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Make sure your video card meets the System Requirements and is using the most up to date driver compatible with your operating system.
Get your camera view's height and angle set up the way you want.
Then, use 3D> Camera View Options> Final View with Shadows.
Customize your materials instead of leaving them at the defaults.
In particular, appliances and other stuff using metal materials generally looks better using shiny metals. The Formica bonus catalog has some shiny metal materials, and Home Designer also released another bonus catalog of metal materials.
However, I still prefer using the shiny metal materials we gathered in an earlier thread on how to do this.
Apply some texture to your walls and ceilings, it makes a huge difference when compared to a totally flat wall surface.
You can blend any color you want with the textures found in the Library under Fabrics & Wall Coverings> Textured.
Bumpy, Orange Peel and Dimpled are some of my favorites for walls.
We have the ability to have reflections in mirrors and other simple flat surfaces, like floors now, but not an easy way of automatically having reflections in other materials, like appliances/water in pools. But, we can still export an image, flip it in Paint or Paintbrush, and then import it back in as a Stretch to Fit, mostly transparent, material applied to something to create that look.
Basic steps in the latter part of this article (and a really nice rendering of a pool reflection using the steps).
I used a Wedge from the Shapes folder in the Library Browser to match up with the angled hood for a reflection over that surface.
UPDATE! See comments below for how you can fake reflections in other flat surfaces using the Mirror material.
Adjust your lighting!
If you don't have lights, make sure to add some.
Check to see what light bulbs and where the light source is located in the dialog.
For the best look, you probably don't want to have everything turned on, and most video cards can't display more than 8 lights on anyway. Use 3D> Lighting> Adjust Lights to quickly choose what to display on/off so you don't have to go into every light's individual dialog by selecting it in the view to check to see if it is "On" or set to "Cast Shadows."
Some versions of the software have an "Added Light" option. It doesn't add an actual light fixture object, but can be a nice way to quickly fake light to get the shadows or brightness you may want in a particular area.
I believe most versions let you adjust the Sunlight angle. Having the sun shine in through a window is a great way to make the scene look more realistic. Outdoor lights turn "on" when you toggle off the Sunlight.
If you can't find a particular object in the software's Library, either in the Core catalogs or the available bonus and manufacturer catalogs that can be downloaded from the website, check out the 3D Warehouse and import something close (like the firepit in the image above), but be aware that not everything is well designed and will look as good as Home Designer symbols, and some can really increase the number of surfaces in the design which slows down 3D views or can cause your video card to run out of memory.
There's also a growing list of other places where you can get third party symbols over in the Off Topic forum at: https://hometalk.chiefarchitect.com/index.php?/topic/990-good-sites-for-3d-symbols/
Place objects to make the scenes look more lived in. Outlets and switches, books, glasses and keys on a table, pots and pans in the kitchen, small appliances, soap dishes, towels, rugs, all these little things can really make a scene look more realistic.
Change your backdrop! Make sure it looks good out the windows at the angle you want. Import new backdrops for nighttime or winter scenes outside.
Finally, for those people really trying to use the software for production work, you're going to quickly find this is a lot of work if it is for more than just your own one-time project, and you should probably see about upgrading to the Premier version to get its ray tracing capabilities.
Check out the trial version, view the ray tracing videos and ChiefTalk threads to learn more about how it works to create different types of materials and apply bump maps for the more realistic look.
I'm not really familiar with the ray trace options in Chief, so I'm sure that someone more experienced could really improve the ray traces more than what the out of the box settings create.
The Premier version also lets you export views to use in third party rendering/raytracing engines. ChiefTalk has lots of info on those as well, like Kerkythea and Artlantis.
Other suggestions welcome!
- Make sure your video card meets the System Requirements and is using the most up to date driver compatible with your operating system.