The Buyer’s Guide to



Photo rendering can be helpful for many different areas of most any business; concepts, design reviews, to sales brochures; still images to realistic animations; custom designs for client review and sign-off; interactive content for the web, and even virtual reality. Rendering a product to make it photo-real can help all involved on a project to understand the impact of color, shape, or materials. Animations can be created to show how a product works, or how it’s assembled.

At CATI, we provide product 3D rendering solutions from Dassault Systèmes, the SOLIDWORKS people. In this guide, we’ll discuss the rendering portfolio and answer common questions on what to buy, how, and why.

The Rendering Portfolio

PhotoView 360

Part of SOLIDWORKS Professional and Premium!

Allows you to render your designs directly in CAD and create animations and still images with accurate shadows and lighting. It is embedded in the CAD interface, using all the power of parametric design to create dynamic animations of flexible components, and moving designs.

SOLIDWORKS Visualize Standard

Included with SOLIDWORKS Professional and Premium when you purchase subscription services!

This is a standalone application that is linked to your CAD files, meaning design changes can be propagated into it automatically. The "Standard" level allows you to create still images of your designs, making it the “camera for your CAD data”. Render faster than ever before using both the CPU and GPU, and advanced NVIDIA & AMD ray tracing acceleration technology.

SOLIDWORKS Visualize Professional

All the power to create still images, plus interactive 360° content for the web, animations, camera filters, post processing, and much more. The "Professional" level includes a render queue, allowing you to set aside rendering tasks until later in the day when the machine is not in use. Also includes a license of Boost so you can set up a separate networked render server.


Render product images and interactive product turntables (360° view) via an intuitive, lightweight web app rather than desktop app. The software is cloud-based, meaning the actual image rendering is done on cloud hardware rather than a powerful (and expensive) local GPU or CPU. As a 3DEXPERIENCE Platform solution, 3D RENDER can work natively on realtime CAD data from your 3DEXPERIENCE CLOUD PDM.


PhotoView 360 SOLIDWORKS Visualize
Target Users Animators, CAD users Graphic artists, marketers, CAD users Graphic artists, marketers, animators, website admins, non-CAD users Graphic artists, marketers, CAD users
Image Quality GOOD
Moderately accurate stills and animations
Photorealistic stills
Photorealistic stills and animations
Photorealistic stills
Render Speed SLOW
CPU rendering only
GPU rendering, CPU+GPU rendering
GPU rendering, CPU+GPU rendering, network and queued rendering
Cloud rendering
Packaging Part of SOLIDWORKS Professional and Premium Included with SOLIDWORKS Professional/Premium subscription
Standalone purchase
Standalone purchase Base purchase PLUS render credits

Licensing & Pricing

How is SOLIDWORKS rendering licensed?

PhotoView 360 is an included feature of SOLIDWORKS 3D CAD Professional and Premium. No separate license necessary!

SOLIDWORKS Visualize Standard, Professional, and Boost are all individually-licensed products that follow the same licensing models as SOLIDWORKS 3D CAD — standalone or network-based, term or perpetual licenses.

3DEXPERIENCE 3D RENDER is available with term licensing. You will also need to prepurchase cloud render credits, which will only be expended when you make your final renders.


How much does SOLIDWORKS rendering cost?

As a part of SOLIDWORKS 3D CAD, PhotoView 360 lets you do more limited CPU rendering with no additional purchases.

SOLIDWORKS Professional with Subscription ($7,260 at time of writing) or SOLIDWORKS Premium with Subscription ($10,390 at time of writing) will include SOLIDWORKS Visualize Standard as long as that sub remains active.

SOLIDWORKS Visualize Standard or Professional as a standalone purchase is a fraction of the cost of a SOLIDWORKS seat. If you’d like exact pricing, reach out to us for a quote.

SOLIDWORKS Visualize for aerospace

Related Purchases

What computer components do I need for rendering?

For rendering in SOLIDWORKS 3D CAD using PhotoView 360, you’ll need a fast CPU, the more cores, the better.

SOLIDWORKS Visualize is designed for GPU rendering, making CPU less important. The graphics card is the real workhorse, with both NVIDIA and AMD GPUs being supported. There is a render engine from each brand: NVIDIA Iray, which uses NVIDIA’s AI denoising, CUDA, OptiX, and Material Definition Language (MDL); and AMD Radeon ProRender, which makes use of AMD’s Radeon Rays technology. The 2023 release will also mark the introduction of DS’s own Stellar render engine (which is already used in 3DEXPERIENCE) into SOLIDWORKS.

Take a look at the full SOLIDWORKS Visualize hardware requirements.

As a cloud-based solution, 3DEXPERIENCE 3D RENDER just needs a modern web browser to run the scene setup app.  Actual rendering is done on cloud hardware, which users access with cloud render credits.


What kind of monitor should I get?

With this kind of 3D rendering, the most important factor is color reproduction. In general, IPS (in-plane switching) panels deliver accurate color at wide viewing angles and at affordable prices, making them great for graphic design.

In addition to color accuracy, you want the right color space or gamut (i.e. the depths of reds, blues, and greens the display can give you). If working on content with the intent on printing, monitors with Adobe RGB color space are built specifically for this purpose. NTSC is typically used for film, sRGB applies to HD TV, and DCI-P3 is common for digital movie projection. Look for the color gamut percentage ratings (look for “sRGB coverage” or “Adobe RGB coverage” or “DCI-P3 coverage”) that pertain to your desired industry.

