10 Tips for Better Editorial Digital Rendering
Written by  Daisie Team
Published on 10 min read


  1. Optimize your rendering software settings
  2. Add realistic lighting and shadows
  3. Use high-quality textures
  4. Focus on composition and perspective
  5. Incorporate ambient occlusion
  6. Add depth of field effects
  7. Pay attention to scale and proportion
  8. Include environmental elements
  9. Edit and retouch in post-production
  10. Practice regularly and experiment

If you've ever wondered how to improve digital rendering in editorial work, you're in the right place. Digital rendering is a skill that can always be fine-tuned, and these 10 tips will help you elevate your work to the next level. So, let's dive right in and start polishing those rendering skills.

Optimize Your Rendering Software Settings

The first port of call in your journey to improve your digital rendering should be your software settings. A few small tweaks here can make a world of difference. Let's take a look:

  • Graphics Card Setting: If you're using a software like Adobe Illustrator or Photoshop, make sure your graphics card setting is set to 'High Performance'. This will help your software run smoother and improve the quality of your renders.
  • Resolution: To get the sharpest images, ensure your document resolution is set to at least 300 pixels per inch (PPI). This will keep your renders crisp and clear, even when they're printed in large formats.
  • Color Space: For the most accurate color representation, use the Adobe RGB (1998) color space. It offers a wider range of colors compared to sRGB, which can help give your renders a more realistic look.
  • Brush Settings: Don't overlook your brush settings. Playing around with the opacity, flow, and hardness of your brushes can give you a range of different textures and effects.

Remember, software settings are not a one-size-fits-all solution. What works for one project might not work for another. So, don't be afraid to experiment with different settings to see what works best for you and your specific rendering needs.

Add Realistic Lighting and Shadows

Next up in learning how to improve digital rendering in editorial: mastering light and shadow. These two elements can make or break your renderings, so let's shed some light on this—pun intended!

  • Light Source: Start by deciding where your light source is coming from. This will dictate the direction of your shadows and the highlights on your objects. Try to visualize how the light would naturally fall on your scene.
  • Shadow Length: The angle and distance of the light source will determine the length of the shadows. If the light source is far away and high up, like the sun, the shadows will be shorter. If the light source is close and at a low angle, the shadows will be longer.
  • Color and Intensity of Light: Light isn't just white—it can be warm (yellow, orange, red) or cool (blue, green). The color of your light can dramatically change the mood of your render. Also, remember that the intensity of the light will affect the darkness and sharpness of the shadows.
  • Cast Shadows: Don't forget about cast shadows. These are the shadows that objects in your scene cast onto other objects. They can add a lot of depth and realism to your renders.

Getting the lighting and shadows right can be tricky, but it's well worth the effort. It can add a whole new dimension to your renders and make them really pop. So, keep practicing and experimenting with different lighting scenarios, and you'll see a huge improvement in your digital rendering skills.

Use High-Quality Textures

Remember when you used to doodle on your notebook and how much difference a good quality paper made? Well, digital rendering isn't much different. Let's talk about why using high-quality textures is important when you're pondering how to improve digital rendering in editorial.

  • Realism: High-quality textures can give your renderings a certain depth and realism that can be hard to achieve otherwise. Think about the difference between a flat blue square and a textured one that looks like real denim—huge difference, right?
  • Detail: Good textures can also help you add some fine details to your renderings. Imagine you're creating a brick wall. A high-quality texture can add all those little pits and grooves that make it look like real brick rather than just a flat red surface.
  • Consistency: Using high-quality textures can also ensure consistency across your renderings. This can help create a more professional and polished look for your work.

So, where can you find these high-quality textures? There are plenty of online resources like Texture Haven or CGBookcase where you can find free, high-quality textures for your digital renders. But remember, the key is not just to use high-quality textures, but to use them wisely. So, go ahead and play around with different textures to see what works best for your renderings.

