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Our eyes identify three-dimensional images more since we live in a 3D environment. There’re several tech advancements reliant on 3D to function. UIs, facial recognition technology, and others require 3D for seamless operation.

But when it comes to graphics, there’re several techniques capable of by-passing 3D commands into plain format. Ray tracing vs rasterization is major techniques in use to enhance graphics rendering realism.

The crux of ray tracing and rasterization borders on shading pixels. With focus on where images are, how shadows rest on them, their light source, etc. enhances its visual quality. Other entities like factors affecting illumination (bounces, directions, etc.) also support both techniques.

Ray Tracing

Rendering images through tracing its light path in pixel form and simulating its effects is ray tracing. It is one of the most reliable image-rendering techniques targeted at immense realism. Several high-end graphics design leverage ray tracing to bring their creation to life.

Pros of Ray Tracing

Realistic light simulation transport

Light simulation is an essential feature ray tracing leverages to maximize image clarity across frames.

Ray tracing focuses on making the most of object placement and how light interacts with these entities. With such enhanced focus, better clarity, similar to life-like images can get realized.

Huge dataset rendering potential

Ray tracing has an immense capability to render images in crisp detail, giving better clarity potential as a result. A huge set of information can get crunched through by ray tracing, making it ideal for high-end graphics.

Most motion pictures with heavy reliance on computer-generated animations won’t be possible without ray tracing.

Indirect illumination simulation

Retracing light sources with a focus on getting better object rendering gives ray tracing a quality advantage.

Unlike other rendering techniques that could be cumbersome to navigate for better lighting, ray tracing is exceptional.

Cons of Ray Tracing

Computational requirements

Even if ray tracing promises significant visual realism, it could come at an increased computational cost. The computational cost ray tracing demands from some systems makes it rather unusable in many aspects.

Longer rendering time

Ray tracing provides significant image clarity than other existing rendering methods. But due to the time required to bring these images to optimal clarity may take too long. With recent advancements aside, this long rendering has limited ray tracing applications in graphics.

Poor suitability to real-time applications

Latest advancements from Sony, NVIDIA, and other stakeholders in graphics have focused on improving ray tracing’s capabilities. Even with such advancements, there’s still a huge avenue for improvement.

Right now, ray tracing can only function smoothly for CGI, visual effects, and other mainstream applications. But when it comes to fast-paced applications where speed is integral, fluid ray tracing still remains unachievable.

Ray Tracing and Path Tracing

Path tracing is a soft form of ray tracing ideal for rendering lighter shadows, enveloping occlusion, and ancillary lighting.

Path tracing has a lot lesser focus than ray tracing making it an unbiased rendering technique. Even with such centralized rendering, a massive number of rays need to get traced for better image quality.


Taking images described in grid or other shape format and converting into dots, lines, or pixels is rasterization. In its combined form (pixels, line, dots), rasterized images come to light.

Rasterization is the preferred rendering technique for most graphics that support fast-paced images. Action-packed games and other software with demanding frame rate requirements usually feature rasterized images.

Pros of Rasterization

Lesser rendering time

Unlike ray tracing, rasterization divides a high-quality frame in much lesser time. The significant rendering speed isn’t unrelated with this technique’s non-reliance on light source-shadow identification.

Easier conversion potential

Relaying images in pixels, dots, and lines, makes a rasterized image boosts its scalability ease.

Multiple applications

With its ease of conversion and fast rendering time, rasterized images are easier to apply for several uses. Some gaming and other fast-paced graphics applications won’t have been possible without rasterization.

Cons of Rasterization

Illumination issues

Unlike ray tracing, that retracts the source of light onto an object, rasterization struggles with determining light origins. The reason is, most rasterized images, aside from recent enhancements, have mutually exclusive triangles.

Limited light-image quality

Since rasterized images don’t get enough support to enhance its form with light sources, picture quality gets stunted.

Methods targeted at attempting image enhancement exist. In general, these methods may not yield desired results. Without the right results, image quality from rasterization may be underwhelming.

