Tips for creating better visuals

On the Media Productions team, a big part of our day-to-day work is spent creating visuals for clients of designs and spaces that currently do not exist. When someone looks at a visual, our task is to help them buy into the design and understand what the final concept will look like when complete.

The industry standard has now reached the point where 3D visualisation is almost indistinguishable from photographs. So how do we communicate an idea so that the viewer can understand what we are showing them, and in some cases deceive them into thinking they are looking at a photograph? Here are a couple of tips on how to take a 3D visual to the next level of realism.

  1. Use reference

Believe it or not this is something that a lot of artists when starting out overlook. You can be a master of the software you are using, but if you don’t have an understanding of how the physical world works then it is going to be impossible to try and recreate it.

Starting with a blank canvas in any art form is difficult, so getting inspired will get the creative juices flowing and give direction. The internet is a great starting point; it’s full of free reference material that will help to create a mood board. Having your own reference library of books, magazines and pictures is a massive help too.

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  1. Bevelled edges

Another common mistake is to not add chamfered or bevelled edges to your models. There aren’t many examples in the real world where two surfaces come together to create a pin sharp edge. There is always a certain degree of bevel, whether this is a very slight chamfer or a large rounded edge. Adding this small detail to your models will pick up highlights and standout as the light moves across the surface.

  1. It’s all about the imperfections

Nothing in life is perfect and this should be replicated in a visual. Adding scratches to metal, dirt to a pavement or brush strokes on a painted wall will intensify the believability of the visual. We take these things for granted when we walk down the street or walk through our front door. But by adding imperfections to surfaces we subconsciously accept that metal has scratches, that walls aren’t perfectly smooth. These are sometimes small additions but collectively they make a huge difference to a final render. It’s also a lot of fun to get in to the fine details when creating your own texture maps.

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  1. Framing the image

When starting a visual it is always good practise to have a clear and distinct purpose of why you are creating it in the first place. Whether this is a brief from a client or a personal project, a visual needs to tell a story, show-off a design or bring something to life. Work out what you want to show and what you want the viewer to focus on.  Why is this important? A well-framed shot with clever composition gives visual context and, by adding layers and depth, leads the eye towards the focal point of the image. A shot that focuses on a specific detail in a room is more visually appealing than one that focuses on the entire room.

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  1. Depth of field

Depth of field works hand in hand with image framing and composition. This is something many people do not notice on a daily basis. Pick up an object and hold it in front of yourself. Look at it closely, notice how detailed it is. But then notice how everything in view radiating away from your point of focus gets more blurred and out of focus. Adding this effect in a visual makes the focal point of the image pop out from its surroundings. Placing objects close and far from the camera that are out of focus adds lots of realism to an image but also heaps of drama.

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  1. Use of colour

The correct use of colour can make or break an image. Too little colour and the image is stale and un-interesting, too much colour makes the image busy and gives the viewer no direct focal point. Adding a couple of strong primary colours creates a colour palette for the rest of the image. A modern lounge design with lots of white will really benefit from a strong artwork on the wall or a bright piece of furniture to add contrast to the image. Trees and plant life are great for adding warmth and life to a clinical space. Colour is a great way of leading the eye and warm tones contrasted with colder ones will add drama and draw the attention of the viewer.

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  1. Add personality

You are never going to convince someone that a visual is a photograph by presenting a space that has no character. For example for creating an interior for a proposed apartment, placing additions such as picture frames, books, table dressings, blankets and throws and other household items to make a space look lived in is a great way of making a visual more believable. Minimal scenes work in some cases but don’t really engage like a scene packed with detail and personality.

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These are just a few tips that I’ve learned being a professional visualiser, but I still learn new tricks and methods everyday. The main thing is to love what you do, work hard and be open to different ways of thinking when creating visuals. You’ll see a difference in no time.

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