Guides & Tutorials
The section below details tutorials and guides to some of the most commonly asked design questions. They demonstrate the use of the Arcon toolset to address some of the most complex design situations and building challenges. These tutorials complement our normal documentation, training guides and manuals which can be found in the Knowledgebase. Please check back regularly as more tutorials are added and if you wish to contribute or request a tutorial contact us.
Click on a tutorial to view the contents
Tutorial: Double Storey Window
A feature that is becoming more popular with modern building designs and self-builds is the double height window. Large windows, often replacing the whole wall of a building can be seen on many architect designed and self build homes.
Placing a window on the ground floor in 3D Architect and then simply changing the properties to make it say 6m tall won’t give you the desired effect. This is because the window will automatically be trimmed down to the ceiling level of the ground floor by the upper floor.
The effect we want to achieve is this:
1) Firstly open the project with the building you wish to add a two storey window to. For this you can either create a new building, use one of your existing buildings or download one of our example projects. I am going to be using our existing example basic building for this guide. If you are creating a building from scratch then you can skip the section where we delete a wall by simply drawing in only 3 walls to start with.
2) Make sure you are in Construction Mode (F12 toggles between Design mode and Construction mode)
3) Now we need to know how we can create a window which is higher than the floor-to-floor height on our individual floors. The way we are going to do this is by using multiple buildings feature of 3D Architect.
4) As mentioned above this guide is written assuming you are using the example basic building. So our first task is to remove one whole side of the building. To do this we need to remove the south facing wall from each floor.
5) Select the floor named Attic either from the drop down list on the toolbar or by navigating to Floor>Current Floor>Attic. Click on the south facing wall to select it (it should now be highlighted in red). Press Delete. Your wall has been removed. Repeat this for the Upper Floor and Ground Floor
6) You should now have a three sided house, complete with roof. Within 3D Architect it is always important that a room be ‘closed’ correctly. This means that all of the walls link to form a complete room. You will notice when you have completed a room that it gets a label (e.g. Room 1). Because we have just removed an entire side of our house, none of our rooms are currently complete.
7) When is a wall not a wall? When it’s a virtual wall. We use the virtual wall type to enable us to close off a room without having a physical wall in place. This is a useful tool when creating designs and structures using multiple buildings.
8) OK so from the wall tool, move your mouse over until the flyout menu appears and shows the available options. Select the Virtual Wall type (easily identified as it’s the only wall type that is red).
9) Make sure you have the Attic floor selected again. Now draw a virtual wall across the gap where you earlier deleted the physical wall, making sure you are connecting the east and west walls with this new virtual wall. Your will know when you have connected the walls correctly as your room will be labelled ‘Room 1′. Repeat this for the Upper Floor and the Ground Floor. Take not to work from the top floor down. If you complete the ground floor first the roof will automatically fall to the completed floor.
10) We are now ready to insert our second building. So navigate to Building>New Building and hit OK (feel free to change the name if you require). You should now be looking at the Floor Properties dialogue box. Now our new building isn’t actually going to be a full building. In fact we’re just going to create a single wall to replace the wall we deleted. The difference is that in order for our window to be able to reach from floor to roof, we place our new building as a single floor. This means we need to set the Floor to Floor Height to be the same as the combined height of our original building. In our example, this would be 5.6m (2x 2.8m). Once the height has been set hit OK
11) Now we just need to draw a wall back into the hole. This generally works best if you draw your new wall to link the outside edges of the east and west walls. Now your wall is in place we have a four sided house again.
You are now free to add your favourite window type and extend it to the required size. In the case of our example I used the Advanced Window type and set the Sill Height to 0 and the left/right heights to 4m with a 1m arch.
Tutorial: Half Timber House
The half-timber house is a common site throughout the UK and Europe and can easily be re-created within 3D Architect. Whilst the example below deals with creating a half-timber appearance, the tips and tricks in the tutorial can be used to create multiple styles.
So by using the example basic house, the half-timber house we are going to create will look like this:
1) Firstly open the project with the building you wish to add a half-timber look to. For this you can either create a new building, use one of your existing buildings or download one of our example projects.
2) Make sure you are in Construction Mode (F12 toggles between Design mode and Construction mode)
3) Now we need to make sure that we are working on the floor on which we want to add the half-timber appearance. If you are using the example basic house, we’re going to change the south facing wall on the upper floor. To select the upper floor either pick it from the drop down list of floors on the main horizontal toolbar or navigate on the menus to Floor>Current Floor>Upper Floor.