Focus on Composition and Perspective

Let's think about the last movie you watched. Remember how certain scenes just stuck with you? That's likely due to the composition and perspective of those shots. When thinking about how to improve digital rendering in editorial, you can't ignore these two key elements.

  • Composition: This is all about how the elements of your rendering are arranged. Are you drawing the viewers' eyes to the right place? Are you using the rule of thirds, or maybe breaking it intentionally for effect? Remember, where you place your subjects within your rendering can tell a story by itself.
  • Perspective: This is all about creating a sense of depth and space. Are you showing your subjects from an interesting angle? Are you using one-point or two-point perspective to create a sense of realism? Keep in mind, the right perspective can transform a flat image into a three-dimensional scene that draws the viewer in.

Both composition and perspective require practice to master, but don't let that discourage you. The more you experiment with them, the more you'll improve. So next time you're working on a digital rendering, take a moment to think about your composition and perspective. You might be surprised at the difference it can make!

Incorporate Ambient Occlusion

On your quest to improve your digital rendering in editorial, you might have heard about ambient occlusion. If not, don't worry, you're about to find out what it is and why it's important. In the simplest terms, ambient occlusion adds shadows where objects meet, giving your rendering more depth and realism.

Imagine you're sitting in a room with a single light source. You'd see shadows in the corners of the room and where the furniture meets the floor, right? That's ambient occlusion at work in real life. In digital rendering, you can replicate this effect to add a sense of depth and realism to your scenes.

Most rendering software, like Blender or Maya, have ambient occlusion settings you can tweak. Start with a low setting and gradually increase it until you get the look you want. But be careful — too much ambient occlusion can make your scene look dirty or muddy. Your goal is to enhance the realism, not to overdo it.

Incorporating ambient occlusion can be a game-changer when it comes to how to improve digital rendering in editorial. It's a subtle effect, but it can make a big difference in the final result. So why not give it a try in your next project?

Add Depth of Field Effects

Ever noticed how in some photos, the main subject is in sharp focus while everything else is a bit blurry? That's depth of field at work, and it's a powerful tool you can use to improve your digital rendering in editorial.

Depth of field helps guide the viewer's eye to the focal point of your image. It creates a sense of depth and makes your rendering feel more like a real-life photograph. And the good news? You don't need a fancy camera to achieve this effect — your rendering software can handle it.

Most rendering software, like 3DS Max or Cinema 4D, have depth of field settings you can adjust. But here's the trick: don't just crank up the blur. Instead, think about what you want your viewer to focus on. Is it a character in the foreground? Or a building in the distance? Once you've decided, you can adjust your depth of field settings to bring that element into sharp focus.

Remember, depth of field is like the salt in your cooking — a little bit enhances the flavor, but too much can ruin the dish. So, experiment with different settings until you find the one that works best for your image.

Adding depth of field effects is a great way to improve the look of your renderings. So why not try it out in your next project? Who knows, you might just discover your new favorite trick for how to improve digital rendering in editorial.

Pay Attention to Scale and Proportion

Have you ever seen a rendering where a coffee cup is the size of a car, or a building that seems to dwarf the mountains behind it? Weird, right? That's because scale and proportion were not given the attention they deserved.

Getting the scale and proportion right is one of the key aspects of how to improve digital rendering in editorial. And it's not just about making sure your objects are the right size relative to each other. It's also about how they fit into the overall composition of your image.

Imagine you're creating a cityscape. The buildings in the foreground should be larger than those in the background to create a sense of depth. But, if you're not careful, you might end up with a skyscraper that's as tall as the moon! The key here is to keep checking your work from different angles and adjusting as necessary.

Another point to consider is the proportion within an object itself. Let's say you're creating a rendering of a bicycle. If the wheels are too small or the handlebars too wide, it won't look right, no matter how much detail you add.

So, remember to keep an eye on scale and proportion as you work. It might seem like a small detail, but it can make a big difference in the realism and believability of your renderings. And that, my friends, is another step on the road to mastering how to improve digital rendering in editorial.

