Have you ever looked at renderings for a new urban development project or other major venue and thought for a moment that it was a photograph?
Looking closely, even the human figures for architectural renderings look like they’re actually there, in the scene.
Architectural renderings have gotten so detailed, that in many cases you can no longer tell what’s real versus what was created on a computer screen.
Even hand-drawn renderings are often painstakingly detailed to the point of perfection.
How do architectural artists pull off this trick?
There’s one thing that all successful artists have mastered, and that’s perspective.
And no, we’re not talking about existential “meaning of life” perspective.
It’s the more concrete, how you literally see the world around you, perspective.
To make a scene seem believable to your audience, add a sense of perspective to your architectural rendering.
Don’t just draw a building head-on, or from above. It’s difficult to relate to the concept that way because that’s not how we see it in everyday life.
Picture yourself standing on a street corner (or better yet, go outside or look out a window for a moment). Staring straight ahead, think about the angles you’re seeing in the road, buildings, lamp posts, etc.
Seeing things from that angle, and translating that in your work, adds a whole new level of depth.
But that’s not the only consideration when creating new designs.
Adding realistic elements to an architectural sketch can make all the difference between a believable image and a simple picture.
Think about the last time you went to a park or any downtown destination. Were you the only person there? Probably not.
People add dimension to a location, even if that location technically doesn’t exist yet.
Without people, the picture looks empty and incomplete.
If you’re drawing a busy street corner, you need to add those bustling people to the frame to really convey that level of energy.
Even if you’re creating a new park concept, why will people go to this park when it opens? Show your audience what they can do once they get there.
Have a person reading on a park bench.
Maybe there’s a group of people playing Frisbee.
Is that a bike path or a jogging trail? Show us it’s a bike lane by incorporating people riding their bicycles.
By showing people how they can use a space, they’ll be more likely to think of themselves going to this new venue and taking advantage of what it has to offer.
Human figures for architectural renderings also serve another purpose – they help add scale.
What this means, is that sometimes it can be difficult to visualize how large or small an area actually is. Providing scaled images of people helps your audience see how they’ll fit in relation to the space.
First, you’ll need to create the base of the architectural rendering itself – this is the hard part (it’s also where perspective comes into play). So once you’ve gotten a good handle on that, the rest should be easy.
While you could technically create human figures for architectural renderings from scratch by hand or using CAD programs, there are easier options at your disposal.
Look for an online image database of people.
You can search for individual people walking, bicycling, or performing a variety of other tasks. You can also look for images of groups of people, which can make something like a street scene easier since you don’t have to pick people out one by one.
Adding humans to your architectural renderings will definitely improve the drawing, but it doesn’t end there.
Many architectural sketches lack diversity, but the world is a diverse place!
It can be easy to pick out the first few images you find that will fit into your design, but consider whether they will fit your entire narrative.
People from all backgrounds need to see themselves represented in order to picture themselves actually being there.
Don’t neglect a swath of people without a second thought. Be sure to represent diverse populations in your architectural renderings.
Adding human figures for architectural renderings isn’t the only way to improve the realism of your design.
Think about elements in nature that can further add to your draft.
The best architectural renderings often feature trees, grass, and even seasonal additions like snow or fall foliage.
If there’s a body of water, think about rippling from a light breeze, and how that might sway nearby tree branches and leaves.
Trees for architectural renderings may not seem that important, but they can add a lot to the picture. Just make sure that the type of tree included is one that can actually be found in the area!
With that being said, look for trees and plants that can add a pop of color if appropriate.
Especially in cityscapes, it’s easy to get overwhelmed by shades of gray. Adding a strategically placed planter box full of flowers can make the scene more interesting and pleasing to the eye.
Or, if you want to add interest without as much greenery, consider adding vehicles to the rendering. Think about the location you’re drawing for, and what modes of transport are most common.
In a city, you probably want to focus on mass transit options like buses and taxis, and maybe a food truck on the corner.
In a suburban area, personal cars and trucks will be more common.
Just remember, all of these elements should be added in addition to human figures – not as a replacement for them.
By incorporating elements such as people, trees, cars, and other everyday visuals into your architectural renderings, you’ll be able to paint a more accurate picture of what a location will look like once it’s developed.
The style of the rendering itself is up to you – some artists prefer to hand draw while others use 3D architectural rendering models designed using software.
Either way, the goal is to help people see themselves in the picture you’re creating.
Need some help finding the right images of human figures to add to your rendering?
Check out this online image gallery of people to inspire your work!