Realise’s tips and tricks for KeyShot rendering

Written by:Callum Taylor

Published: October 7, 2020


Realise tips and tricks:

Keyshot Rendering


Rendering is part of a product designer’s toolkit that allows us to effectively communicate our ideas as real, physical objects of value during the later stages of concept design. Using 3D geometry created in CAD with packages such as Solidworks, you can then produce renders and visualisations of your product which can be put to good use in several different ways.

Why use product rendering?

Product renders and visuals are not just pretty pictures and convey much more than a quick snap of product likeness. From concept presentation renders that allow us to accurately show off form and function, as well as colour, materials and finishes; to explanatory renders that can be animated to show how a product is assembled in space; and in situ renders that show how a product will look in its intended environment – each render is tailored to very specific needs and requirements.

At Realise, we use our creative expertise to produce inspiring product images in KeyShot to tell a compelling story about our concepts without having to produce a more costly physical prototype. We also help our clients communicate their product offerings to different stakeholders, i.e. manufacturers, buyers, or even potential investors for products that might not even exist yet.

Good product rendering can be a complicated beast, it takes skill and craft (and time!) to communicate the emotions and ideas behind a particular concept that will ultimately elevate the value of a concept design or client product far beyond the high cost of any renders.

Realise top tips for rendering with Keyshot

As with all design tools, we often have our own unique way of using them (and some top-secret methods too). This can often make describing how we do what we do a little difficult, but that is a subject for another day!

There are, however, little tips and tricks that all good product designers work with and here are a few of our rendering favourites that the Realisers like to use.

1. Add texture maps to ‘perfect’ surfaces

In a real-world environment, materials pick up scratches, dirt and dust. In a virtual world, this of course doesn’t happen, so forcing these elements onto your model can make an image appear much more realistic! ‘Perfect’ surfaces often appear flat in renderings, whereas when a texture is applied, lights can catch the small imperfections in the materials surface.

2. Use area lights

Area lights are great for producing realistic shadows and highlights! Inbuilt KeyShot scenes use a lot of lights and a complex HDRI image. The result of this is a product that is lit from every angle. For quick renders, this is great, but for something a bit more realistic or believable, create your own scene using area lights! I usually use 2 area lights, a primary and secondary light source, which creates much stronger shadows and highlights across the product.

3. Balance lighting colour against HDRI

It helps to think about real-world environments in simple terms, the sky is blue and the sun is orange. A quick way to make an image appear more realistic is to use warm tones in your lighting and cool tones in your HDRI.

Esben Oxholm has a great tutorial on how to create this effect.

4. Add a radius to your model

KeyShot allows you to add a radius to your model, effectively rounding sharp edges and smoothing transitions. This applies to moulded plastic parts, where in reality it’s very rare you would see or be able to create a truly sharp edge. This feature is particularly useful when creating highlights on model edges.

5. Add depth of field

Using depth of field can closely mimic the effect created by SLR cameras. It draws the observer’s focus to the model and blurs the background or parts of the model which are further away. This effect is commonly seen in macro images where the part being focused on is either very small or very close to the camera.

6. Increase ray bounces

Ray bounces determine how many times light bounces around a scene and across your model when leaving a light source.

For transparent objects in polycarbonate or glass, increasing the number of ray bounces helps to increase the clarity of the material. Increasing ray bounces also helps to achieve colour bleed when a brightly coloured material is in an adjacent model. Think of this like the buttercup effect.

Bonus tip: Considered composition!

Consider positioning your model in a way that highlights its most attractive features. Placing two models in a scene and positioning them at opposing angles can capture a lot more information when presenting a product. It can also help make a single render appear more visually interesting.

If you are interested in seeing how we have helped our clients with product rendering, have a look at one of our case studies here, and if you need help with some inspiring imagery, drop us a line!


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