KeyShot’s Overview

10 min read

(For more resources related to this topic, see here.)

Introducing KeyShot

Formerly known as HyperShot, KeyShot is an application developed by the company Luxion, that is run today by professionals in various disciplines to deliver images with hyperrealistic quality. KeyShot delivers physically accurate lighting and a library of materials that allow us to experiment and make changes all through our viewport in real time.

Whether we are engineers, artists, or designers, time is a precious element that we are always racing against, and this is particularly true when it comes to rendering 3D data. On some occasions, the quality of our work is compromised as we need to spend time learning complex new software. KeyShot has been designed with simplicity in mind, allowing the user to create high-quality images while putting aside the technical details.

Unlike other rendering packages on the market, KeyShot is a processor-based rendering program. All the rendering calculations are 100 percent CPU-based, which means we don’t need a high-performance graphics card to get the job done. KeyShot utilizes all the cores and threads in your processor, and because it was built on 64-bit architecture, it also gives us more room to increase performance.

KeyShot versus traditional rendering programs

In order to work properly, it is important to have the right tools. KeyShot allows you to apply materials, set up the lighting, and obtain hyperrealistic images in a matter of minutes. Traditional rendering applications often have, too many settings, each giving the user a different level of control over the appearance of the project. Although a large number of settings allows for more flexibility, understanding how each of them works can be a time-consuming process.

In this section, we have laid out several points that we consider helpful when using KeyShot for your projects compared to other rendering applications.

The following are some basic points related to working with KeyShot:

  • Workflow—import your 3D data, apply and fine-tune your textures and materials, set up your lighting, find your preferred camera view, and then render.

  • KeyShot is fully integrated, just like any other rendering application, but it’s been designed to be user friendly. You will find that most menu tabs and preferences are intuitive and easy to understand. It offers different arrays of mapping options, such as cylindrical, box shaped, spherical, or using UV coordinates, depending on your preference.

  • It uses the high dynamic range imaging (HDRI) method to produce realistic lighting conditions.

  • It provides physically accurate materials based on real-world properties. Each material found in KeyShot’s library has been set up to produce a specific type of look when applied. This allows you to save time fine-tuning your materials for that specific look.

  • It offers basic animation tools that allow you to set up professional presentations.

The following are a few basic points related to traditional rendering tools:

  • They require some experience in rendering techniques, and they often have a steep learning curve.

  • The user interfaces are cluttered with options and preferences and can be intimidating for first-time users.

  • They are more flexible in terms of controlling the look of each individual feature of your project. The settings are broken down and laid out separately, allowing you to control everything from the number of lights and shadows per scene to the look of a material. A consequence of this, however, is that, there are more opportunities for errors and users are often overwhelmed by the amount of settings and controls.

  • Materials and lighting are not always physically accurate. Reproducing a particular type of material or lighting setup is often time-consuming.

  • They provide more robust animation tools and often include a rigging system, which allows for more complex animations.

KeyShot is a powerful rendering tool that is used in a variety of fields within the CG industry. However, it is important to remember that KeyShot has a limited set of animation tools, and I recommend using a different application such as Maya, 3ds Max, or Softimage if your project requires complex character animations or special effects.

Getting started

Now that we understand the fundamentals of KeyShot and its benefits, we will take a look at how to start using KeyShot for your projects, from the beginning to the end. If you do not have KeyShot, you can download a trial version from the website by performing the following steps:

  1. Go to

  2. Select your operating system (Windows 32-bit, Windows 64-bit, or Mac OS X) and download it.

  3. Install your trial version and select Continue without registering.

Importing projects

KeyShot supports a variety of file formats from third-party applications. A list of the files currently supported can be found on the KeyShots website. For our projects, we will be working with files with the OBJ (object file) extension. Let’s go ahead and get started. Perform the following steps:

  1. Open KeyShot.

  2. At the bottom of your viewport, you will see six icons—Import, Library, Project, Animation, Screenshot, and Render, as shown in the following screenshot:

  3. Go ahead and click on Import.

  4. Let’s choose our lesson file, Wacom_2, from the data folder.

  5. A new window for configuring imported files will appear.

The new settings window allows you to choose the orientation or the direction in which your 3D object will be placed in the viewport. Depending on which application we are importing our files to, some of them have their Cartesian axis orientation set up differently. In this case, the file we will be working with is an OBJ file imported from Maya, and this file has Y Up as its Orientation, as shown in the following screenshot:

When working with our project files in KeyShot, it is important to remember prior to importing any models that, all parts of the model need to have their own material assigned to them. To do this, before exporting any of our 3D files from other applications, make sure that the option material is checked in the export options. Once all the pieces of our model have been assigned with their own material, KeyShot will be able to understand how to assign materials properly to all parts of the mesh. A new feature called Material Template, currently available in KeyShot v3.3 and later versions, allows us to link materials and parts of our models to the materials found inside KeyShot’s library. For example, instead of copying and pasting materials from one object to another, we can create a template that automatically applies all the materials to the corresponding parts of a model when it is imported into the scene.

