As soon as it first appeared, 3D technology pretty much dethroned its predecessor, 2D. Modern architects still use 2D renderings, but we can safely say that 3D rendering is a much more popular service today.
However, it doesn't mean that 3D is always better. Each option has its strengths and weaknesses, as well as advantages and benefits.
Both 2D and 3D rendering give professional artists and their clients a way to see their own ideas in digital environments and the physical ideation of the new property, building, structure, or object. Each rendering technique provides different results.
Depending on what you want to do, it's wise to know the difference between the two. While 2D and 3D differ in both perspective and creation, the biggest difference is in the ease of making changes.
2D images are much easier to change or make changes to the design. Since 3D rendering is much more complicated, you can't change just one element. You have to make more elements as each element is interconnected with the other.
On the other hand, a 2D image is much simpler, and it allows you to change just one element without interfering with other elements. With all this in mind, let's delve deeper into the details.
3D rendering explained
By definition, 3D is "the process of creating two-dimensional images (e.g. for a computer screen) from a 3D model. The images are generated based on sets of data dictating what color, texture, and material a certain object in the image has".
When it comes to concept, 3D rendering has the most similarity with photography. Just like taking a photo, a rendering software tool effectively points a camera in the right direction and angle to compose a photo. However, the main difference between 3D rendering and photography is the level of photorealism.
That's why digital lighting is one of the most important elements of 3D rendering. It's essential for creating realistic and detailed 3D renderings. Since 3D rendering easily became one of the most popular architectural processes, it has many different techniques on its own.
The goal of each technique, new or old, is to capture a photo based on how light reflects on objects, just like it does in real life. In 3D rendering, choosing lighting and angles is among the most vital steps toward creating the most photorealistic renderings that have the power to leave the clients in awe.
When it comes to different 3D rendering techniques, we're going to name but a few:
● Rasterization – used widely today for real-time rendering, rasterization is a fast form of 3D rendering, perfect for interactive GUI, simulations, and computer games.
● Ray casting – eliminates all the issues that come with rasterization like rendering wrong objects or overlapping surfaces.
● Ray tracing – perfect 3D rendering technique for depicting light that accurately simulates refractions, reflections, and shadows.
● Rendering equation – one of the latest 3D rendering techniques, it simulates how light is emitted by multiple sources just like in real life.
3D rendering most popular applications include prototyping, engineering, movies, 3D animations, marketing, and gaming.
2D rendering explained
2D rendering techniques involve elements of both landscaping and color and are entirely based on perpendicular and symmetrical lines. A 2D rendering wouldn't be possible if the symmetry wasn't involved. 2D renders don't include specific perspective or sides.
There are just width and length dimensions. Mathematically speaking, we're talking about X and Y axes. Every element in this world is limited to the 2D plane. That's why 2D renderings are based entirely on direct straight on-shots.
Those who are more into geometry than math might be more comfortable with 2D renderings. However, if it's communicating to clients that you're after, nothing speaks better about your ideas and intentions than 3D rendering.
Creating 3D and 2D models isn't the same. There are a few key differences between the two methods that can make a great difference with your clients. You have to know which type to use as this can make or break your relationship with clients.
With that in mind, there are three main differences between the two rendering techniques:
● Perspective – 2D renderings allow you to take a look at your work from just one angle. Regardless of your renderings being physical or digital, you can't explore your 2D image from different angles as the 2D plane is unrotateable.
3D doesn't have such downsides. You can rotate and explore your 3D models from every angle necessary. Whether it's a physical or digital model you're working on, you can rotate and move it around to explore the same focal point from different angles and perspectives.
● Creation – 2D and 3D images are created by different principles. Geometry is the main element of 2D rendering because a 2D model requires symmetry, shapes, and lines. On the other hand, 3D renderings are solely based on mathematics.
● Alterations – 2D renderings are easy to manipulate as they allow you to make changes to the initial design. While 2D images allow you to change just one element, 3D rendering is much more complex, and its elements are interconnected.
If you change one, the change applies to the other elements as well, thus making the process of altering the design much more complicated.
There's also one more important difference between 2D and 3D rendering, and that is an element such as direct image control.
2D rendering includes the use of a user-friendly software tool, whereas 3D rendering tools are more complicated to handle. Therefore, the entire process of creating 2D images is much simpler in general.
Appropriate times to use 2D renders
Since 2D rendering includes real-life images, or at least is incredibly photorealistic, 2D images are simply perfect for product presentations. Retailers, vendors, and manufacturers mostly use 2D images to showcase their products, most notably accessories, home improvement projects, and furniture.
When it comes to presenting your products using 2D rendering, everything matters. From background and image quality to the position, angle, lighting, etc. 2D is also much more affordable compared to 3D rendering, which is one of the reasons why the e-design industry is very interested in 2D rendering techniques.
If you're working with someone that can understand the design plan and envision the space, 2D rendering is simply perfect. That's why 2D rendering is mostly used to sell furniture, interior and exterior design pieces, as well as landscape projects.
