presentation rendering,” which is the agreed final design made publication or client presentation.

Everything begins with creating three-dimensional objects (buildings or internal spaces) in 3D software made for the purpose. Some of the well-known companies are Autodesk.

Architecutral Rendering
3D Architectural Rendering process @TALLBOX

Materials, light, texture details, and perspectives are the subsequent steps applied.
When the 3D model is fully complete, it is processed by the software into a 2D image (CGI); the process is known as 3D rendering. The first 3D rendered image is created in 1976 created by students of the Unversity of Utah (according to Wiki) for science fiction movie Futureworld.

Futureworld (1976) the CGI scene

What is 2D Architectural Illustration? (simple answer with images).

2D Architectural Illustration (known also as Artist Impression) is the depiction of architecture and interior design into non-realistic and stylistic images called Architectural Illustrations. Often the images are made by hand and conventional techniques like pen and paper/watercolor.

Up to the 20th century, the realization of architecture was in the grip of builders and craftsmen, which did not need accurate drawings to work and understand the project.
One of the first recognized 2D Architectural Illustrations is a design of church sketched by Leonardo da Vinci (1452-1519), where he used images to show exterior views in perspective, plan, and sections.

Church sketched by Leonardo da Vinci
Church sketched by Leonardo da Vinci / Centralized Temple

The next seven years, this approach began to gain popularity and is used predominantly for public or luxury buildings.

“In Medieval England, the eventual buildings were often the result of several contributions – for example, the original rough plan may have been made by one man, possibly the owner for whom it was built. This would require interpretation and details to be added. The most important secondary contribution would be an impression of what the building might look like.”

Citation: Artists’ Impressions in Architectural Design

Architectural renderings during the MCM period of architecture

The 1930s is the year when some architects start calling architectural illustrations – renderings or visions. Mid-century modern architecture was an influential movement not only for architects but for end-user too. Before that period, the so-called “renderings” were used only to demonstrate some basic idea about the space but nothing more.

With the MCM (Mid-century modern) period, rendering architecture became a tool for conveying not only beams, bricks and mortar but real dreams. You can take a look at the Arizona Memory Project where they gathered a collection for some very artistic renderings with real character.

MCM Architecture Renderings.
Resource: MCM Daily
None of the illustrations above is not a property or made by TALLBOX and is used only for informational purpose.

Another place where definitely deserves attention is an article at
with the heading: Collecting: Mid Century Architectural Renderings, where Eric Moore talks about the value of a good and quality architectural rendering.

The renderings show tremendous detail, skill and, let’s face it, have a hearty dose of mid century cool. That’s why renderings of cars, buildings and other industrial designs are transcending into the world of art.

Eric Moore

Nowadays, both methods Architectural Rendering and Architectural Illustrations can add value to a project and are used mainly for design approval, client presentations, and as an active selling off-plan materials.
One of the most important aspects is the quality of the details and what is the purpose of the rendering.

Pre-development stage with 3D architectural visualization

3D Architectural Visualization before and after by TALLBOX

Pre-development stage of Architectural illustration

In-progress Architectural illustration by SOCIETY OF ARCHITECTURAL ILLUSTRATORS

Cost comparisons between 3D Architectural rendering and 2D Architectural Illustrations (images and price table)

Competition in the property and construction markets is fierce. When it comes to selling, investment into better collateral and visuals surely helps and improve sales. A project with good visuals is an advantage in front of buyers, especially if they are buying off-plan.

Below are images in different style representing Photoreal Architectural Rendering (exterior and interior) with a price range.
Find more about our prices for Architectural Visualization on this page

Architectural Rendering of a house
Full 3D Architectural Rendering of a house – £450 – £690 ($570 – $870)
Full 3D Architectural Rendering of interior – £490 – £800 ($620 – $1000)

3D Architectural Rendering example project by TALLBOX

In the below example project we’ve shown one of the most significant advantages of the modern 3D rendering. The convenience to demonstrate different and exciting points of view (themed, aerial, human sight, birds-eye and many more) which can truly showcase the best sides of any project.

