Major projects this year have been weird one and there have been lots of changes, but perhaps the most impactful is the removal of the physical artefact hand in, and the increased weighting on CAD models and renderings.

Many students have noted their reasonable inexperience with Keyshot, so in this week's blog I am going to take you through the process of making an average render look stand-out, photo-real and ready for going straight in the Made In Brunel book.

In place of a major project CAD model, I will be using some assets from my 3D library. I will presume you have already textured your model, as it would be impossible to go over every material, and will instead be focusing on the lighting, environment and camera settings that can quickly improve your renderings.

To zoom into the images use 'Cmd +' on Mac, and 'Ctrl +' on Windows.

Step 1

When you first open Keyshot you should be greeted with the default environment.

We are using Keyshot 10.1, however all of the features and tools we will be using are exactly the same in Keyshot 9.


Step 2

First you want to import your models (File —> Import), and then texture them. You can use the default materials in the Library tab, but for better results you want to go into the material graph and edit them with bump maps, roughness maps etc. More info on these can be found across Youtube. Once you have finished texturing your model we can go onto setting up the render.


Step 3

Now we can set our canvas. Traditionally real cameras take photos in a 4:3 ratio, but for digital use 16:9 may be more applicable. If your computer is really struggling, you can also lower the preview resolution here to something like 1024x768 for faster performance. Remember this resolution is not the resolution of your output image, this will be set later.


Step 4

Next we will set our light rendering settings. These affect the complexity of the rendering and processing Keyshot will do. Generally, higher numbers will result in a better render, but it will also take longer. The settings shown here will provide a great render, but may require it to process overnight on a slower computer.


Step 5

Now we are going to add our backdrop. Just using the default ‘floor’ in Keyshot doesn’t provide realistic enough reflections and shadows. We can go to the Models section in the Library Tab on the left, and in the Backdrops Folder, there should be a Backdrop Ramp. You can click and drag this model into the render window, and it should appear in the scene.


Step 6

Keyshot normally scales it to suit your scene, but if you need to adjust its size of position, you can do so by clicking on the ramp in the Scene section of the Project Tab, and then clicking on the Ramp in the feature tree.


Step 7

Next we want to set up our main camera. Position the viewer to a composition you like. I have highlighted the settings I used, but this will be different for every project. One of the most important parameters here is ‘Perspective/Focal Length’. Generally somewhere between 50-100 works well for smaller products.

You can also add some Depth Of Field here, but as this is a studio image, we want all the products to be in focus.

Once the camera is how you like it, press the add camera button circled in orange. You can right click to rename this camera. Now lock the camera using the lock icon.


Step 8

We are going to need to view multiple angles of our scene to easily position lights. Normally we would use Geometry View, located in the top ribbon, but if you are using a single screen or a small laptop, it can be easier to set up multiple cameras. Repeat the prior step, adding a new camera for each of these positions shown.

This will help us later.


Step 9

Now click back on your main camera angle. We can now apply a material to the backdrop. Right click on the backdrop and select edit material. We can use the settings shown to provide a nice neutral light grey background. Set the ‘Type’ to ‘Plastic’, the colour to a nice light grey, and the Roughness to 0.2.


Step 10

Now we are going to make a change that in general can make renders look a lot more realistic with just a tick of a box. Go to the Image section of the Project Tab, and select the ‘photographic’ option. This creates the impression of a higher dynamic range, further reflecting a real camera.

There are other settings in this tab well worth exploring once the render is fully setup.


Step 11

Next we can start to add our lighting. Add a disc to the scene. We will use this to create a physical light. Physical lights can provide higher quality lighting and shadows, but take longer to render as opposed to HDRi lighting.


Step 12

The disc should appear in your scene, and you can now switch to the other camera angles you set up to position the disc as shown. I have positioned it just in front of the products, and slightly to the left. You can see the position more clearly in the demo Keyshot file. In general, I am following the standard 3 point lighting, guides for which can be found on google.


Step 13

We now want to change the settings for the disc to make it a light. Edit the disc material, and change the Type to ‘Spotlight’. You can then change the brightness using the ‘Power’ slider. The beam angle affects how wide the light spreads, and the radius impacts how soft the shadows are. The settings I have highlighted work well for a bright, but soft Key light.


Step 14

You now want to duplicate the light, and position them as shown. Ideally, you want two in front of the product on either side, and then behind the product to the left or the right. The positioning will of course need to be changed depending on the product.

You may want to reduce the Power of the front right and back light, to create a stronger shadow coming from the front left light. Something from 20-50 watts might work.


Step 15

We mentioned earlier we are using physical lights, but that still doesn’t mean we can’t utilise a HDRi environment as well. In the Library Tab, go to the Environment Section, select the Studio folder, and drag the ‘All Black 4k’ environment onto the scene. This will give us a blank canvas to add light pins too.


Step 16

Now to edit the environment, go to the Environment section in the Project Tab on the right, and select the HDRI Editor. Click the ‘Add new Pin’ button circled, and then apply the following settings, notably ‘Rectangle’ and a Falloff of 0.3.


Step 17

We are going to use this pin to apply precise highlights to glossy sections of our products. The pin is not bright enough to really impact our scene, but will provide some nice reflections that signify this is a glossy material. Select the highlight button circled, and then click on the part of the model you want highlighted (for this scene, also circled). Then click Done on the popup.


Step 18

You can now notice the difference between the render we currently have and the image we started with. Applying realistic materials is often the focus, but as this tutorial has shown, lighting, camera settings and the environment can often have the most dramatic affect.

Now we have this studio setup, we can adjust the position and brightness of the lights and HDRi Pins to finish the render. This will be different for each project.


Step 19

Finally we want to render our image. In the Output tab, select your resolution. Again a lower resolution will render quicker but will be of lower quality. It is often useful ticking the ‘Clown’ pass in the Layers and Passes dropdown box. This provides a colourful block colour image of all of your components, which can help selecting products when editing in photoshop.

In the Options tab, we can select how long we want to render for. Generally for simple renders 200+ will produce a good quality image. For hero images, or complex scenes 500+ may be required. If you are on a time budget, you can also select Maximum time, which will render as many samples as it can within a given time. This can be useful for overnight renders, as you can set the time limit to 8 hours (or however little sleep you may be getting close to deadlines) and know that the render will be as good a quality as you could have reasonably got.


Step 20

I have included the full resolution render, here, along with some alternative lighting and scene compositions using the same studio, with just some tweaks to the lighting.

This is by no means a definitive guide, and the demo renders here are not perfect, but they should provide a good starting point and a neutral, flexible studio setup for nice major project renderings. I would also highly recommend downloading Adobe lightroom, and taking your renderings into there to edit the colours and levels further.

20 21

Hopefully this tutorial has helped; a quick checklist to remember:

  • Set your Camera Focal Length

  • Change the lighting settings

  • Switch to ‘photographic’ image mode

  • Add some physical lights

  • Don't use the default HDRi, switch to something with a more dynamic setup.

You can download the project file here, to try out the scene and apply it to your own projects.

Written by Alex D’Souza