The Art of Rendering: 5 Most Popular Architectural Visualization Styles

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The Art of Rendering: 5 Most Popular Architectural Visualization Styles

With the aid of developments in CGI technology, architectural visualisation has evolved over the years from hand-drawn blueprints and sketches to impressively realistic digital artform.

In its early stages, CGI was able to replicate buildings in a 3D form, now, with successive generations of artists improving the art of those before them, it can add narrative, emotion and life to each image.

More than just models of a building, architectural visualisation can imagine homes, lives, and even become art itself.

Factors That Influence Architectural Visualisation Styles

Although architectural rendering is primarily about communicating a project design to a client, it is also about creating a narrative about that design’s potential. Each artist will have their own interpretation of what that entails, but there are always a set of certain factors that will influence their style and contribute towards the end-visual.

  • Imagination – An artist’s ideas are a product of their interests, hobbies, and experiences. For instance, artists who live in Japan, China, or Korea may be influenced by the architecture of East Asian buildings and artistic traditions.
  • Signature – Although there is a myriad of styles and techniques, each artist has spent time developing their own style and brand.
  • Criticism – Feedback from clients contribute to the final design, as faults would need to be changed and preferences would come into play.
  • The Building – The environment of the structure to be built—including the materials to be used, soil type within the property, and atmosphere around the building—will all influence the final design.

Architectural Visualisation Styles

Thanks to advancements in technology, architectural visualisation can now use techniques that were once exclusive to filmmaking. This includes techniques such as colour, lighting, framing, angles, and composition.

Creating a more cinematic landscape enables the artist to better convey the narrative of the building, to create a home rather than an empty, albeit beautifully designed, shell. In turn, just as the filmmaking industry has had successive stylistic periods, this has lead to the development of several styles of visual rendering over the years.

Including some of that borrowed approaches and styles from famous cinematic references.

1. The Theodore

The Theodore

Characterised by diffused lighting, bright backgrounds, and an abundance of airy spaces, the Theodore style is one of the best styles you can use to represent interiors.

The use of warm tones and natural lights create a relaxed and inviting space, perfect for creating a habitable and inviting atmosphere.

Its name is derived from Joaquin Phoenix’s’ character Theodore from Spike Jonze’s “Her.”

2. Whodunnit


The Whodunnit uses low saturation, cold tones and a high contrast to add emphasis to strong design features, angular shapes and modern materials.

Descended from the gritty, high violence of the noir detective genre, this style of architectural visualisation lends itself to urban developments, large-scale projects and modern minimalism.

3. Authentic/Photo-realistic


The photo-realistic style of rendering allowing clients to have the best estimation of how their project would look like once construction is done.

Using natural lighting cues, shadowing and colouring, this style gives the client the essence of what the design would be like to be lived in, or around.

However, as you cannot hide behind aesthetics, this is one of the most difficult styles to do. If you go too far, you may end up with an almost sci-fi looking scene. 3D artists who are able to create this kind of image must have a mastery of materiality and human perception. Above all, mimicking how light moves in real life is key – and the ability to manipulate and render light takes years of experience.

However, when executed properly, the result is an architectural visualisation that depicts a building as though it is already constructed.

4. The Katherine Heigl

The Katherine Heigl

Picture this: kids frolicking around the park, couples walking while holding each other’s hands, a group of friends laughing and chatting away—all set against a background of a towering building.

As opposed to the Whodunit style, the Katherine Heigl style uses a high saturation of colours, over-lighting, and an abundance of background characters to create romance and an idealistic scene.

Its focus revolves around emphasising two things; equating the design to a high quality of life and happiness, and that the design integrates naturally into its surroundings.

5. Sketching and Watercolour Style

Sketching and Watercolour Style

This style is more about creating the impression of an idea or an emotion, rather than giving an accurate rendering of the space.

It’s extreme stylism, achieved through aesthetic colour combinations, textures and use of space, works by the artist layering differing styles and techniques to create an overall narrative.

This style captures more of a potential feeling of a place, rather than its architectural properties, and may lend itself more to conceptual buildings than the latest block of luxury flats.

Communicate Your Design Properly

Choosing a style is more than just picking the one that grabs your eye the most. Your design needs to communicate the narrative of the space, rather than just what it will look like, and using one of the above styles is one of the easiest ways to do that.

For all your digital illustration and animation needs—be it interior, exterior, or animation and virtual tours—contact us and let us know how we can help you.