Furniture Design Rendering
(Autodesk 3dsmax 2010 and Earlier)
Welcome to “Furniture Design Rendering”. In this tutorial we will cover the concepts of putting together a rendering that a furniture manufacturer and outlet would prefer. This tutorial is more of an overview of the entire process, rather than a complete modeling guide in 3d. Throughout the last year I have been working with a furniture company in Sweden, providing quick renderings at very cheap prices. This could be called you’re guide to breaking into that niche of the industry a little more easily.
Author: Ryan W. Knope
Ryan W. Knope is a freelance 3D / 2D Artist / Consultant with 13 years experience in the 3D and 2D industry. His main artistic love lies with interior and exterior rendering although he takes on just about every type of graphics work. Ryan is also the architectural / interior voice for 3D Artist Magazine’s Question and Answer Panel. He lives with his wife Krista, in sunny Denver, Colorado.
- Programs: Autodesk 3dsmax 2010, Adobe Photoshop CS4
- Difficulty: Beginner To Medium (Discussion Concepts May Be More Advanced.)
Step 1: Understanding The Concept
These types of renderings often need to be completed quickly and cheaply. Understanding the idea or feeling behind the concept will save a ton of time. The rendering above was created for a Swedish client of mine. He wanted a rendering that would appeal to his Scandinavian client base. In this case, a bright, elegant and simple scene setting that promotes luxury.
With this in mind, simple is often better. I tend to only create the essentials in 3D and complete everything else in Adobe Photoshop. You can see the mix of 2D and 3D elements in the image below. The Blue shows elements totally completed in Photoshop. The Red Shows the elements created in 3dsmax. Touch ups over the entire rendered image is also important.
Step 2: Deciding On A Color Scheme Early
When producing quick renderings, I like to get a scheme from the client at the start along with some samples of exteriors that fits his or her fancy. Then I pick a background image, in this case the mountain and ocean, then get approval to build off of the color scheme tied to that.
For example, the wood decking ties into the color of the mountains, the pool ties in the water / sky color in the background and the gray pavers along the bounds of the deck compliment the black sofa base, providing a nice accent.
Step 3: Testing The Camera Angle
First create your main base object. This is often the floor or patio. I created the wood decking by drawing a spline, applying an edit poly modifier and extruding it to the desired height.
Next I try to match my camera angle quickly, then take a screen shot and see if the background matches well enough. Most of the time I just match the angle by eye without importing the background into 3dsmax. Paste your screen shot into Photoshop and place your background behind. With the magic wand tool, select and delete the non occupied area.
You should only have to set the tolerance to 1, since your background in max should be one solid color.
Step 4 – Creating The Patio Walls
These elements were started as renderable splines with 4 sides and an angle of 45 degrees. This angle will turn it straight instead of diagonal / diamond.
Then I applied an edit poly modifier and edited the vertices. The outer wall was split horizontally with “slice plane”. Box UVW mapping was applied after along with a concrete stone material. This material is not nearly as important as the top paver stone material and the other more prevalent maps.
Step 5 – Creating The Wood Deck Material
The wood decking material is extremely important. This is the closest material to the camera and ties in most of the image. With this in mind, care has to be taken to make this material the most realistic and pleasing to the eye.
Keep in mind that the orientation of the decking can be used as a guide to the eyes if the grain and boards are running toward the furniture.
I start with the default Arch + Design material. I then edit the reflectivity and glossiness. You can view the different image maps and settings of the material below.
Place a planking image in your diffuse map and test the render for color and contrast. Then I place the same map in for the bump, test render and then adjust the contrast in photoshop and save it as a new image.
For displacement I open the diffuse image map in photoshop. Create a new layer and fill it with white. Adjust the white layer opacity so that the wood is just barely visible. Next draw a black line with the brush tool on a new layer, press ALT and drag a copy of the line between each of the planks. Repeat this until all of the centers are filled. Save this image map and apply it to the displacement slot.
I set my displacement to 1.5, but you will have to test this in accordance to the displacement render settings.
Step 6 – Modifying The Global Displacement Settings
The global displacement settings in the render dialogue control the overall amount of displacement along with detail adjustment settings. Look below for an explanation of each setting. Change the settings and test render the wood decking to see how it changes.
Step 7 – Adding The Furniture
For this blocky modern style of furniture you can often start with a “Chamfer Box” or “Box”.
For the sofa base I used a box with Edit Poly, and extruded faces as necessary. Once I had the general structure built and measured properly I went ahead and chamfered / beveled the edges in “Face” mode.
The pillows were created by using a multi-segmented chamfer box with a large bevel. I then used soft selection in the Edit Poly modifier to create a more smoothly curved surface. Renderable splines were used for the pin line ridges at the edge. The feet are simply renderable splines with 4 sides and the angle set to 45 degrees.
Step 8 – The Furniture Angle
With the focus of this rendering being the furniture, the angle of the subject definitely matters. Generally speaking, the furniture should be angled to show inside and outside edges. It is basically the same concept as car photography.