Below are images in different NPR Architectural Illustrations with according price ranges below them.

2D Architectural Illustration – £375 / $470 – £450 / $560/ Credits: Chrisfothergill
Architectural Illustration tone-houses-and-gardens
2D Architectural Illustration – £375 / $470 – £450 / $560 / Credits: Chrisfothergill

We are happy to provide you with free guidance and advice, simply drop us an e-mail or call us.

Get in Touch With Us!

Steps and Timing for 3D Architectural Rendering project to be completed?
(table with times and types of projects)

Visualizing architecture in 3D is not an easy task, although it may seem as such.

Everything starts with finding the right Architectural Rendering company (, which has the record and workflow that can assure a successful and stress-free project. The time frame of any project depends on the information provided.
As much as more clarity and available specifications, the faster and accurate each project will be. We have written already a full article on this topic (/interior-visualization-method/) where all steps are explained in-depth and understandable language.

In short, there are five steps until the completion of each architectural rendering project. Regardless of how urgent or not the project is, these steps are the key to a successful 3D visualization project.

1.Initial Brief meeting

2.File exchange

This is the time when the full sets of files should be submitted to the architectural rendering company:

  • DWG’s: Floor plans, Construction, Ceiling plans, Furniture
  • Design sketches: Hand sketches, Sketchup or Photoshop collages
  • Specification lists
  • Photos of current conditions
  • References: Mood boards or Reference photos

At the time of step two, the time frame should be set for the project. At TALLBOX, we always add at least 2-5 working days as a spare buffer in case of unplanned events. In most of the cases, the architectural rendering projects are delivered within the set time frame.

3.Building-up the 3D models and views

4.Setting materials and textures

5.Project submission

Our best advice is to be as open and transparent as possible with your 3D artist or 3D rendering company.

Full 3D Architectural Rendering of a house: 1 to 2 days for the first draft images / 3-4 days to submission of final renderings
Full 3D Architectural Rendering of an interior: 2 to 3 days for the first draft images / 5-6 days to submission of final renderings

How long takes a project to be finished with 2D Architectural Illustrations (table with times and types of projects)

Anyone can sketch a building!
It might be wonky, not looking realistic and even not very imaginative. That is what amateurs would do if we ask them to do it.

According to Wikipedia a “building, or edifice, is a structure with a roof and walls standing more or less permanently in one place, such as a house or factory,” therefore it shouldn’t be that hard for most of the people to draw lines.

But when it comes to recreating and conveying ideas via Architectural Illustrations, this percentage of capable people is getting narrowed down to a tiny portion. Architectural Illustration images are a language not for the one but many and their style is comprised of multiple elements.

This type of architectural marketing might seem a slow to be produced since it’s made by hand, but in fact, it’s the facts from both mentioned here.

A typical residential project of a family house may take the artist from 3 to 7 days to full completion. This is if the work is straight and without any amendments or interruptions by the architects.

Full Exterior Watercolour 2D Illustration: 1 to 2 days for the base sketch images / 3-4 days to submission of final Watercolor Architectural Illustration
Architectural Illustration tone-houses-and-gardens
Full Exterior Watercolour 2D Illustration: 1 to 2 days for the base sketch images / 5-7 days to submission of final Watercolor Architectural Illustration

The steps are similar to architectural renderings with one significant difference. An artist needs trustworthy information to be able to interpret the project in its best light. And since this is a product made by hand, any alterations or misleading information may extend the times for production.

1.Initial Brief meeting

2.File exchange

3.Drafts and rough sketches

4.Textures and color

5.Project submission

Our best recommendation is to share all the available information with your chosen artist and let them know in advance for any further updates.

4 Essential Things which you need to know for 3D Architectural Rendering and 2D Architectural Illustrations

All four components are vital and almost equally important, and anyone should know how they can affect Architectural 3D Rendering and Architectural Illustration.

