Best/easiest Photorealistic 3D rendering program?

Sorry if this topic has been posted a ton of times, but any help would be appreciated.
My co. is looking for the best way to take our products/concepts and put them in a more realistic light with 3D rendering capabilities. We have a very strong compentency in SolidWorks and Pro/E (where all the surfacing and modeling would actually happen) and we need a program with a minimal learning curve and top quality photo realistic rendering program.
Heard and seen good things about the new Photoworks, but I’m kinda skeptical, as its not the “alias or maya” name I used to hearing with best of the best.
Also heard that 3d Studio is fairly complex…i have messed around with it a bit and it seems confusing.
Also we currently have Rhino/flamingo…which is labor intensive to get what you want, but its a good bargain I suppose.
Any help would be appreciated.

I use SolidWorks which has PhotoWorks built in but switched to Maxwell Render. I think it is more logical than PhotoWorks - but renders do take a long time. I usually render over night, to save my sanity.

If you have a, simple, model that you want rendered send it to my email address I’ll post the results here.

I’m a huge fan of vray, which used to require 3dsmax, but now there is a version out for rhino. the quality is on par with maxwell, but doesn’t use a brute force method, which means you can speed things up significantly. i don’t believe the rhino version is as fully featured as the standard vray for max, but that may also be do to the more specific needs of most rhino users. another bonus, the vray guys have about the best forum around, there are a ton of users helping each other out and the developers themselves are very accessible. its funny how much of an impact a detail like that has made vray enjoyable to use (its gotten me out of a jam or two also!).
$800 bucks

I’ve also heard great things about image studio from alias, which is stand alone so you don’t need studio tools. you can drop a pro/e part directly into it without having to export as an iges or step file.

$1500 bucks

I’ve been too lazy and cheap to buy/learn another rendering program, so I’ve stuck with Photoworks. If you know how to throw the right switches it produces a decent render. This took 4 minutes to render at high res settings. I like the seamless process of using your engineering model for rendering.

I have to recommend Vray as well. I haven’t used it, but my partner produced some amazing renderings with it. At the time it was relatively new to him, but the forums online gave him good support.

Check these out:

3D studio is complex indeed and cost also way more than rhino. The choice I suggest if you already have Rhino is definitively Vray. There is a ton of tutorials and forum on that rendering engine so in a few weeks you should already be able to have photorealistic results. Maxwell takes way too much time to render, if you know how to tweak your settings right you can do some interesting results in no time with vray. The render below took less than 20 minutes, vray.


i tried to teach myself 3D studio max and it was a disaster. I got some good stuff out of it but there are SO many setting and adjustments you can make that I just couldnt get my head around them.
THEN i started using Cinema 4D and it really is a lot easier. The interface is very user friendly and if you figure out some of the animation stuff on it you can get some great video results. You can download a free trail form ther site and play around with it. its only about $800-$900 i think. I use solidworks most of the time and save as VRML and import and it works fine. I dont know how to post images like everyone above but i have loads of renders i set up and render in 20min or so.

I never used Cinema 4D but a lot of people around me are using it. It really seem easy to use as Shelliestar said. Plus, the renders looks really great also.

The BEST way? - is to call us. Don’t spend your design time trying to perfect your 3d skills or “figure it out on your own time”. Only to figure out at 3am Friday night that it takes more time and power than management would pay for in this years budget.

In addition, the resources required in hardware and software to build a professional pipeline do not add up unless you are planning to create a full time department, with a lot of technology, time (years) and labor to throw at it.

We have 10 years of 3d chops combined with an extensive library of 3d elements and materials that can be applied to your design work within days.

PS – thanks to asango for kicking us out of #1 on google for “3d rendering Chicago”. He knows we ARE #1 in chicago for 3d rendering and animation!

PS – thanks to asango for kicking us out of #1 on google for “3d rendering Chicago”. He knows we ARE #1 in chicago for 3d rendering and animation!

haha. no problem. a little competition is good, right?!

easy=image studio

Call me old school, but I’m still a fan of raytracing in Studiotools. Stuff just looks so slick.

Image Studio is pretty easy to pick up and can also produce some pretty nice stuff.

Lately, I’m starting to see some decent stuff from Photoworks too…I need to give Photoworks 2007 a proper try.

Not sure what level you are, but I would try to find something that works well with your current workflow. After a while it starts to suck having to jump between different software for modeling and rendering.


This is just like the “which CAD package is best” pissing match.

Anymore there is no BEST rendering package. Some compliment your CAD package better than others.

The main thing that makes a rendering package good is YOU. Your understanding of the physics behind the lighting. Good environment set up. Knowing when to use bump maps vs. procedural maps, etc. etc. The list goes on and on.

You can get damn great renderings from Blender (Free) or you can pay for something like Maya or 3DS Max or (fill in the blank).

Worry less about the software and worry about what is needed to make a good rendering.


There is no difference.

The only time I would actually recommed a modelling/rendering package is if someone brought to market an affordable app with GI which didn’t cost more than the computer I run it on…