The importance of this is showing the depth of the furniture. It is difficult to tell what an item looks like if it is shot straight on. So, either angle the shot or angle the furniture, even if it wouldn’t be placed in such a fashion in real life.
Step 9 – Aligning The Feet With The Deck
Skip this step if you are not going to use displacement.
There is a slight issue with using material displacement for flooring… you cannot visually see how far it is displacing, which means it can be difficult to line up objects that lay flat on the floor.The only way that I am aware of solving this is with zooming into the floor in the perspective view. Angle it so that you see the space between the floor and the feet of the sofa and test render, each time moving it closer, until it is just touching.
This process has been quite time consuming in a few of my projects.
Once you have one object aligned, you simply need to move the rest to the same plane or height.
To bypass this you could apply displacement as a modifier, but you will then have to create a floor object that has a extremely high amount of segments, which will slow the viewport’s down quite a bit and make the entire process of working with the scene slower. I try to stick with material displacement when I can.
Step 10 – Setting Up The Sun – Softening Shadows
As with all of my tutorials, I used Mental Ray.
Go to Create > Systems > Daylight. Drag out your system, then go to the modify panel. Select “MR Sun” and “MR SKY” from the drop down menu’s. Next go to setup and adjust the time to match the angle of light you prefer.
If your are creating an outdoor scene then you should set the “Exposure Control” to ” MR Photographic Exposure Control” and change the preset to “Outdoor Daylight Clear Sky”.
Now, with the sun system selected, go to the modify panel and under “Sun Basic Parameters” you will see an option labeled “Softness”. To have softer sun shadows you can adjust this as needed. The higher you raise this value, the more you should raise the sample value. With more samples you will achieve a smoother gradient of shadow. Unfortunately this will also raise render times.
Step 11 – Render Settings
In a scene that has a lot of glossy reflections I tend to use a minimum sample rate of 4 Min to 16 Max. If your scene has more than a million polygons, I would also turn on BSP2. Make sure Finalgather is checked.
If you have a scene that is half indoors with interior lights and half outdoors, then you will want to turn on Global Illumination most likely. Most furniture manufacturers and distributors want to use the renderings for the web, printed catalogs and boards. With this wide range in mind, I always render my still images at 5000 pixels wide or more.
Now it is time to render your image. Save it as a .png.
Step 12 – Post Production 1
Backdrop: Place the backdrop image behind the rendered layer. Place it in a pleasing position that makes sense for the camera view.
Pool Water: Finding a quality image of pool water is the first step. Next drag the image into working Photoshop file. Make a selection (Magic Wand) of the flat blue area as seen above. Zoom in and make sure that you have it entirely selected. Go back to the new water image layer and press CTRL SHIFT I to invert the selection and press delete. Now you can cycle through the blending modes and find a mode that works. I used “Multiply”. You may need to overlay a few layers to get the effect you desire.
Adding the backdrop reflection into the pool is next. Duplicate the backdrop layer. Place it above the water layer. Using the “Move” tool, with “Show Transform Controls” active, grab the top handle and drag it down flipping the orientation vertically. Lower the opacity and cycle through the blending modes. You can use “Multiply” or “Normal” with a low opacity (There are other options as well). You can either erase the unneeded areas with the eraser tool or CTRL click the layer thumbnail in layer properties and press CTRL SHIFT I and delete as we just did before.
You should have a result similar to the image below.
Step 13 – Post Production 2
Softening Effect: Adding a softening effect is very easy and adds a lot of character / mood. Create a new layer at the top of the set. Go to Select > Color Range, a window will pop up, now change “Select” to “Highlights”. Press OK. Now go to Select > Modify > Feather, this will bring up a window. I usually use a feather radius of about 30 pixels when working on a large image size. Make sure you have the new layer selected and fill the selection with white. The layer opacity will need to be adjusted. A value of about 20% – 30% should work.
Painting: With a quick production render such as this, painting can be super valuable to your time schedule and the final product. Sometimes reflections show up that you really don’t want in the rendering. For example, the wood decking back behind the furniture takes on a bluish / gray hue. It would take longer in 3D to resolve this issue than just painting a brown overlay in Photoshop (Seen Below). Accentuated shadows are another item that I often paint in. This helps give the rendering a bit more depth and creates slight boundary’s between objects. The edges of a pool are a great place to use this technique.
Dodging And Burning: I use the dodge and burn tools a lot. Often furniture manufacturers want very brightly lit scenes. Sometimes it is just easier to dodge areas of the image rather than adjusting the lighting and re-rendering over and over. I attempt at getting the lighting close enough and then take care of the rest in Photoshop. Burning can be used to accentuate the shadows and add depth. Sometimes this works better than painting in heavier shadows.
Step 14 – Conclusion
In this tutorial we went over many tools and tricks to creating quicker furniture renderings. These tips and tools can be applied to most applications and genres of visualization. While the furniture rendering niche is not extremely lucrative like other genres of visualization, these tips will make the process move along faster, thus making them more monetarily pleasing.
The most important things to remember is to try to create a harmonious scene that portrays the furniture well to the end buyer.
If you have any questions or comments about this tutorial please feel free to email me.