Creating A Detailed Master Plan Rendering – Part 4 – 3dsmax and Photoshop

December 8, 2009 in 3D, AutoDesk 3DSMax, Featured, Photoshop by admin

Creating A Detailed Master Plan Rendering – Part 4
(Autodesk 3dsmax 2010 – Adobe Photoshop CS4)

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

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

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

  • Sketches and Client Provided Information: .ZIP

Step 1: Brief Statement Of Where We Left Off

In session 3 we created the buildings, roads, surrounding buildings outside of the site, walk way cover, the water feature canopy and more. In this session we will finish up the site work within 3dsmax and begin doing a bit of post production.

Step 2: Pebble Walk Ways At The Orchard

You can see the areas in outlined in red. These can be created by drawing a spline and adding an edit poly modifier onto it. The material that these objects should receive are small pebbles, which you can see in step 3.

Move the objects down on the Z axis until they line up at just about the grass objects height. They should be at just above the 0′ grade.

You can also see that in the orchard there are several planters. Create these planters to be 6" in height using a renderable spline for the cement retainers and a plane for the grass. With these objects you can instance each planter because they are the same size.


Step 3: Orchard Steps And Benches

You can see in the image below, that the grade steps down to -1′. There will be 2 steps (Use Boxes) at each of the noted locations. There are 2′ high planters with benches attached to the corners at about 1’6" high.

I used a renderable spline for the retainer wall and applied a edit poly modifier to a copy of the same spline for the glass area. (Make sure to turn renderable spline off). The benches were created by drawing a closed spline, adding edit poly and extruding the top faces. A wood material was then applied.

I decided to not add the detailing of these steps in my rendering because the trees and bushes will cover and distract over quite a bit of this area.

Step 4 – Northern 5′ Site Grading Area

At this point there are now 2 sections that have not been filled in. With this step we will add the 5′ grade grass, as seen below. Trace the profile from the background plane with a spline, add an edit poly modifier and uvw map.

In reality the site slopes from a 5′ grade at the building and down to a 0′ grade at the street. This is not something we will not be concerned about due to the massive tree cover.

Create the stone patio with the same method, but extrude it 6" so that it steps up from the grass a bit. You can copy your uvw map from the prior patio stone stack.

Over the next few steps we will work on filling in the last area of steps and planters.

Step 5 – Starting The Last Area Of Grading

This is one of the trickier grading areas. You can see the top view and perspective view below. I have the heights and grades noted. I usually start with the low and top grades first.

Once they are in (Shown as pebbles) then I proceed to the planters in successive order bottom to top. The planters were created using a renderable spline with a edit poly modifier and the verts pulled to the desired height. The grass is simply a spline with a edit poly modifier and uvw map.

This helps block in the stair way. Create 1 riser as a box with edit poly to skew it. Instance them up. Create a mid landing if you desire. The sides of your riser objects will be hidden by the planters, so absolute precision is not a must. Apply a cement Material.

The bench was copied and edited from the one we created in a earlier session. It sits at 1’6".

Step 6 – Adding The Floor Striping, Stone Pavers And Bench

The cement striping was created using renderable splines that are placed just above grade.

Copy the bench that you made in the prior session and use edit poly to match what is below.

Create a box to fill in the area by the bench, copy the uvw map from another paver object and paste it into the stack, then apply your paver material.

Step 7 – Break Wall And Planter

The planter in this area is a standard planter. You can copy and edit the sizing to match the plan. It should be 9" tall and be aligned with the pavers as seen below.

There is a 2′ 2" divider wall that was made from a renderable spline with edit poly and a cement material applied.

You can also put a cap on any walls or planters to add more detail. Most caps are 2" – 3" in height and have a accent material.

Step 8 – Test Render

You can see a test render of both updated areas. Hopefully your render matches something close at this point. .

Step 9 – Building Entrance Way

Copy the walk way cover and rotate it slightly so that it enters the entrance way on just a bit of an angle. If you are choosing the same camera angle as I am using for my main shot then you don’t actually have to create a hole for the entrance, as you will not see it.

At this point you can copy a set of stairs and place it over at the entrance. These do not have to be very detailed because they are covered mainly by the walk way cover.

Step 10 – Adding The Park Entrance Building

This building I actually picked out of a library at the Google 3D Warehouse. This building was not as important to my client and I was able to find something that fit the design of the "Dry Garden" that it leads to.

Whenever I find a stock building to use, I always make edits to the materials. The models from Google 3D Warehouse are "Sketchup" models and often require quite a bit of cleanup. The models always come in with standard materials applied and sometimes you have to fix a lot of the geometry. I would stay away from this library unless you are using Sketchup or are in a time crunch where quality can suffer a bit. I was lucky enough to find a quality model within 10 minutes that worked and was clean.

The building you chose from Google 3D Warehouse will most likely have a "Multi/Sub Object Material" applied. You will need to find where each material is applied and change them to Arch & Design and add your shines / reflections, textures accordingly. You can use presets and materials that you already created for most of the building.

