Is rendering in 2D obsolete with 3D available?

Hope I got your attention. :slight_smile:

I was curious if any designers out there who create polished renderings for clients forgo using PS and Ai, creating linework sketches, scanning them, creating paths, then “coloring” in; all that tedious stuff to create them and instead go the 3D rendering route, such as Keyshot and quick ideation in 3D such as Rhino or Solidworks?

I am a senior student this semester and as I get better at 3D, I have really enjoyed working in Rhino and using Keyshot for a lot of my polished stuff and it really cut my time in half not having to deal with paths, line work drawings, etc. I used to do PS/Ai renderings a few semesters ago but now I am spoiled with 3D applications. Is there anything wrong with that?

I am not saying I don’t use PS or Sketchbook Pro for quick ideation and coloring, but for more polished stuff, I don’t see a need to go the 2D route when 3D has worked a lot faster for my projects. Is this becoming the norm in the real ID world? or it is just about personal preference?


For me it depends on how form-heavy and texture/material heavy the product is. If it’s a very three dimensional product, I think it’s easier to do some decent sketches on paper/Wacom than to sink time into building a model. If it’s a very flat product (like a phone) it’s easier to show how you want surfaces to work in illustrator before you build a model. If it’s something with kind of moderate form details that you know won’t have a lot of materials/texture flashiness, then a 3D CAD model + render can be a good way to go as the model won’t take long to build and apply materials to.

I think the challenge with 3D renderings is the model driving them. The 3rd dimension plus lighting can make the jump from 2D/Illustrator to a 3D model pretty exponential in terms of time required to make your render look right. If you don’t have a ton of real product references in the kinds of materials, finishes, and textures you plan to use, it can also be more difficult to determine if the reason your render doesn’t look right is the result of an incorrectly modelled surface or a bad material or environmental setting. I also find you often have to doctor your model before rendering (tiny fillets to make sure unrealistically sharp edges still catch light, offsetting transparent parts, deleting features that aren’t seen but still bounce light and therefore eat processor time etc), so you end up with sort of a design intent and a rendering intent set of files which can be a hassle.

exactly, right tools for the job.

answer is, it doesn’t matter as long as its friggin awesome.

Ok, thanks for your opinions. I know some on here might think that it might take more time to do a 3D model for a simple polished rendering and would take less time to just sketch it, scan and color it in, but for my most recent school project, I found it easier to just do my ideation in Rhino and render in Keyshot in mulitple views and just photoshop additional details.

I guess whatever works for me and that is fast, huh?


It is not about finding the easiest, fastest way to do something.

It’s about finding the easiest way that fits your audience’s needs and fits into the project budget.

Thanks again for your feedback. I know in the real world environment, one should always leave 3D modeling as the final solution, when everything has been worked out first in sketch ideation phase and foam model creation and testing. But as a student, in my previous classes, we always have to submit a 3D model, so I wanted to save myself some time and use for my final presentation those renderings/views of my 3d Rhino model (rendered in Keyshot) with call outs explaining my design concept, instead of having to render it via Photoshop in 2D with paths, coloring etc. Since I have the 3D model built, I might as well render a couple of views to use, instead of doing it with 2D methods that would take additional time. I guess I was seeing if anyone else does that and if it was also done in a professional setting too by any designers on here?

By the way, I always ideate lots & then submit rough “sketchy” renderings done in PS or Sketchbook pro during the initial ideation phases, but reserve the Rhino/Keyshot renderings for final phases. I hope that makes sense. I am not cutting corners or going straight to 3D in the early stages.


Not all things are the same, you would struggle to do that process with a more complicated product with complex surfacing. Do you want to limit your employability with your process? Ideating in rhino is a solitary exercise, you are missing the collaborative nature of working off the screen.

For me personally sketching is much faster than creating 3d models for each of my concepts.
3D CAD is great for refining a final concept, but when you jump into CAD really early I think that most people will have a tendency to design something that is easily made in that CAD program. So you end up with something that looks like it was designed in a 3D program.


Just for clarificaiton: I do not go into 3D modelling early in the process. I leave that for later. I was merely trying to find out if anyone uses for FINAL polished crisp realistic renderings, a 2d method or a 3D method and if there anything wrong with my process. I do know BOTH ways of going about it, to increase employability. I just find since I am already building a 3D model towards the end, which is a requirement for our classes (otherwise, a guaranteed lower grade), I find it easier to use the renderings from that final process for my class presentations instead of having to render it with a 2D method.

Sorry if this is getting old. :slight_smile: I just got the impression that 2D methods of final polished renderings we are used to are now being replaced with 3D rendering programs such as Keyshot, etc? My understanding from all the replies is that as long as I don’t jump straight into 3D for my concepting, there are many ways of skinning the rendering cat? Thanks to everyone thus far for your input. I will now drop this topic unless anyone has anything further to add. :slight_smile:

PS- As of this writing, I just realized that certain industries, such as footwear and softgoods, use more PS and AI for final polished ortho renderings and rarely use 3D, so I guess it also depends on which industry you work for too?

and the answer again is that it depends!

OK, try going to a high level keyshot render of a piece of footwear. It will take you a week, where a photoshop render would take you 2 hours. Flip it for a smartphone, where it makes more sense to do it in 3d because it is dominated by a display, and how you bring together some very specific components in a unique way.

It is not a question of this OR that… it is a matter of this AND that.

There is a progression in “tightness” that goes through the design process. Maximum flexibility at the initial stage, maximum definition as it is complete goes to manufacturing.

Keyshot renders are crystal clear and defined, the viewer accepts them as finished work, discussion become very channeled and specific. If there is still room for play in the exploration, it is better to A), not have to model every detail, and B), fuzz up or obscure certain finishing details to allow the design to breathe.

My own process has grown to rough model in 3D and render and then use hand over work for presentations. I need all parties to understand that there is both room for evolution, and that the design is not finished and ready to hand to tooling.