One last thing to consider is color calibration. Some monitors come out of the box calibrated very well when using their included monitor profile, however, to maximize the color gamut for your panel, use a color calibration tool to measure and adjust the panels performance. There are several hardware options to choose from, x-rite for example.


What about training?

CATI provides training for all these solutions to get you up-to-speed quickly. We also provide focused training for your project and industry with our mentoring services.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • Do I need SOLIDWORKS CAD installed to use SOLIDWORKS Visualize?

    No. Visualize Standard and Professional are both standalone installations. Each version has its own serial number and is completely independent of CAD.

  • Can I create VR content directly from Visualize Professional?

    Yes, VR ready assets can be created. However, additional postprocessing will be needed before it can be viewed in VR. Note that the VR user can only rotate their head in space (three degrees of freedom). The content creator chooses a fixed viewer position.

  • Can I import non-SOLIDWORKS models into Visualize?

    Yes, you can import many different neutral file formats like STEP or IGES, and even native file formats from Autodesk, PTC, CATIA, and more. You are not limited to just SOLIDWORKS CAD.

  • I already have my animation setup in CAD, can I reuse this data?

    Absolutely! This includes basic motion and physics, and SOLIDWORKS Motion simulation studies.

  • How long does it take to learn Visualize?

    Most users will get up to speed in just a couple of weeks after three days of training. It may take longer depending on knowledge of lighting techniques, appearance creation, and camera composition.

  • I already use PhotoView 360. Why do I need another rendering tool?

    Visualize is a much more advanced and accurate rendering engine. It also allows usage of the GPU and CPU in combination, so renderings and animations take significantly less time to produce, and preview setup.

  • I want to do rendering, but don't have a capable enough computer. What are my options?

    3DEXPERIENCE 3D RENDER runs completely in the cloud from your web browser, so no rendering hardware is required. Bring in your models, set up your scenes, send it to the cloud to render your images (on a credit-based system).

    Alternatively, you can hire CATI for rendering services, and we’ll use SOLIDWORKS Visualize and our hardware to get you the images you need.

  • What is ray tracing?

    The two popular methods for 3D image rendering are rasterization and ray tracing.  Rasterization is less accurate but more efficient, making it great for things like SOLIDWORKS 3D CAD, where you can benefit from a smooth interactive experience.

    Ray tracing is far more accurate, but also more computationally expensive, making it better for the production of photorealistic images or animations, like what SOLIDWORKS Visualize produces.

  • What are PBR materials?

    PBR — or physically-based rendering — materials emulate real-world materials and appearances using photos and textures from actual sources. PBR materials use a base color, metallicity, and/or roughness properties to simulate what our eyes or camera would see when viewing the material in various lighting conditions.

  • What is Optix?

    NVIDIA OptiX™ is a ray tracing engine. It’s an application framework, developed by NVIDIA, for achieving optimal ray tracing performance using your GPU.

  • What is denoising?

    At the start of a ray traced render, the image is very grainy and noisy.  As the render engine conducts additional render passes, the noise resolves into a clear image.  Denoising is a post processing feature that, in effect, reduces the necessary render time to reach that clear and acceptable image.

    It does this using artificial intelligence to differentiate between noise and the true image, so that it can intuitively eliminate that noise without having to wait for all the actual render passes. Denoising can potentially save hours of render time while producing nearly indistinguishable image quality.

Common Pitfalls


Visualize and PhotoView 360 take a short time to learn and use, however, perfecting the craft of rendering is its own artform and can take months to perfect. Remember that rendering can create ultra-realistic representations of your designs, but sometimes the goal is to make them look extraordinary and bend reality a bit.

It takes more than realistic CAD models to make a convincing render; lighting and shadows, appearances and reflections, cameras, and small imperfections, can really make the difference between a good image and one that is exceptional.


Rendering virtual products enables you to visualize and communicate your ideas earlier in the production cycle and can help generate consumer hype before a product is released, or key stakeholder understanding of boring CAD models.

It's not just pictures of products. It's an opportunity to convey meaning, instruction, and function, and to make a connection.


Don’t be afraid to step outside the box and create something inspiring for everyone in the design lifecycle. Create something that captures the imagination.

Software Support & Training

CATI SOLIDWORKS customers enjoy 12 hr/day support Monday through Friday. We also run software training courses for solutions like SOLIDWORKS Visualize, both on a public schedule and at student request.

Guided Mentoring

Mentoring is like a training class, but more focused on your needs and wants. A statement of work is created, and then we develop learning content just for you, using the assets of your choice.

Rendering Services

We create lifelike stills and animations of your products to your design and quality specifications.

We Empower The


  • The Buyer's Guide to SOLIDWORKS Rendering
  • The Buyer's Guide to SOLIDWORKS Rendering
  • The Buyer's Guide to SOLIDWORKS Rendering
  • The Buyer's Guide to SOLIDWORKS Rendering
  • The Buyer's Guide to SOLIDWORKS Rendering
  • The Buyer's Guide to SOLIDWORKS Rendering
  • The Buyer's Guide to SOLIDWORKS Rendering
  • The Buyer's Guide to SOLIDWORKS Rendering