Specification and idea

Every great image starts with a design idea and specification. Specs are in the form of measurements, existing situation, data, and mood boards. Ideas are born on a piece of paper, sketched in the morning with coffee or during a brainstorming session. Generally, this is the basis of everything, and with a solid foundation, results are in quality.


An essential part of every project’s success are the colors. Although the project might come with a specific color set by the architect or designer, the actual image consists of a lot more colors than the set by the specification. Colors can make or break the mood of an image. Always pick real-life references. Go on Pinterest, Flickr, Google, or any image-based search engine or even you can do some with your phone. Having a lousy reference is better than having none.
Despite color being such an essential ingredient for architectural rendering and Architectural Illustration, light is another major player.


We all know what light is. This is one of the vital components that provide life to our planet. Natural or artificial, light is a powerful game-changer and can change the mood, make spaces big or small, and breathe life to any object. Having the right light balance in a 3D rendering or drawn image is equally powerful and relevant. The light justifies all of the above components.

Composition of an image

Rule of thirds, Golden section, Golden spiral, and many others. The structure of an image of architectural rendering and artistic impressions is such an essential part as the architecture itself. Anything in our world is associated with the Fibonacci Sequence, which is an undeniably an excellent concept of mathematics, which gives us an understanding of the perfect balance for anything. This mathematical equation, called composition is the binding agent of all components that create a perfect image.

These concepts have been around for a long time. Four thousand six hundred years ago the most famous monument of ancient Egypt the Great Pyramids of Giza it has been built on these principles of composition and rules.

Advantages of 3D Architectural Rendering

Planning requirements

Being a digital solution, this method of 3D Visualizing architecture is at growth.
Many countries like US, UK, Canada, Australia, Germany, Sweden, and others, have their governments that set requirements for getting 3D renders included in planning and building documents for every new building or renovation. This alone drives the architectural rendering industry even further by attracting new players daily.


The technical capabilities of architectural Rendering are one of its best advantages. No project is a challenge; there is no single complicated detail or material/texture which can’t be recreated in a 3D environment.

Additional tools and software are being developed daily with the idea to speed up or advanced the process of making the 3D renderings even better and making the real-life environment and laws of nature.


Architectural Renderers can be found online easily. Just by typing Architectural Rendering on Google or any other search engine and multiple choices.

After landing on a specific company or freelancer, you should pay attention to their skills, experience, and ways of work. You can also visit our Work section (web) or Service section (web) to find out more about our services.

Increased brand awareness

Clients can spot the beautiful and crafted 3D visualizations. Especially if you are selling a mid to high-end property, certainly your target group is people that have the taste and know what a quality product is.

With the right Architectural Rendering strategy of your project, you will get a product that will speak by itself and will sell by itself. This will put your building or space exposed to a whole new level of the consumer spectrum.

Management and Turnaround time

Other great features of this method. Having up-front all specifications and details a project can be strictly managed and executed in order down to most delicate bits in 3D renderings.

Every software has a layering system that allows the 3D visualizer to control every part of the project almost instantly. This, combined with an excellent customer service / proven pipeline, leads to predicted quality results and significantly quick turnaround times.


There are two main types of architectural rendering techniques. A fully 3D environment where all objects (building, spaces, environment, and others) are built entirely in 3D space. The result is a highly realistic image.

Partial 3D environment (photo-bashing).

With this method, only specific components (base shapes, construction parts, and composition of the image) the project are built in a 3D environment. The rest of the details like textures, light effects, and features are added in the post-process stage. The rest of the details like textures, light effects, and features are added in the post-process stage. The resulting image is called the 3D collage and partially matches the NPR effect of Architectural Illustration.

Advantages of 2D Architectural Illustration


The cheaper rates are caused by the abundance of artists willing to provide work, especially if their exposure it’s not the greatest. Generally, Architectural Illustrations consist maximum of one or two images, which keeps the marketing budget on the lower to mid-range. If you do a well-known approach artist, the budget won’t explode even if their prices are above the average.


