External render of small residential property
Jonathan Reeves

Jonathan Reeves

Published: December 06, 2023  •  9 min read

3D Rendering Software for Mac: An Introductory Look at Enscape

The Apple Mac Operating System (OS) is the tool of choice for many creative designers due to its ease of use and seamless integration of hardware and software, and beautifully designed products like the iMac, Mac Studio, and Mac Book Pro.

However, for a number of years, real-time rendering on the Mac platform has been developing at a slower pace than that of Windows OS. That all changed with the advent of Apple’s own silicon chips with the M1, M2, and now the latest M3 chips based with powerful integrated multi-core graphics processing units (GPU) using unified memory.

The latest models, like the new M3 Max MacBook Pro, have very powerful built-in graphics with 16‑core CPU, 40‑core GPU, and 16‑core Neural Engine. The M3 family of chips have also integrated raytracing capabilities, making these a huge step forward for 3D artists on the macOS.

Enscape's real-time 3D rendering software has been available for the Mac platform for some time. It has been continuously developed and offers a truly integrated real-time visualization workflow. Enscape is available for Vectorworks, Archicad, SketchUp, and Rhino Mac users to enjoy.

Let’s take a look at what Enscape is, explore how to get started, and look at some of the useful features and results that can be achieved with this popular rendering software for Mac.

What is Enscape?

Enscape is a real-time rendering software plugin that integrates seamlessly with your design application, allowing you to produce high-quality renders very easily.

Some Mac users may expect a steep learning curve to get up to speed with this tool, but this is definitely not the case. The simplicity of Enscape’s interface is one of its main advantages over its competitors, as it allows designers to complete renderings in-house without much training, negating the need to outsource visualization to external providers.

One of the main benefits of Enscape is that rather than being a separate rendering engine, Enscape is a fully integrated plugin for your design program. It produces a fully editable rendered 3D model by communicating with CAD data in real time, so each change is instantaneous in the visualization.

Enscape is a user-friendly and versatile tool. It can quickly produce realistic images and stunning, high-resolution interior, exterior, and landscape visuals that can be exported within seconds.

It also has a basic video editing tool, that allows you to create animations of your rendered projects. This means that there is no need to use a separate piece of animation software, since it's possible to create walkthrough videos within Enscape itself.

Interior rendering of residential wooden cabinExample of interior render created with 3D rendering software, Enscape

Using Enscape's 3D rendering software

Over the last few months, I have been involved in the open beta of Enscape's rendering software for Mac, and now that support for Vectorworks is available, I have started using it in my workflow.

My experience of using Enscape on my base model MacBook M1 Pro has been both enjoyable and rewarding, and I have been quickly able to produce high-quality renderings, as you can see in the featured videos below.

As a good way to start, I recommend getting a 14-day trial of the 3D rendering software, and downloading one of the free projects on the Enscape website. These are well-optimized projects with some nice assets and will give you the confidence to learn how to produce incredible renderings in a short space of time. Please watch my full video available here: 


I really love the direct syncing capabilities, so as you change the view in Vectorworks (or SketchUp, Archicad, or Rhino) Enscape just renders realistic images in real time in the other window. This works great on a second monitor, giving you realistic feedback as you develop your model.

When the model first loads, it progressively renders, improving quality in the viewport, and you can see that when you change view, the refinement process takes no time at all to catch up on previously un-rendered areas.

I love being able to scroll through different times of the time and seeing how the light changes the dynamic of the spaces in a realistic real time way that CAD programs simply cannot offer.

Getting started with Enscape for Mac

My design tool of choice has always been Vectorworks, and previously, this meant switching to my PC so I could use the Windows version of Enscape.

However, now that we have a native version that works with Vectorworks on Mac, I recommend downloading the Simple House project file from the Enscape website, or another one according to your design tool of choice. 

Easy installation

Start by downloading and double-clicking the Enscape installer, which automatically installs Enscape for any compatible software it finds on your computer, such as SketchUp, Vectorworks, Rhino, or Archicad. Then, once you have opened your CAD software, you can add Enscape to your workspace.

How to open Enscape on Vectorworks

For Vectorworks, this is simply a case of going to the Tools Menu and then selecting Partner Products > Enscape > Add Enscape to your workspace, and the Enscape palette of tools appears in your tool sets, ready for use.

Starting Enscape

Once you have your 3D model, you can launch Enscape's rendering software for Mac. With one click on the Start Enscape icon, and after a few moments of initial loading, your model appears in the Enscape window, which you can resize and move to a second monitor if you have one.

Screen monitors set up with Vectorworks and EnscapeMy setup. Vectorworks on the left, and Enscape on the right in full screen mode


This workflow works really well as you can keep Vectorworks (or other CAD) full screen and watch Enscape render your project in real time on the other monitor in glorious high-quality realistic rendering modes.

If you only have one monitor, you can simply switch between windows or split your screen and view both at the same time, but this reduces screen real estate of each application and makes for a less satisfying experience.

Personally, I have two large monitors that look amazing with my Vectorworks project on one screen and a stunning Enscape rendered version on the other.

Staying synchronized

One of the best features of Enscape's 3D rendering software is also one of the simplest. The ability to synchronize your exact view from your CAD software and see this update in real time as you navigate around your projects.

