Render Tools: How and When?

Before And After Rendering Images

Rendering your SOLIDWORKS projects gives you more than just an edge over your competitors. It also allows you to:

  • Nail down finish and color options
  • Reach manufacturing decisions faster
  • Provide a platform for customer feedback without producing a single unit

Anyone who has looked will agree there are a myriad of rendering solutions available today, and I want to help you to decide when to use two you may already have access to: PhotoView 360 and Visualize.

PhotoView 360 and Visualize can both be purchased as separate additions or are bundled automatically with a SOLIDWORKS Professional or Premium subscription. Both can produce renderings of images and videos, provide users with tools to customize the look of parts and assemblies, and can be learned and adopted quickly. If you have access to both you may have chosen one and stuck with it. Haven’t you ever been curious about what you’re missing out on? Let’s discuss the tools in more depth.

PhotoView 360


PhotoView 360 is an Add-In within SOLIDWORKS that grants users access to a suite of rendering tools. Being an Add-In, you do not have to leave the SOLIDWORKS environment to utilize this tool. PhotoView 360 gives users the ability to dress up SOLIDWORKS models with appearances and decals and allows for the creation and customization of new ones. Users of PhotoView 360 can also affect the environment, lighting, and background. These tools can be used to make capturing images and videos simple but effective.


PhotoView 360 is most useful for quick renderings and color checks. These images can be used for internal presentations or technical documentation. The quality of renderings is good, but not high quality enough to be used for marketing or promotional materials.

If changes to the model need to occur, PhotoView 360 can accommodate those easily. In some circumstances those changes won’t affect the appearances you’ve applied at all. This allows PhotoView 360 to be an efficient rendering tool when the process may involve a lot of CAD changes.


Practically anyone familiar navigating the SOLIDWORKS environment can use PhotoView 360. Any user with practice in adding appearances, materials, and colors to SOLIDWORKS files will pick up on functionality of this tool quickly. For those reasons, engineers and designers are good candidates for this tool.



Visualize is a standalone product that can be installed without the need of SOLIDWORKS. It can capture and render a variety of 3D files including SOLIDWORKS data. Visualize grants users’ access to a larger library of appearances and decals and a better tool for customizing new ones. Visualize also adds more customization when altering the environment, lighting and background, with the added benefit of saving these as templates to the library to be applied to further projects ahead. Visualize can produce:

  • 2D images and video files in addition to VR content
  • 360-degree files for websites
  • Embedded web files
  • Stereo image files
  • And more

Lastly, Visualize creates 3D cameras, which mimic the settings found in traditional photography. Affecting the lighting, depth of field, perspective, and more has never been easier.


Visualize is the answer for marketing content, external presentations, final design comparison, or pretty much any circumstance when you’d want customers or end users to believe they are looking at photographs of the real item.

Visualize can be easily updated to reflect changes in the CAD model, however, depending on the CAD change, some fixes may be necessary in the Visualize file. This does not make the process challenging but can become tedious. Much like photography, it makes the most sense to start shooting once the scene is completely set.


Engineers and CAD operators have the ability to use this tool to its fullest, but that may not be the most prudent use of their time. Typically, companies need engineers to work on specialized tasks that better suit their expertise. Designers, graphic illustrators, and marketing personnel may find this tool more in their sweet spot given that creativity is the primary focus and Visualize may utilize the skills they’ve already developed.

Furthermore, the hardware requirements to run SOLIDWORKS may not be enough to make for an effective rendering machine for Visualize. That said, no matter your role, if you have an interest in Visualize it’s worth some discovery.

Chair Rendering Before And After Images

Still not sure which one you want to use? I’ve summarized all that you need to know about the difference between PhotoView 360 and Visualize in the below table. Regardless of the deliverable, understanding your options can help you reach the right solution. Break the habit of using one tool to solve every problem. Branch out and consider how one, or both, of these rendering softwares could change your workflow for good.

Handy Table Solution

Need some help? DesignPoint’s team of Certified SOLIDWORKS Professionals love everything 3D, and we’re here to provide insights and answers to your hardest questions. Don’t hesitate to give us a call on our Technical Support line at 732.669.0055.