When it comes to 3D rendering, I am a complete and total noob. So much so, that before writing this article, I had absolutely no idea where to get started. Like many, I had tons of assumptions and misconceptions, but after talking with a few artists (including my good friend Lewdfutasy) I discovered that this increasingly popular hobby (and career for some) is much more within reach that I thought!

If you’re like me, you might be considering getting into 3D, but you may not know where to start. I am going to do my best to help you out, because I am right there with you!

(For those of you who know the game already, good for you and thanks for the great art!)

Defining Rendering

What the heck is a 3D render, anyway? It’s not a question everyone readily knows the answer to. Simply put, a render is a 3D model that is processed into a 2D image. Various methods can be used to make a 3D model photorealistic: things like texturing are added to the image to create different levels of realism and solidity. Depending on the method used and the level of detail desired, this process can take seconds, hours, or even days for a single image to be completed.

Misconception 1: Software is expensive

Believe it or not, there are several amazingly powerful programs that you can download and use totally for free! The caveat to this, of course, is that if you plan to commercialize your rendered product, (selling image sets for example) you’ll have to pay for a product license. If you’re just starting out, you’re probably not going to be too concerned about turning a profit, but even if you plan to delve into it seriously enough to sell your renders, at the very least you’ll be able to learn the software for free. 

Now, there’s a ton of software out there, both free and paid, but we’re going to be talking about two of the more popular programs, Daz3D and Blender, which are both initially free.

misconception 2:  I need a crazy powerful, expensive rig to make renders

Actually, no. While it’s true that both the speed and quality of a render can be improved with superior hardware, the minimum system requirements for both Daz3D and Blender are very low. Daz3D, with as little as 2GB of ram, a basic video card and at least a core 2 duo (this processor is quite old!) will run. The software works on Mac, too! 

Now, I’m not saying you’ll be able to push the software anywhere near its limits with specs like this, but most modern computers, including laptops, have substantially more processing capability than the required minimum.

Got a gaming rig? If so, guess what? You’re probably already in a good place to start rendering. If you’ve got a PC that can run modern AAA titles at 60+FPS, you’ve likely got the ram, GPU and processing power to make some solid renders.

Misconception 3: Learning the software is really hard

This one is fairly relative. For someone with no computer knowledge whatsoever, yes, learning how to use 3D software might be akin to learning a new language, but for someone who knows their way around a keyboard and mouse, the process may be easier than you think.

One of the coolest things about both Daz3D and Blender is that they offer tons of premade models! You don’t have to make every little thing from scratch, (although you can if you want to) there are literal troves of free, premade models that you can apply to your images.

There are so many great learning resources for new learners, as well. One only needs to watch a few youtube videos to get the basics down, and many artists will walk you through each step and have you rendering images within thirty minutes or less.

A few tips

  • Most artists use more than one program, often utilizing one over the other for specific purposes. Familiarize yourself with one, but experiment with others.
  • Take a look at your favorite 3D artist’s work and try to figure out what you like best about it. I’m not suggesting that you try to copy it, but it may help you figure out your own style and the sort of aesthetic you’d like to focus on.

That’s all fine and dandy, but what does the process look like?

I’m glad you asked! Once you have the software, you’ll need a reference image, or at least a very good idea of what you want to build. For beginners, I would recommend working from an image of a real object.


Once you have a reference, the software is used to make a model. The model can be made manually, but many choose to upload the image and work around it. There are also pieces of software that will turn the image itself into a model! This is where you’re definitely going to want a tutorial.

(A 3D model of the reference image, by LewdFutasy) 


This step only applies to animations and loops. Basically, a skeletal structure for movement is created within the still image, giving it a foundation for movement. Animating can be much harder on a processor and GPU, and longer periods of time are usually required to get the desired result. 

This process can also be tedious and I would suggest focusing on stills before trying to get into animation. Fun fact: you can always go back to old images and try to set them up for animation once you’ve learned the ropes.

A video sequence test from Lewd Futasy


Once the model is completed, it’s ready to be made pretty. This usually involves ‘mapping’ textures over surfaces, much like wallpaper, but it can be far more intensive than that. Other things like shading, specularity (reflection) and filtering can be applied. Again, start with the basics and work your way up.

Lighting especially is extremely important in renders! I can’t stress this enough: pictures, rendered or otherwise, don’t have any actual depth, but good lighting is paramount to balancing a scene and making shadows and reflections look natural and believable.


Once the model is ‘complete’ it’s ready to be rendered! This is where you get to sit back and let the computer do the work. There are many different options to choose from, but most people get great results simply by choosing medium quality settings. Depending on your rig, I would recommend following a tutorial and/or starting with lower qualities to get a feel for the best time/quality ratio. The higher quality and higher resolution a render is, the longer it’s going to take to finish, but most medium quality still renders shouldn’t take too long.

And of course, at the end of it all, once your image is rendered, you can use it as a standalone product or apply it to a more…specific purpose…

(Image by LewdFutasy)

There you have it! As a disclaimer of sorts, I will say that, like everything, there are a lot of X factors involved with 3D. 

I’m not saying it’s easy: like all art forms, it takes time and dedication to get good at it. Yes, some people are naturally talented, but nobody who has found success with it has done it on a fluke.

I am saying: I don’t think the process as a whole is nearly as complicated as it seems initially. Computers have gotten a helluva lot better (and cheaper!) in the last few years, and the art form is more accessible than it used to be. If you’re looking for studio quality renders on cut rate equipment, you will definitely be disappointed, but If you have a mid to high range computer and the willingness and patience to follow a tutorial, there shouldn’t be anything stopping you from trying your hand at it if you want. Most every 3D artist starts with minimal equipment and works their way up; who knows, you might become the next big name in 3D!


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