SolidWorks PhotoView 360 - Make Big Differences with Small Adjustments

By Daryl Speed 

SolidWorks PhotoView 360 tools let you make photo-realistic renderings and animations directly from your 3D model. Small adjustments to your settings can make a big difference in your final result. A few notes before we begin. “Image Based Lighting” is the operative phrase when it comes to PhotoView 360 and realism. Starting with a good HDR image is important, otherwise all the tricks in the book will not save you. The file we're going to work with has all the materials pretty much sorted out already, so we're just going to concern ourselves with the finishing touches. It may seem a little strange to start a blog at the end of a project, but I find these finishing details are often overlooked even though they are very important to achieving a powerful image.  We're going to work our way through the “edit scene” property manager until we achieve the results we're looking for.

  • I have just dropped the HDR image (the environment) and the background (the jpg image behind the car) into this assembly with no adjustment. This is done on the “basic” tab of the “edit scene” property manager. The image looks like a hover car that had its windshield violated by large pigeon droppings. Objects not oriented on the floor are one of the worst enemies of realism. We will adjust the floor so it intersects the tires a little in order to replicate the flat spot on the bottom of the tire.

PhotoView 360 - Default


  • You can see from this image that we now have the car correctly grounded. It may sound obvious that grounding an object is important for realism but “god is in the details”, as they say. If the object is levitating just a tiny bit or pressed into the floor just a bit, the eye will detect it and the realism of the image will be negatively affected. I did raise the floor artificially high to simulate the flat spot where tire and concrete meet.

PhotoView 360 - Align the Environment

  • HDR Image rotation – HDR images (environment) are the main source of light in PhotoView 360. Outdoor images, such as this one, use the sun as a single light source. Rotating the environment allows us to move the light source around our object to adjust the lighting. Outdoor lighting has a huge effect on how we perceive color and as you can see, the color of the car has changed due to rotation of the environment. I have rotated the environment so the sun is reflecting off of the front fender. Too much glare.

PhotoView 360 - HDR Image Rotation

  • Rotate it again 30 degrees and now the sun is glaring off the side window.

PhotoView 360 | SolidWorks

  • Last rotation (about 180 degrees from the initial default) and I now start to see more even lighting across the entire car. NOTE: if you have a matching background and HDR and you want your reflections to accurately register with the background, environment rotation may not be desirable.

PhotoView 360 | SolidWorks

  • Now that I have the environment rotated where I would like it I will set my sights on fine tuning the “illumination” which is the last tab on the “edit scene” property manager. Let’s start at the top with the “background brightness”. I think the background (background image) is a little dark so this is where I can adjust it. I will go from 1.0 to 1.2. Small adjustments can make big impacts.

PhotoView 360 | SolidWorks

  • Now I will adjust the “rendering brightness”. This is like a dimmer switch for the environment lighting. I want to adjust it downward just a little, let’s try 0.8. The car itself darkens as the lights (environment) are dimmed.

PhotoView 360 | SolidWorks

  • Last but not least “Scene Reflectivity”. This is very important and can affect the realism of an image greatly. I always see images that I consider far too reflective. I think people love seeing the effects of reflectivity and therefore miss the negative effects of having too much. It is also a very difficult thing to gauge correctly. I usually use a real image of similar objects to base my reflectivity. I am going to set this down a few notches from default 1.0 to 0.7. Once again not a huge change but it makes a significant difference in realism.

PhotoView 360 | SolidWorks

From the initial image to the last, you can see a dramatic change in the quality of the rendering. I did this pretty quickly so the final image is not perfect but it is much improved from the default settings. Do not be happy with just placing environment and background images and hitting the final render button. Without exception, every default on the illumination page needs to be tweaked to achieve realism in a rendering.

PhotoView 360 - Before and After

Before and After Interested in more tips for PhotoView 360? Check out these two blogs: Ambient Occlusion for 3D CAD The Art of Rendering - Beyond the Decal

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