What Is 3D Rendering?
Written by  Daisie Team
Published on 6 min read

What do “Finding Nemo” and “Game of Thrones” have in common? Both use 3D rendering to create images that come to life on the screen. In fact, 3D rendering can make characters and scenes so lifelike that you can forget that they’re not real. Outside of the movie theater, there's a wide variety of industries that rely on 3D rendering, including:

  • Architecture
  • Healthcare
  • Advertising and marketing
  • Product design and manufacturing
  • Fashion
  • Gaming
  • Interior design

What is 3D rendering exactly? This article explores what 3D rendering is, why it's important, and how to get started.

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What is a 3D Rendered Image?

A 3D-rendered image is a two-dimensional (2D) image that has been created from a three-dimensional (3D) model using computer graphics cards and special software.

model using computer graphics cards

When digital artists and graphic designers create a 3D model, they use 3D rendering to turn the 3D model information into a 2D image that you can see on a flat surface like a TV screen, computer monitor, or piece of paper.

A 3D-rendered image can be a static image, i.e., a still image used in posters, ad banners, and print media. They can also be animated sequences used for advertisements, short clips, or even feature-length films.

Why is 3D Rendering Important?

Digital artists and designers put a lot of work into creating detailed 3D models of scenes, objects, and people. So, why not just use images of the completed 3D model as is? The simple reason is that people are surprisingly good at sensing their surroundings.

If you’ve ever seen an unrendered 3D model, you probably immediately noticed that it was unrealistic, even if the model is extremely detailed. That’s because the perspective, lighting, shadows, and subtle movements are all missing. Even if you saw a complete scene of 3D people and objects, everything would look flat and lifeless without the right rendering process to bring sunlight, reflections, environmental effects, and tiny movements that make a scene look more lifelike.

3D Rendering Model

As you can imagine, 3D rendering is critical for artists aiming to create a photorealistic scene — a scene that looks as close as possible to the real world. But even artists interested in non-photorealistic styles use 3D rendering to help them achieve a specific mood or effect on their work, much like how photographers use different lenses and filters to achieve different effects on their photographs.

What is Important for 3D Rendering?

Before thinking about the best 3D-rendering software, it’s important to understand the computer hardware that the software uses to create rendered images.

3D rendering relies on two main hardware components:

  • Computer Processing Unit (CPU)
  • Random Access Memory (RAM)
Random Access Memory (RAM)

To check your hardware if you're a Mac user, click on the Apple button on the top left corner of your screen, then on "About This Mac." If you use Windows 10, click on the Start menu, then the Settings button (the gear icon). Then scroll to the bottom of your settings and click on "About." From there, you'll be able to check your computer's hardware components.

Let’s look at both 3D rendering components in detail.

Computer Processing Unit (CPU)

3D rendering is extremely processor-intensive, which is why your computer processing unit (CPU) is so important. The better your CPU, the faster your computer can create 3D-rendered images. The two main measures of CPU capacity are the number of cores and clock speed, which is measured in gigahertz (GHz).

If you’re looking for a computer to create high-quality 3D rendered images quickly, aim for a processor with the highest clock speed and the highest number of cores you can afford. Some of the best 3D-rendering processors have six to eight cores and clock speeds of around 3.5 GHz.

Random Access Memory (RAM)

When you create a 3D-rendered image, your computer needs random access memory (RAM) — your computer’s “short-term memory” — to temporarily store calculations and results related to the rendering process. The more complex your scene, the more RAM your computer needs.

Most commercial laptops max out at 32 gigabytes (GB) of RAM, while some desktop computers come with 64GB of RAM or more.

What Happens if You Don't Have the Best Hardware for 3D Rendering?

Ideally, your computer would have a six-core 3.5GHz processor along with at least 32GB of RAM, but it's OK if your computer isn't quite that powerful. You'll still be able to make great 3D rendered images, but it might take longer for your rendering software to process everything.

If you're brand new to 3D rendering, most computers can easily handle simple rendering projects. As your experience in 3D rendering grows, later on, you may want to consider upgrading your computer to keep up with your new skills.

What is the Best 3D Rendering Software

Now that you know the basics of 3D rendering, you’re probably wondering which 3D rendering software is best. This will all depend on how you plan to use your 3D-rendered graphics.

Keep in mind that most 3D-rendering engines aren’t used as stand-alone software. Instead, different rendering engines are included in 3D graphics software packages. This makes it easier to model, render, edit, and animate your 3D project all in one space.

Let’s look at two of the most popular 3D-rendering software packages: Maya and Blender.


Maya is the industry standard for 3D-rendering software. If you’ve seen a Hollywood movie with computer-generated imagery (CGI), it was probably produced in Maya. Although a commercial Maya license is pricey, graphics professionals agree that Maya excels with its high render quality, straightforward interface, and texturing tools.

If you’re planning to start a career in 3D rendering for film or video games, learning Maya will add an essential skill to your toolbox.


Blender is an open-source software package, which means that it’s free to use. But don’t take “free” to mean “inferior.” Since its initial release in 2002, Blender has developed into a full-featured program with an easier learning curve than Maya. Graphics professionals also find that Blender renders faster with its Eevee rendering engine.

Anyone who starts using Blender will also appreciate the vast support community answering questions and providing helpful tips. If you’re a small production studio or a hobbyist, Blender is likely the best option.

Cinema 4D

Like Maya, Cinema 4D is a professional 3D-rendering software package use for animation as well as visual effects. It's especially good at motion graphics, which is why it's the 3D-rendering software of choice for for advertising and architecture. If you're interested in a 3D-rendering career that centers around these industries, then learning Cinema 4D is essential.

Rendering Roundup

Today, you’ve learned that:

  • 3D rendering is how digital artists and graphic designers turn a 3D model into a realistic 2D image that reacts to lighting, movement, and other environmental effects.
  • High-quality, fast 3D rendering requires a computer with good hardware.
  • Learning how to use popular 3D rendering software like Maya or Blender can help make the most of your rendering projects and advance your career in 3D rendering.

So, what’s the next step? To learn more, connect with the global design community at Daisi and learn how the most successful digital artists, graphic designers, and filmmakers use 3D rendering in a live class with a masterclass taught by an industry expert at Daisie.