Compare 3D Laser Scan+iReal 3D Mapping Software and Photo Modeling in 7 Aspects


Unlike the photo modeling and 3D software modeling that have become very popular in the market over the years, for many customers, the experience of using iReal 3D Mapping Software is still different from other 3D mapping software in the market: its multi-scene adaptability, easy operation, high efficiency, high quality and other experiences have greatly overturned the past 3D color texture mapping experience.

At present, the community version of iReal 3D Mapping Software is open for the free trial, no activation code required, just download and use. All you need is a handheld laser 3D scanner + smartphone/DSLR camera to experience smooth, ultra-high definition 3D color mapping. In this article, for customers who are still on the fence about the software, we mainly popularize the difference between iReal 3D Mapping Software and photo modeling, starting from seven scenarios: item adaptability, model accuracy, model surface quality, photo requirements, portability of mapping and retouching, and cost of entry. Considering that different customers have different needs and use different scenarios, the optimal solution for you is to make a purchase decision that maximizes benefits under budget-permitting conditions, taking into account your own situation.

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Laser 3D Scan + iReal 3D Mapping Software

1. Main advantages:

Good adaptability of items: it can meet the needs of making color 3D models of most items.

Simple to use: easy to get started after self-learning; low requirements for technical personnel skills and experience; low labor costs (no need to be a senior engineer).

High-efficiency production: Most steps can be processed intelligently and automatically, and texture production and texture refinement can be completed within 30 minutes (regular model).

One-stop processing: When the local texture needs to be refined, there is no need to use multiple professional and complex third-party software. The engineer can use the seam line editing, single photo map replacement, one-click color leveling, Photoshop plug-in refinement and other intelligent functions in the iReal 3D mapping software.

High-quality color textures: This solution can produce high-precision (in models and textures), high-accuracy and true-color 3D models, which are most suitable for customers with high requirements (such as industries of cultural relic protection, digital collections, etc.): 1:1 restoration of every real texture on the item is required.

2. Main disadvantages:

The cost of supporting software and hardware in the early stage is relatively high (however, the cost of post-production and supporting personnel is low, the production efficiency is high, and it can meet the requirements of color modeling for various items).

Photo Modeling

1. Main advantages:

① Complete photo modeling, low ancillary cost.

② For customers who do not have requirements for 3D model’s accuracy and texture accuracy, this method is more advantageous:

For matte items with rich and non-repeating textures and without complex structures (no hollows, deep holes, etc.), the advantages of this method are the most obvious.

2. Main disadvantages:

① Low adaptability of items: For items with few textures/high reflection, and thin-walled parts, etc., photo modeling may fail/issues may occur in local modeling.

②High requirements for operators: Operators need to have skills in SLR cameras, post-processing, local map refinement and other professional third-party software.

③High production cost: High-definition photo modeling requires more high-pixel photos, high-configured workstations, and longer computing time (the shortest takes 2-3 hours). When the local map needs to be refined, the operation is cumbersome and time-consuming.


Laser 3D Scan + iReal 3D Mapping Software

3D laser scanners can scan most items. After obtaining high-precision monochrome models, iReal 3D mapping software can complete texture mapping for all scanned models.

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ireal 3d high quality mapping

Photo Modeling

1. Mostly suitable for matte/opaque materials, and items with rich and non-repeating textures (such as woodware, stoneware and human faces).

2. Not suitable for single-color/high-reflection/no textures in local part/with repeated textures, and not suitable for items with thin edges either. When encountering such items, it may not be able to be reconstructed successfully or there may be problems with local reconstruction (such as high-reflective porcelain).


Laser 3D Scan + iReal 3D Mapping Software


The accuracy of data obtained by industrial-grade 3D scanning can reach up to 0.02+0.015 mm/m, which can be used for data archiving, protection monitoring and restoration of cultural relics, 3D printing, measurement analysis, and line drawing of cultural relics, etc.

ireal 3d mapping quality

Photo Modeling

Unable to obtain accurate model

1. If the photo quality is low or the local textures of the items are few, it may result in distortion, reversed bumps and other issues of reconstructed models.

2. Models obtained only by photo modeling are more suitable for 3D display only. For customers who have accuracy requirements or want to use the model for multiple scenarios, the needs may not be met.

Surface Quality of Models

Laser 3D Scan + iReal 3D Mapping Software


1. The minimum resolution of industrial-grade 3D scanners can reach 0.01 mm, which can largely restore the geometric and texture features of the scanned items in 1:1 ratio.

2. High-precision 3D models can help obtain better normal maps when mid-poly bakes high-poly. As a result, 3D models with fewer triangular mesh surfaces can have higher qualities.

3. The high-definition model can make the alignment between the texture and the model more accurate when the photo is mapped, so as to meet the needs of high-standard customers.

3d scan data details

Photo Modeling


1. The model reconstructed by photo modeling may have uneven surfaces. If there is a reflection on the surface of the item, the calculated model surface error may be larger.

