• Kiran Nair

Rendering and the architectural design process: how Lumion changes the relationship

Forget all those memories of painful rendering experiences. Lumion changes all this by fitting right into your design process, giving you clarity and insight at any moment along your journey towards design perfection.

Not so long ago, rendering was often viewed as a necessary yet painful chore, an activity akin to taking cough syrup or having teeth pulled. The visualization software at the time had a high barrier of entry, it was typically limited to a single CAD program, and it required months of slow-paced practice. Even then, producing lifelike and emotionally gripping renders of a design still could take days, if not weeks.

With these obstacles, rendering just didn’t feel like an integrated and accustomed part of the architecture and design process. There was a broken relationship, a rift of sorts, between architect and rendering, and it was keeping the benefits of fast, beautiful visualizations out of the daily routine and standard workflows at firms both large and small.

Fortunately, the times have changed dramatically since then. You can now sketch an idea, model its basic shape and aesthetics in your CAD software, and render your form studies in Lumion — all before lunch.

Rendering of a maquette, rendered in Lumion by Carlos F. Marques (@carlosfmarquess).

Lumion visualization software brings the art of rendering into the everyday craft of the architect. It encourages your drive for excellence, and clarity, as you express form and function in the built environment, and it’s specially designed to nurture your creativity, diligence, and love for architecture.

In this blog post, we’re exploring how Lumion fits seamlessly into your daily routine, working almost like an extension of your hand. You’ll discover how Lumion empowers architects to render at any stage of the design process, all while fueling a desire to achieve elegance and inspiration in the art of construction.

How to include Lumion at every phase of your design process

There are as many approaches to architecture as there are buildings in the world, and no two firms (or even architects) are exactly alike in their techniques, skills, and the technology they use.

Lumion is designed to adapt to your unique processes and workflows, no matter if you’ve never incorporated in-house rendering into your practice before.

You could be testing an idea, reviewing how the light falls on a specific element of your design, inspecting the form of the building against its surrounding environment, or making polished, beautifully crafted renders to show to your boss, your client, or any other individual.

Modern Victorian Design, rendered in Lumion 10 by MOrenders.

Lumion empowers you to create a beautiful render of your design or idea at a moment’s notice. All you need is a 3D model and Lumion turns the task of rendering into an enjoyable, productive experience. You can incorporate renders into your process from the very first stages of design development to the final visualizations.

It gives you more time to design. More time to refine your idea, perfect your craft, and fully experience the broader impact of your project on its surrounding environment.

Let’s explore how Lumion makes this possible.

Seamless integration with your CAD software

Do you build your 3D models in Rhino or Revit? Does your workflow include a mix of 3ds Max with a little SketchUp on the side? Or are you a dedicated Chief Architect or BricsCAD fan? Maybe you prefer taking the Cinema 4D or Maya route?

Model design by Pixel-Head Studio.

No matter the CAD or 3D software you use, you can always rely on Lumion and effortlessly import your models, accelerating your workflow as you iterate and further develop the design. Lumion supports the most common file formats, including:

.DAE (Collada) .DXF

.SKP (SketchUp) .3DS


.DWG .MAX (requires a 3ds Max installation)

Everything about Lumion’s model import and re-import functionality save you time and effort.

For instance, let’s say you imported your model into Lumion from Allplan. After a few hours working on the rendering project in Lumion, you discover a grave mistake in your 3D model. You fix the model in Allplan and then re-import the updated model. In just a few seconds, the corresponding building in Lumion will update without losing any of your work, such as with the surrounding context, customized materials, and Photo and Movie effects.

Real-time rendering with Lumion LiveSync

Besides using the re-import functionality, you can simultaneously model in CAD and render in Lumion with Lumion LiveSync. Whether you’re modifying the height of the walls, adding windows or doors, or even changing materials in your CAD software, your Lumion project will automatically update and show these changes amidst the lifelike landscape, realistic skies, vegetation, furniture, entourage, and so on.

This free, real-time rendering plugin establishes a live connection between Lumion and the most popular CAD programs in the AEC industry, including:

LiveSync for SketchUp LiveSync for Vectorworks

LiveSync for Revit LiveSync for AutoCAD

LiveSync for ArchiCAD LiveSync for BricsCAD

LiveSync for Rhino

Rendering your 3D model as you’re developing it in CAD can unlock a myriad of benefits, giving you valuable insight into the design, its materials, and how it blends in (or contrasts) the surrounding environment.

The Lumion LiveSync plugins are free and easy to install. To download the plugin for your software, click on the relevant link above.

Intuitive context creation for residential, interior, landscape, and urban designs

Client expectations continue to evolve, and with the widespread growth of rendering technology, many are looking for the full visualization/immersion experience — images, animations, VR options — before approving a project and sending it into the construction phase.

They’re curious about how the sunsets would look from the driveway of their residential home project. They want to feel the connection between their commercial building and the other buildings around it, and they hope to get the fullest, clearest picture of how the design will translate into the real world.

Lumion guides the process of context creation, helping you capture the environment surrounding your design in a stress-free, pleasurable way. This includes residential exteriors and interiors, multi-family residences, commercial buildings such as museums or schools, and massive urban or landscape architecture projects.

Coastline, rendered in Lumion by Gilson Antunes.

For example, if you’d like to give a detailed visual impression of the project’s location, you can use Lumion’s OpenStreetMaps feature and instantly import the building data, height maps, and satellite maps of thousands of places around the world.

Whether you need the rolling hills of Ireland or the downtown city center of Dubai, the OpenStreetMaps feature allows you to show your building design in its future location faster than it takes to make a cup of coffee.

City Center visualization, rendered in Lumion 11 by Fatih Ekşi. Project Evrenol Architects

There will be times, however, when you just need to create a render as fast as you can. Imagine that your client or another individual made a surprise visit, worried about what the design will look like in its actual location, and not a conceptual one.

With the Photo Match effect in Lumion’s Photo Mode, you can address the client’s concerns with such an air of tranquility that the client will think there’s nothing you can’t do.

Rendering emotion and atmosphere

In our previous blog post, we explored the many ways that Lumion breathes life into rendering — both the process and the result. We discussed how a pair of boots on the kitchen floor can capture the energy of an early morning rush out the door; we showed how raindrops racing down your windows can communicate the peace and comfort of a rainy afternoon indoors.

Lumion helps architects plac