Due to the nature of this service, you can’t get any more personal with the artist. In most of the cases, your artist will be able to show you almost in real-time where the idea will head. Then it’s your choice to make the images more personal with artistic nuance.

Turnaround time

If you do your homework and provide all the essential information that the artist needs to start and if you picked the right artist, at the end of the day, it is likely to get the first draft sketches of the artwork. The only caveat is to plan, as any significant amendments can slow down the project.

Psychologically Uniqueness

The right consumers can ‘feel’ artwork. They can see it and are influenced by it, which makes it a fabulous marketing strategy from a psychological standpoint. Since artworks drive emotions, art in marketing buildings and spaces makes sense.

The more consumers can ‘feel’ what you’re trying to convey in your artwork, the more likely they are switching to acquire your product. Emotionally captivating from a consumer’s point of view and economically beneficial for the sellers.


With Architectural Illustrations, there are also different artistic styles.
Perspective or frontal illustrations in full watercolor, ink link, pencil tone and very rare but oil. The results of each style for the same project can differ by a lot, due to the different sketching techniques and materials.

Architectural illustrator – where to find one?

The easiest way is to google the term and start picking randomly results. Here are two of the prominent places where you can find architectural illustrators for your project.
United Kingdom:

The world’s oldest and most prestigious architectural illustrators’ organisation, the Society of Architectural Illustrators has attracted patrons including Sir John Betjeman, Sir Hugh Casson, Gordon Cullen and our present patron Ben Johnson. Membership is recognised as a professional qualification worldwide.
SAI members work in all disciplines including illustration, animation, model making and photography. They provide architects, developers and designers with high-quality visual representations for use in concept design, presentations and marketing, helping to communicate ideas and bring architecture to life.

Society of Architectural Illustrators

United States of America:

The American Society of Architectural Illustrators, ASAI, is an international non-profit organization dedicated to the advancement and recognition of the art, science and profession of architectural illustration.
(ASAI) was founded in 1986 as a professional organization to represent the business and artistic interests of architectural illustrators throughout North America and around the world.

American Society of Architectural Illustrators

Architectural renderer – where to find one?

An architectural renderer can be found on Google (caveat explaining below) as the first instance or one of the biggest portfolio websites where most of the creative 3D freelancers and studios are having their page as well:

Ronen Beckerman’s blog
Instagram *

On this link, I have mentioned some of the most appropriate places when looking for architectural renderers (Architectural e Visualizer, What Is And 7 Places To Find One?).

* On Instagram, the best way to find Architectural renderers is by using the tag system. Some of the most used tags: #3drender; #cgi; #archviz; #visualization; #renderings; #coronarender; #rendering3D

I do not advise relying on Instagram to find a reliable 3D rendering vendor, as lately we have seen companies and freelancers use other companies’ work to promote and acquire clients for their own benefits.

TALLBOX’ advice:
Use Instagram only to check if your chosen architectural renderer has established some presence there.

A rule of thumb; Always do thorough research before hiring 3D renderer! This is probably the most significant difference between Architectural Illustrators and Architectural renderers.

Illustrating by hand takes skills honed with years of experience. Since the advent of Youtube and platforms like Udemy, online courses have become a standard; therefore, many who have taken on or two courses pronounce themselves as Architectural Renderers.
The truth is, it’s not the tools or software which produce the quality results; it’s the experts behind them.

Side note: Hiring a proclaimed service provider of architectural rendering harms 8 out of 10 projects/companies in the architecture and interior design sector.

Side note 2: Another good practice is to ask if the chosen 3D service provider is a freelancer working by himself or a company with more than 1 person. This is relevant to their ability to carry out large amounts of work or turnaround times.

FAQ: 3D Architectural Rendering or Architectural Illustration is best for your project in four easy steps?

There are four steps which you can do yourself to find the answer to the question above.

