SOLIDWORKS Visualize vs. PhotoView 360: When Do I use What?

SOLIDWORKS Visualize is a great new rendering software available as part of the SOLIDWORKS Platform.  Visualize allows users to create magazine quality images that look so real they often fool the average consumer to thinking they’re actual product photos instead of renderings.  With the great quality and amazing speed with which Visuailze can render I hear customers asking: Why would I use anything else?  There are others who love PhotoView360 and are asking: Is Visualize replacing PhotoView360?  Will I lose my beloved rendering tool?


To help ease some concerns first, Visualize is NOT a replacement for PhotoView 360.  Visualize is meant to enhance the SOLIDWORKS user with additional rendering capabilities, but it is NOT a replacement for PhotoView 360.  There are absolutely times when PhotoView 360 makes sense to be the tool of choice for your rendering needs and other times when you can’t beat Visualize.  If you attended our recent 10-4 Tech Talk I showed a bit of introductory level usage of Visualize and some key differences between PhotoView 360 and Visualize.  In the remainder of this blog I’ll touch a bit more on when to use what tool.


The first thing you need to know is: Where am I at in terms of my Product Release Date?  If you’re still early in development, renderings are likely needed for CAD modeling verification (i.e. surface checks) or internal design idea communication with another team.  In this case it makes sense to use PhotoView 360, since it’s built right into SOLIDWORKS and the output quality isn’t the top priority.  If you’re closer to the release date and you need customer feedback, so you want something that looks as real as possible.  You can also use renderings to get a better feel for the actual end production product to see if any last minute changes are needed.  This scenario is a perfect fit for Visualize.


The second thing to consider is: What is the level of quality I need on my render?  If you just need something that looks a bit better than RealView Graphics, then PhotoView 360 is the way to go since it’s right at your fingertips inside SOLIDWORKS. If you need win at a game I like to call “Real or Render”…ok, side tangent if you want to have fun with colleagues and loved ones. Get a photo of product, a CAD model of that product, and render it in Visualize.  See if they can pick out which is the real photo and which is the rendering.  You’ll find you can fool quite a few people with the content you can create in Visualize…as I was saying, if you need to win at “Real or Render”, that is you need to create an image that is so real you can fool quite a few people into thinking it’s actually a photograph of a real product then, you need to use Visualize.

Real v Rendered

The third thing to think about is: How many CAD changes will I be making and how dramatic are they?  If you have a lot of huge changes coming up then PhotoView360 is the way to go.  Since it’s integrated in SOLIDWORKS your “project” as Visualize would call it is easily updateable since SOLIDWORKS is tracking you all along the way.  If you only have a few minor changes (i.e. switching 1 or two parts out or changing a few aspects of a part), then Visualize can handle this well.  Be careful of spending a lot of time early in your design cycle using Visualize to get texture maps adjusted and tweaked, because if you remove those faces or change the number of faces you may have to do all that work again.

CAD Changes

The last thing to consider is: Who am I?  Not in the philosophical sense, but where do I stand with my capabilities, training and interests.  If you’re an Engineer, Designer, or SOLIDWORKS User you’re likely already fully aware of appearances, textures, and how to create renderings in SOLIDWORKS through PhotoView 360.  If you’re in Marketing, a photography enthusiast or the person who has to do everything, then you’ll probably be able to get up to speed pretty quick and love Visualize’s capabilities.


I hope this clears things up a little bit.  Below is an easy chart to know when to rely on which product.  Please let me know in the comments below if you have any other questions.


When to Use What

Brandon Nelms
Application Engineer
Computer Aided Technology, Inc

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