I received a lot of emails asking if I could explain how I created the pedestrian paths diagram in the previous post. To generate the line work, there are many ways this could be done. In the past, I probably would have used the spline tool in CAD. The line work could also easily be created in Illustrator. However, not many people know about or use the pen tool in Photoshop. It's similar to the pen tool in Illustrator but with some minor differences. In this case, I will be using the pen tool to create a path that I can tell the brush tool to follow. 

1. Setup the Brush settings

I need to first set the brush settings because this is what I am going to use to add a stroke to the path created in the next step. The settings in this step will determine the thickness of the line as well as the color, hardness, and opacity. I chose a hard brush, 6 pixels big, at 100% opacity, and with black paint. You may need to draw a few lines to determine if you have the correct size.

2. Setup the pen tool and begin creating paths

Before choosing the pen tool, first create a new layer. The paths will not show up in the layers palette but the stroke that is applied to the paths will be drawn on this layer. Now, choose the pen tool and be sure the "Path" option is selected in the pen tool settings tool bar at the top.

With the pen tool activated, begin drawing the paths. To create the curved paths, click and drag when choosing the points on the path. This will create handles that can be used to control the size and shape of the curve at that point. 

3. Stroke Path

Once you get the path where you want it, right click near the path and choose "Stroke Path". If this option is grayed out, double check that you have the new layer selected that was created in the previous step. 

A second dialogue box will appear asking what tool to use for the stroke. We want the "Brush" tool since this is what we set up in the first step. Then choose "OK". 

To finish the path, hit the enter. Repeat these steps to create each path.

4. Generate many paths at different levels of opacities

I want to create a hierarchy of paths revealing different levels of traffic intensity. This is shown through both a density of lines and levels of opacity. For this image, I created three different path layers. The first layer was set to 100% opacity, the second to 50%, and the third to 15%. 

5. Add line work glow

I want the line work to have more of a presence in the illustration, so a slight glow will be added. This is done simply with the brush tool. I used a soft brush, 90 pixels big, and set the opacity to 12%. Where the lines are dense or converge together, I layered in some black paint. 

I also duplicated the dark paths layer and applied a Gaussian Blur filter. 

I removed the background so that this step could be seen a little more clearly.

6. Add Color

To further punch up the paths, I'm going to add color. To make things easier, first merge all of the path layers together. It may be best to first duplicate these layers and turn off visibility so that you will still have the original individual layers available to edit if needed later on down the road. To merge, select all of the path layers, right-click on one of the layers, and choose "Merge Layers".

Once the layers are merged, right-click on the new single layer and choose "Duplicate Layer". 

With the duplicated layer selected, choose "Image>Adjustments>Hue Saturation" at the top. In the dialogue box, first check the "Colorize" box. Then move the "Lightness" slider to the right to ligten the line work. Also move the "Saturation" slider to the right to increase the color. Finally, adjust the "Hue" slider to the color tone you prefer.

7. Set Layer to Overlay

Finally, set the blend mode of the colorized layer to "Overlay". This will help blend the color into the image and let the darker line work underneath show through. 

The final result is a series of smooth curvy lines created without the need to jump into another program such as Illustrator or CAD.



I have been experimenting with some site diagrams of the existing conditions of Long Wharf in Boston. I am mostly interested in introducing texture and depth to diagrams that are typically presented in a more simplified manner using solid colors and no gradients. Don't get me wrong, I am a big fan of the "BIG" type diagrams which essentially strip down the graphics to the bare essentials to explain a concept. However, I want to go to the other extreme and see what kind of diagrams can be generated using lots of texture and shading.

Above is a composite image of several different diagrams layered together. Below are the individual diagrams. The goal was to give a slightly different graphical look to each diagram but have the whole series feel as if it came from the same family. These were all generated from one Photoshop file, but with different color overlays and levels of saturation applied to each.


The above diagrams are built on a simple base that is made up of two images: a clay model rendering and an aerial image. I like to overlay the aerial image to bring in more information, detail, and texture. However, I lower the opacity quite a bit so that the aerial image isn't too overpowering. In this case, I desaturated the aerial image and will bring in the color later. 

Above: A clay model rendering using Kerkythea. See tutorial HERE

Above, the clay model rendering with the aerial image overlayed. I then lowered the opacity of the overlayed image to about 35%.

With the base image setup, I then began applying color on top of the base image to punch up certain aspects of the illustration such as buildings, roads, and water. Each color overlay is on its own layer (such as the roads on one layer, buildings on another, etc) so that I can individually control the color and opacity. 

The edge of the wharf and buildings need to be better defined, so I applied a "stroke" to the colored layers. This is where having the layers separated out worked to my advantage. For example, I chose the layer that contained the blue color overlay for all of the buildings. I went to "Layer>Layer Style>Stroke" and gave a stroke width of 4 pixels. This placed a black outline around that layer and therefore around each building. I also applied a stroke to the edge of the water, docks, and boats to help define those elements as well. You may also notice that I added a diagonal line hatch to the water and buildings. This was a texture I found online and applied as an layer overlay.

From here, I began adding guidelines, trees, and other elements for diagramming.

Finally, a few more textures were applied along with the pedestrian traffic and boat traffic linework. The pedestrian traffic lines were tricky to put together, but it ended up being a combination of painting the linework in Photoshop as well as dissecting parts of an image that I found online of flight paths. 

I scimmed over many of the details of this illustration. However, as I generate more diagrams for this project, I will narrow in on specific techniques used. For now, I am still experimenting and testing out ideas. More on this later.





