Creating A Detailed Master Plan Rendering – Part 3 – 3D Studio Max and Photoshop

December 4, 2009 in 3D, AutoDesk 3DSMax, Featured, Photoshop by ryanknope

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

Welcome to the third session of "Creating A Detailed Master Plan Rendering." In this session we will the following elements:

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

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 3: Intermediate to Advanced (Prior Knowledge of Software is a plus.)

Supplied Data

  • Sketches and Client Provided Information: .ZIP

Step 1: Brief Statement Of Where We Left Off

In session 2 we added main grass areas, walkways, raised areas, building placeholders, the water feature and a bit more. Your rendering should currently look something similar to the image below. Now we will start to fill in the areas around the site.

Step 2: Starting The Roads

For the roads I decided to create a massive black plane object that spans the whole camera view. Hide all of your objects except the grasses at 0′ Grade.This plane needs to be moved just under your lowest grass. Now you should have a screen like the one below. Make sure that all of your objects are showing through the black. It is easy to miss a piece or 2 with so many items.

To define the streets we will kill 2 birds with 1 stone in the next step, creating the buildings outside the site.


Step 3: Defining The Streets And Building Masses

Now you need to create a box (or you can use a plane as well). When creating this object we need to think forward because we will be using the "Greeble" plugin to modify this object in the next step. So, we would like to have as few segments as possible while still matching the road contour the best that we can. I found that 9 and 2 worked (Shown Below). Having less segments is ideal because greeble will raise and edit each face or quad into building like masses. If there are too many segments you will wind up with very tiny buildings, which would be quite unrealistic.

Next an "Edit Poly" modifier needs to be added. Edit the object on the "Vertex Level" to match the image in the bottom right. Make sure to pull it out far enough so that the object does not stop mid way through the camera angle.

This process has to be completed for each respective area. If you scroll to the main image you can see the 4 areas that need attention.

Step 4 – Install Greeble And Raise The Roof

Head over to Download, unzip and place the greeble.dlm file into your "Plugins" folder. Installation is that simple. Now restart 3dsmax and re-open your working file.

Now comes the fun part. Select the top object that you just created and select "Greeble" under the modifier tab. In the image below you can see the settings and result of the greeble modifier. The "Panels" area controls the main set of extrusions (Large Ones). You will want to set the heights to a pretty large value while keeping the min and max a bit apart. I also used "Taper" because I plan on dragging my object down below 0" grade, therefore creating the alleyways between the buildings.

The widgets are very useful for creating the massing’s of rooftop elements, such as air conditioner units, top rooms and more. By raising the density level you will place more objects on the building tops. Change your "seed" value to randomly change the way your setting are applied.

*Note: My greeble object will look different than yours, it all depends on segment placement and sizing.

Step 5 – Deleting Your Unwanted Geometry

As you can see above, we have unwanted geometry on the sides and bottom. This could have been avoided using a plane from the start, although this is a good step to learn either way.

To edit the buildings object go to Modify > Edit Poly. Use the polygon selection mode and highlight all of the top faces. (The buildings you want to keep.) Now that all the top buildings are selected press CTRL I. This inverts the selection and now you should have all of your unwanted faces selected. Press delete. Now you can un hide everything and move the buildings down along the Z axis to create your desired alley ways.

Apply a Arch&Design light gray material to the set of buildings. While creating the material use the default reflection properties and add rounded corners, which can be found under "Special Effects"..

Step 6 – Editing The Greeble Building Massings

You should have all the outer buildings in your scene. If you are unhappy with some of the structures you can select and edit your object using the edit poly modifier that is already in the stack.

You can see the progress of my building set below. Notice how alleys and streets are now defined. The render is starting to fill out and take shape.

Step 7 – The Driveway Area

The large black plane that we created earlier will also act as the driveway. In this step we have to create the items around it. We will create the sidewalk, grass and walls.

To start the sidewalk draw an arc to match the curvature of the plan (In Red). You can find the arc under the shapes creation tab. Make the spline renderable and match the width from the plan. Scale the object down in the z axis so that the object is not so high. Apply an edit poly modifier and pull out the winged edges as seen below. Apply a UVW Map onto the object and a concrete type material.

The grass area in the center can be created by using a cylinder in the geometry creation tab. Match the sizing to the plan. Apply an edit poly modifier and pull the top and bottom vertices to match what is shown below. Add a UVW map and apply the same grass material that was used in prior steps.

The low and high walls shown below are quite simple. The high walls are boxes. The low wall is a renderable spline. Add a UVW map and apply the same wall material that was used in prior steps.

