Creating A Detailed Master Plan Rendering – Part 5

December 16, 2009 in 3D, AutoDesk 3DSMax, Featured, Photoshop by admin

Creating A Detailed Master Plan Rendering – Part 5
(Autodesk 3dsmax 2010 – Adobe Photoshop CS4)

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

• 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

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

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 4 we finished off the 3D work in 3dsmax and output our render at full size. Some Photoshop work was accomplished, softening, levels and we looked into planning out our tree population. Hopefully you have had some time to build a library of tree’s to use for this session.

Step 2: Roof Top Overlays

The roof tops of our main buildings lack detail. To quickly add some definition and a hint of detailing / texture I usually add a overlay in Photoshop. Google is the first place I look for images to work with. Check for images that have as close to top view as possible.

Mask out the roof top image from google, paste it into your render and transform it to fit your roof top. Repeat this step for each of the main buildings. Select each of your roof top layers in the layer tab and merge them(CTRL E)

What I do next is cycle through the blending type and find a option that works well with the roof. In this case "Difference" and "Overlay" have worked well. Then lower the opacity of the layer and add a slight inner shadow. The layer effect options can be accessed by either double clicking the thumbnail of your layer or by Layer > Layer Style > Inner Shadow. The inner shadow will give the effect of a lip on the building roof.


Step 3: Adding Road Lines

This step is a bit more complex than the prior. The road images that I used were from It is a huge resource for 3D and 2D artists. I highly recommend getting acquainted with all of the sections.

First I create a long length of road by copying the image over and erasing the bottom and top edge so they blend together nicely. Next, I fit the road image to each straight section, for curved areas of the road you can use the warp tool (Edit > Transform > Warp).

Once you have your road overlays lined up then you need to blend them into each other using the eraser with a soft edge. Next you can merge the road layers and paint out the lines at the intersections, I used the clone stamp for this job, although you can use the brush tool as well.

With your main render highlighted use the magic wand to select the black road mass, select your road overlay layer (In the layer tab) and hit the create mask button. Now your roads should be masked out and conforming to the render. The blending mode for the road layer is kept at normal.

I added a black inner glow and a black overlay (Layer Effect), both layer effects were set to "Overlay" with a transparency of about 60%.

Step 4 – Paver Patterning – Walkways

I decided early on that certain areas (mainly areas with steps) would be easier to texture or pattern in Photoshop. Slanted stairs can be a time consuming item to uvw map in 3dsmax.

This was accomplished by using the same texture image that was used with the 3dsmax paver material (Walk Way material). I pasted the image into the main photoshop render, then I rotated and scaled it to fit the proper sizing. Change the blending mode of the layer to darken and opacity to about %50. (Depending on the texture you originally used you may need to try other blending options.) (You may also need to make the pattern repeat more, if this is the case use the same method as was used with the road texture.)

Now that the layer is at about 50% opacity, mask around the entire portion of your steps, invert your selection (CTRL SHIFT I) and press delete or use a layer mask.

Make sure to do this step for all the stairs that we did not texture accordingly.

Step 5 – Adding Defining Lines For Each Step / Riser

You may notice in the image above that the steps / risers are not defined very well. You cannot really see each step, which almost always a client will want to see.

This problem can be fixed easily by creating a new layer at the top of the list and using the brush tool at a very small size 1- 3 pixels should work depending on your image size, your color should be black.

Click at one end of a step, press shift and click at the other end. This will create a straight line along those 2 points. On the same layer, repeat this for each step or edge that needs to be defined.

Now lower your layer opacity accordingly.
I also added a slight drop shadow layer effect (Opacity 18%) The result of the process is shown below.

Step 6 – Trees, Starting To Populate The Landscaping

For starters let’s bring a tree in for the zoomed area in the image above. Also open the plan drawing to see where the tree’s need to be placed. Place the 1st tree layer right underneath the softening layer, because we want the trees to soften with the rest of the image.

Make a copy of your tree layer, scale it down and place it just under the larger tree. Now rotate it so the darker side of the smaller tree goes just under the larger… this makes it look like the larger tree is over the smaller tree and gives the essence of depth.

I also tend to change the hue / saturation (CTRL U) with trees that are very close to each other or on top of each other.

NOTE: It is wise to start a entourage library of Trees and Vegetation sorted by view type.

Step 7 – Using A Naming System

When selecting a layer I usually use the "CTRL Click" method (Transform Tool). There are times when this wont work and it is a pain selecting a layer. This happens a lot when you have an overlay layer.

For this reason, before you put in too many trees, set up a naming system that works for you. A lot of people use folders to organize their psd file a bit more. I strongly Advise doing this. I tend to organize the vegetation per location in the rendering.