4) Once we have the right floor selected, we need to now highlight the wall we want to change. Click once on the outer edge of the wall (we’re using the south facing wall in our example). The wall should now be highlighted in red. Double click the wall to open the wall properties dialogue.
5) In the box marked Surface Area untick the Use lower wall texture box. This does what it says and tells the wall that we don’t want it to automatically copy the texture of the wall below it. Now we will choose a texture just for this wall. Click on the right facing arrow by the texture box. Choose a new texture for this wall. We’re going to use white for this example. Once you have chosen the texture, hit OK
6) Your house should now have a single white wall on the upper floor. Hit F12 to toggle to Design Mode to check your progress.
7) Now moving back into Construction Mode we need to add our windows. Choose a window style that you wish to use. In our example I used the Advanced Window Construction tool and added 2 vertical and 2 horizontal bars. I also chose the texture for the window frame to make sure it would match the timbers I will place later. Once you have your window sizings set correctly, hit OK. Now place your windows in your desired position (remember you can of course use some guidelines to help with the positioning if necessary).
8) With our wall the right colour and our windows in place, the only thing left to do is to add the timbers. For this we need to head back to Design Mode.
9) Now we will need to use a number of 3d items to create the final look but the process for each will be the same. I will provide the details you need to create the first timber, then simply repeat as necessary until you have your wall timbered as you need.
10) To make the process simpler, it’s a good idea to know the dimensions you’re working with. So make sure you know the length of the outside wall and your floor-to-floor height.
11) To make the timber we’re going to use an Rectangular Bar, Lying from the object catalogue. You will find this by opening the object catalogue and ensure that the Furniture button is selected on the left hand menu. Now navigate to File System>Elements>Bars. Select the Rectangular Bar, Lying and drag it into your design. Now I usually try to use the plan or colour plan views in Design Mode to place my objects, but use whichever mode you find suits you best.
12) With the bar sitting in your design (don’t worry about it’s position quite yet) double click on it to open the properties dialogue box. Here we want to change the size of the bar. Firstly tick the box headed Allow Distortion. This enables us to set all of the size details, if we do not check this box then altering one dimension will automatically alter the other dimensions of the object.
13) If you are using the example house then you can set the length to 14.25m, the width to 0.1m and the height to 0.3m. You can of course use your own settings here if you prefer. Hit OK
14) Now before we position the bar you may find it much easier to turn off the Allow Distortion setting again. If it is left on you may find that when you try to move the bar, it get resized instead. Double click to open the properties box and untick the Allow Distortion setting.
15) To position the bar it’s simply a case of dragging it into place. You may find it easier to use the plan view to do this, as you can clearly see it’s position in relation to the walls etc. Once you have it in place you can now copy the bar and resize, rotate and reposition it as many times as you wish to create the rest of the timbers.
Tutorial: Simple Conservatory
Creating conservatories, garden rooms, greenhouses or glass covered extensions can all be achieved within 3D Architect. All that’s required is a design and a little patience and it’s possible to create some extremely complex structures.
Our guide here will give you an insight into some of the tools and methods that can be combined to create such structures and to demonstrate this we will create a simple conservatory like this:
1) Make sure you are in Construction Mode (F12 toggles between Design mode and Construction mode)
2) We will now make a second building as the basis for the conservatory. So navigate to Building>New Building and create the basic shell of your conservatory (remebering that we only require a single storey for this purpose)
3) You should now have your two buildings, consisting of our completed basic example house and our open shell single storey conservatory building. Now we need to make this building represent a conservatory.
4) The simplest way to replace the brick walls with windows is to use a single window, sized to run the length of the entire wall. To acheive this we will first add windows to the side walls of the conservatory. Measure the internal wall length in advance so that we know how long our window will need to be. Then simply choose the best window type for your own purpose and set the height/length.
5) In our example we left a small wall around the base of the conservatory, and sized our window to ceiling height. The ‘window with fan light’ type was used as this provides sufficient options and flexibility to draw a single window as multiple panels by using the vertical bars option. This is repeated for both side walls
6) For the south facing wall, I inserted a french door in the middle of the wall, then simply used the same window model to run from the corner to the side of the door (again use your measure tool to get the right settings)
7) The finishing touches for this wall were to use the rounded corner wall tool to round off the angles on the edges and to use another window above the door to complete the conservatory walls. This is easily done by just setting the sill height to be just above the maximum height of the door.
The next step is to create the roof, and for this we will need a simple glass panel. You can of course use the panel we provided, however in the next section I will explain how to create and use the panel to form the roof.
