Creating A Detailed Master Plan Rendering – Part 2 – 3DS Max and Photoshop

December 3, 2009 in 3D, AutoDesk 3DSMax, Featured, Photoshop by admin

Creating A Detailed Master Plan Rendering – Part 2
(Autodesk 3dsmax 2010 – Adobe Photoshop CS4)

Welcome to the second session of "Creating A Detailed Master Plan Rendering." If you missed Part 1 of this tutorial, please visit, "Creating a Detailed Master Plan Rendering in 3dsmax and Photoshop." In this session we will the following elements:

• Setting up the 0′ grade hardscape (Walkways) and grass.
• Discussing area’s that can be lower LOD (Level Of Detail).

• Building Place Holders.
• Setting Up The Main View.
• Setting Up Detailed Materials
• Raised Feature Area
• Water Feature

The focus of this rendering is based mainly off the site hardscape, planting and how it flows rather than the architecture of the buildings.

*NOTE* The final image shown below will be changing slightly as this is currently a live project.


Author: Ryan W. Knope

Ryan W. Knope is a freelance 3D Artist / Consultant with 13 years experience in the 3D and 2D industry. His main expertise lies with interior and exterior rendering. Ryan is also the architectural / interior voice for 3D Artist Magazine’s Question and Answer Panel. He lives with his wife in sunny Denver, Colorado.

Tutorial Details

  • Programs: Autodesk 3dsmax 2010 • Adobe Photoshop CS4
  • Difficulty For Session 1: Intermediate to Advanced (Prior Knowledge of Software is a plus.)

Supplied Data

  • None for this tutorial

Step 1: Brief Statement Of Where We Left Off

In the prior session we covered the sloped stairs area (As seen below) in the upper left corner of the plan in quite a bit of detail. You learned some elementary functions and a few things that might be a bit more intermediate. We are going to step it up a bit in difficulty with this next session.

You learned how to create the steps, edit the grass objects in edit poly, created the walls, create materials and add textures to them. I will not touch on these subjects on such a basic level in this session.

Step 2: Setting Up Your Camera View

At this point we are going to set up the camera and get our view established. The importance behind this is huge. Depending on where your view comes from, the height of your view and the height of your buildings, you may not have to create certain areas of the plan at all. Areas blocked from view I call "Dead Space."

To pick your view, navigate around your perspective view with the buttons / tools shown above. You can see below the view that I will be working with from here on out. Navigate around until your view is where you want it. Then press CTRL + C to create a camera at that position / view. Now your camera is set up and we are ready to create the building placeholders and find out "Dead Space."


Step 3: Intelligent Building Place Holders

When I create the building place holders I assume that each floor is about 10′ or 11′ unless I am told otherwise. Create boxes that match the contours of the basic box shaped buildings. All the buildings that are outlined in green have 4 stories. Once your box object is created then add the appropriate segments to show the floor levels. The odd shaped building in purple has 11 stories. Create the wings from a extruded spline from the traced contour. The bottom face of the buildings should line up at the 0′ grade level.

Adding segments to show floors will help in the long run with building creation. It also helps the client visualize the buildings and puts sizing in context early along in the project.

Step 4 – Creating The Zero Grade Grass Objects

In the figure below, you can see how I broke up the grass areas. All were created using spline. Trace the contours and edit the splines to fit closely. Then apply an edit poly modifier.

In many cases there will be walk ways and side walks covering the edges of the grass. For this reason some need to be more precise than others. When creating the grass objects keep in mind what is going next to it or on top of it. You can see in the small sub figure how the walkway covers part of the purple grass object.

Step 5 – UVW Maps For The Grass

Next, a UVW Map modifier needs to be added to each grass object that you just created, then the grass material applied. When you test render you should have something similar to the image below.

Notice how the grass sizing looks a bit off and there are seams where each grass object meets another. You can edit the sizing and repeating of the UVW map (Shown Below) by selecting a single object and editing the UVW Map settings under the modify panel.

You can also set the material texture to mirror under the Diffuse Bitmap Map settings (Shown Below) in the material editor. Although, you have to be careful of patterns forming when you set the image to mirror and up the tiling.

I have decided to keep my current uvw mapping and instead create a larger grass texture later on. This will help the integrity of the grass much more because I will not have unwanted patterns and less seams. In the end we will still need to paint out a few seams in photoshop, but this is not a problem.

