Presenting your creative work as realistic 3D images can take your online marketing up a level, creating an immersive experience for potential customers.

Luckily, you don’t have to be a whiz at CAD (computer-aided design) to create professional-looking renders and mockups. Here, discover simple tips for creating effective 3D images of your photography and illustration prints, logos, packaging designs, apps, and other products using photo-editing software. 

We’ll look at how you can use 3D images to market your work online, and the styles of images you can use to give your renders a contemporary look.  

Using 3D Mockups and Renders (and the Difference Between the Two)

Mockups and renders bridge the gap between a digital or conceptual design and the final manufactured product. This is particularly useful for client showcases, to secure the go-ahead or funding for manufacturing a product, or for presenting images on an online store when it may not be possible to show the product in a real-life context.

3D Rendering Illustration
A render scene of stationery products. Image by contributor 3DJustincase.

Most creatives will benefit from using mockups, especially if you’re wanting to market your work or products online.

For example, a packaging designer might use a render to demonstrate how a packaging concept will function and look. A fashion designer might want to use a T-shirt mockup to test how a printed design will appear before committing to a print run.

What Are Mockups?

Mockups are CAD-generated images, Photoshop actions, or 2D photo files that are edited to show a product in the image. An illustrator might want to use a mockup to present an image as a print in the context of an interior setting, for example.

What Are Renders?

Renders are images that have been generated using 3D CAD software, such as Rhino, Fusion 360, or Sketchup. The designer creates a 3D version of their design in the program and applies material textures, lighting, and shadowing to the object to create a realistic-looking render. The designer can then save this render as a flat image, such as a JPEG or PNG.

Abstract 3D Illustration
A 3D rendered scene. Image by contributor Krit Suppaudom.

Designers working in 3D disciplines, such as product, furniture, and interior design, will already be familiar with 3D CAD software. However, graphic designers, photographers, and illustrators usually only use 2D programs to create or edit their work. Regardless, if you have access to Photoshop and some editable 3D images on hand, you can quickly create your own renders and mockups that look realistic and professional. 

Below, discover ideas for how to market your creative work online using renders and mockups. Whether you want to present your prints beautifully on an online store or create more interesting backdrops for clothing or products, there’s a mockup style to suit every purpose.

Create Mockups of Prints and Artwork

If you’re an illustrator, photographer, or artist, featuring mockups of your images on your website, or on online stores like Etsy, can help customers to envision how your artwork would look in their homes. Mockups of prints can also give a sense of scale, allowing you to communicate a range of print sizes and options to customers more effectively. 

Mockups of 2D products, such as art prints or photos, are relatively easy to create. All you need is a photo of the room and frame to drop the artwork into, and access to Photoshop to edit the mockup. 

3D Mockup Illustration
A stylish mockup of a photo print. Image by contributor mtlapcevic.

There’s no need to create a setting for a photoshoot yourself when you can use photos already prepared for this purpose. You can also situate your artwork in a particularly stylish context, with trending interior styles and furniture.

I created these example mockups using images from the Shutterstock library. First, open the photo in Adobe Photoshop, and open the print image onto a new layer above. Apply a Multiply blending mode to the print to integrate it seamlessly into the scene. Next, add an Inner Shadow from the Effects panel to give the impression that the print is sitting within the frame.

Interior 3D Mockup
A mockup of an art print in an interior setting. Image by contributor jafara.

Mockups of prints within interiors look fantastic and are particularly effective as marketing imagery. Simpler mockups, that feature a stand-alone frame, are also useful as product images for online stores. Opt for a simple, pared-back white or black palette. And, if you offer your print in different sizes, choose a mockup image that features these proportions. 

Home Interior Mockup
Image by contributor jafara.
Interior Background Mockup Frame
Image by contributor jafara.
Poster Frame Mockup
Mockup of a poster frame with black background. Image by contributor mtlapcevic.

Edit Product Renders for Packaging and Other 3D Products

Flat prints are super easy to integrate into mockup images. However, 3D items such as packaging, cosmetics, clothing, and cushions require a slightly different approach. 

3D Rendering Illustration
A render scene of stationery products. Image by contributor 3DJustincase.

You can find Photoshop actions online for creating realistic renders of 3D products. These actions allow you to drop flat artwork into a smart object layer in the PSD file. The action then generates the render, which you can save as a JPEG or PNG, ready to use on your website. 

