BeLoose Graphic Workshop

Illustrative Site Plans and Diagrams with Photoshop

A number of BeLoose members have requested a blog about the process of digital illustrative plan renderings. I have been doing these kinds of renderings over the last couple of years and although I prefer the hand drawn approach to illustrative plan drawing, the digital process can also be a powerful design method based on understanding of color, line weights, drawing depth, and presentation of information that is manifested from hand drawn rendering techniques.

This was a project in China which was a re-use master planning effort of an abandoned silver mine into an eco-tourism and cultural resort destination with a 27-hole golf course nestled within. The final rendering took about 8 hours to complete. Here is a comprehensive step-by-step process of how the illustrative plan was created and how to use the final image as a basis for diagramming and for use in Google Earth.

Step 1: AutoCAD 2-D drawing export. The CAD drawing was exported as a scaled PDF on a sized titleblock in order to register updated plans exactly in case adjustments needed to be made by the client or the design team.

Step 2: Import base drawing and main layers separately into Photoshop. The final photoshop working file will have numerous building, road, trees, groundcover, and parcel boundary layers. Colors and textures were then applied on their respective layers and opacities were adjusted accordingly in order to get the effect I wanted. You can see this layering process clearly to the left. It may take a little bit of time adjusting the colors, textures, opacities, and filters to get the right balance of elements in the final artwork.

Step 3: Digital "Painting". With the layer hierarchy set, I began filling in the buildings as white blocks and added a shadow layer to give the buildings depth in plan. The roadways were colored in as a basic cool gray color. You will want to make sure that the roads are CLOSED poly lines before importing the line work into Photoshop. Parcel and open space areas were given a subdued green tone and golf course greens have a more "spring" green to be slightly different from the other open space zones. The trees are simple green colored "circles" using a special brush filter in Photoshop CS5. It splatters the circles creating "clusters" of trees which was the feel I wanted given that we were recreating a forest.


(Above) Google Earth Draping. A really cool tool that I use from time to time is to drape my illustrative site plan over  the actual project site in Google Earth. Once inserted, you can navigate and tilt through the project and see it in geographical context, which my client seem to always enjoy seeing. As this project is in a mountainous area of China, the draping was quite dramatic and really created a dynamic views of the project.

(Above) Base for Diagramming. From the Google Earth view, you can also extract an accurate topographic view to use in diagrams. In this case, I used this particular view to create a watershed diagram to explain watershed recharge and other green performance opportunities.

(Above) Final Step: Presentation Image. The final illustrative image is a high resolution jpeg that can be inserted into a powerpoint show or PDF presentation. Once digital, you can control the size and resolution you need for specific uses. If you require blow ups of certain areas, make sure you export the highest resolution possible so the result is not a pixelated image.

I hope you found this blog helpful and informational. If you have specific questions about any particular parts of this process, just send me a message.

Views: 8343


You need to be a member of BeLoose Graphic Workshop to add comments!

Join BeLoose Graphic Workshop

Comment by Shawn Mayers on April 21, 2012 at 5:08am
Thank you Brian. I think I'm zoomed into my site too much and the topo features aren't as dramatic as in your example. I love this new technique. I'm using a Mac, and google earth crashes alot, though. Patience, and lots of backing up!
Comment by Brian Lin on April 20, 2012 at 12:49pm

@ Shawn: Do you mean the "dark" color on the plan? If you mean in the Google Earth program, you have orient the view to show the topography. The program already has the topo shown. If you want to tweak the graphic once in Google Earth, just right click on the image and go to "properties" and click. Then the green grips will show up and you can adjust to your heart's content.....Brian

Comment by Shawn Mayers on April 18, 2012 at 4:19am
Thanks,brian. I have tried your technique for a trail map I'm working on and it looks good. Two quick do you create the terrain effect as shown in your graphic? Also: once you place the overlay, is there a way to get the green handles back to tweak the alignment?
Comment by Brian Lin on April 7, 2012 at 7:13am

Thank you Ann and Jane!

Comment by jane berry on April 6, 2012 at 9:59pm
Brilliant Brian
Thanks for sharing this information
Beautiful work you are developing
Comment by Ann Jakins on April 4, 2012 at 8:15am

What a fantastic process - I can't wait to practice it myself.

Comment by Brian Lin on April 1, 2012 at 5:48pm

@ Shawn: There is a command on the Google Earth called "Add Image Overlay". Once you select the image you want to insert, the image will have "green" tabs to move, stretch, etc. Unfortunately, the tool does not scale proportionally, so you will have to scale the image based on known geographic markers in your aerial and image. For my site plan, I used the highway alignment and a few existing buildings to scale and rotate my image to fit. Not a sophisticated way to do it, but I am sure the future versions of Google Earth will enhance this feature.

@ Maria: Thank you! Would love to go to the UK again!

@ Dave: Thank you! I hope all is well on your side of the world!

Comment by Shawn Mayers on April 1, 2012 at 7:02am
Beautiful work. I wonder if you can elaborate a little on the process you go through when 'draping' your digital image over a google earth do you get the topo to match up in a realistic way? Are you warping you image in photoshop.
Comment by Maria Belyayev on April 1, 2012 at 12:49am
Thank you so much Brian- this is just what I need for my next project! Please come to the UK with your graphic workshops!!!!!
Comment by Dave Longmore on March 31, 2012 at 11:17pm

Looks great Brian, I hope the clients appriciate how much effort was put into this.



BeLoose is a workshop where the experience will definitely change people's lives and increase their confidence beyond their expectation.

52 Languages


Before / After Drawings

"Before" drawing was done on the 1st day and "After" was done after 6 days. This can happen to you, so just show up, we will do the rest for you.

See more....


© 2023   Created by Mike Lin.   Powered by

Badges  |  Report an Issue  |  Terms of Service