Visualize: Photo Quality Renders

Photo Quality Renders with SolidWorks Visualize

Imagine being able to produce photo quality renders in just minutes without the cost of creating the item in the real world! This blog will introduce you to the powerful, fast world of SolidWorks Visualize and some of the capabilities of the software.

Visualize Introduction

SolidWorks Visualize is a rendering software that was introduced a couple of years ago to users as one of the first standalone software tools to create realistic renders through SolidWorks. Visualize is well known in the industry for the quality renders it’s able to create.

How to Create a New Project

SolidWorks has made creating projects in Visualize very simple from the import process to saving off a final render. One of the first screens that will appear will have tabs set up to view recently worked on projects, some provided sample projects, and recent documents opened within SolidWorks. For creating a new project, it’s as simple as selecting the New Project option highlighted in yellow in Figure 1 below.


Figure 1: Initial Interface

The next step to reaching a photo quality render is to import the desired file with the model to be worked on. Visualize allows the import of many different file types into a new project from SolidWorks files to SketchUp files and 18 others! There are two different ways to import a file into Visualize. The first is to go through the File tab in the top left corner of the screen and select Import from the dropdown list (the same as hitting Ctrl+I). The second way to import a file is to grab it from the folder it is currently in and drag and drop it into the Visualize interface.


Figure 2: Importing Files

After the selected file has been imported into Visualize, an import settings window will appear and allow the user to define what happens to the imported file. These options will vary from person to person as to how they want the file imported. It depends on the size of the imported file, how many components there are in an assembly, and things of that nature. There is also the ability to deselect some of the import setting tabs if none of this information is needed for the final render.


Figure 3: Import Settings

Now, we will describe each tab with a basic overview of what each is trying to accomplish.

  • Geometry – the focus of this tab is to decide how the imported files will act. You can choose to have the entire imported file change colors/position at once, or it can be refined to allow each individual component of an assembly gets its own color or to move independently from the rest.

  • Appearance – source model appearances can carry over from the original file if desired. There is also the option to locate the missing textures and to add specified paths for textures.

  • Cameras – any saved camera views from the original SolidWorks CAD file can be carried over from the SolidWorks software as well as animated cameras from FBX file formats.

  • Scene – this tab allows to either enable or disable imported environments or backplates from the SolidWorks file.

  • Decals – this tab allows for the option to import decals from the original SolidWorks CAD file.

Adding Colors to the Model

Once everything has been imported into Visualize, there is now the part where creativity takes over! There are many options as far as what sort of color that can be added to the model, from basic, flat colors to more complex appearances such as a soap bubble appearance to heat treated titanium. One thing to notice is up in the top-right corner there are two tabs: one saying local and the other saying cloud. The local appearance tab is full of appearances that are that are included with the downloaded software. There are still many options for appearances that can be used with this. The cloud appearance tab allows the user the ability to select any appearance or color from the full online library as well as the local appearances. The cloud appearance tab is where many of the more unique options will be located.


Figure 4: Appearances

SolidWorks has made the process of adding colors to the model very simple and easy to do. Once the desired appearance has been located from the palette, all that is needed is to click and drag the appearance to the specific part of the model to apply that specific color. If the chosen appearance isn’t quite correct, there is also the option to adjust and refine them to get the exact desired color. There is an included color picker to select a color from anything on the screen. Also included are sliders to manually go through and slide through all the colors. If the custom created color is something that can be used for other projects, there is the option to save it in a user-specified folder for use later. This is done by selecting the ‘Export’ option in the top-right corner and selecting ‘Save Appearance’.


Figure 5: Custom Appearances

Creating the Final Render

With all the appearances applied and the model all squared away, the final render can now be created to show-off the photorealistic renders. This can be done by selecting the output tools tab at the top-center of the screen.


Figure 6: Output Tool for Final Render

There are many different options to create the final render such as choosing the size of the end photo, the resolution, and whether the software will use the CPU, GPU, or a hybrid of the two. First, select the file name and then map which folder the final render will be saved in. Next is choosing the image format. There are things like if the file is to be saved as JPEG, a BMP, or something like a PNG. No matter which option is selected for the size, the software will scale the photo simultaneously to prevent the size from being too wide or too tall and thus preventing the final render from being out of proportion. Right below size is the resolution option, which determines how many pixels there will be per inch or per centimeter depending on which option is selected. One general rule here is the higher the resolution, the smoother the image will be in the end. Finally, the last options to be adjusted are the render settings. The renderer selection gives three options to how the final render will appear; preview being the lowest quality, fast being a little better than the preview, but not the best, and accurate which will yield the best results. Render mode will only appear if the accurate mode is selected. Render mode allows the user to choose whether they want to set a certain number of passes with the quality option or if they want to set a time limit.  For the quality option, however, many passes that are inserted, the software will continually do a render pass no matter how long the time until that final number is reached. The time limit allows the user to set a certain amount of time and when the time is hit, the render will stop no matter the quality at that time.


Figure 7: Output Tools


With all this being said, you now have the tools and basic abilities to create these high-quality photos for marketing your product, helping pitch your design, and just creating cool photos to show friends and coworkers. It may take some time to get everything dialed in to show exactly what is intended, but with time these renders can be created quicker and better than before.


Figure 8: Final Render

Written By:

Cody Cook

Cody Cook

CAD Designer at Perception Engineering