Creating the glass panel
In order to add our roof, we are going to need to create the roof panels ourselves. The technique we are going to use is useful for creating many unusual and ellaborate structures and is not just limited to simple panels. Indeed the techniques used here can be replicated with any combination of blocks, shapes and objects in order to create your own unique items and objects.
For reference, the method outlined here can also be found in the ‘Revealed’ manual
1) In order to create our roof panel we will need to be in Design Mode (remember F12 will toggle between the modes). You can either create the panel in a new project, or use the project you already have open, and just zoom out so you are working in a clear area.
2) The first thing we will create will be the frame for the roof panel. So open your object catalogue and navigate to the ‘Rectangular Bar, Lying’ object (Objects>Elements>Bars)
3) Drag the bar into your work space and double click it to open the properties dialogue.
4) In this dialogue, untick the boxes marked ‘Snap during movement and ‘Use as a snap target’ as this will make alignment of your window elements easier. Then tick the ‘Allow Distortion’ box to enable us to enter a custom size. If you don’t allow distortion then all dimensions of the object remain linked, meaning they will auto-size when you change one side to keep the current ratio.
5) We will now resize the bar to more accurately reflect it’s use as part of a frame. At this point it may be worth making note of the dimensions of your existing conservatory room.
6) Ok so you need to make sure that your panels are going to cover the roof opening of your conservatory. So with our first bar we will set it to the length of our conservatory. In our example this is 4.1m. The width and depth of the bar will need to be set to a realistic level to represent the panel of the window. These are both set to 5cm in our example (0.05m). Click OK once you have resized the bar.
7) You can now copy the bar so you have both sides of the panel. Navigate to Edit>Copy.
8) We need to repeat the process above for the end bars of the panel. You can simply copy the existing bar and rotate it 90 degrees. Then resize it as appropriate. When resizing the width keep in mind two points: Divide the total length you wish to cover by the total number of panels you need in order toget the total width of the panel. Also the width bars are going to be placed inside the two length bars so factor in the width of those bars (i.e. 5cm) when calculating the total width of the panel.
9) You should now have your two length bars and two width bars to create the frame of the panel. Align the bars so that they form a rectangle. You may find this easier if you use guidelines to help with alignment
10) Once all four bars are in position forming a complete frame, we will group them together as a single element. Highlight the four bars together (hold Shift as you click each one) then once all are selected hit the Group button from the left hand toolbar (you can also do this from Edit>Group.
11) You now have a frame, so we just need to fill the frame with a glass panel. We will use a simple plate from the object catalogue (Object>Elements>Plate) and select the ‘Plate, horizontal’ object.
12) Resize your plate to fit the internal dimensions of the frame you have just created, remembering to tick the ‘Allow Distortion’ box. Once resized, position the plate in the centre of your frame. We now have our complete panel, we just need to make it transparent.
13) To make the glass into glass, we need to add a material. The materials are accessed from the object catalogue, and the tab on the left hand menu bar of the catalogue maked ‘Materials’. This selection offers a different set of materials which have various characteristics designed to mimic the lighting and texture properties of different objects when rendered.
14) So from the materials catalogue, select the ‘Glass’ folder. From the available types, we will choose ‘Glass, simple both sides’. The materials are dragged onto the object in the same way you would a texture. So drag the glass material onto our panel. Do this for both exposed sides of the panel. You can then select both the frame and panel and group them as a single object as we did before.
15) Now we have our complete glass panel for the conservatory roof. Simply drag the panel into position and copy for the total number of panels you require to complete the roof.
Tutorial: Split Level Building
One of the most common issues that gets raised is how to design a split level house. Often it’s necessary for the house to be split level because of the uneven ground on which the plot sits.
This guide is intended to briefly describe the method to create a split level building on such a plot. It also introduces some of the simple tools and techniques that you will find useful in numerous different creating and designs.
The house we’re going to re-create will be something like this:
1) Firstly open the project with the building you wish to add a new split level section to. For this you can either create a new building, use one of your existing buildings or download one of our example projects.
I am going to be using our existing example basic building for this guide. Also, in the illustration and examples above, you will see that I have added a ground contour. I’m not going to detail how this is acheived here (a simple process) as this was added merely to demonstrate the concept. Ground contouring will be covered in another guide shortly.
2) Make sure you are in Construction Mode (F12 toggles between Design mode and Construction mode)
3) Using our example basic building, we can see that we have a simple, traditional house which would fit nicely on a flat plot. For uneven plots, or even to build a section underground we will need to make use of the multiple buildings feature.