2. The low-quality model surface will cause the photos to not be accurately mapped to the corresponding geometric features. Therefore, when the texture obtained by photo modeling is replaced by the monochrome model obtained by laser scanning through coordinate alignment, the alignment accuracy between the texture and the features on the laser 3D model cannot be guaranteed (In the way of 3D laser scanning and iReal 3D mapping software, after obtaining high-precision scanning models through laser 3D scanning, the iReal 3D mapping software uses photo main body detection + relative orientation, structural alignment between photos and scanned models, and precise registration between the sparse point cloud and scanned model to ensure map mapping accuracy).

Photo Requirement

Laser 3D Scan + iReal 3D Mapping Software

The photos were only used for texture mapping. No need to build 3D models based on the photos, therefore, the requirements for photo quantity, quality and textures are relatively low.

1. Take a photo at each 12-18°. Usually, for a normal item, only 100+ photos are needed.

2. The number of photos required is less, so the time required for taking photos is shorter, the post-processing speed is also faster, and the requirements for computer configuration are relatively low.

3. The shooting requirements (angle, lighting, etc.) are relatively low.

taking photos

Photo Modeling

The texture features on each photo will be used for 3D reconstruction, so the content and quality requirements of each photo are relatively high.

1. To build a high-precision 3D model, a single item usually needs to be taken 300-500 photos.

2. The requirement for the number of photos is high, which will lead to a long time for taking pictures, slow post-processing and high computer configuration requirements.

3. High requirements for taking pictures: for example, the focus is clear and not out of focus; each photo has rich and non-repetitive textures; no extra texture features on the photos, such as shadows, etc.; the surface of the object should be evenly lit (moving light and shadow, and overexposure points may produce incorrect reconstruction results; shadows can cause noise and tracking errors, and may even cause holes in the model).

Mapping Convenience

Laser 3D Scan + iReal 3D Mapping Software

1. iReal 3D mapping software has the function of seam line editing, which supports visually removing distorted textures (spots, blur, foreign object mapping), and can also link Photoshop to refine the textures.

2. It supports a single photo to participate in orientation calculation for top/bottom fast mapping (the number of photos required for top/bottom is much less than photo modeling), and can also be used for quick replacement of local textures (one-click color matching is supported after replacement).

3. It supports automatic UV display. After the mid-poly has unfolded the UV, the UV can be transferred to the high-poly.

4. When making a high-definition 3D model, it only needs to reconstruct the sparse point cloud (which takes less time and the requirements for computer configuration are lower) to complete the fine registration between the photos and the scan model.

relative orientation

ireal 3d mapping process

seam line editing

ireal 3d map optimization

3d color vase

Photo Modeling

1. There is no seam line editing function, the texture mappings cannot be finished quickly.

2. The UV charts are scrappy and cannot be linked with Photoshop to do the texture refinement.

3. The UV needs to be unfolded manually to avoid distortion, repetition, scrappy fragments and other issues.

4. When making high-precision 3D models, it is necessary to reconstruct dense point cloud (more time-consuming, high requirements for computers and photo qualities).

Labor Cost

Laser 3D Scan + iReal 3D Mapping Software

1. Easily to get started after self-learning, and low requirements for the operators (photos, post-processing, etc.), which reduce the labor cost for enterprises.

2. The texture efficiency is high. Within 30 minutes, the texture mapping and texture refinement can be done (regular models).

Photo Modeling

1. The photographer needs to have high photography skills.

2. For post-processing of textures, multiple third-party software is required, which means the technician needs to be familiar with those software. It is best to have many years of experience in the Next-generation mapping field to cope with different issues.

3. Even for skilled operators, it takes 2-3 hours to complete a high-precision texture at the fastest with a desktop workstation with better configuration.

Configuration Costs

Laser 3D Scan + iReal 3D Mapping Software

Relatively high

The basic configuration: a 3D laser scanner + iReal 3D mapping software + a SLR camera + Photoshop, suitable for commercial scenarios and the protection of cultural heritage.

Photo Modeling

The cost can be low

For models that photo modeling can produce easily and with no need for high accuracy, a mobile phone/SLR can do the work.

Additional information: Photo modeling software includes Reality Capture, ContextCapture (Smart 3D), Metashape (Photoscan), Pix4D mapper, etc.

Overall, iReal 3D Mapping Software is compatible with most handheld 3D scanners on the market, and has a wide range of applications in industries that require high accuracy and color quality, such as heritage conservation and 3D digital assets. If you have an iReal 2E color 3D scanner, with the iReal 3D Mapping Software, you can also achieve one-key mapping replacement to maximize the functionality of your iReal 2E 3D scanner.

If you do not have corresponding requirements for model reproduction, then photo modeling can meet most of your color 3D mapping requirements. It is recommended that you choose the solution that best suits your situation.