Move the objects in this step to coincide with the level of the grass, street, etc.

Step 8 – Starting A Building

Over the next few steps we will create the long building that stands at the water feature. Below you can see a close up render and close up wireframe. Take a look below at the wireframe and render and try to think about how I put this building together.

Step 9 – Placing The Floors Windows And Columns

Start by creating a box that spans the entire building length. Instance the object at a height distance of 10′ in between. This will act as your floors and roof.

Next create the size walls. These are boxes as well. The columns are boxes that should have the same width as the side walls. Notice how the bottom level comes out slightly.

For the windows place a plane towards the end of the column, giving space for a balcony. Do not cover up the last section on the right.

For the right section create a box covering the 3 top floors. Create 3 more boxes representing where you want the windows cut. Make sure that the cut boxes go all the way through the wall object. Select "Compound Objects" from the drop down menu. Pick "ProBoolean" from the list. Make sure "Subtraction" is checked and start picking the small cut boxes. You will not have your holes.

*Note: Using boolean operations on simple objects can work out quite nicely, although more complex shapes and objects will get messy. Use it carefully.

Step 10 – Detailing The Roof

The roof has a white edge border that is created from a renderable spline. Make sure it comes out just past the building bounds, as this will cap off the building. The roof itself it a plane with a noisy dark gray material.

The boxing elements on the roof are mostly chamfer boxes. You can see this set further explained with image 10-2.

Step 11 – Window Mullions And Railings

Create the window mullions by placing a renderable spline around the contour of the window. Make it a gray / stainless materia, you can also pick the brushed metal preset supplied with the Arch & Design Material.

In 11-1 you can see that there are 2 larger renderable splines at the top and bottom (12 sided). The inset Panel Frame is a renderable rectangle spline(12 sided). The inset is simply a box.

In 11-1 a box is used as the base and the rest of the piping is made from renderable 12 sided splines. The lower railings are creating in the same way. Very simple construction since this will be so far away from the view.

Step 12 – Rest Of The Buildings

Each of the buildings are pretty similar on this project. Give it a try and create the rest of the rectangular buildings. All of the same tools apply and don’t be afraid to play with some design sense. Add more glass if you want, maybe a few more or a few less railings. Also, test out using Greeble for some of the roofs. Have fun!

Step 13 – Walk Way Covers

In certain areas going from building to building there are walkway covers. The design is simple but effective as it will only be seen from far away.

This structure is completely built from renderable splines. The vertical supports are 4 sided (45 degree Angle) splines that are stretched just slightly. The Arc supports are build the same way. The horizontal top supports are renderable splines with 12 sides (Angle does not matter). The glass is created from copying one of the arc supports and lowering the thickness drastically. Then you can stretch it out a bit, apply an edit poly modifier and pull the vertices to their desired length.

Apply an Arch & Design Material to the Structure and pick "Brushed Metal" under the templates drop down. You can also add "round corners" under special effects. This helps to accentuate the edges a bit with a shine from a distance.

Select you glass object and do the same, except pick the "Glass (Solid Geometry)" preset. We picked solid geometry glass because the object has 2 sides of faces.

We only created these 2 sections of walk ways because the larger buildings cover up the rest of them. To finish the structure and cross patterns of it, simply copy and edit the existing model.

Step 14 – Water Feature Canopy

Start by creating a side view spline of the supports. Add an edit poly modifier, extrude the face about 2" and then add a cap modifier. Now you can either space them with a box as the measuring tool, or you can use the Spacing Tool which is even easier.

To use the spacing tool, draw a spline the length of the water feature. Select your support object. Go to Tools > Align > Spacing Tool. You will see a dialogue box pop up. Click "Pick Path" and pick your spline, now raise the count to whatever you desire, then click apply. Move your set of supports in position.

For the canopy glass draw a spline as seen below (Pale Yellow). Make it a 4 sided renderable spline with an angle of 45 degrees. Stretch it out and add a edit poly modifier and move the vertices to the bounds of the first and last support. These objects use the same materials as in the previous step.

Step 15 – South Patios

The south patios are quick and easy. I placed 6" high boxes as the patio objects and applied a cement material. Move the patio boxes along the z axis to line up with the grass.

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 The Orchard Area.
• Non 0′ Site Grading.
• Non 0′ Steps And Planters.
• Starting Some Post Production

View the previous tutorials:

Or, view the next tutorials: “Creating A Detailed Master Plan Rendering – Part 4

Or, view the next tutorial: “Creating A Detailed Master Plan Rendering – Part 5 – COMING SOON!

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”.