Rendering with KeyShot
Florence Design Academy artist, Mario Malagrino takes us through creating the perfect professional render using KeyShot.
Before I begin the tutorial, let me say a few words about KeyShot. KeyShot is a very user-friendly 3D rendering application that allows you to create photorealistic visuals in a very short time. It's the solution for many designers who don't want to waste time with complicated rendering software.
When I first imported a model to KeyShot, my jaw dropped. "WOW, real-time reflections of the HDR image on the model", I thought to myself. For those who create hundreds of test renderings just to achieve the right angle for reflections, you'll understand how much time you can save with that feature alone. Many designers have great models but bad renderings – and a loss of quality in their portfolio that can affect job prospects or landing a project. KeyShot changes that completely, putting the ability to create stunning imagery in the hands of every designer.
You may wonder what the key is to creating great renderings. I will tell you. The key to a great rendering is the quality of light and use of material. That is exactly where we see the power of KeyShot. It offers presets environments (HDRIs) as well as physical lighting, hundreds of scientifically accurate materials and settings that are simple to adjust. All of the changes and adjustments to the scene happen right in front of your eyes. This tutorial covers these features along with the settings used for the rendering of the car you see in this image.
So let's begin! In your modeling software you have to give the same color to those objects that will have the same material in KeyShot. In this way, you group the objects for KeyShot. In older versions of KeyShot you should use color, but in the new version it works through materials.
Importing your model
Once you have allocated the colors to your model, export your model (I use OBJ files, but there are many other choices). Open KeyShot and import your model – you will see a nice real-time rendering in your view. This will allow you to understand what you should change.
Remember that in your modeling software you have to set up the units, such as meters. This will guarantee you are able to import other objects with the correct scale, rotation and size.
The two most important panels (buttons) are the Project panel and the Library panel.
The project panel shows you what you have in your scene. The library panel shows you what you can add to the scene (for example, another material on your car, or simply another HDR image).
Let's take a quick look at the Library. We will use the following sections tin this tutorial: materials, colors, environments, back-plates, textures, and renderings. These are explained as follows:
- - Materials: Here you can find a list of materials to apply (to drag-and-drop on your model)
- - Environments: Here you can find many great setups of HDR images to use as background and light sources (you can also import your own HDRI)
- - Back-templates: These are backgrounds with different choices of colors or images (you can also create your own in Photoshop)
- - Textures: If you apply them on your model you can choose between: color, Bump map, opacity or label
The material panel
In the Material panel you have different sections. In our case I need a car paint material, so I search in the paint section for a nice material. As soon you have applied (drag-and-drop) the material, you can of course change the settings of the material to get other effects that you need.
Double-click on the object and you will see several materials settings appear in the project panel. These are pretty self-explanatory. After changing your settings you can save it to the library and use it again in other projects.
Relocating and resizing objects
You can also change the location, resize and rotate all the objects in the project panel. Just click on the parts and use the slots by writing down a number, or simply use the move tool.
The HDR images are really very different from each other – there is one for every taste or need. Under Environment you have the possibility to get light and reflection from the HDR and get a very realistic result.
Editing HDR images
If you click on Edit HDR you have the possibility to add your own highlights or light sources. This is really simple and effective. In bright renderings I would avoid too many of those extra lights, though it looks amazing if you have a dark rendering and you create an interesting atmosphere.
If you make a photo-studio rendering remember that with your HDR reflections that are visible on your model, there should be no trees or other outdoor elements visible. Should you choose an outdoor image you can blur the HDR in the HDR Editor. This makes the disturbing elements in your reflections disappear a bit.
If your sky is too blue, just de-saturate it in the editor, maybe not totally though, since a light blue can have a nice effect.
Changing the background
If you don't want a gradient background, or like the image that your HDRI is creating in the background in your render, you can check the color slot and choose a color that you like as a background. This will not change light or reflections, only the background. Remember that the color will not be reflected on your model.
Creating light sources
The HDR Edit mode allows you to create light sources in a few clicks. The results are very good, and sometimes necessary. Especially if you have dark scenes and your HDRI is not illuminating the part that you like. In this case it will really help to add a Highlight or Pin to make it a little lighter.
The Pin can have a color of your choice – this definitely makes the scene more interesting. I suggest a very soft bright orange for warm atmospheres, and a bright blue for cold atmospheres. Do not colorize the entire scene with strong colors, just a little touch of color here and there is fine (in my sample there is a strong red, but this is just to show you the setting).
Back-plates are background images that you can choose to make your render look more interesting. You can create your own in Photoshop, or just use a photograph to simulate an outdoor scene. It is so simple to create amazing composting of cars on streets with KeyShot.
Making images better
Here you have a blurred, de-saturated HDR with a light and reflection source. The background is just grey. How can we significantly improve this scene? There is a small trick that I recommend to use, especially to simulate a photo-studio scene.
The process of making your image better
Create a box, or any other shape (the box is the most-used one in these kinds of effects). Place this above the car (or in a position that fits better to your project) and apply a light material. The difference is clearly visible.
Making a curved background
The last tip for this tutorial is to create a curved background, and import it as wall-ground for your project. I suggest making the curvature very soft and big, this will guarantee a very soft gradient in the background of your render.
Why should we import this object? If you go to use a back-plate or color, it will not be reflected on your materials/objects. But as soon as you apply a color to this special object, its color will be reflected on your project.
The Render settings are quite simple, and they do not really need to be explained. What I recommend is to keep the samples around 16, and the shadow around 6-7 (this is a good project/portfolio quality). Higher numbers will increase the render time a lot. In Passes there is the Clown pass which basically is an Alpha mask, but with different colors for each group – very useful in Photoshop!
I would thank Luxion for making this useful software for designers, and I've included some samples of real-times view renderings here below. I hope you liked this tutorial!