How To Create Realistic Fusion 360 Renderings

Brad Tallis Brad Tallis March 8, 2023

3 min read

Do you want to take your Fusion 360 renderings to the next level? You’re in the right place! Let’s go through some tips and tricks.

There are three tips that the above video tutorial focuses on — materials, lighting, and environments. Let’s walk through each of them.


The first thing step in creating a realistic rendering is picking a material that closely matches what the product is made out of. To do this, start by clicking on the Appearance icon in the Menu. For the example in the video, we chose the Steel Appearance because this product is made out of steel. To find the Steel Appearance, go into Steel and pick Steel Satin, then drag and drop it on top of one of the objects. Next, repeat this step for the other parts with their respective materials. In this example, we also explore Titanium Nitride.


The next factor to consider when creating a realistic rendering is lighting. After all, if a rendering isn’t well-lit, it won’t look like it’s in a real environment. To adjust lighting, go into the Scene Settings and then into the Environment Library, where you can see all of the default light environments. If you drag a different light environment into the viewport, you can watch the effects happen.

But first, I want to talk about a tip that will improve the look of your renders.  That is to use filleted or rounded edges instead of sharp edges.  Notice the highlight right here? This is because the edge has a fillet on it. Notice this other edge is sharp, and you don’t really see any highlights going on with those sharp edges.

Another tip to adjust lighting is to change the background color. In this example, the part is grey, and so is the background. We want to add some contrast. To do so, go into settings and change the background color. By clicking on the color swatch, you can change the color to pure white. This changes the background and makes the product stand out better.

Using HDRIs, or high dynamic range images, is another way to take lighting to the next level. All of the environments in the Library are HDRIs, but they really don’t have any color or realism.

If you visit the website and click on Browse HDRIs, you’ll see many images, each with four spheres in the foreground, glass, ceramic, metal, and plastic. Notice how the four spheres look different in each image? This is due to the HDRI image being reflected off of the different materials. Depending on which HDRI image you use, you’re going to get a different rendering result.

So one of the tips with using an HDRI is I recommend finding an image that is similar to what you are trying to render. Next, take a look at the metal sphere in each of the images and pick which one you like the best. Then click Download in the upper-right corner, and leave the default resolution set to 4K (8k or 16k doesn’t make much of a difference). Once it’s downloaded, go back into Fusion 360 and click on Replace Custom Environment. Adjust the image brightness and the position of the HDRI if needed, and notice how the model looks completely different.


The third tip covered in this tutorial is to put your item in a realistic environment. For example, if you’ve modeled a toaster or a coffee maker, put it on a kitchen counter. If you modeled a drill, put it on a workbench. To do this in a realistic way, play around with the Appearances dialog. There you’ll find features like Diamond Plate, Ground PLane, Steel Satin and more — all of which can alter your environment’s appearance.

Another tip for mastering environments is to use Depth of Field. It helps make the viewer focus on the object in the foreground, while the background fades out into a blurred image. You see this quite often in photography. Start an in-canvas render, then turn on Depth of Field and select your center of focus. Notice how the background and even some of the model becomes quite blurry.

Create an official render

Once you set up your scene using these materials, lighting, and environment tips, it’s time to make an official render. With Fusion 360, you can either render on the cloud or locally on your computer. It’s always exciting to see the final result! So, next time you want to level up your rendering, remember materials, HDRIs, and environments.

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