Image courtesy of Ryan Elliot

Rendering an apartment visualization: A 3D arch viz breakdown

By - - 3ds Max
6 mins
Last modification: 12 Aug, 2019

Take a look at the workflow used by 3D Artist Ryan Elliot for creating his realistic 3D arch viz scenes in this apartment visualization breakdown. 


My name is Ryan Elliot and I’m a 3D artist from Perth, Western Australia. I’ve been working in the industry for about 4 years now. Having worked on projects ranging from national and international advertisement, to masterplan flythroughs of commercial developments, to creating digi-doubles for film, I’ve had the opportunity here in Perth to flex my creativity in many ways.

I’ve always had an interest in architecture and thought that might be my career, but somewhere along the way I got hooked on 3D and never looked back. For the last few years, I've found myself working in the architectural visualization industry. I worked on this series of images while employed at Viewport.

“Viewport is based on the sunny shores of Western Australia and are known for their cutting edge work in real-time virtual reality walkthroughs and interactive simulations. They are a multidisciplinary team consisting of software engineers and digital artists, creating the perfect mix of art versus science. It's this balance of technical and creative that is required to maintain a leading standard in visual realism in real-time engines.” - Julius Jeppe, Director at Viewport.



This project was produced to help develop a better workflow in the office and upskill the team at Viewport. I was the lead artist on the project and was responsible for the interior design, lighting, final materials, modeling and post-production of the apartment. 

Ryan Elliot Apartment Render

I brought a lot of my own personal work preferences into this workflow, as I found it more enjoyable than how we had previously been working. When working on scenes like these, I like to leave the camera placement for the end, much like walking into a fully furnished apartment in the real world. Rather than work based on a camera, I build the scene as it would be in the real world. This might seem like unnecessary work in the beginning, but it allows for more freedom later on when rendering, as I might find a shot I didn't think of at the start.


The apartment was modeled in SketchUp and imported into 3ds Max to be detailed.

Apartment Sketchup Model

The floorboards and concrete tiles were made using FloorGen and the bathroom tiles and outdoor railing were made using RailClone.

Apartment Tiles Floorgen


Lighting is where you communicate a lot of the render's mood and it's a crucial step towards realism. As such, your lighting must be well-balanced, both in color and brightness.

For this setup, I used the default Corona Sun and Sky since it brings nice results very quickly, and I wasn’t aiming for anything particularly dramatic. I often use an HDRi for lighting as well, but would normally use these in areas where I want my light to have more character, or something like an intense sunset sky.

I always start to light my scenes in the same way, by creating a simple render camera and an override material, excluding the transparent materials, as this gives me a blank slate to work from. Below are the materials I used, including a standard Override CoronaMtl material, Glass CoronaMtl, and CoronaSky.

3ds Max Corona Materials

When setting up any realistic scene, you should always use real world values for your cameras, lights and materials; nothing should be arbitrary. Arbitrary values often overcomplicate things and can lead to unwanted results.

Here is Corona Sun and Sky lighting the scene:

Override Render Sun and Sky

Once I’m happy with the lighting, I start to make the main materials for the scene. I like to keep my materials simple, to avoid issues later on in the project. 

Wooden Floorboards:
3D Apartment Wooden Floorboards Material

White Walls:
Apartment White Wall Material

Concrete Tiles:
3D Apartment Concrete Tiles Material

Below is a render of the scene with these materials applied. Here, it's important that I'm happy with the sun angle and overall lighting before moving on. Depending on your scene, you might have more than one sun angle for different times of day that suit the shot better, and you might need to finesse the sunlight a bit more once the scene is activated with plants, furniture and people.

3D Apartment Materials and Lighting


I pulled most of the furniture from our existing library at the studio, with a few extra pieces modeled or purchased for this project. The materials for these are set up in a separate scene and lit with a studio lighting setup. This is a nice, fast way to work, as it allows you to have multiple people working on materials at once.

3D Apartment Sofa Model
3D Apartment Arm Chair Model
3D Apartment Bookshelf Model

Here are some of the materials used for the furniture:

Sofa Fabric:
3D Apartment Sofa Material

Pillow Fabric:
3D Apartment Pillow Material

Bronze Material:
3D Apartment Bronze Material


Now that the materials are finished, it's time to move onto the camera angles. Paying attention to composition is key here. Make sure there is always a focal point in your scene that directs the viewers' eyes. For the main living room shot, the coffee table and blue cushion are the focal area, with strong lines leading the eye to the kitchen.

There are a few scripts out there that can help you nail your camera angles -
Image Composition Helper is one that I use. The use of a physical camera is also a great idea, as being able to control your ISO, shutter speed, aperture and focal length will make your life easier in 3D. If you are familiar with photography, setting up a scene this way makes more sense, so you can shoot the scene as you would in real life. This makes it easier to take the materials and assets made for this project and use them in other scenes setup in the same way, as everything will act in a more predictable manner.

3D Apartment Camera Setup
3D Apartment Camera Setup
3D Apartment Camera Setup
3D Apartment Camera Setup


I believe that post-production should be kept to a minimum, as over-processing an image can ruin its sense of realism. Most of my post-production work can be achieved with a LUT or using simple curves. Below is an example where I’ve used Adobe Lightroom to edit the image. You can use whatever you’re comfortable with to grade your image, but I like to use Photoshop and Lightroom. In the grade below, I’m mostly adjusting shadows and highlights with my curves, and making minor color corrections.


3D Apartment Bedroom Final Render
3D Apartment Bedroom Final Render

3D Apartment Kitchen Final Render

3D Apartment Kitchen Vignette Final Render

3D Apartment Living Room Final Render
3D Apartment Living Room Final Render

Find more of Ryan's work here:

Learn more about Viewport here:


Posted By
Published In
  • 3ds Max
  • Architectural Visualization
  • Archviz
  • 3ds Max
  • Design Visualization
  • Lighting and Rendering
  • Workflow
  • Design Visualization
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