A non-photo-realistic 3d visual of an exterior of a house. Created by 3dvisuals.co.uk using Piranesi software.

3dvisuals.co.uk looks at Non-Photorealistic Rendering

Sometimes the goal of a 3d visual isn’t about accurate photo-realism, but about giving a feel or flavour for a concept or design.

At 3dvisuals.co.uk we have always held a very soft spot for a lovely piece of software called Piranesi.

Essentially, Piranesi uses a special form of 3D image file allowing materials and finishes to be applied to surfaces to create a final non-photo-realistic looking image.

It does this very cleverly by using the all important z-depth information that is known for each pixel within the image (z-depth being the distance into an image away from the viewer’s eye-point).

In the gray-scale image below, it is clear that the pillars and railings in the foreground are closer to the viewer’s eye-point than the garage door and chimney stack further towards the back.  They will therefore have lower (smaller) z-depth values than objects that are further away from our viewpoint (for example the sky will have a z-depth of infinity).

A 3D Model of a house, ready for materials to be applied in 3D non-photorealistic rendering software, Piranesi

Furthermore, during the creation of such an image file (using 3d software such as 3ds Max), each particular object, or element will have been assigned an object name (eg. door, window frames, glass, grass, rooftiles etc) as well as a material name also.

What one can do with all this information within Piranesi is to assign Piranesi’s own real-world materials to each of these 3d objects and elements to give it that non-photorealistic look.

Furthermore, Piranesi is clever enough to wrap those materials intelligently around geometry, adding perspective as well all thanks to the z-depth information contained within.

Finally, Piranesi’s internal 3d model library allows for populating the scene with its own vegetation, plants, trees, cars and people as well as a adding a realistic background of trees, sky and clouds to add even more depth and realism.

Even the position of the sun to give shadows and depth is possible.

At this point of proceedings our image is complete in the sense that it does fulfil the role of being a non-photorealistic rendering.

Non-photorealistic 3D model with materials applied, ready for artistic effects

However, one can go one step further by applying different styles to our image to create any number of artistic effects and looks.

Here is a painterly effect on canvas as an example.

3dvisuals.co.uk - first non-photo-realistic rendering - with a painterly effect

In some instances – perhaps where we’re looking to simply convey a feel for a space or photo-realism isn’t first and foremost the largest requirement from our 3d visuals, non-photorealistic renders and imaging are well worth considering.

An early 3d visual created in 1997 by 3dvisuals.co.uk of a 3d office interior.

Adding Commercial Value how 3dvisuals.co.uk started – our Founder’s Story

It was July 1997, though stills feels like yesterday.

The events which took place during this period, pursuing my excitement with a passion that was unreal was to lead to a series of life changing events.

I only wish I could share all of what happened, but for now, here is but a snippet……

I’d only been working for three months as a newly qualified CAD Technician at the UK’s most successful Corporate Interiors Design and Build company and was itching to get some real world experience using the magical software that had me mesmerized; AutoDesk’s 3D Studio Release 4, the wonderful piece of software that could create photographic looking images of “things before they even existed”.

I’d always had a very keen interest in photography from my early teenage years, but never ventured to become the Photographer I’d dreamed of being. But here I was at my company desk, with this amazing software and a computer and with a second chance to be that photographer in my chosen field, Corporate Interiors, only this time making photographs without a camera.

I was in paradise ! The Geeky Techie side of me meeting my creative other-side to produce tangible items which people could see, feel, and hopefully be impressed by.

The only obstacle I had in front of me at my then new company was my CAD Manager.  He had garnered the most experience using 3D Studio and so was always getting the lion’s share each time a new project presented itself – he was creating amazing 3D images that were making other’s go “wow” and I wasn’t. And he wasn’t passing over any of the spoils to the rookie CAD Technician I was at that time without some sort of fight.

Needless to say, I didn’t need to wait too long.

My impatience and subtle protestations didn’t go unnoticed and he kindly promised that the very next request for a 3D visual, whatever its size and importance to the company, would be assigned to me.


Well, that day came, and with it my opportunity to shine or to fail.

Failure was not an option.

Unbeknownst to me at the time, but the furniture division of my esteemed company were pitching for the company’s largest ever project and the team wanted to create amazing visuals that would blow the competition out of the water.

The client ?  None other the BMW.

Truthfully, the story is a long one and always reminds me how magical those times were back then.  The many hours I spent in my free time to create the company’s first ever walkthrough animation can not be gotten into detail here.  Nor that I’d surprised the company (and the entire board of directors) with it, and they me, by suggesting we show it at the company’s pitch to BMW – with me being present there as well.

After we’d won the contract with BMW (over £1m of Haworth Office Furniture), everyone agreed, not least the then CEO of Maris Interiors, Richard Griggs, that the 3d visualisation material I’d created had played the critical role in convincing BMW to choose our company for the contract.  Simply put, our proposals were the most understandable and convincing to visualise, and secured the business of this major blue chip client (note: a lot of these visuals at the time represented highly new presentation methods which had never before been used by the company).

The commercial value of 3d visuals for our business, the design and build of corporate office interiors, had been tested and the results were outstanding.

And my position in the company was to be altered forever – with an almost instant promotion, and an almost instant larger paycheck.

And I was no longer ever to be called a CAD Technician (in fact, I was asked what I’d like my job title to be and I chose Presentations Designer).

The image you see here is the only one we have left of that project in our archives  – the other images I’d created for it, including the ground-breaking animated walkthrough are no longer available.

Epilogue – I was to learn very quickly in my career as a 3D Visualiser that giving presentation staff the very best 3d visuals and presentation material to pitch with is one of the greatest motivators they can be given and definitely leads to greater new business success.