If you’re creating digital renders to impress or persuade your clients, you should know how important realism is. Realistic details help you create a more accurate, immersive render that lets your client imagine what your plans would look like in real life. They also look more professional, and may make the difference between a client choosing you or your competitor.

The trouble is, there’s no magic button that can make your digital renders seem more realistic; you need the right tools and the right tricks to make it happen.

How to Improve Realism

These are some of the best strategies for increasing your level of realism in 3D renders:

1. Perfect the little details

Small details can make a big difference. For example, the difference between a digital render with a flat green plane substituting for the image of a “yard” and one that animates individual blades of grass is analogous to the difference between cartoon and real life. It takes more time to add these small details and fine textures, but even from a distance, they greatly increase the realism of your render.

2. Bevel the edges

 In nature and in construction, perfect edges are extremely rare. Instead, there’s a slight roundness to edges, instead of that crisp, razor-like line where two surfaces come together. A short round of beveling can take your render to the next level, eliminating those uncanny, sharp edges.

3. Use existing light profiles

 Lighting has a major impact on the realism and believability of your render as well. If every color in your 3D image comes to life with the same lighting, it’s going to seem cartoonish or impossible. Instead, you need to provide lighting effects—and use an existing light profile, template, or built-in lighting effect to do it. Lighting is incredibly difficult to master, but it’s a vital ingredient if you want your render to come across as believable.

4. Make good use of depth effects

 Depth of field effects attempt to make 3D images seem more realistic by simulating the natural focus of the human eye. Nearer objects and images tend to seem crisper and more “in focus,” while distant objects have a faint blur to them. If you aren’t using this effect, or if you’re using it poorly, it becomes extremely noticeable, so it’s important to pay close attention to how you’re using this.

5. Consider adding chromatic aberration

 In photography, chromatic aberration (sometimes called purple fringing or color fringing) happens when a lens isn’t able to bring all wavelengths of color to the same focal plane. Basically, the edges of objects in a photo often look blurred, or are accompanied by colors like red, green, or magenta. This can be annoying sometimes as a photographer, but is a natural feature we’re used to seeing in photography. If you want your 3D render to look more realistic, and more like a photo, adding chromatic aberration can help.

6. Use textures appropriately

Specular maps give you control over which surfaces in your render have a glossy specularity and which ones are more diffuse. Depending on the software you’re using, this may be a simple feature to add, dramatically increasing the realism of your render.

7. Add imperfections

Real life isn’t perfect or polished, and your renders shouldn’t be, either. Though you might think it’s better to show off a 3D model that’s perfectly clean, it might be better to add a bit of dirt, some grime, or some wear and tear. Or instead of having a room that looks perfectly symmetrical, with all the furniture and objects in just the right place, show them slightly asymmetrical or askew. It will do wonders for your render’s realism.

Getting the Right Software

Unfortunately, you can’t always will these features into existence. You need the help of the right software to make these things happen—one that gives you plenty of built-in options to improve the realism of your design, and ample flexibility to control those variables as precisely as you need to. If your current rendering software comes up lacking, it may be time to start looking for a new provider.