Once View Synchronization is enabled, you can use the Vectorworks walkthrough tools to navigate and see the movement in Enscape immediately. You can also make use of the “saved view” feature in Vectorworks to record views, and these appear automatically in the Enscape View Management window. This works when you create new views directly in Enscape too.

When creating views in Enscape I really love the way you can then adjust the sun position and adjust the Azimuth and Altitude to search for the best lighting for that particular view, as well as linking to visual presets.

Enhance your environment

Once you have your model, adding assets from the comprehensive Enscape Asset Library is also very simple and works by using low-memory proxy objects that become realistic-looking entourage in your renderings.

Enscape has an ever-expanding, high-quality asset library of close to 4,000 objects to help fill your visuals with vegetation and people to bring your scene to life. This allows for very realistic environments to be created, with props like people, trees, and furniture, while keeping your design file optimized and saves time attempting them in post-production.

Asset Library

Adding Enscape assets in Vectorworks is easy with the benefit of the assets snapping automatically to the surface they are placed on, then they can be rotated or moved as required.

The assets appear as low-resolution “proxies” in your CAD software which means they do not add much size or cause any slowdowns, but in Enscape, these are translated into incredibly high-resolution models, which is another big benefit of the workflow.

Interior rendering in Vectorworks and Enscape

Materials matter

The quality of your renderings will often be dictated by the quality of the materials you use.

Enscape uses the material appearance of the design software it is currently plugged into, saving the tedious task of replacing each material with the rendering software. Enscape also has it's own Material Library with high-quality materials to place directly into your scenes.

Vectorworks has a wide range of ready-made Renderworks textures that provide all the main channels you need for rendering, such as image shader color, reflectivity, transparency, or bump. However, these materials are also available for further adjustment and editing in the Enscape Material Editor once applied with Vectorworks itself.

This allows you further control of your visualization, such as color, reflectivity, transparency, bump mapping, and light emission. These can be edited in Enscape's 3D rendering software itself, helping to improve their appearance.

Let there be light

The external lighting in Enscape is controlled by the rendering software and can easily be adjusted by using the “U” and “I” keys or Shift + mouse to scroll through the day in real time.

Internal lighting looks great by default, but this can be greatly enhanced by adding a few of the lights available in Vectorworks. Point light and Spotlights work particularly well in this regard and is another bonus of the fully synchronized workflow when using Enscape's rendering software.

Incredible images

One of the main goals of Enscape was to allow its users to achieve beautiful-looking renders without having to wade through complex image and setting adjustments to achieve this.

With Enscape’s real-time technology, the working scene is fully rendered which allows it to look very similar in quality to the final output quality. This is a huge advantage to be able to see what your visualization will look like in the end without having to wait for extremely long rendering times.

The main difference between the working draft and medium quality is the simplification of lighting and reflection within the scenes to its basic levels. However, when you export the final renders, Enscape shows off its renowned ray tracing abilities in full, allowing light to bump off surfaces using powerful global illumination and allowing reflections to display the surrounding environment.

Using the Visual Settings, a Mac user can easily adjust exposure, field of view, and depth of field, as well as image-based settings like highlights and shadow, plus saturation and color temperature.

I particularly like the “White Card” style renderings that remove textures and make for great massing models at early design stages when the debate about material choices can be a distraction. Architects will love the quality of these simple model renders, which are super easy to achieve and can be further enhanced using edges to make them look even more conceptual and sketchy.


white mode rendering in Enscape


Side view of residential home


Orthographic aerial view of residential property


If you are looking for the best rendering software for Mac to complement your architectural design workflow, then Enscape is definitely worth considering.

Enscape’s simple and intuitive interface makes it ideal even for those new to 3D rendering software, as it is extremely easy to use. The simplicity of Enscape acting as a plugin for your native 3D/CAD/BIM design software to instantly make visual changes is the most attractive feature it has. The increasing move back to in-house visualization makes investing in your own rendering software essential.

While there are still some features in development for the Mac version of Enscape's rendering engine, like VR support to create immersive 3D experiences, additional export for standalone executable files, and custom asset libraries, it’s a great time to get on board.

You will benefit from the amazing rendering quality and the simple, easy-to-use interface. And as new features are added, these updates are free to active users.

Advantages of Enscape's rendering software for Mac

  • Direct plugin to Vectorworks, Archicad, SketchUp, and Rhino, therefore saves time not having to re-export models & re-render.
  • Faster and easier than other rendering software with stunning quality and speed.
  • Simplicity of the interface and learning curve.
  • Now available for Mac and Windows and a 14-day trial available.
  • Available as a fixed seat or floating license subscription to suit different users.


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Jonathan Reeves
Jonathan Reeves

Jonathan Reeves is a Chartered Architect in the UK and a member of RIBA with over 20 years of industry experience. Jonathan runs his own architectural practice in Leicestershire, UK, and also provides professional Vectorworks, and Enscape training, consultancy, and sales to clients all over the UK and Europe. He also has a popular Youtube channel, Jonathan Reeves CAD, with over 300 videos and tutorials, and has authored books on Vectorworks and Rendering.