3d architectural model of kitchen

How to Make 3D Architectural Models: A Guide

If you’ve toured a digital home, you’ve experienced the power of 3D and AR. 3D technology is making waves in many industries—architecture is no exception.

Introduction to 3D architectural models.

From interior designers, to architects, and construction contractors, 3D modeling allows professionals to plan and showcase their work to clients. 3D modeling improves concept creation, visualization, and presentation of ideas. With the right tools, any project can be designed and rendered with photorealistic accuracy and can also be viewed to scale.


3D modeling is a great way to convey project details to clients. Research by the Media Education Center has shown that clients are more responsive to visual images over text descriptions, so allowing them to see exactly what a design will look like ahead of time is a great way to eliminate concerns before any building starts.

Definition of 3D architectural models.

A 3D architectural model is a three-dimensional representation of architecture. Most commonly they’re used after drafting is complete to depict what a project will look like once completed. Before advancements in software, designers usually built these models by hand using physical goods. This was a very time-consuming process and presented several limitations, such as skill-level, lack of realism in some materials, and the smaller scale of a model. From here on, when we talk about 3D models, we’re going to refer solely to digital models created using 3D modeling software.

3d architectural rendering of kitchen

Images by Paul Tatar.

3d interior rendering of kitchen

Images by Paul Tatar.

Benefits of using 3D architectural models.

If you’re considering learning 3D to create architectural models, here’s three reasons why this could be a great idea for you, your clients, and your business or agency.

1. Improved visualization and planning of projects.

Alone, 3D models might not look like much, but when fully customized with materials and textures and staged in proper lighting, a 3D render can be indistinguishable from a photograph. While illustrations of a project can be useful, finalizing a design in 3D is an excellent way to prototype anything from a floorplan to aesthetic material choices.

2. Increased accuracy and detail in design.

3D renders can be very precise in assembly, with real world scale and measurements considered throughout the entire process. This allows creators to not only visualize an idea but test it and iterate on their ideas from drafting to finalization.

3. Enhanced communication and collaboration among team members.

3D modeling software can be highly collaborative, allowing a team of users to work on a single scene. Multiple users can see and iterate on the same design, promoting better communication and teamwork. Working with software is great for adjusting and making corrections to a project design at any time.

3d architectural model of dining room

Image by Paul Tatar.

Process of creating 3D architectural models.

If you want to incorporate 3D modeling into your design process, here’s an overview of how to create 3D architecture models. Before you get started, you’ll need to choose a 3D program to use. Programs that allow you to use shapes, often called primitives, is a great is a great option to build basic 3d building models.

Gather and input data such as floor plans, elevations, and materials.

In traditional modeling, designers had to carefully measure their materials and build the model to scale, usually from anywhere from 1:10 to 1:200 depending on the size of the project. With 3D software, this isn’t necessary in the same way, but you will want to know how your software handles measurements so that you can build your design to scale. For your architectural models to be most successful, you’ll want to gather all pertinent information used when the building was drafted.

Construct the model using specialized software.

Using proper scaling, start with basic shapes to block out your design. Sometimes known as hard-surface modeling, designing 3D buildings has many advantages over humanoid and organic modeling. With architecture, every component of a structure can be simplified to basic shapes that should piece together flawlessly. Use your software’s primitive shape presets to your advantage.

Add details and elements such as furniture, landscaping, and lighting.

On its own, most default models are just wireframes or a flat gray color. You’ll need to use material creation and texture painting software, such as Substance 3D Painter, to apply materials and visual details to your model and the surrounding scene.


Consider using a content library, such as the Substance 3D Assets library to quickly populate your scene with furniture, plants, and professionally designed studio lighting.

Present the model to clients or stakeholders for review and approval.

Once you’re satisfied with your design, render final images with high-quality 3D rendering software such as Substance 3D Stager. Choose camera angles for your images that showcase your design and allow clients to fully experience what the project has to offer. This could be done with still images or walkthrough style video animations.

3d architectural design software

Image by Paul Tatar.

Applications of 3D architectural models.

With so many advantages for using 3D architectural models, let’s look at some of the direct applications they could have across building and design industries.

Present proposals and designs to clients.

3D models are great early in the construction process, especially when showing clients a potential floorplan. While hand drawn depictions of a building can be effective, 3D allows for unparalleled realism and accuracy. A model can reflect exactly what a structure will look like once built. If clients want to see different paint colors or materials, this could be reflected in the 3D scene, allowing them to commit faster to decisions.

Market and promote projects to potential buyers or investors.

3D imagery is a powerful tool in marketing. Still images can be used in catalogs, advertisements, mailers, and other traditional media. Interactive experiences or video can be used in online experiences that can be shown to prospective and current clientele. Leveraging the technology that powers video games and animated films, such as Unreal Engine 5, potential buyers or investors could walk through a 3D building and view it as if it had already been built.

Communicate and coordinate with contractors and other professionals during construction.

Once finalized and approved, a 3D building model can act as a source of truth for coordinating and working with contractors and other professionals throughout construction. Think of the 3D model as a digital prototype. Because 3D can be as accurate and lifelike as a photograph, reviewing a 3D model could be beneficial throughout the construction process.

 3d architectural rendering of kitchen island

Images by Paul Tatar.

3d architectural model of kitchen island

Images by Paul Tatar.

Create inspiring 3D models.

From start of a project to finish, there are numerous advantages to using 3D modeling in the construction and architectural industry. Architects and designers who master 3D software will certainly save time and money and provide an enriched experience for their clients and customers along the way.

Frequently Asked Questions

Traditionally, many 3D models were made by hand using physical materials like carboard, plaster, and wood. These physical models were often made at a small scale. Following the advent of 3D technology, many architects are now creating 3D models using high-end 3D modeling software, then rendering buildings in engines such as Unreal Engine 5.

A 3D architectural model is a three-dimensional representation of a building. These models are created like any other digital 3D model by using modeling software. In the 3D space, this is usually included under the umbrella of hard-surface modeling. A building model could only represent the façade of a structure, or both inside and out.

Some creators find it useful to categorize architectural models into 3 steps or types. They are concept design models, working design models, and presentation models. A concept design is not intended to be a final source of truth, rather it’s an opportunity to explore ideas and see them in action. Working design models may not be finalized, but they are more fleshed out than concept models. They should be non-destructive by design, so it isn’t difficult to make changes or revert changes if needed. Finally, a presentation model is one that represents a finalized design. These models are fully built and contain the most detail as they are usually intended to present to customers or business partners.