Step 6 – Getting The Walk Ways In Place

Locating the walk ways is the first step. Below you can see a trace of the walk ways. Notice how some of the walkways have bands in them, we are not concerned about these bands right now.

Create these objects the same as you created the grass (From Spline – Edit Poly – UVW Map). With these objects you need to take more care with them lining up properly with the edges of the retainer walls, grass and other miscellaneous objects that are yet to come. You can create the walk way set as a single object or a set of objects. I personally created a set of objects rather than 1 large one.

Select all of the walk way objects and move them along the "Z Axis" lining them up just a slight bit over the grass objects. It is important to zoom in really close and have them just a touch above the grass… otherwise you will have odd shadows and more edits in Photoshop.

Step 7 – Creating Your Walk Way Material And UVW Map

Give each object a planar UVW Map. Press M and go a new slot in the material editor. Change it to a "Arch & Design (mi) material. Drag your paver / walk way texture (Image Map) to the "Diffuse Color" slot. Click the apply material button and see how your material looks when applied to your object . Click the Diffuse Color button and play with mirror, tile and tiling amount. Also make sure to check and see if you need to rotate your map via the "W" axis… if your map is coming out oblong… you may need to rotate it 90 degrees

Now drag from the diffuse color slot button up to the bump button… select copy when the dialogue box pops up. Click the button displaying the texture map under the bump slot. Raise the blur to about 3.0. Go back to your top level of your material and change the bump amount to about 6.0 of whatever you prefer. If you double click the preview of your map you can pull up a larger preview.

Step 8 – Zero Grade Planters

Now we will start adding the planters around the site. Below in 8-1 you can see the red outline around 1 planter. The similar looking object to the right of it is a planter as well. They are usually identified by a retainer wall, grass and some greenery, in this case a set of trees.

You can see the retainer wall and grass model in 8-2. To create this I created a rectangle (Spline) around the edge to represent the retainer wall and a plane under Create > Geometry. In 8-3 you can see the retainer wall spline settings and the grass object settings in 8-4.

Notice how I used a higher number of segments with the grass object. This is in preparation of possibly adding a slope for the grass.

8-5 shows all of the retainer walls that need to be created at the 0′ grade. With there being so many of these areas let’s discuss the topic of completing all of them faster.

Step 9 – Instancing, Copying And Using Edit Poly

Select the Retainer and Grass. Shift drag the object to a similar fitting retainer wall. A dialogue box will pop up. Pick copy because we will be editing these objects. With both objects selected pick "Edit Poly" from the modifier menu. Edit the objects together at the vertex level to match your desired retainer. To aid in the stretch you are doing turn on "Soft Selection" and raise the value of the falloff until it looks like the image below and drag it to the bounds of your desired retainer.

For the square retainer walls that are the same size you should start by doing the step above, then for the duplicates use "Instance" rather than copy. This saves ram in the long run.

For all of the odd shaped retainer walls you will need to create them from scratch. Just be sure to use the same wall height and width.

Step 10 – Test Render Your Progress

The retainer walls are now in and now its time to focus on some raised elements. We will now work on the raised patch towards the center of the rendering in the next step.

Step 11 – The Center Raised Garden

The center garden is raised 2′ from the ground plane. It has griding with stonework and grass. There is a bench at the north edge, a seat wall and a large wall with a reverse " U" opening. This will help to start define the space as something special.

Below you can see information on the construction of the area in question.

For this step I will give you a few tips, but I am going to leave most of this up to you. The tools that you have used / learned up to this point will cover this step.

• Walkway: Use the same material and creation methods as before.
• U Shaped Wall With Opening: 16’5" tall, 2′ thick. Use a box with 3 segments and extrude the wings.

• Bench: Use a box.
• Use renderable splines, boxes or a single box with segments moved and extruded.
• 2′ Grass: Extrude from a spline.
• 2′ Retainer: Scale a renderable spline from tracing the contour.
• 1′ Grass: Extrude from a spline.

Often the hardest part of 3D is learning how to use the different tools together. This is a test for you to try to figure out a little on your own.

Step 12 – How You Did On Step 11

Now you should have something similar to the image 12-1. Here we also notice a slight problem. The sun is creating very dark shadows that cover much of our feature area. Most of the time this is unacceptable in this industry. Showing very large areas of shade insinuates that grass will not grow because of buildings blocking the sun.

