SOLIDWORKS Visualize Unknown Tips and Tricks: Part One

Article by Scott Ellery updated February 10, 2018


Creating your own HDR Environments

SOLIDWORKS Visualize is an incredibly powerful rendering tool to get quick life-like renders of our CAD models done as fast as possible.  There are a lot of powerful and robust tools available to us in Visualize to give us some breathtaking results and you don’t have to be a hardcore rendering junkie to start using the simple and straight forward interface.

I have been lucky enough to have been using Visualize for the last few years and thought I would put together a list of what I call “Unknown SOLIDWORKS Visualize Tips and Tricks” that most users may not know is possible with the software.

Finding an Image

SOLIDWORKS Visualize uses HDRI and HDR Spherical maps for virtual environments so that our models can have realistic lighting for whatever scene we are trying to create. Generally if you Google HDRI you can find some free maps that you can use just by a simple drag and drop into Visualize.

Another type of HDR mapping you will see online is a flattened out HDR which is a lot more common, let’s see how we can take these “Flat” HDR’s and create spherical maps from them in SOLIDWORKS Visualize.

Here we have map that we want to create a Spherical HDR, you can find these all over Google by searching for free HDR’s or by creating them yourself with certain apps or cameras that will create maps of your environment and flatten much like the image above.

In this case I wanted a Kitchen setup and will be using this image (courtesy of Maxime Roz to light the scene:

Flat Kitchen HDR Image in JPEG Format

Flat Kitchen HDR Image in JPEG Format


What’s the first step?

The first thing we do is start a new blank project with no model in it, you will see that it is unnecessary for models at this point. For those familiar with Visualize you know we have two options to use on our Scene Tab:

  • Environments: These are HDR/HDRI that are already Spherical and will Light our models for a look realistic to the environment
  • Back Plates: These help us position our Model by creating a static background that doesn’t move when we pan or rotate our camera.

In this case we want to use our Kitchen HDR as a backplate and the easiest way to do that is to simply drag and drop it from Windows Explorer into SOLIDWORKS Visualize.

Drag and Drop the Kitchen HDR image file directly into the Visualize Project

Drag and Drop the Kitchen HDR image file directly into the Visualize Project

Now that the plate has been applied to the scene you will see that the image has filled out preview window:

The Kitchen backplate has been applied with a drag and drop

The Kitchen backplate has been applied with a drag and drop

Getting the Spherical HDR

In order to change our “Flat” Image into a Spherical map we are going to use the output options within SOLIDWORKS Visualize. If we open the output dialog we have a number of options from where we want to save our render, how large do we want our render and what quality level we want it at; but what we are going to focus on is the file formats that we can output.  There are a number of different formats for different types of images but we are interested in the HDR format, we will select it and render our image on Preview settings as there is no model to worry about for quality.

Select HDR from the Image Format Dropdown Menu

Select HDR from the Image Format Dropdown Menu

Putting it all together

Rendering the HDR should only take a minute or two and we are now able to use it in any environment we want, we can open our model and drag and drop the newly created HDR directly into our project.

SOLIDWORKS Visualize Tips and Tricks: Custom made Environment HDR

The final result using the Custom made Environment HDR

So not only can SOLIDWORKS Visualize create spherical environments but it can do it fast and with ease to make sure that no matter the scene we are creating our CAD Renders look real enough to touch.   Make sure you are using the power of SOLIDWORKS Visualize for your projects and as always get in touch with us if you have any questions or need SOLIDWORKS Visualize Training.

But wait there’s more!

As a bonus, If you want to see every part of the process step by step there is a video below that you can follow along with.

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Scott Ellery, CSWE

Scott Ellery is a CSWE and an avid contributor to the SOLIDWORKS Community, He is a ten time SOLIDWORKS World\3DExperience World Presenter and contributes regularly to SWUG meetings organized by four different user groups in Canada, Scott has worked with many CAD Software packages for over a decade in a multitude of different industries including Steel Fabrication, Injection Molding and Sheetmetal. With a background in Mechanical Engineering Technology and Design, Scott enjoys pushing SolidWorks to it's limits and teaching users to be as fast and efficient with SolidWorks as humanly possible.