When creating a template, we need to specify a source name and a destination name. The source name is essentially the name of the part or the material exported directly from a third-party application such as Maya or SolidWorks. Once it is added to the template list, KeyShot will search for any parts or materials associated with the names in the source list and apply any assigned materials in the destination list. We can see an example of a template list in the following screenshot, with the parts of our Wacom tablet listed on the left-hand side and the materials we assigned them with on the right-hand side:

Next, let’s see how to move, rotate, or scale our model in the viewport. Perform the following steps to do so:

  1. Right-click on the model.

  2. A new selection box will appear; choose to either move a part of the object or the entire object.

  3. When working with a mesh that has multiple parts, it is good practice to hide the parts we don’t currently need. To do this, simply right-click on the part we wish to hide and select the Hide Part option from the new menu.

The interface

Once our project model has been imported, our 3D file should be displayed in our viewport along with a new project window. This window contains five different tabs, of which we will discuss three in the following sections.


The Scene tab shows all the parts of our model. The left-hand side of our Project window shows the parts of our mesh under the Parts heading. The order and the name of each of the parts are listed according to the name of the material that was assigned to it by its original application. In this case, our 3D tablet was imported from Maya and all its parts were assigned with a specific material inside Maya. The right-hand side of our Project window shows the list of the current materials that have been applied to the parts inside KeyShot under the Materials heading, as shown in the following screenshot:


The Material tab lists all the available materials in KeyShot according to their category. In the lower part of our Project window, we can see the materials that belong to the specific folder we have chosen from the list. To apply any material to our model, simply drag the material and drop it onto the part of our model where we wish to apply it. Another way of accessing the list of materials is by clicking on the Library tab in our main viewport.

If we need to access the material properties of a specific part of our model, we can do so by double-clicking on any part of the model.

To apply any material to our project, we perform the following steps:

  1. Open the Library window by clicking on the Library icon from the viewport menu.

  2. Drag the desired material and drop it onto our project.

  3. Double-click on our model with the applied material to open the Material Properties window.

Material properties window

The material properties window allows us to modify the attributes of the material we choose. Depending on the material, certain properties will be available for us to modify. For example, any glass models will have the refraction attribute, which won’t be available to us if we choose a metallic shader. In general, we have to fine-tune the properties of the materials in order to reproduce the look of real-life materials for most 3D applications such as Maya or 3ds Max. In KeyShot, however, this is no longer necessary since all its materials have been configured to be physically accurate. When using materials in KeyShot, each time a new material is applied to our model, it will show up at the bottom of our material’s property window. This is to allow us to recycle a material and use it again if needed.


Right next to the Material tab we will find the Environment tab, which contains HDRIs that come as part of KeyShot. Here, we will be able to drag-and-drop HDRIs as well as backplates onto our scene. The Environment tab, just like the Material tab, has its own property window, which has more advanced attributes that let us assume greater control of the appearance of our scene. In the Pro version of KeyShot, an HDRI editor preference is also available for further control of our HDRIs. Certain features allow us to control the saturation, hue, brightness, contrast, and even the shape of the HDRI.

Environment properties window

The environment’s properties window houses the entire list of attributes that allow us to control the lighting of our scene. We will discuss this property window in more depth in the lighting section later in this book. To access the property window, perform the following steps:

  1. Double-click on any part of our model.

  2. Select the Environment tab from the property window, as follows:


In this article, we have learned how to import our models into KeyShot by clicking on the Import tab from the main viewport, and we have also taken a look at creating material template, which is a newly added feature of KeyShot 3. We have also gone brie fl y over the three major tabs that can be found in the Project window, which are the Scene, Material, and Environment tabs. Lastly, we mentioned during the article that there is also a separate material properties window and a properties environment window, both of which are in charge of controlling the look of our materials and lighting.

Resources for Article :

Further resources on this subject:


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here