Vyacheslav Udovenko
Visualizer, UDO-design



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 decor.

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 further work.

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, etc.

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 software«.

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 subsequent visualization.

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 article.


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.



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