4) As mentioned above this guide is written assuming you are using the example basic building as a starting point. If you are creating a design from scratch the process is the same, using the example building simply saves us some time for this guide.
5) You will see from the illustration that in addition to our example house, we now have a small extension to the south side. This extension has a lower floor level than the main house. We will add this extension as a new building.
6) We are now ready to insert our second building. So navigate to Building>New Building and hit OK. You should now be looking at the Floor Properties dialogue box. Now as our extension is lower than the main part of the house, we need to set the floor height for this building. The original building has a ‘Height above ground floor level’ set to 0. Our extension is lower than this so we need to set this value to a negative. In our example this height is set to -0.8m.
7) We now draw our building in the normal way, with one small difference. At the point on which the two buildings meet (i.e. the south wall of the main house in our example) we do not draw a joining wall on our extension (Building 2). If we used a regular wall, then we will effectively have a double thickness wall where the two parts of the house meet. Whilst this is also generally not the case (there are of course always exceptions when you might want this) you will be limited with options on placing doors etc. in this wall.
8) Therefore we will use the virtual wall type to enable us to close off a room without having a physical wall in place. So select the ‘virtual wall’ type from the walls flyout menu (it’s easy to identify as it is the only one in red). Now use this virtual wall to close off your rooms (i.e. draw the wall adjoining the south wall of the main house. You will know when this is done correctly as your room will automatically be labelled ‘Room 1′.
9) You should now have a single storey extension, which is set below the ground level of your first building. You can now of course add additional floors and a roof in the normal way.
10) Opening up the rooms into a single space will depends entirely on the effect you wish to acheive. It is now possible to simply add an adjoining door or is you wish you can use the wall cut out tool (as I have in the example) to create a more open plan effect. The only thing you need to remember to do here is to switch back to building 1 (Building>Current Building>Building 1).
11) Add all your doors, windows to each building as normal but hold in mind that you may need to adjust heights of elements (doors for instance) on the adjoining wall in order that they don’t cut overlap the ceiling of building 2. Also you may find that where building 2 is lower in the ground than our original building, the side where our virtual wall is leaves a gap. This can be rectified simply by adding a basement to our original building so that the wall blocks this gap.
You now have the tools to create multiple buildings, virtual walls and split levels. Some of the most powerful tools in 3D Architect to enable you to create extraordinary designs.
Tutorial: Terrain Height
Within Arcon Visual Architecture it is possible to create complex and detailed landscapes, including plot layouts and gardens. The following guide is intended to provide a quick overview to adding a simple plot with some terrain contours. By using and building on the techniques shown in this basic guide it is possible to create very detailed and complex outside spaces.
Firstly start a new project (File>New) and for this example we will start off with an assumption that our ground level is 0. You can set the ground level to any height you require if you are working to a known site plan for example, or use the level as 0 being the reference point at the level of your building and then make any height points relative to the 0 level.
Make sure you are in Construction Mode (F12 toggles between Design mode and Construction mode)
Before we can add any detailing for the terrain, we need to show the plot area. This is done using the ‘Define Property Area’ tool which is found on the left-hand toolbar, about 2/3rds of the way down.
Generally speaking, for a single house we would use the ‘Define Property Area’ tool once to identify the entire area up to the boundaries of the plot.
The property area is then defined by using one of the placement methods (either rectangular or by polygon points) to set out the layout of the boundaries of the plot.
With the area defined, you will be presented with a dialogue box to enable you to choose the appropriate texture for the property area (this can be changed later if required, in the same way as any texture). There is also an option in this dialogue to automatically apply a boundary fence if required.
In the example below you can see the plot area has been added as a rectangle on the page and the boundary of the property area is identified on the page with dashed pink lines.
Adding the property area in this way creates a simple flat area.(the trees have been added as reference points for visual purposes for this tutorial). You can see the basic property area at any time in 3D by going into Design Mode(F12).
As you can see this provides a flat surface, which unfortunately isn’t representative of most plots and gardens. So we need to add some height information to the plot.
In the 2D view above, you can see a couple of green polygon lines. These have been added to show where I am going to place the height information points.
Height points can be added in know locations for a specific plot. This can be from a survey or site map or from your own measurements. Within Arcon the height point tool enables you to place as many points as you need to generate a realistic effect.
As height points use an average incline from one height point to the next, placing height points closer together gives a steeper effect, further apart a more gentle slope.