I used our prior white, wood, brushed metal and glass materials. Match up the sizing and placement according to the stone walkway at the 0′ grade.

Step 11 – Dry Garden Pebbles And Deck

For starters with this step I created a box matching the sketches location and size. Make this box 2" thick and raise it up about 6" above grade level. Apply a UVW Map and the same material that we used for the benches. Make sure to adjust your UVW Map.

The "Dry Pond" was created by drawing a spline and adding a edit poly modifier.

To smooth out your spline a little more you can use the "Fillet" tool under edit spline. Select all of the splines vertices and drag the slider up to smooth. The same pebble material was used as before.

This is all we will do for this area. The rest will be done in post production.

Step 12 – Check Render Settings And Render

Now we have all of the site filled out and ready for post production work. With that in mind it is time to check out the production render settings and render at a large size. I rendered this project at 3500 pixels wide.

Make sure you render at your final output size before starting post production, or scale up your smaller render in photoshop. Otherwise you may get halfway through your post production and have to redo it all.

You can see the main settings that I used below. I only edited properties of these 2 tabs.

In the "Renderer Tab": Raising the sample rate will make for a much sharper rendering. You will find that with raising it you raise the quality and the time it takes to render your image. I changed Raytrace Acceleration to BSP2. BSP2 can be very beneficial to render processing when you are dealing with a scene of 1 million poly’s or more.

In the "Indirect Illumination Tab": Enable Finalgather.

Set your render size and press the render button. Take a coffee break. Once your render is complete press the "Save Image" button shown below.

Step 13 – Overview Of The Post Production

Before starting the post production it is best to identify and make a list of all the elements that you need to add. This can save tons of time in the long run. This photoshop file will become quite large either way, but planning could save you from maxing out your computer.

Items to be added:
• Trees (Requires major planning, 3D trees are very high in poly count)
• Bushes And Shrubs (Requires major planning because of the latter)
• Rocks And Other Elements (Requires finding and masking)
• Softening Effect
• Road Patterns
• Adding Shadows
• Pavement Patterning
• Roof Top Overlays
• Adjusting The Contrast / Brightness / Levels

I usually adjust the contrast and brightness first, then add the softening effect. This gives me a sense of progress because the next step is to start placing the trees. The planting can be very time consuming and aggravating.

Below you can see my raw render directly out of 3dsmax.

Step 14 – Levels And Softening

Open your rendered image in Adobe Photoshop. When adjusting levels I always duplicate my base layer and try "Auto Levels" first. You can find "Auto Levels" by going to Image > Adjustments > Levels. Often it will work and make the step easy. If it does not work to your satisfaction then you may need to adjust it manually.

To create the softening effect I first make a selection of the highlights in the render. To do this go to Select > Color Range. You will see a dialogue box pop up. From the top drop down menu select "Highlights". This will select all of the brightest areas of the render. Create a new layer and fill the selection with white then adjust the layer opacity to about %30 or whatever looks good to you. The goal is to soften the buildings outside of the site, taking away a bit of the sharpness and detail.

You can erase the highlights that occur inside the site.

Step 15 – Tree Population Options

Deciding how you plan to tackle the tree issue is the next thing to cover. There are a few options.

Rendering The Trees In Your Main 3dsmax Scene (3D)
This would ideally be the best option because shadows would be remarkable and it would definitely give a greater sense of realism. This is only really a realistic option for very small plans or sites. A site of this size would require either using proxies (Which I will not cover in this tutorial) or a super computer beyond today’s standard.

Several Renderings With Trees Placed In 3dsmax (Several Scenes) (3D)
This option would work very well but would be very time consuming. On my machine I tend to only be able to place about 12 trees in my scene at a time. Each tree of mine is about 1 million polygons. While possible and the product would be great, this is not a great option either unless you have time to create 15 max files and 15 region renders.

Pre-Rendering Trees In 3dsmax And Placing Them In Photoshop (2D)
This option is the most feasible and often the quickest method to achieve the desired result. This means your tree management in Photoshop needs to be very well planned and your file size will become huge, but it is still the fastest and most reliable method.

Step 16 – Creating Your Tree Library

I have a huge pre existing tree library in both 3D and 2D. You can either find free 3D trees on the website’s listed below, or search google for tree tops that you can mask out.

If you chose to use 3D trees and pre-render them make sure that you use the same sun system / exposure control settings / camera view. It is important to match the view and lighting of your main scene. When rendering the trees out save the images as .png with an alpha channel.

I suggest finding as many vegetation objects at this stage as possible and start building your library. This is extremely important in completing projects like this in a timely manor.

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:

• Trees (Requires major planning, 3D trees are very high in poly count)
• Bushes And Shrubs (Requires major planning because of the latter)
• Rocks And Other Elements (Requires finding and masking)
• Road Patterns
• Adding Shadows
• Pavement Patterning
• Roof Top Overlays

View the previous tutorials:

Or, view the next tutorial:

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”.