If you select your "Sun", just above "set up" there is a option for "manual" editing. Select that and play around with some test renders to get something close to. I placed my sun in a North West Region at about a 10am height in the sky.

You can see the product in 12-2. There are still shadows, although they are smaller and face the opposite side creating more warm sun for our largest planting areas to feature.

Step 13 – The Water Feature

In this step I figured I would shoot you the outcome before I explained how to create it. With you attempting to apply what you learned most often helps it stick and helps you in the future to realize the multiple uses of tools over time, both alone and combined. Keep in mind that there is a 2" cap on the walls of the water feature. That is why the shadow is cast down so hard.

There are several ways to go about this, some of the better options we have already covered. The main difference in creation for this was the materials, which I will cover in the next step.

Below is the product of creating the water feature and retainer walls.

Step 14 – Water Feature Materials And Different Tools

For starters let’s cover the modeling. I personally feel that the best way to model this set of objects would be to use a plane for the water, a renderable spline for the 1" height tan border object and boxes for the walls.

This is definitely not the only way. Some others would use a "Boolean Operation" with edit poly and a Multi Sub/Object Material". This is a method I will not teach currently. Boolean operations are frowned on in the industry and create messy object topology. Then there is the idea of box modeling the 1" and high walls together as one object using a segmented spline or box and creating a Multi/Sub object material.

The latter 2 of the methods are more time consuming but I figured I would mention them as they are definitely valuable in their own respectable situations. I chose a spline and boxes. Fast and easy with good topology.

For the materials, the walls have the same assignment as the prior walls. The caps are simply gray with a noise image map applied in the "bump slot". The bump value could be turned up to 2 or more because the camera is at such a height. The water object" has a "water image map" applied in the diffuse slot with the default Reflectivity and Glossiness
. The base 1" retainer wall simply has a tan / peach map to make it pop.

Keep in mind that all of these materials are still "Arch + Design" materials.

"Round Corners" also definitely helps with definition on certain objects, although hard to see from far away in a view such as this. Round Corners requires a closeness to scale to be correct. This option is especially helpful with reflective objects, as it highlights the edges more significantly.

Step 15 – Site Walls

Below you can see the site wall locations. They are about 5′ tall. I created them using a renderable spline with about a 1′ thickness and a edit poly modifier to edit the height and flanges. You can widen the object any way you wish with different angles via edit poly. I gave these objects the cement material.

Step 16 – Render And Assess

Now it is time to render your progress and check how it compares. It is also time for me to sign off and see you next session. Remember, nothing helps more than reading tutorials like this and testing everything out in different situations.

This ends the second installment of this Master Plan Tutorial. You can direct questions to

In The Next Installment

The next installment of this tutorial set will be coming shortly. Here is what you have to look forward to:

• Creating Roads.
• Buildings Surrounding The Site.
•The Driveway.
• 1 Building Design.
• Walk Way Covers.
• Water Feature Canopy.
• South Patios.

• Adding The First Tree.

View the Next Tutorials:

View the Previous Tutorial: “Creating A Detailed Master Plan Rendering – Part 1

Making This Tutorial Possible, John Feldman

John Feldman has been nice enough to allow me to use not only the wip rendering, but the collateral information that he provided to me as I was contracted for this job. His write up and company profile is below.

Ecocentrix was founded on the fundamental premise that – the quality of the experience and function of landscapes is achieved by understanding inherently "what is" and "what is wanting", and that quality of life is a reflection of the quality of the landscape.

The firm’s work is rooted in investigations of residential estate and resort style living. Our clients are characterized by their culturally rich backgrounds and sophisticated design tastes, ranging from traditional to contemporary, and whose personal lifestyles and histories include a diverse range of travel and worldly explorations.

We artfully interact with nature by thoughtfully manipulating natural and constructed form, recognizing that the art of landscape is in the interaction of human and non-human nature.
Our body of work exemplifies great stylistic range and restraint produced with consistently high quality. Our projects are immediately mood altering, celebrating the sensual and tactile temperament that is the fabric of landscape.

Our design creates the ground for celebrating the cycles of all life, and is the foundation of regional identities enveloping cultural distinctions. It reinforces what is powerful and enhances what is weak. Ecocentrix endeavors to “Enrich Life Through Design”.