How to define the scope of 3D Architectural Rendering project?

Defining the scope of any architectural or interior project, while researching whether or not you need 3D rendering service is crucial.

This is the key step to successful 3D projects.

That means you need to do some work in advance to define the desired look that is required for your 3D renderings. Having a clear definition of WHAT and WHEN from the beginning the right way to start the process and it is the only mechanism to control the desired outcome, by managing the input information which will avoid disruptions and delays, later down the line.

architectural visualization project scope

How to define the time and deadline of 3D Architectural Rendering project?

Timing! Another significant step, especially for every Architectural Rendering adventure. Sometimes time could be the only thing to make or break your project.
If you are really tight on time, Architectural Rendering still can do the job, but it might cost you a bit more if you have enough time for the project.
If you are short on time and budget, Architectural Illustration is your option.

Define the Timeline of the architectural visualization project

How to prepare all materials, specifications, references and drawings for 3D Architectural Rendering project?

Not being ready, means longer times, more rounds of revisions of the project and will hurt your turnaround time.
Being prepared not only will do your project with the predictable outcome but might reduce the turnaround time, rounds of revisions and overall, it might cost you less!
Both 3D Architectural Rendering and 2D Architectural Illustration companies will ask you to provide as much as possible information before they send a quotation.

components of architectural visualization

How to find out the budget for my 3D Architectural Rendering project?

Always ask for more than one quotation from Architectural Rendering companies. If your budget is healthy, then you are covered. But what if your budget can’t cover 100% of the quotes provided?

It is a good idea to ask for a separate optimized quotation with less 3D services to match the given budget. You will be amazed at how cutting off only one service, how optimized the offer can be.
This might not work 10 out of 10 times, but surely it is worth asking. architectural visualization budget

Can Architectural Rendering be used for Interior Design projects?

Yes, the term Architectural Rendering is a comprised phrase of visualizing anything related to architecture and its branches including interior design. Architectural Rendering includes even Interior Products and Landscapes or green fields which can be visualized with this method.

What do I get with a 3D architecture rendering project?

3D architecture rendering is not just a process of depicting unbuilt architectural and spatial spaces into an image called 3D rendering. Although the final outcome is an image, the purpose and the variety of different types of 3D visualizations that can be produced during a project comes at a great use. Depending on the type of the 3D visualization (with interior or architectural projects), it helps with the client presentations, concept and design processes, structural concepting and marketing. This is our page where you can find out more about the verity of services associated with 3D architectural visualization projects.

My project is very artistic, is it suitable for 3D architectural visualization?

3D architectural visualization is a process of art creation by itself. If an architectural project should be presented under the lights of more artistical way, there’s no better way of use than 3D architectural visualization.

My architectural project is unfinished, can you produce 3D architectural visualization?

Having as much as possible information is always the rule of thumb and a certain guarantee of success and a predictable timeline. On the other hand, things could go out of plan and clients can demand more, so Yes. Even unfinished projects can benefit by using 3D architectural visualization image creation. The only downside to this might be a slight increase at the costs for production of the 3D renderings.


Depending on the type of market you are, both methods can achieve similar results. If you are interested in reaching farther down to your consumer group, you can combine both approaches into one selling strategy. Photoreal architectural renderings to convince your buyers to believe in it and Architectural Illustrations to attract them in the first place.

Whatever approach you choose, it is a rule of thumb to research both options before choosing the right one for your project and budget. With consumers getting smart and well educated day by day, well-designed property marketing strategies that inspire, encourage, and motivate will win them on your side.