Include Environmental Elements

Let's talk about the environment. No, not that environment (though it's also important). I'm talking about the environment in your digital renderings. Including environmental elements is another effective way to improve digital rendering in editorial.

Imagine you've created a perfect model of a sports car, but it's just floating in a void. Something seems off, right? That's because it's missing context. It's missing an environment. Now, imagine that same car on a sleek city street or a winding mountain road. Feels different, doesn't it?

Environmental elements provide context and make your rendering feel grounded and real. This could be as simple as a table for a vase, a road for a car, or as complex as a bustling city for a towering skyscraper.

But don't stop at just adding a few elements. Think about how these elements interact with your main subject. Consider how the sunlight reflects off the car's windshield or how the shadow of the vase falls on the table. These are the little things that can take your renderings from good to great.

And remember, the environment doesn't always have to be realistic. Creating a fantasy or alien environment can be an exciting challenge and a chance to show off your creativity. Just keep in mind the principles of scale, proportion, and perspective we talked about earlier.

So, next time you're working on a digital rendering, don't forget to add some environmental elements. They might be in the background, but they play a starring role in making your renderings look believable and complete.

Edit and Retouch in Post-Production

Ever heard the saying, "The magic happens in post-production?" Well, that's especially true when it comes to digital rendering in editorial. Editing and retouching in post-production is a lot like adding the final touches to a painting. It's where you fine-tune everything and make it pop.

Think of your rendering software as the place where you create your raw material. Post-production, on the other hand, is where you shape that raw material into a finished piece.

Maybe you need to adjust the color balance to make the scene feel warmer or cooler. Perhaps the contrast needs a boost to make the shadows deeper and the highlights brighter. Or maybe you spot a small error you didn't notice before—like a texture that's stretching weirdly or a stray polygon that's poking out where it shouldn't. You can fix all these in post-production.

Another cool trick is to add some visual effects in post-production. For instance, you could add a bit of lens flare to make the lighting more dramatic or some motion blur to give a sense of speed and movement.

But remember, with great power comes great responsibility. It's easy to get carried away with all the tools and effects at your disposal. So, always keep in mind the look and feel you're aiming for and don't let the edits overpower your original work.

So, to improve your digital rendering in editorial, get comfortable with a post-production software. Learn how to make subtle adjustments that enhance your renderings without stealing the show. Trust me, it'll make a world of difference in your final output.

Practice Regularly and Experiment

Imagine you're learning to play the piano. Will you become a concert pianist after a single lesson? Probably not. The same rule applies when it comes to improving your digital rendering in editorial. There’s simply no substitute for regular practice and a bit of experimentation.

Every time you work on a new project, you're not just creating something new. You're also building your skills, refining your eye for detail, and getting more comfortable with your software. Over time, those hours you spent hunched over your computer will add up, and your renderings will start to show it.

But don't just stick to what you know. Remember, digital rendering is as much an art form as it is a technical skill. So, don't be afraid to get creative and experiment with different techniques, styles, and effects. Maybe you've always worked with realistic textures, so why not try something more stylized for a change? Or maybe you've only ever used one type of lighting, so how about mixing things up with a different setup?

Another good idea is to set yourself challenges. For example, you could try to recreate a scene from your favorite movie or design a character based on a description from a book. Not only will this keep things interesting, but it'll also push you to learn new things and expand your skill set.

So, keep practicing, keep experimenting, and most importantly, have fun while you're at it. Who knows, you might just surprise yourself with what you can achieve.

If you're eager to improve your editorial digital rendering skills, we highly recommend checking out the workshop 'Editorial Submissions: Shoot Development To Publication' by Jose Espaillat. This workshop will provide you with essential tips and techniques to create stunning editorial submissions, from the initial concept to the final publication. Don't miss out on this opportunity to enhance your digital rendering abilities and make your work stand out!