Architectural illustration using CGI 

The evolution from pens to 3D

Today most architectural illustration and artwork you see is prepared using 3D. But most of us will recall just a few years ago when companies like ours struggled to get 3D artwork accepted by the architectural and property development fields. Before competition came about in the 3D architectural illustration and rendering world our biggest struggle was to get a client to actually use the technology.

Traditional architectural illustration and perspectives were the only service available for high quality artwork, and finding a good illustrator was like finding gold. The industry, like today's 3D version, had it's good/bad people and often missed deadlines. Architectural illustrations were hard to alter, were often "hit and miss" and usually inaccurate, although this was not always the fault of the illustrator.

New illustration technology

CGI (computer generated imagery) came about in the early 1990s. Steve Bell, of Archiform 3D, was an early adopter of the technology. At first, CGI took significantly longer to prepare an architectural image than illustrations created by hand. Computers were slow and the results, regardless of the operator's skill, were somewhat plastic and stale. But the technology improved, and in the mid 1990s we were able to combine 3D and hand painted artwork to achieve more flexibility, accuracy and realism.

By the late 1990s 3D architectural illustrations and renderings were starting to be taken seriously. Steve Bell was the first person to create a virtual prize home. This project consisted of two luxury home designs, detailed and presented in pure 3D, inclusive of interior shots. The project was an instant success, with client not needing to build until after the lottery was finalized! The only problem that came from this venture was that there was no work for the people that maintained the completed homes, took the photographs, handled the security around the site and designed the interiors, so our client had to reassess if it could cope with the pressure from them to build real homes first!

The 3D illustrating field gathered momentum, with it now proven that 3D was a viable alternative to not only traditional illustration but to real photography. Larger projects came about and the technology grew. Traditional architectural illustration was now taking the back seat.

Architectural illustration today

Today many printed publications refuse to accept anything other than high quality 3D illustrations and renderings and the 3D architectural rendering and illustration field has blossomed into a competitive, fast moving industry. Radical advances in technology are now further between as the artwork approaches "Photo-Perfect™". Hand painted architectural illustrations are in serious decline, with the more experienced artists finding it difficult to make the transition to CGI. We predict that the traditional market will dwindle further, but the best of the best will survive to still impress us with their artistic prowess.

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