Key-points on 3D Architectural Rendering or 2D Architectural Illustration

  • Both methods of 3D Architectural Rendering and 2D Architectural Illustration are used in Architecture, Interior Design, and Real Estate marketing and developing strategies.
  • The most exceptional results of a marketing campaign can come from their simultaneous usage at different stages. From the concept through the design and construction and at the end with the final sales.
  • 3D Architectural Visualization provides photo-real results and plays an essential part in Planning permissions processes. The technical capabilities of architectural rendering are one of its main advantages.
  • Due to the nature of how 3D Architectural Renderings are made in a 3D environment, the 3D images can be easily implemented or even changed on purpose to match every marketing strategy.
  • Architectural Rendering has two main types of images: Photo-real and Non-photo real (NPR). The second one partially matches the NPR effect of Architectural Illustration.
  • Architectural Illustration has one idea of quicker turnover times and a little more cheaper.
  • Artwork – that is the word that can best describe what is a 2D Architectural Illustration. Clients are easily influenced by it as it feels similar to a painting.
  • The 2D Architectural Illustration offers various choices to finish with a few types of paper, drawing, and painting materials.

We are happy to provide you with free guidance and advice, simply drop us an e-mail or call us.

Get in Touch With Us!

Recommended books

1. Architectural Renderings: Construction and Design Manual PB ( link )

Introduction: The potency of the rendering is clearly understood by architects and clients alike. Major architectural practices now commission specialist studios to produce finished renderings of their buildings in order to effectively sell their designs to their clients, while clients also invest in renderings to convince the wider public of their vision for large-scale architectural projects. Whereas traditionally the rendering was an architectural drawing enlivened by watercolour washes, contemporary renderings are produced in a wide range of media and formats with the explicit purpose of visualising and exciting.

2. Architectural Illustration ( link )

Introduction: This practical book looks at the fundamental principles that underpin the process of architectural illustration: to represent architectural design and the built environment in a way that the general public can understand. Focusing particularly on watercolour, it explains the full process from site sketching to finished rendering. Case studies follow the process of an illustration, using demonstrations specially selected from the author’s own work and profiles of leading practitioners. Illustrated with over 200 colour images, it is a unique guide to the work of the architectural illustrator and will be invaluable for artists, illustrators, architects, builders and planners.

3. Drawing The Motive Force of Architecture 2nd edition AD Primer ( link )

Introduction: Focusing on the creative and inventive significance of drawing for architecture, this book by one of its greatest proponents, Peter Cook, is an established classic. It exudes Cook’s delight and catholic appetite for the architectural.

4. Architectural Graphics 6th edition ( link )

Introduction: The bestselling guide to architectural drawing, with new information, examples, and resources Architectural Graphics is the classic bestselling reference by one of the leading global authorities on architectural design drawing, Francis D.K. Ching. Now in its sixth edition, this essential guide offers a comprehensive introduction to using graphic tools and drafting conventions to translate architectural ideas into effective visual presentations, using hundreds of the author’s distinctive drawings to illustrate the topic effectively.

Citations: The Editors of Encyclopaedia Britannica ( Encyclopædia Britannica, inc. )
Citations: Artists’ Impressions in Architectural Design ( link )
Citations: Arizona Memory Project ( link )
Citations: Collecting: Mid Century Architectural Renderings ( link )
Citations: Form Function Art ( link )
Citations: Architectural Rendering Autodesk ( link )
Citations and reference: Wikipedia (Architectural rendering)

3D Architectural Rendering or 2D Architectural Illustration [examples]
Article Name
3D Architectural Rendering or 2D Architectural Illustration [examples]
There are two main types of rendering architecture in 3D: Photorealistic - 3D Architectural Visualizationg and Non-photorealistic - 2D Architectural Illustration. Both methods are used in Architecture, Interior Design, and Real Estate marketing, concept and design strategies.
Publisher Name
Tallbox Architectural Visualization
Publisher Logo

George Nicola

VIRTUAL STAGING EXPERT / After eight years+ working in high-end design and property business I realised that we are missing a critical part of the property business. We were not providing enough value to these old and empty properties. Not every buyer would have the opportunity to see the potential of vacant property or in a bad state. The idea of Virtual Furniture Staging the property gives the buyer and seller an incredible chance in seconds of taking the critical decision.
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