Tuesday, April 28, 2015


Architectural visualization doesn't have to be complicated. This article will teach you how to use Lumion 3D from scratch to create your own model, then modify it with textures and detailing for a fantastic image or video.

Why use Lumion? The short answer is that Lumion is easy to use and the final product is of a good quality. The long answer is that every construction project needs technical drawings and documents. Although this technical information is fine for a construction crew, usually the client has no idea what a CAD plan means. They can have an idea where the kitchen or the living room will be, but translating that 2D information to 3D is not always easy in the client's mind. This can be an issue if we need to give a presentation or if we are trying to sell something that is not built yet. And truth be told, an image sells more than words. That's where Lumion comes in. Lumion is the fastest way to render high quality still pictures and videos, and it makes it so easy to import our 3D models from any 3D modeling software, such as SketchUp, AutoCAD, Revit, ArchiCAD, and 3ds Max, and create a scene in minutes. So, Lumion 3D is a distinct architectural visualization software not only because it is faster to render, but also because it is very user friendly and intuitive.

Another reason why we can use Lumion to create architectural visualizations is because we can have a great idea of how our project will look in natural surroundings at any time of the day or season, and this in just a few minutes. Now if you are an architect, it is doubtless that you want to enhance your project characteristics in the best way possible. Lumion can help you achieve this in hours instead of the inevitable days and weeks of rendering time.

The following screenshot is an example of what you can get with Lumion in just a few minutes:

However, this tool is not exclusively meant for architects. For example, if you are an interior designer, you may want to present how the textures, furniture, and colors would look at different angles, places, moods, and light conditions. Lumion provides nice interior visualization with furniture, good lighting, and realistic textures.

In conclusion, Lumion is a great tool that improves the process of creating a building, or an art, or an architectural project. The time we need to get those results is less in comparison to other solutions such as using 3ds Max and V-Ray.

What can we get from Lumion?

Asking what Lumion can us is a double-edged question. Looking at the previous screenshots, we can get an idea of the final result. The final quality depends only on your creativity and time. I have seen amazing videos created with Lumion, but then you may need a touch of other software to create eye-catching compositions. Now, the package that we get with Lumion is another thing. You already know that we can easily create beautiful still images and videos, but we need to bear in mind that Lumion is not a tool designed to create photo-realistic renders.

Nevertheless, we can get so much from this application that you will forget photo-realistic renders. Lumion is a powerful and advanced 3D engine that allows us to work with heavier models, and we can make our scene come alive with the click-and-drag technique.

To do this, Lumion comes with a massive library where we can find:

  • 2409 models of trees, transports, exterior and interior models, and people
  • 103 ambient, people, and machine sounds
  • 518 types of materials and textures
  • 28 types of landscape

In addition to this extensive collection, there are more features that we can add; we can include realistic water in our scene (oceans, rivers, pools, waterfalls, and fountains), we can sculpt the landscape to adapt to our needs, and we can add rain, snow, fog, wind, and animate objects, and we can add camera effects.

You just need a blank 3D model; import and start working because, as you can see, Lumion is well equipped with almost everything we need to create architectural visualisations.

Lumion's 3D interface

Now that we know what we can do with Lumion and the content available, we will take some time to explore Lumion and get our hands dirty. In my opinion and experience, it is much easier to learn something if at the same time we apply what we are learning. So, in the next section we are going to explore the Lumion interface with the menus and different settings. But to do that we will use a small tutorial as a quick start. By doing this, we will explore Lumion and at the same time see how easy it is to produce great results. We will see that Lumion is easier to learn and more accessible than other software.

So go ahead and fire up Lumion and let's have a quick tour before we start working with it. I am going to explain to you what each tab does, to help you see how you can do simple tasks, such as saving and loading a scene, changing the settings, and creating a new scene. Let's start with the first tab that Lumion shows us.

A look into the New tab

On startup, Lumion goes straight to the New tab. The New tab, as the name indicates, is a good place to start when you want to create a new scene. We can create a new scene based on a few presets or just create an empty scene. We can choose from Night, Sunset, Sunny Day, Flatlands, Island, Lake, Desert, Cold Climate, and an Empty scene.