For example, I create a folder for the vegetation in a certain area, name it from a landmark / area name and also the direction (NW, SE, NE, SW, etc). Then I label each layer for the type of vegetation, size and color. This helps you know the basic info and takes a lot of time out of guess work.

When placing your trees keep in mind the shadows and direction of the sun.

You can see my naming system in the image below along with my layout of trees.

Step 8 – Base Render Cleanup

While I put in the trees for each area I also take the time to clean up the base render if it needs. It is perfect timing because you already have it zoomed and are working in close detail. Also, doing this after you put your trees in make it easier on you, because you may only have to fix half.

Below you can see areas of problem at the left and the fixed areas at the right. I used the clone stamp tool after making careful selections with the polygon lasso tool.

Paying close attention to fixing problem areas can save major face when it comes to your clients.

Step 9 – Accentuating Your Shadows

Now that the trees are in for the Northwest Park region, we can start adding heavier shadows to help with the depth of the image.

Create a new layer in your area tree folder and place it at the top of the list, CRTL click the layer thumbnail of your large tree. This creates a selection of your object. Now press CTRL SHIFT I to invert the selection. Make sure that the new shadow paint layer is selected and use a black brush at a low to medium opacity with soft edges to paint in your desired shadows.

Be careful in painting the shadows. I go tree by tree in the selection process.

Below, you can see where I painted in red. There is also a before and after of this area.

Remember, there are many other areas that you can apply this step to. Shading can be painted in to show slopes or raised grading, corners etc. This is essential to making your rendering look less flat and is for more than just trees.

Step 10 – Adding Vehicles

Often a client will want to have vehicles added to the rendering. I shudder at this because the color of the vehicles are often brighter and attract more attention than the plan itself. With that in mind, the image below shows a few options.

Remember to add a drop shadow matching your sun direction. Keep all of your vehicles on 1 layer. If you need to put a vehicle behind a building or tree, use a layer mask.

While working on adding vehicles think about which region of the world your master plan is in. If your master plan is in China, you probably don’t want to show Hummer’s, Ford’s and Chevy’s.

NOTE: It is wise to start a entourage library of Vehicles sorted by view / world type.

Step 11 – Adding People

Adding people can give a sense of scale to a rendering. It can also bring a sense of style. Below you can see a few different options, each with an explanation. On top of these ideas, you could also add a stroke color or main color if they are to be highlighted more.

Keep all of your people on 1 layer. If you need to put a person behind a tree, use a layer mask.

You can purchase "Top" or "Birds View" people online or build your own library from Google. When placing mass amounts of people, try not to use many duplicates, as they are easily spotted.

While adding people think about which region of the world your master plan is in. The clothing types in some areas are much more prevalent than others. For example, in the UAE clothing is much different than in the USA. Heavy religious countries often have a standard type of clothing that most people wear.

NOTE: It is wise to start a entourage library of People sorted by view / world type.

Step 12 – Rocks, Shrubs And Tall Grasses

In smaller master plans you often have to show much more than trees. I organize these in the same layer folder as the trees and apply a naming system for each type. Place all of the bushes and rocks under all the trees in the layer tab.

I usually copy and blend shrubs to fit a walk way using a soft eraser. At the end I combine the layers so I have 1 main shrub. You can also use the clone stamp tool at this point to make the seams fit a bit better. Then I apply a drop shadow matching the sun. Tall grasses are done in the same manor depending on how spread out they are.

Rocks are pretty easy. Mask them out, place them in and paint in a proper shadow. If you only have a few rocks in your library, then use the transform tool to make them less uniform.

NOTE: It is wise to start a entourage library of Trees and Vegetation sorted by view type.

Step 13 – Conclusion Of Post Production

It is often easy to get lost in the post production of a rendering. This can be both dangerous and beneficial because sometimes it means wasting time on details that a client will never see and in reverse, it can also render almost perfection to the client.

The goal of post production is to save time, energy and resources. Certain things are better done with post. Take some time to study your workflow and apply post production in a way that makes your job easier.

Below you can see how much post production has added to the rendering. It could go even further, although It is at the point where I unfortunately need to move onto another piece of work.

Step 14 – Reflection

Hopefully you have learned a lot of the technical and artistic aspects of creating a master plan rendering. We went over a huge list of versatile tools and concepts that can be applied to various avenues and just about any style of rendering.

Taking on a large master plan shows the need for dedication, it is not a quick bang out process and takes more time than many may think.

Well, this brings us to the end of this huge series. Please let me know your thoughts and comments. Good luck with your ventures!

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”.