The height point tool is located on the same fly-out menu as the ‘Define Property Area’ tool. Select the height point tool.
To place a height point, simply click on the location of the plan where the point should be placed. A dialogue is presented so that you can then enter the exact height of the point placed.
Repeat this process for each height point required. In the example below I have placed a series of points along the lines highlighted above, together with additional points to create a stepped effect.
Adding the height points creates a much more realistic visual to your property areas. This can be combined with other landscaping techniques by using ground areas to create paths and driveways, flower beds etc. as well as adding external features, plants and other decorative items.
Tutorial: Balcony Tool
The balcony tool is a very quick and easy way to create an outdoor platform, veranda or traditional balcony that can be simply added to your existing building.
One of the advantages of using the balcony tool over and above creating the balcony manually by moving walls is the way in which the roof tool reacts. Using the balcony tool means you don’t have to worry about the effects of moving and resizing walls on the roof structures or other floors of the building.
So using our basic house, we are going to create the following balcony:
So we’ve seen what we want to achieve and here’s how we do it:
Firstly open the project with the building you wish to add a balcony to. For this you can either create a new building, use one of your existing buildings or download one of our example projects.
1) Make sure you are in Construction Mode (F12 toggles between Design mode and Construction mode)
2)Now we need to make sure that we are working on the floor on which we want to place the balcony. If you are using the example basic house, we’re going to place our balcony on the Upper Floor. To select the upper floor either pick it from the drop down list of floors on the main horizontal toolbar or navigate on the menus to Floor>Current Floor>Upper Floor.
3)At this point it is a good idea to place some guidelines so that we have our marks to work to to ensure we get our balcony in the right position. If you are familiar with the use of guidelines you can skip to tip number 6.
4) Firstly I will place a simple horizontal guideline at the distance from the house to which I want the balcony to overhang.So select the Guidelines Horizontal Guideline. Place the guideline outside the building at a distance away from your outside wall that is the same as the width you want your balcony to be. As I want my balcony to be in the centre of the wall, I need to find the mid point. Select the Guidelines tool again and choose Guideline Midway. Click on the inside left wall, followed by the inside right wall and you will be given a guideline at the mid point of the two clicks. To then find the edges of our balcony use the Set Distance Parallel guideline. Click on the centre guideline you have just created and move the new parallel guideline left and click. Enter the distance you require from the centrepoint (Remember we are about to repeat this so make the distance half you final balcony width). Repeat this for the other side of the centre line. You should now have 1 horizontal and 3 vertical guidelines. This is sufficient for a rectangular balcony, should you wish to have angled sides like the example, then place another guideline either side of the left and right vertical guides. We now have our lines to work to when adding our balcony.
5) We now need to add our balcony. The balcony tool has one additional feature that is unique to this tool. The balcony realises whether or not it is connected to a wall and shapes itself accordingly. This means that if you create a freestanding balcony, all four sides will be surrounded by a parapet wall. If however, you connect the balcony to a wall of a building, the parapet walls where the balcony touches the building will automatically be removed. To make sure that we are connecting our balcony to the wall ensure that we have snap turned on (hit CTRL + Spacebar to open the snap and select menu).
6) So select the Balcony tool from the left hand vertical menu. We are now given the option to place either a rectangular or polygonal balcony. As we have angled sides on our example we will use the polygonal Define Balcony tool. (You may also find this tool is preferable over the rectangular tool if you have a building with angled or no-straight walls).
7) As with all the polygonal based tools in Arcon, each click represents a point of the shape, with a line being drawn between that point and the next defined point. To get the shape of the balcony in the example, we start by first clicking at the junction of our outer wall and our far left guideline. From here draw a line to the junction of the horizontal guideline and our inside left guideline (This will give us our angled left hand wall of the balcony). Now place the next point at the junction of the horizontal guideline and the inside right guideline and finish off by placing the final point on the crossover of the outer building wall and the far right guideline. When all these points have been placed, right click to complete the balcony.
8) You should now be presented with a dialogue box showing the properties of your balcony and a 3d preview. Here you can set the textures for each side together with the sizing of the elements of the balcony. The following is a brief description of the sizable elements on this dialogue box:
Height: Adjusts the height of the balcony (parapet) wall
Step: Allows you to move the balcony up or down from floor height
Parapet: The thickness of the balcony wall (parapet)
Floor: The thickness of the balcony floor
9) For our example we are staying with the default settings so simply hit OK.
10) Your balcony is now in place and completed. Now you can add finishing touches such as column supports and a doorway to enable access.