I found these presets as a quick help to cut some time, because in the end everything we get from these presets, we can create in a few minutes. So, there is nothing special about them. When you start Lumion, this will be the first thing you will see:

The nine presets you can find on the New tab

Now, we will finally see the Objects menu and the following is what this menu looks like:

The Objects menu

Here is where the fun starts. We have at our disposal eight categories of objects and more, such as Nature, Transport, Sound, Effects, Indoor, People and Animals, Outdoor, and Lights and special objects. Each of these menus has subcategories. If you are working with the Lumion PRO version, you can choose from more than 2000 models. Even if you don't have this version, cheer up! You can still import your own models and textures.

It is really simple to add a model. First, we need to select the category we want to use. So in this case, click on the Nature button. Now that we have this category selected, click on the thumbnail above the Place button and a new window with the Nature library will appear.

We don't have just trees, we have grass, plants, flowers, rocks, and clusters. Now let me show you one trick. Click on the Grass tab and select Rough_Grass1_RT. Now that we are back to the Build mode, press the Ctrl key and click on the ground. We are randomly adding 10 copies of the object, which in this case is really handy. So, after playing a little with Lumion, we can get something like the following screenshot:

Our scene after adding some trees, grass, and animals

Our scene after adding some trees, grass, and animals

Just think, it took me about 30 minutes to create something like this. Now imagine what you can do. Let's save our scene and turn our attention to the right-hand side of the Lumion 3D interface, where we can find the menus as shown in the following screenshot:

The Build mode button

The Build mode button

Starting from the top of the preceding screenshot we can see the blue rectangle with a question mark. If we put our mouse cursor over this rectangle, we can see a quick help guideline for our interface.

The next button informs us that we are in the Build mode and if, for example, you are working in the Photo or Video mode, this button lets you go back to the scene.

Lumion materials

Lumion helps us with this important step by offering many types of materials: 518 materials that are ready to use. You may need to do some adjustments, but the major hard work was already done for you. The materials that we can assign to our model are as follows:

  • Wood: 45 materials
  • Wood floor : 67 materials
  • Brick: 32 materials
  • Tiles: 99 materials
  • Ground: 39 materials
  • Concrete: 43 materials
  • Carpet: 20 materials
  • Misc: 109 materials
  • Asphalt: 12 materials
  • Metal: 47 materials

This is one of the reasons why it is so easy to create still images and videos with Lumion. Everything is set up for you, including parameters, details, and textures. However, we may need to do some minor adjustments, and for that, it is important to understand or at least have a basic notion of what each setting does. So, let's have a quick look at how we can configure materials in Lumion.

The Landscape material

The best way to explain this material is by showing you an example. So, let's say that along with the model, you also created a terrain like the one you can see in the following screenshot:

The house along with a terrain model

The house along with a terrain model

Import the terrain if needed, and add a new material to this terrain. Go to the Custom menu and click on the Landscape material. The Landscape material allows you to seamlessly blend or merge parts of the model with the landscape. Make sure that the terrain intersects with the ground so that it can be perfectly blended. The following screenshot shows this Landscape material applied to my 3D terrain:

The terrain model merged with the landscape

The terrain model merged with the landscape

Adding this material not only allows you to use this cool feature, but as you can see in the picture, we can also start painting soil types of the landscape in the imported terrain.

The other two materials that I want to introduce you to are the Standard and Water materials. The Standard material is a simple material without any textures or settings, and we can use this material to start something from scratch. The Water material can have several applications, but perhaps, the most common one is, for example, pools.


This article helped you in starting with Lumion, and gave you a taste of how easily and quickly you can get great images and videos. In particular, you have learned the basic steps to save and load scenes, import models, add materials, change the terrain and weather, and create photos and videos. You also learned how to use and configure the prebuilt materials in Lumion and found out how to use the Landscape material to create a terrain.

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