I would like
to talk about such an important aspect as a computer design, which I've been
involved for a long time. Since the times, when professionals argued about
whether computer design have a future, if computer programs are capable to
transmit nature, feelings and lines, born in the head the Designer or it can be
done by using manual graphics, watercolors and pencils only.
Nowadays such kind
of computer design has become a prerequisite for more or less serious proposal
of the landscaping design, presentation or contest participation.
Software developers have created such program and software packages, they can
help you to get almost real environment of projected plots, where you can take
photos or record videos. It can be done applying different seasons and different
times of the day, enabling or disabling illumination. You can also virtually
walk through or fly over projected plot from different angles, replace plants,
paving materials, change mulch, facings, rearrange elements of the design and
Let me try to describe this process briefly, since the full review of the
current software proposals require a lot of time and experience. I will try to
combine them into the certain functional groups in order to present the primary
view about different software products.
So the first phase faced by all designers is the drawings and plans. There were
less disputes here, because the speed, convenience and incredible accuracy for
manual graphics applied to computer programs have become the norm for the vast
majority of landscape designers and architects. Here are all three major offers,
depending on the scope of activities of the designer or the organization,
customer requirements, contractors and partners. We are talking about
professional vector graphics and amateur programs packages, in which the
creation of the plan is combined with the subsequent creation of 3D scenes.
Letĺs go though them in more details:
1. AutoCAD from Autodesk« - is a CAD (computer-aided design systems),
characterized by technical focus, unified visual style of the drawings and the
legends, you can work on projects collectively. The program is mainly used in
design institutes and Bureau, such documentation is passed to the performance
organizations requiring its compliance.
Visibility of drawings made in AutoCAD, leaves much to be desired, especially
for laymans, however they are relatively easily exported into other programs for
Pic.1. Auto CAD. Example of the geodetic plan from the author of the article.
2. CorelDRAW from Corel Corporation« - vector graphics editor with a very wide
range of applications, from printing to WEB-design, but in this case we are
interested in creating widescale plans with dimensions and beautiful design for
the drawings. The program is mainly used by designers and planners for private
customers seeking visibility and aesthetic, as the program support the creation
of shadows, fills of photorealistic materials, transparency for the plans and
much more, although usability and accuracy in CorelDRAW is also high.
Pic.2. CorelDRAW. Example of the plan segment from the author of the article.
Pic.3. CorelDRAW. Example of the alignment plan of the same plan segment from
the author of the article
It is also worth noting that the program is included into a package with
excellent raster editor Corel PHOTO-PAINT, which allows including images into
drawings to process them, but we'll talk about that in a moment. Some packages
contain application Corel DESIGNER that enables you to work with drawings in
AutoCAD format and has a separate program CorelCAD for the same tasks.
Pic.4. CorelDRAW. Example of a plan with
plants and lighting from the author of the article.
3. Packages with simplified modeling and visualization algorithms are usually
called amateur programs, they have been designed for a wide range of the users.
One of the most famous programs is Realtime Landscaping Architect from Idea
Spectrum« or Our garden from DiĐomp«. Packages typically contain two
applications - one for photo-editing, using plants from the library set in the
program, second one to build plans and translating them into a 3D scene. However,
variety of the houses, objects and plants for design is limited by the ones
existing in program models and materials libraries, although some features of
their import can be available. Exporting to other file formats for further
development of the project by the different programs is missing.
Pic.5. Realtime Landscaping Architect. Example of a photo-editing from the
official website of the program
Pic.6. Realtime Landscaping Architect.
Example of the plan from the official website of the program
Pic.7. Realtime Landscaping Architect 3D.
Example of 3D scene from official website of the program
Once the plan is completed three-dimensional works begin. At the moment there
are a very large number of them, so letĺs split such programs into three main
groups of functionalities and review only some of them.
The first group includes programs with full cycle of simulation and
visualization, such as 3D Studio MAX from Autodesk« or Cinema 4D from Maxon«.
Large set of tools and plug-ins for variety of different tasks in 3D graphics is
set up into these programs, including particle systems, skattering, sculpting,
animation and much more. They also include their own or external visualization
modules can be connected. These programs are difficult to learn and require
powerful computer hardware, although not more than 20% of their capability is
usually used for the needs of landscape designer or visualizer.
The sequence of our work in such programs is approximately the same:
a) Importation and scaling vector plan.
b) Creating 3D scene on its basis (buildings, fences, pavilions, roads, etc.).
c) Assign and edit textures and materials to built geometry.
d) Filling scenes models of plants, stones, lighting and everything else.
e) Setting up lighting and visualization, which imply or create photo images
from different viewing points or video of the motion path of the camera set
accordingly in advance.
