What makes 3D real or fake?
Learn how to analyze a good 3D render and stop being the victim of the famous "expectation vs reality".

Today we'll talk about the details that define a great 3D product animation. However, before we get to it, check if the following scenario has already happened to you: while browsing sales websites, you found a very interesting decorative object and, based on the photos, beautiful too. Taking advantage of the sales promotion, you bought two of them.

A few days later, when receiving the order, you cannot believe what you see. The difference between the illustrative photo and the real object is huge, and you feel cheated.

The same can happen when ordering 3D product animation projects if you're not careful.

There is a big difference in quality between a Pixarfilm, produced by huge teams over the years, and a 3D animation produced by a student, who is still taking his first steps in learning. The point is that it is not always easy to see what makes one more compelling and professional than the other for the untrained eyes.

You, as a customer, can order the project with an expectation and end up not liking the result, even without understanding why. Likewise, you can expect less quality and be surprised at what you receive.

When it comes to 3D product animation, there are some technical details that determine how real the final graphics will be. Let's, then, understand some characteristics that define a beauty render.

Characteristics of a professional 3D look

Compare both images below. Which looks more realistic and which looks fake?

If you agree that the image on the left is more realistic, congratulations! It is not a subjective question. Since we were born, we have observed the physical properties of reality that, when properly considered within the 3D environment, translate this sense of realism. The technical names of some of these properties are:


You might already know that the essential element for us to have a quality 3D product animation is a well done 3D modeling. But the model alone is not enough. It is necessary to coat it with a material so that we can distinguish the different physical properties, such as metal, wood, glass or plastic parts.

However, a material can be reflective, with a metallic appearance, and still look fake. This is almost always due to the lack of texture, which gives to the object the nuances of reality.

Although they are all reflective, they have different characteristics, and this is what we call texture. A metallic object can be rough or smooth, scratched or polished. As everything in our world is endowed with texture, its absence in the 3D product can be interpreted as a false image.

Surface Imperfection

Still speaking of product characteristics, within the textures, there are surface imperfections. Just look closely at any glass table, window or iPhonescreen. You will find several fingerprints, finger stains, liquid stains, scratches, and more.

These are the imperfections that we'd rather not be there, but which are undoubtedly part of any material around us. Thus, that's how a 3D product should be textured if the goal is realism.


We cannot forget the shadows! Yes of course. That wasn't even such a technical name. We see shadows in everything in the real world, and when we look at a computer generated image that simulates this reality, we expect to see the shadows of the objects! It is common to see projects that do not even take care of such a basic visual effect.

Ambient Occlusion

Imagine that you want to spy on what's inside a wooden chest without removing the entire lid. For that, you only open a crack. It is natural that the box remains very dark inside. The same happens inside a dark cave, or inside the wardrobe. Whenever light cannot penetrate a space, we have an ambient occlusion — which I will call AO from now on.

When we are talking about 3D product rendering, it is important to consider that there are spaces where AO is vital to the desired realism. We have this type of phenomenon when objects overlap, or when the product has closed angles, such as 90º downwards. See below how a little detail makes a difference.

Global Illumination

Have you ever been close to a yellow wall while the sunlight shines on it, and then you notice that your shirt - which is white - also looks yellow? A very simple and everyday phenomenon, but very neglected in 3D. Global illumination happens when the object bounces the light.

If you light the mirror with a flashlight, that's lighting. When this mirror reflects light to the other side, illuminating another area of the environment, we call it global illumination, as it is a secondary illumination.

Real 3D vs Perfect 3D

It is very common to see 3D product animation projects that bring objects that are not in accordance with reality. Perfectly smooth or perfectly reflective objects are common examples. For viewing purposes only, there is no problem. However, when we are looking for the real representation of the object, the above elements must be respected, as the quality of the final result depends on it.

3D is a step closer to you

Good news! If you have a product and understand that a 3D animation will help you leverage sales, you have just found who needed it. We are specialists in 3D product animation, and we can help you from modeling to the final project.

If you have 3 minutes to share more about your project, enter here. If you want to understand how the process works, here are the most common questions we receive. Let's move on!

Was this content useful to you?
Share it and let's spread the knowledge together!

Share on whatsapp
Share on telegram
Share on facebook
Share on linkedin
Share on twitter
Share on email


Peregom is a 3D animation studio specialized in electronic products. We create videos to explain, showcase and sell products. Also, we're constantly searching for the trends in our market, sharing everything here, in our blog, so you can make better decisions.

© 2020 ✉ chris@peregom.com