Guide: 3D Rendering
One of the most asked questions that is not related to constructing designs and objects is; how do I get the best quality images when rendering?
The rendering process itself is very straightforward in ARCON, however to get the best results can take a little time, the right settings and a small amount of know-how.
This tutorial is intended to provide you with the know-how and correct settings to get the best from your renders, but unfortunately we can’t help with the time!
What is Rendering?
Before we commence with the tutorial, it is probably a good idea to define what we mean by ‘rendering‘.
In our terms ,rendering is the process of generating a an image from a 3d model. The model itself is a description of three dimensional objects containing geometry, viewpoint, texture, lighting, and shading information. The rendering engine within the software then takes this information and uses it to calculate the scene into a photo realistic image by adding shading, shadows, lighting, reflections etc.
Therefore in order to achieve an image that does our designs justice, we need to think about the factors that will go into creating the best possible final image and how we amend them for each individual purpose.
I will attempt to take you through the various settings that you can change in order to get the best results and offer some tips and tricks along the way.
One simple tip to start with is to understand that the more time you spend setting your scene, the better the final image will be.
This tutorial assumes the following:
- You have finalised your project and created a structure with which you are happy
- You have textured your buildings/surfaces as required
- You have placed all of the 3d objects in your scene that you need
- You have NOT made use of the materials or lighting objects (these will therefore be covered in this tutorial).
Now we have our starting point, here is a list of the topics and tools that we will cover in this tutorial:
- The Save View tool
- The Day/Night/Variable Time of Day tools
- The Light Calculation tool
- The Start Raytrace tool
Additionally we will cover the use of lamps and lighting object and the materials catalogue………and this is where will will start.
Lighting your scene
Lighting is one of the most important aspects of getting the look and feel right for your final images. Within Arcon there are two potential light sources, sunlight and artificial light (created by using lamps).
We will cover changing the effects of the sun in another topic (see…) as here we are more concerned with controlling light sources to get the realism we are looking for.
When you browse through the object catalogue you will find multiple light and lamp objects. Some of these objects are little more than decoration, however the others have been created to actually contain variable light properties. When selected these objects will display the following dialogue box:
Using the settings in this dialogue allows us to control the lighting to get the effect we want to see in the final image.
There are three elements to the lighting that will have the most impact, all of which are in the ‘Light Source’ section of the tab:
Influence can be thought of in terms of size of the beam. The larger the influence is set, the further from the light object the effects of the light will be. So for example a light in the centre of the room with a large influence will light more of the room than one with a small influence setting.
Intensity is probably best equated to brightness. The more intense the light, the stronger the effect will be, within the area of influence.
Colour seems self explanatory, and defines the colour of the light at it’s source. This can be quite a crucial decision because the colour can effect the whole mood and feel of the scene. Also choosing the wrong colour or too strong a colour can wash out the effects of the textures and colours on other objects in the room.
A bit of trial and error will help you find the right light settings for your particular scene. To keep an eye and keep control of the lighting we generally recommend using the ‘Night Time’ setting. This allows the lights you have placed to be the predominent factor in how the scene is lit rather than the sunlight settings, this gives you more control to get the effect you require.
The SAVE VIEW tool
The Save View button does exactly what it says and allows us to save an image of the view we currently have on screen. The options for save view will greatly effect the quality of the final image and the time it takes to render. The basic rule of thumb is the higher the quality you want, the longer it will take.
For example on an average laptop, a standard 640×480 image with medium settings may take no more than a minute or so to render. Change this to 1400×1050 at high settings for example and it may take a couple of hours to complete. So there is a trade off between time and quality.
I would generally recommend that if you want a large image at top quality settings, start the render when you can leave you pc alone for a couple of hours (i.e. in the evening, overnight). I also usually recommend not alt-tabbing into any other applications and making sure the screensaver if turned off as the last thing you want is for another application to cause a problem after you’re at 95% complete having waited 2 hours!
For the best quality image I would gnerally recommend the following settings:
Colour Palette should be set to ‘True Colour’
Oversampling set at 16 times
Edge Fileter/Raytrace both ticked on
Dimensions will depend upon your intended final use. For a webpage for example you will need a much smaller image size than if you want an A3 printout. This is probably the biggest single setting that impacts the time taken to produce the picture so try to use the smallest setting that will still give you the required quality for the intended use.
If you do need to use a very large file size but want to reduce the time taken, try turning the Oversamplingsetting down a little.
Then I would usually save as BMP as this can always be compressed later to a jpg if you need a samller file size for emailing etc.