10 (Free) Steps to Creating Real-Time Architectural Visualizations

While we here at Moduluc predict that demand for architectural visualization skills will increase as the use of virtual reality technology grows, right now learning the skills needed to render realistic designs in virtual reality is not so easy. 

Learning the programs that enable artists to convert a 3D architectural model to a real-time 3D visualization is not (yet) a graduation requirement for major universities or colleges. Only programs focused on game design currently provide courses for understanding the nuances of game engines such as Unreal Engine 4 (UE4) or Unity– leaving architecture students and aspiring designers behind the curve without the necessary skills to differentiate themselves in the job market. 

However, for determined students there are online courses to help you improve your skills and learn how to present 3D architectural projects in real-time technology. 



Getting Started

If you are a student, intern, or junior designer you may just be getting started learning these skills. You also may not have a lot of extra money to throw around to teach yourself.  Luckily for you, Unreal Engine has a whole catalog of free resources to help you create a stunning project. These are our top recommendations to help get you started.

Step 1

Take the Getting Started in Unreal Engine course to learn the basics of UE4.  This is a great chance to stop yourself from forming bad habits on the platform from the start and start developing your optimized workflow. 

Step 2

Complete Becoming an Architectural Visualizer to best understand the features most relevant to an architectural designer. 

Step 3

Now that you’ve gotten the basics down on UE4, you can start choosing courses to learn more specific skills you can use to refine your project development. We recommend going with Working with the Datasmith Pipeline, as Datasmith is an essential tool to help you import your 3D designs into UE4.  The course will also show you how to use the free digital assets that come with Datasmith. 

Step 4

Having just finished learning the Datasmith pipeline, it’s a good time to go ahead and take some time to complete SketchUp to Unreal Fundamentals.  SketchUp is an essential tool for any 3D architectural designer and you’re best off knowing how to bring designs from SketchUp into UE4.  The previous course on Datasmith should help you greatly with this workflow. 

Step 5

In conjunction with SketchUp, it’s also a best practice to have 3ds Max knowledge in your architectural toolkit. Follow up on your Sketchup course with UE4 Test Drive with SketchUp & 3ds Max.  This is not a course, but a video lecture from a workshop, accompanied with an instructional slideshow.  

Step 6

In the same format as the previous lecture,  UE4 Test Drive with Revit & 3ds Max will help you understand how to incorporate Revit into your design process as well.


The courses listed should provide you a baseline education to incorporate skills you learned in school with 3ds Max, SketchUp, and Revit with Datasmith to help import your designs into UE4.  The next series of classes will help you with turning your imported project into a fluid real-time visualization. 



Making the Unreal (Almost) Real

Step 7

Start your learning by heading outdoors.  Complete Creating an Architectural Exterior Real-Time Project to help you understand more about terrain, foliage, and other effects that will help give you that immersive experience you want. 

Step 8

….and now to head back inside. Creating an Architectural Interior Real-Time Project will teach you about lighting, material, and the packaging of your presentation. 

Step 9

Presenting your architectural design in VR is next-level.  UE4 can help you greatly with this, so continue your education with Creating Virtual Reality Walkthroughs to understand how you can optimize your presentation for a VR interface.  

Step 10

Even if you can’t present your project in a VR experience, it’s great to know how to understand the cinematic elements of 3D presentation. The course titled Using Camera Sequencer for Architectural Visualization can help you understand how to make a stunning visual experience for your audience. 

Extra Credit 

Feeling like an expert?  Give Getting to Know UVW Mapping for Architectural Visualization a try.  This course will give you more command over the textures in your presentation and add finer detail to your project.

Learning the skills needed to present an architectural design in virtual reality serves as a major differentiator between designers.  Those who can learn how to create these projects earlier in their career can set themselves apart from their peers and make them stand out as attractive candidates to a design firm.  Leverage these free resources to learn these skills and the tools available to you to help yourself for the future.