There are various tricks to make architectural 3D renders and animations captivating and impactful. One of them is adding people. They enliven renders and allow viewers to imagine the future look of a project easier and more vividly. Whether it’s a residential neighborhood or a commercial space like a coffee shop, the presence of people in it will make the place look lived-in and realistic. What’s more, showing people near the building is a convenient way to demonstrate its scale. So, there are both practical and aesthetic reasons to “populate” your architectural visualizations. But how to add people to renders and what options are there?

The team of our architectural rendering studio always strives to make CG visuals lively and life-like, so we are experts on the matter. And we are glad to share our knowledge with you. Want to learn how to add people to renders and find out what solution will suit your project best? Then keep on reading! 

#1. People in 2D 

3D Exterior Rendering with People

So-called “2D people” are images of real humans taken from photos and included in CG renders.

When to choose this option?

This solution is optimal when the composition in your renders implies putting people in the foreground and drawing the viewers’ attention to them. By using 2D human figures, you can achieve the highest and the most realistic quality. 

How to add 2D people to renders?

First, a CG artist finds or takes a photo showing people at the necessary angle. Then, they cut the human figures out in Photoshop, add them to renders, and fix the angle a bit if needed. After that, the artist adjusts hues, saturation, values, shadows, and lighting to make the humans blend in seamlessly in the rendering. 

Pro of 2D people: 

  • realism. 

Cons of 2D people: 

  • it might be hard to find photos showing people at the needed angles;
  • a perfect person/object scale is not always easy to achieve.

#2. People in 3D

This variant entails using digitally created 3D models of people. 

When to choose this option? 

First of all, human 3D models are useful for animations. 2D photo cutouts would be useless here because it’s impossible to animate them. Secondly, CG models come in handy when one needs to depict people at some unusual angle, which is hard to find in a real-life photo.

In general, 3D people tend to look a bit less realistic than 2D ones. On the other hand, this solution takes less time to implement and works great in 3D animations.

How to add 3D models of people to CGI? 

First, an artist looks for appropriate CG models in online or internal stocks. Once they find suitable ones, they add them to a 3D scene and then render the views required for animation or static imagery. 


  • it’s easy to add the same people shown from multiple angles;
  • an artist can set realistic light and shadows pretty fast;
  • keeping the proper scale is easy.


  • 3D models look less realistic than photographed real humans;
  • limited choice of models;
  • higher production price. 

#3. People in 4D

So-called 4D people are made using volumetric scanning. Simply put, they are scans of real humans captured in movement. 

When to choose this option?

This innovative tool allows for achieving a high level of realism even in real-time rendering. The usage of 4D people is a good choice for animation, games, VFX, VR, and AR.

Immerse clients into your design projects with a 3D animation

How to include 4D people in CG visuals? 

How to add people to renders using this cutting-edge solution? Just like 3D models, 4D ones are sold in specialized stocks. A CG artist simply chooses suitable models, places them in a scene, and renders the required views. 


  • 4D people look very realistic. 


#4. Visual effects available 

How to add people to renders in a visually interesting way? There are a couple of tricks. Let’s take a look. 

a) Semi-transparency

3D Interior with Semi-transparent People

Here, the name speaks for itself. People in your renders can be semi-transparent, like in the example above.

When to choose this option? 

Semi-transparent people enliven a render while attracting a little attention. Also, they help to showcase the scale of the main objects without distracting the viewer’s eyes from them.

How is this effect added? 

Semi-transparent 2D people figures are added to renders using Photoshop. An artist just sets their transparency to 50%, and that’s it.

b) Motion blur

3D Rendering with Motion Blurred People

This is another popular option to enliven a CG image. Motion blur looks memorable and impressive. It imitates a camera shot taken with a long exposure, as you can see in the image above. 

When to choose this option? 

For instance, renders of a busy street, a shopping mall, or a sports facility will look more dynamic and realistic with people “moving” around. 

Also, one should note that using blurred human figures in CGI is one of the most reasonable solutions from the time/cost point of view. That’s because it doesn’t require ultra-realistic models and can be done in both Photoshop or 3Ds Max.

How to add blurred people to renders? 

In 3Ds Max, an artist sets two points of an animated figure’s movement and renders the shot “between” them. Then, they turn on the motion blur effect in the virtual camera, and the software does the rest. 

In Photoshop, an artist simply blurs the figure along one axis. It doesn’t require extreme accuracy like in the previous case, as the result will look good anyway. 

#5. What information on people figures do you need to include in your 3D rendering brief?

3D Rendering of a Cafe with People

To communicate your ideas to 3D artists, you will need to mention several things:

  • the preferred number of people, their gender, age, and race;
  • where exactly in the image you want people to be. However, it is advisable to consult with the 3D artist as they understand better how to add people to renders in a way that strengthens the composition;
  • what activities people need to do (walk, read a book, talk on the phone, etc.);
  • how they are supposed to be dressed.

#6. When is it best to not add any people to 3D renders?

3D Exterior Rendering without People

A rendering without people will work perfectly if you need to focus the audience’s attention solely on the design itself. It might be used both as a primary or additional image to demonstrate the project without obscuring any important details. 

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By including people in architectural renders, you can make them more lively and atmospheric. However, as for how to add people to renders and whether to do it at all – the decision is up to you. The experienced ArchiCGI team is always ready to consult you on the available solutions to help you find one that will serve your specific project needs.

Got some fresh ideas for your next design presentation? Contact us for 3D rendering services to get photorealistic CGI with the smoothest workflow! 

Chris Kostanets
Senior Project Manager, Mentor

Chris manages the work of 2 CGI teams and teaches Middle PMs. She loves Scottish landscapes, Ancient Greek culture, and Plein-air painting. At home, Chris is a caring parent for 3 cute chickens and a magnificent rooster.