When You Flip Through an IKEA Catalog, 75% of the ‘Photography’ You See is CGI


This photo isn’t actually a photo. From the furniture to the beautiful light falling on the countertops and wood floors, what you’re looking at is a CGI rendering that has replaced 75% of the ‘photos’ in the IKEA catalogs the college kids, divorced men and NYC residents in your life have lying around.

This fact, and all of the interesting technical details behind it, is revealed in a fascinating article on The Computer Graphics Society website, where they took some time a couple of months ago to speak with Martin Enthed, the IT Manager for the in-house communication agency of IKEA.


This CGI domination has, it seems, been the case for a while. Enthed first gave a presentation about his team’s work at SIGGRAPH in 2012, but the first fully CGI room to appear in an IKEA catalog was published in 2010. And while there were skeptics who said it could never be as good, they proved themselves wrong as early at 2009:

The real turning point for us was when, in 2009, they called us and said, “You have to stop using CG. I’ve got 200 product images and they’re just terrible. You guys need to practice more.” So we looked at all the images they said weren’t good enough and the two or three they said were great, and the ones they didn’t like were photography and the good ones were all CG! Now, we only talk about a good or a bad image — not what technique created it.”


Today, reveals Enthed, about 75% of all IKEA product images are CGI, and rendered at ‘ridiculously high resolution’ so they’re good for everything from web viewing to wall-sized displays in IKEA’s stores. And as time goes on and rendering software continues to get better, traditional photography promises to play a smaller and smaller role.

To read the full interview and find out just how much Enthed’s team can do on a computer, head over to the Computer Graphics Society website by following the link below.

Building 3D with Ikea [CGSociety]

  • Olivier Duong

    THANK YOU. Do you know how many times I asked, how the HECK do they get such perfect light??

  • Paul-Simon

    Rendering is often a very nice tool for architectural visualization and other advertisement work.

  • Adam Cross

    in two years they’ve good from 25% to 75%, that’s pretty good, why not just go the extra 25% and skip the photography completely?

  • OtterMatt

    In all honesty, why wouldn’t you? Unless you just have to have a human in your product shot for the ambiance, there’s no downside. And I couldn’t even complain if I wanted to, because everything is better in the CG images. The lighting is fantastic, the rendering is accurate and detailed. Hell, my first question now is what are they doing it all in, because I could use some of those techniques in architectural pre-vis work.

  • Guest

    I shot some promotional footage of actors socialising in an area where a development company was building some luxury condos. (to sell the social aspect of the location). Now i think I’m a pretty good shooter having done lots of video over the years with lots of happy clients, but when the design firm cut my footage in with the architectural 3D previz of the building, my footage looked like utter crap. Its true everything looks unobtainably perfect in 3D.


    Martin believes, is the use of V-Ray to render. “We use 3DStudio Max and V-Ray. They were using Max and V-Ray before I started actually, but I didn’t mind because I’d been using Max with all the different renderers since 1990

  • Andy III

    I work in this field and I would guess that last 25% is held out for things like food. Some of it can still be very difficult to pull off. But this work is stunning…I’ll never look at a Fjellse or a Fintorp the same way again. 8-)

    Checking out the site…they do have some shots with people in the environments…that could be some of that 25% too.


  • D.G. Brown

    I’m just elated from the Jonathan Coulton reference in there :-D (“Ikea” is one of the best songs ever!)

  • AliNoorani

    The %25 are the products not worth the time and attention to model and render in 3D. Like small objects (i.e. bed lamps) which can be photographed easily with a basic set up.

  • Aezreth

    It makes sense for a huge international company like IKEA where many products are recurring from year to year and might need small tweaks in the catalogs of different markets, but for any small to medium sized company it’s probably still faster and cheaper to just photograph it. 3D takes a lot of time to get right, so you need to get a lot of mileage out of the image, and the individual models created, for it to be cost effective.

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  • MMielech

    Yeah, at the moment. But I heard the same rationalization about digital photography vs. film ten years ago. Face it, this is the future happening now. In five to ten years, most product imagery you see in print or video will be synthetic. It’s much cheaper for one or two people sitting at a computer to do this than shooting large room sets in a studio with a large crew. The space alone is ridiculously expensive, for shooting and storage of materials. The auto industry has been way ahead of the curve on this, because it’s so much easier and cheaper, again, to do this virtually than haul a new car to a mountaintop road and wait for just the right light and conditions.


    We’ve done 5 film shoots for IKEA in-store commercials. Great company to work with. They do love crisp, clean, well lighten shots. An IKEA store can be just like an interior film set when looking through a lens. No natural light, but a little light carefully placed here and there works wonders. We found that their own lighting, especially on “white furniture” and any “coloured cloth” just needed a tweek. They certainly know exactly how their product needs to be visualised, and set out. This left us to be creative cinematically and the partnership worked really well. IKEA do seem to be “on the ball” so to speak, when it comes to presentation.

  • Xieni

    I wondered how they made crappy IKEA furniture look so surprisingly luxe.

  • David Guerra

    Are the 3d models of the furniture available at their online catalog? If they aren’t they should be, after all they already have them. I guess in the future people will be able to create digital 3d replicas of their houses online and move the site’s furniture around.