Architect and architectural illustrator Héctor López says, “Architectural illustration is the visual representation of an object that can be as small as a construction detail or as big as an entire building or block of buildings.” An architectural illustration helps to convey several things at once. Illustrations can convey the general idea of the architect. It also helps in a better understanding of concepts. Illustrations act as a means for communication, for communicating the design idea of a space.

Initially, architectural illustrations used to be drawn after the construction of building was completed and wasn’t used to aid the construction process. These visuals help to test out and develop an idea or multiple ideas. It could be used by a real estate agent who wants to sell his properties that are still being built or by an organization trying to secure funding to renovate the space they use. They could also be shown to a homeowner so that they get a better idea of how the new extension would look like. An illustration could help to determine the personality of the design. It would help to convey the activity, that is expected in a particular space. It could also help the expected user group with the activity pattern, circulation pattern, etc.


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Collage ©Anastasiya Mametveya

Collages were used as a method of representation for a while. Originally an analog technique, it was recently adopted into a digital representation style after the advent of software. They are created by adding objects, humans etc., using photo editing software like Photoshop to the scenes, which were created using 3D modeling software like SketchUp.

The final output often contains textures but realistic representations like shadows are excluded. This help to convey the narrative of the designed space to the viewers.


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Sketch©Rafik Sabra

Sketches could be both hand-drawn or digital sketches. They are often used to convey the base idea of a design, or the design strategy, used in a particular project during the initial stages of the project. They could be used at the end of a project to explain the concept or to convey the evolution of form and design to the viewers at the completion stage.

The most common means used for sketches are papers, pens, pencils, etc. In recent times tablets are also becoming popular, owing to the advent of technology and their ease of being carried around. It has also significantly reduced the usage and the need for paper for sketching.


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Lode House Render©Hennry Goss

The rapid improvement in the software has made it possible to create realistic renders, which would look like the actual buildings with their surroundings, once it is complete. It is more appealing to the clients and architects, as it would convey how the building would look once it’s built and how it could respond to its surroundings. 

These type of renders, consist of realistic elements such as light, shadow, texture, opacity, etc.

A few of the softwares that provide hyper-realistic renderings are Lumion, Vray, Enscape, Corona, etc.


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Ribbon City Creek Walk ©John Coleman

Illustrations are often created using vector-based software like illustrator or mobile apps like illustrator draw. They are similar to collages, but don’t rely on a based 3D render like in the case of collages. These could express the activity or the user group that a particular space when completed, could expect. These could be used both during the inception and completion stages.

3D Models

3D printed Model©Reims Boulingrin

In 3D models, materials that mimic physical models are often used, like types of paper and wood, which would mimic the actual material, used in the project. The material library, in the 3D rendering software, could be used or software like v-ray, can be used to manipulate the materials in the model. 3D models can also be physical, handmade, 3D printed, or laser cut.

3D models could be generated using 3D software like Autocad 3D, Sketchup, or Revit, or sometimes even handmade models are used.

The advantage of the handmade model is that it helps both the architect and the client to experience the space on a smaller scale. It would also be useful for the architects to understand how a space would function and to solve several details of the building such as the structural details. 


Using one type of illustration, often would not be enough to represent a lot of ideas at once. It is common in the field of architecture to use multiple representations and illustration styles for a single project. For example, an illustrated section could convey the structural system as well as the activities within a building, collages could explain the expected activities at different time intervals, etc.

To conclude, each type of representation style has its relevance. One isn’t superior or inferior to the other. The final decision on what type of illustration technique is to be used rests upon the designer, depending on what he or wants to be conveyed to the client and how he or wants the client to perceive the concepts that he/she has designed.


  1. Domestika. (n.d.). What is Architectural Illustration? | Blog. [online] Available at:
  2. Journal. (2016). 9 Architectural Illustration Styles That Prove Drawing Isn’t Dead – Architizer Journal. [online] Available at:
  3. (n.d.). Brand Design For Architecture: Illustration. [online] Available at:

Hridya is an architecture student keen on expressing herself through words and visual narratives, hence found architecture to be a common ground that combines these interests. Furthermore, she loves to explore new horizons to stretch her abilities.