Ray Tracing vs Rasterization – Handling Several Essential Aspects


Rasterizers find it challenging to make the most of utilizing images’ lighting for better clarity. A concerted effort to render better shadows from a rasterizer involves;

  • Rendering each scene from each light’s point of view
  • Store each rendering in a pre-defined texture
  • Redirect lighting onto surfaces during illumination

After these steps, results may not be at par with what’s obtainable from ray tracing. With ray tracing, one code path is capable of handling the entire shadowing process. There’re no extra steps required, and final results remain superior to rasterized surfaces.

Ambient occlusion

As the name implies, ambient occlusion refers to enveloping blockages. In this context, ambient occlusion relates more to soft shadows seen from light hitting at a particular angle.

While both methods (ray tracing and rasterization) have significant performance results, there’s a marked difference.

Rasterization usually does away with several 3D aspects of the entire shade. But ray tracing makes the most of each image to relay it in better detail.

Scene management

Real-time image enhancement is the focus of several high-end graphics designs. With vertex shaders running across several live scenes, high-quality frame rendering has been challenging in the past.

But ray tracing has changed all that.

Ray tracing leverages shades across entire frames’ geometry, rendering captured scenes into a standby acceleration structure. Even with such gains, there’s still some drawback when it comes to fast frame rendering time.

Hybrid Ray Tracing

Recent graphics advancements can now merge the superior abilities of ray tracing and rasterization for better image clarity. Even at its infancy, a hybrid renderer shows great promise.

With a hybrid renderer, the rasterizer’s rendering speed gets coupled with a ray tracer’s attention to detail.

Hybrid renderers make use of rasterizing G-buffers to represent the entire visible surface of an image. After this, the ray-tracing aspect of this renderer puts together reflections and lighting for the visible surface.

Differences between Ray Tracing vs Rasterization

Ray Tracing Rasterization
1 Scene management enhancements make ray tracing ideal for rendering smoother images through improved context awareness Limited potential for rendering clearer images could be experienced with rasterization as the preferred relaying technique
2 Slower computational prowess, particularly for challenging frames Faster rendering potential, since whole images get distributed into pixels, dots, or lines for smoother frame relay
3 Enhanced capacity for significant ambient identification targeted towards better image rendering Difficulty in identifying environmental parameters capable of limiting image quality
4 Greater shadow and light direction sorting provides clearer images Limited light and shadow direction sorting affects image quality
5 Ideal for operations targeted at enhanced context awareness Perfect for graphics rendering for fast-paced scenes with limited requirements for advanced image clarity


Is ray tracing worth it?

Right now, ray tracing has its limits when used in high frame rate displays. But with fast-paced advancements in ray tracing for consoles, it could become ideal for several uses in no time.

Does VRAY use ray tracing?

After some November 2019 updates, NVIDIA’s VRAY can use ray tracing in sync with RTX-class GPUs.

How can I improve the quality of rasterization?

Rasterization can get a quality boost through two methods – antialiasing and sub-pixel precision.

Antialiasing works by creating much smoother edges across each rasterized render. With these smoothened edges, rasterized images appear clearer to human vision.

Sub-pixel precision, on the other hand, works by improving smoother animations across several edges of a rasterized feed.

Ray tracing vs rasterization – which is better for mainstream gaming?

Rasterization has a simplistic approach to rendering images, making it easy to adopt for fast-paced gaming. Ray tracing, on the other side, could take a lot of time to relay images, making it unsuitable for gaming.

But newer video game releases currently adopt ray tracing in some form with significant performance gains.

Is RTX ideal for rendering?

RTX GPUs from model 2080 and higher have at least 4600+ CUDA and 570+ Tensor cores. Such high-powered performance is enough for handling all forms of graphics rendering.

Final Word

Getting essential facts on ray tracing vs rasterization is integral to better graphics rendering. Both techniques offer significant graphics quality with marked differences between both methods.

While ray tracing has the visual quality advantage, certain advantages from rasterization give it a wider application.

Undoubtedly, there’s going to be a major focus on enhancing both forms of graphics rendering in the coming years. And if latest advancements shed some light on ray tracing vs rasterization, we haven’t seen anything yet.

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