Pic.8. 3D Studio MAX. Example of the visualization from DLF Landscape.
Pic.9. Cinema 4D. Example of the
visualization from Laubwerk«.
The second group of 3D-editors can include
programs with intuitively logical interface and with minimum of specified
parametric data, such as SketchUp from the Trimble« or Form Ě Z from AutoDesSys«.
The distinctive feature of these programs is the principle work in one window,
using tools and techniques similar to manual graphics. Generated output images
lacking the use of special render programs, rather remind the handmade drawings
and are commonly called non-photorealistic visualization.
Pic.10. SketchUp. Example of the visualization of the scene without plants from
the author of the article
External visualizers are compatible with these programs extensions, such as VRay
from Chaos Group«, Thea from Solid Iris Technologies«, Maxwell from Next Limit
Technologies «, Artlantis from ABVENT« and some of the others, so potentially
you can eventually get good photorealistic images of the scene.
Pic.11. Form-Z. Example of the
visualization from Aaron Smithey.
It is much easier and more convenient to
work in these programs compared to the previous ones, computer power
requirements are not as crucial, but there are also some limitations. First of
all, they belong to the low-polygonal modeler and therefore it is quite
difficult to place very detailed objects in the scenes, such as sculptures,
plants with lots of leaves, grass volume.
Of course it is not so important for
general views and big scenes, but with closer plans you have to go on with some
tricks. Therefore, in the computer garden design you cannot use most realistic
high-poligon models of the plants and garden décor
from well-known collections of Archmodels,
xFrog or CGAxis. Therefore special collections with simplistic models are used
for these programs or you can cut out pictures of plants on a transparent
background expanded to the camera (2D-model).
Pic.12. SketchUp + Thea Render. Example of
the 2D-models of the plants from the author of the article.
However, from the second group of programs
itĺs possible to export scenes in the other programs for finalization,
landscaping, placing high-polygon objects, textures editing, setting up lighting,
Pic.13. SketchUp + Lumion. Example of the scene with 3D modules of the plants
from the author of the article.
Here we come to the third group of programs that are best suited for our type of
design - so-called landscape generators. From the very first step it should be
mentioned that these programs are not intended for modeling of three-dimensional
geometry and should be used to finish assembling of the scenes only, to create a
beautiful environment and photorealistic visualization or architectural
animations. Usually they come in two groups ľ the first ones work in real time
regime, i.e. we can see already completed photo-realistic stage on a monitor,
similar to computer games, images from which we receive. This group can include
programs Lumion from Act-3D«, Twinmotion from ABVENT« or LumenRT from E-on
They have their own plants, items and materials libraries, although it is
possible to import, but quite limitedly. Others work rather on algorithm of the
first group of programs, i.e. the scene is edited in different windows with
These programs support greater importation
capabilities of the different variety formats of the models, having their
built-in generators of stones, plants, topography, etc. These include Vue from
E-on software« or Terragen from Planetside«. Basically these landscape
generators are being used for modeling of the large spaces. Apart from landscape
modeling tools, they include plants distribution tools and other objects on
differently specified parameters or tassels.
Pic.14. SketchUp + Lumion. Example of the scene with 3D modules of the plants
from the author of the article.
Pic.15. SketchUp + Vue. Example of the
scene with different 3D modules of the plants from the author of the article.
In conclusion, I would like to say a few
more words about the method of designing, such as photo-montage.
It's not always makes sense to build a 3D scene, for example, for a
insignificant change of the appearance of the territory or proposal concept on a
stage of the selection process for competition, to develop design of a decent
corner of the garden, flower bed or gravel garden. It is much easier to make a
photo of the object, slightly retouch and overlay the proposed solutions on top.
Iĺve already mentioned above about the fact that the applications for photo
editing already have been included into amateur programs or are the part of
CorelDRAW graphics package. It also makes sense to use such a widely known
program as Photoshop from Adobe«, not only for the operation of the photomontage,
but also as an application for creation of the albums, color-correction and
pre-press preparation, logos and watermarks works.
Pic.16. Corel PHOTO-PAINT. Example of photomontage from the author of the
Pic.17. Corel PHOTO-PAINT. Example of
photomontage from the author of the article.
I will stop so far, in the future I will try to focus specifically on the
subtleties on the performance of programs for the design in landscaping, taking
into account your feedback and comments.