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  • Writer's picturePedro J. López

Photorealism vs. Art in Architectural Renderings

When it comes to architectural visualization, there is a common misconception that the more realistic the renderings are, the better. However, this is not always the case. Depending on the purpose and the audience of the images, sometimes it is more effective to create something more conceptual, that leaves room for imagination and interpretation.

In this article, I will explain the differences between photorealistic and artistic renderings, and when to use each one. I will also show some examples of projects that illustrate these concepts.

photorealism vs art in architecture renderings

What is photorealism in renderings?

Photorealism is a style of rendering that aims to reproduce the appearance of reality as accurately as possible. Photorealistic renderings use advanced techniques such as ray tracing, global illumination, depth of field, reflections, shadows, textures, materials, and post-processing to create images that look like photographs.

Photorealism is often used for marketing and sales purposes, especially in the real estate industry. The goal is to show the potential buyers or investors how the project will look like when it is finished, and to convince them of its quality and value. Photorealistic renderings are also useful for technical documentation and presentation, as they can show the details and specifications of the design.

photorealism vs art in architectural visualization
Photorealistic interior rendering by Render4tomorrow / Client: Hurst Song Architekten

What are the advantages of photorealistic renderings in architecture?

Photorealism has several advantages when it comes to architectural visualization. Some of them are:

  • It can create a sense of realism and credibility, as the images look like they were taken from the real world.

  • It can appeal to the rational and logical side of the viewers, as they can see the details and specifications of the design.

  • It can attract and persuade potential buyers or investors, as they can see how the project will look like when it is finished.

photorealistic interior renderings for real estate
Photorealistic renderings for a residential development by Render4tomorrow / Client: Undisclosed

What is an artistic rendering?

Art is a style of rendering that does not aim to mimic reality, but rather to express a concept, a mood, a message, or a vision. Artistic renderings use techniques such as stylization, abstraction, simplification, exaggeration, distortion, color grading, and filters to create images that evoke emotions and sensations.

Artistic renderings are often used for architectural competitions and proposals, especially for conceptual and experimental projects where things are not fully designed.

The goal is to communicate the idea and the intention of the design, and to inspire the jury or the client. Artistic renderings are also useful for artistic expression and exploration, as they can show the creativity and originality of the designer.

artistic architecture interior rendering competition
Artistic interior rendering by Render4tomorrow / Client: Schwarzburg Architekten AG

Are artistic architecture renderings easier to make than photorealistic renderings?

This is a question that many architects and designers may ask themselves when they need to present their projects to clients, colleagues or the public. There is no definitive answer to this question, as different types of renderings may have different advantages and disadvantages depending on the context, purpose and audience of the presentation.

Both types of renderings have their own challenges and difficulties. Artistic renderings may require more creativity, imagination or artistic skills from the designer, as well as more interpretation or explanation from the viewer.

Photorealistic renderings may require more technical skills, software or hardware from the designer, as well as more data or information from the project. Therefore, it is not easy to say which type of rendering is easier to make than the other.

It may depend on the skills, preferences and goals of the designer, as well as on the expectations and needs of the viewer.

What type of renderings are more expensive, artistic or photorealistic ones?

The cost of architecture renderings depends on many factors, such as the complexity of the project, the level of detail required, the deadline, and the skills of the designer. Therefore, it is not possible to say that artistic or photorealistic renderings are more expensive in general, as both have their pros and cons.

Artistic renderings can convey the mood and atmosphere of a design, while photorealistic renderings can showcase the realistic appearance and materials of a building. Both types of renderings can impress clients and stakeholders, but they may also have different challenges and limitations.

architectural competition 3d visualization
Artistic rendering by Render4tomorrow / 1st Prize competition winning by Raumbureau

For example, artistic renderings may require more creativity and interpretation from the designer, while photorealistic renderings may demand more technical knowledge and software resources. Ultimately, the cost of architecture renderings depends on the specific needs and preferences of each project and client.


As you can see, photorealism and art are two different styles of rendering that have different purposes and audiences. Photorealism is more suitable for marketing and sales renderings, while art is more suitable for competition and proposal images. However, there is no definitive rule or formula for choosing one style over another. It depends on the project, the client, the designer, and the message.

The important thing is to be aware of the advantages and disadvantages of each style, and to use them wisely and creatively. Remember that rendering is not only a technical skill but also an artistic one.

Do you have a project in mind? Get in touch a request a quote now.

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