Render actions can produce impressive results. They can also be expensive and tricky to use, if you’re not familiar with Photoshop actions. An alternative is to graft a flat image onto an existing render image of a blank product, using the Edit > Transform > Distort and Transform > Warp functions in Photoshop to adjust the image to fit. 

Branding and Packaging Presentation
An example of a branding and packaging presentation with this cosmetic bottle render. Image by contributor 3DJustincase.

The example above uses an existing render image of a cosmetic bottle. I added the label design to the image in Photoshop, using the Transform options in the Edit menu to adjust the positioning and scale of the label. 

It’s also quick and easy to edit vector images of blank products, if you have Adobe Illustrator or Inkscape. Use them to quickly place your own designs on T-shirts, coffee cups, boxes, and book covers. Vector renders tend to look less photo-realistic than raster renders, but they have their own charm. You might find that an illustrated style suits your marketing approach better.

Abstract Branding Background
Image by contributor 3DJustincase.
Background for Branding and Presentation
Image by contributor 3DJustincase.
3D Illustration Mockup
Place your brand design on these charming vector renders. Image by contributor snoopy63.

Create Render Scenes for Furniture, Clothing, and People

Architects and interior designers often integrate people into rendered images, giving clients a sense of what buildings and interior spaces will look like once built and populated.

3D Rendering Mockup
Architects integrate people into their design to create a sense of movement, breathing life into a scene. Image from contributor ImageFlow.

Integrating people into existing “scene” images can be a useful marketing technique for other creative disciplines as well, such as fashion design and product design.

Fashion designers can add more interesting backdrops to lookbooks and studio shots using scene renders, helping to give clothing designs an editorial style. Product and furniture designers can enhance the design and branding of objects by integrating them into scenes, such as kitchen products in a domestic setting or chairs in a stylish living room context. 

When creating your own render scenes, look for images that suit the scale of your product to improve realism. Full-length shots of models will suit the scale of a room. Meanwhile, place smaller products or packaged items on table surfaces or podiums.

3D Render Illustration
Full-length shots of your model can exhibit the size of a room. Image by contributor musicman.

In the example above, a studio shot of a model has been grafted onto a 3D-rendered scene. Then, I enhanced it with subtle shadowing and highlights in Photoshop, helping to give the clothing a magazine-worthy look and style. 

Look at these unique scene renders that you can embellish with your own images of products or people:

Abstract 3D Render
Image by contributor wacomka.
3D Rendering of Modern Living Room
Image by contributor Zastolskiy Victor.
Interior 3D Render
Add your own product designs to these 3D renders. Image by contributor LEKSTOCK 3D.

Use Mockups to Market Website and App Designs

Even digital designs can benefit from the realism of a mockup or render. For website and app designers, mockups of their online layouts on digital devices, such as mobiles, tablets, and computers, can professionalize the look of designs for client pitches or portfolios. 

Vector Mockup Image
Professionalize your look by adding mockups of your online layouts to your digital devices. Image by contributor MPFphotography.

Mockups of app designs in use on mobiles can help to enhance the UX narrative of a design. Meanwhile, home page layouts are beautified by placing them into a stylish office setting. 

Digital Presentations
Give your marketing communications a refined edge. Image by contributor Kaspars Grinvalds.

For designers who specialize in digital, non-physical services and products, mockups can be invaluable for giving your marketing communications a sophisticated and slick edge. They also help you stand out in a sea of web designers.

Look for mockup images that you can easily adapt with screenshots of your site designs. Or, track down images that show users engaging with a website or app to help tell the client a compelling story about your design.

3D Smartphone Mockup
Image by contributor Customdesigner.
3D Smartphone Illustration
Incorporate screen shots of your site designs. Image by contributor Berezovska Anastasia.

So, you’ve created some fantastic renders and mockups of your artwork or products. Now it’s time to promote these images on your website, online stores, and social media channels.

While a professionally-styled and realistic mockup goes a long way to enticing potential customers and drawing in sales, visual marketing encompasses a broad range of elements and strategies that go beyond product imagery alone.

Discover more handy tips for getting started with marketing your creative work online, from how to create a perfect online customer experience to how to market your photography and illustration work online:

Cover image by contributor 3DJustincase.