2D rendering is also used in architecture as it's simply ideal for creating 2D architectural illustrations. These illustrations offer several advantages for architects, such as:
● Affordability – 2D is more affordable than 3D. In addition, it's cheaper to hire a 2D artist as there's an abundance of 2D artists on the market.
Since architectural illustrations consist of two images tops, you don't have to break your marketing budget to get your hands on decent pieces of work. This is one of the reasons why 2D renderings are used for both marketing and advertising purposes.
● Personalization – we already mentioned that 2D renderings are simpler to change, which is why they're a perfect choice for artists that have clients that ask for personalization of their ideas. Artists can show in real-time what their ideas will look like, making the images more personal.
● Turnaround time – since 2D images are simpler to create, it all comes down to your ability to communicate the details with your clients. If they provide all the necessary details, artists can provide first draft sketches in a timely manner.
● Psychological uniqueness – the whole point of art is to resonate with the audience. In other words, your clients must be able to connect to your artwork emotionally.
From a psychological point of view, this can be turned into an effective marketing strategy. If 2D images drive emotions, using them to sell spaces and buildings makes sense.
● Variety – when it comes to 2D rendering, there are different artistic styles. Depending on what your clients want, there are different materials and sketching techniques to satisfy their needs.
Appropriate times to use 3D renders
While 2D rendering is perfect, so some industries, 3D rendering is more popular today simply because it can literally be used for anything. If you're not short on budget, 3D rendering is both convenient and economical.
However, it's the ability to view your design before manufacturing or construction that really makes 3D rendering stand out. Because of that, 3D images are mostly used in said industries as they facilitate better overall designs and refinement.
If you pair your 3D rendering efforts with animation, you can create complex simulations to leave even the most demanding of clients in awe. With the latest advancements in 3D modeling software, there's a little you can't do actually.
The most common industries that heavily rely on 3D rendering include:
● Architectural Rendering
● CGI in Movies
● Medical Imaging
● Safety Training
● Environment Simulations
● Product Prototyping
● Virtual Reality
● Video Games
When we compare the pricing of 2D and 3D images, it's safe to say that 2D rendering is significantly more affordable than 3D rendering. And the price difference isn't something irrelevant as it can be 2 to 3 times more. This is very important information, especially if you're required to operate on a limited budget.
3D rendering requires more man-hours, effort, work, planning, and so on. Because of that, it takes more time to develop 3D images and provide that photorealistic 3D rendered feel that makes the difference.
To achieve such an effect, it takes post-production works, rendering and test rendering hours, lighting setups, accessories placement, planting placements, texturing works, and detailed modeling.
Achieving a photorealistic 3D rendering requires skill, knowledge, experience, and expertise. Hence the high price. 2D rendering requires less time and skill involved.
However, it's also essential to mention that it all depends on the perspective you want to achieve, as each perspective includes a different price range. In 3D rendering, the price depends on the texturing works, modeling, and view required.
Software options for both 2D and 3D rendering
Now that you know the main differences between 2D and 3D rendering, as well as the price range and when to use each technique, let's go swiftly through some of the best software options for both techniques.
Your selection of tools greatly depends on what you want to do or are instructed to do. With that in mind, here are some of the best options for 2D rendering to look into:
- Animaker – online 2D animation software tool with an abundance of charts, maps, BGs, properties, icons, and animated characters. Ideal for businesses.
- Animate CC – a perfect tool for designing interactive vector animations and bitmap for the web, apps, and games.
- Synfig – an open-source 2D animation and vector graphics software for Linux, OSX, and Windows.
- Krita – a user-friendly 2D animation program for customizing your workflow with over 100 professional brushes.
- Pencil2d – a software tool for 2D hand-drawn animation that is lightweight and user-friendly.
When it comes to 3D rendering software options, here are the top five 3D modeling tools:
- AutoCAD Architecture – with integrated functions and tools, AutoCAD Architecture is a perfect tool for creating 3D models to support your 2D efforts.
- ArchiCAD – designed by architects, this is a perfect all-architectural software tool for generating hyper-realistic visualizations, 3D models, and 2D floor plans.
- Google SketchUp – the ultimate 3D modeling tool with a range of amazing features and options, simply perfect for using augmented reality, virtual reality, or mixed reality for virtual tours.
- Rhinoceros 3D – used mostly for modeling of complex buildings, Rhino 3D is a user-friendly tool, compatible with CAD files and perfect for exporting or importing 2D drawings or models.
- Autodesk's 3ds Max – similar to AutoCAD, 3ds Max, is specifically designed for 3D modeling.
Understanding the key differences between 2D and 3D is the best way to determine the best option for your needs. Each rendering technique has its own ups and downs, and it eventually comes down to what you feel more comfortable using.
If math is your stronger side, 3D rendering will probably be more up in your alley. If it's a geometry that's your real strength, perhaps 2D rendering would be more appropriate. It also depends on your skills and budget, as well as the nature of the project you're working on.