I let a few weeks slip by on this website without a post but it hasn't been for nothing. I have been hard at work on many things behind the scenes, one of them being working with Blurb to re-release Portfolio Vol 3 at a new lower price. I have also been spending time designing and modeling up a project that will give me some new geometry to create illustrations with. This project was chosen to allow me to experiment with certain ideas that I haven't covered in depth in the past. Specifically, I want to look at diagrams and how to generate them quickly and easily. This project is also located in an urban environment. I have worked on a few urban renderings in the past, but this one is a little different and sits on the waterfront. This means more opportunities to experiment with illustrating water, water reflections, and how the architecture meets the water.

The plan for this project is to redesign Long Wharf in Boston, Massachusetts. I visit this area often and it is one of my favorite places to go in the city. It is a busy hub for many of the city's ferries, harbor cruises, and whale watching tours. In the summer months, this area can attract many tourists due to its mix of water traffic, views of the harbor, historical context, and nearby aquarium. I am interested in rethinking the use of this wharf and how people inhabit the many different spaces.  Without getting too deep into the specifics, the complexity of the context offers up many different avenues to explore architectural visualization.

The design is in its final stages but still needs much refinement. I have plans to start with some macro site analysis diagrams but then move into diagramming the design of the wharf itself. The other opportunity with this project is the use of texture and the crucial role texture will play in the proper reading of the design.  Finally, I want to make it a point to be more explorative with graphics therefore expect some not-so-mainstream styles. So, those are my plans, but let me know your thoughts and what you would like to see graphically. If I receive a lot of feedback for a specific type of visualization then I can try to incorporate it into a future post. 




Adding trees to a perspective can be a daunting task, especially if there are a lot of them. Often what happens is the same tree gets copied over and over again. Everyone does it. It saves a ton of time compared to spending time cutting out several trees that are of the same species but all look a little different. The problem is that copying the same tree creates an obvious "computer" generated look. That same branch sticking out the side is in the same place all the way down the line. It's the first thing I notice when looking at an image and I have trouble getting past it. There are several moves that I use that help remedy this problem quickly and easily.

Below is the initial image with the same tree copied 20 times.  Since the trees are being Photoshopped in, there are no shadows and the lighting does not match the scene.


The problem for me is not so much that the texture is the same, but more because the sizes and proportions are all the same. It is rare that trees planted next to each other are the same height and width. When they are proportionally identical, the eye quickly sees the relationships and senses something is not right. Therefore, the first thing I do is go through and stretch the trees to different heights and widths. While I am doing this, I am also occasionally flipping the trees so that the same branches are not sticking out of the same side in every tree.

Between flipping the trees and stretching the trees on the x and y axis, you can quickly generate many "slightly" different looking trees. To transform, go to "Edit>Transform>Scale". Flipping the tree is just as easy by going to "Edit>Transform>Flip Horizontal".

One last thing I do to help differentiate between the trees is occasionally erase specific branches. This again helps to stop the eye from creating relationships from one tree to the next. Below, you can see the repetition is not nearly as obvious after implementing these simple moves.


A tree has shadows and highlights just like everything else in the scene. I often see people ignoring this fact which leaves the trees looking flat and out of place in the scene. This is an easy fix by using the Dodge and Burn tools. 

The Dodge tool lightens the image. Starting with the Range set to "Midtones", the strength set around 40%, and a soft brush selected, highlight the edge of the tree that faces the sunlight.

Conversely, the Burn tool darkens the image. Again, set the Range to "Midtones", the strength to around 40%, and select a soft brush. Darken the parts of the tree that would be in shadow.

The highlights and shadows really help to set the trees into the scene and respond to the environment. It also gives trees a more volumetric feel. 



A shadow needs to be generated on the ground. The workflow I use is very similar to how I add shadows to people. The process is fast but creates great looking shadows.

1. The first step is to duplicate the tree onto its on layer. This can be done by selecting the tree layer, right click on that layer, and select "Duplicate". Next, this new layer needs to be rotated and transformed to match the perspective of the ground. Choose "Edit>Transform>Rotate" to rotate the tree to match the direction of the shadow. Then again go to "Edit>Transform>Distort" to adjust the tree to match the perspective of the ground.

2. Turn the copied tree completely black by choosing "Image>Adjust>Hue / Saturation". Move the "Lightness" slider to the left to -100. 

3. I also like to apply a slight blur by going to "Filter>Blur>Guassian Blur". I used a radius of 20 but it really depends on the resolution of your image and personal preference.

4. With the shadow layer still selected, lower the opacity to match the tone of the rest of the shadows in the image. In this case, I need to lower it to about 50%.

5. The final step is to further lower the opacity of the shadow edges so that there is a subtle gradient. As the shadow gets further from the tree, the lighter it will get. I achieve this by selecting the Eraser tool, choose a soft brush, and set the opacity to 15%. Then erase the edges of the shadow being careful to only erase enough to get a slight gradient in tone.


When burning and dodging an image, the colors tend to get very saturated. I don't want the green color of the trees to draw too much attention, so I need to remove some of the color. I merge the trees into one layer, go to "Image>Adjustments>Hue / Saturation", and lower the saturation by about 50%. I also lowered the opacity of all of the trees to help blend them into the background.

The main concept to take away from this post is the idea of building imperfection into the image so that the eye doesn't see repetition from one tree to another. Simple moves like changing the height and proportions go a long way in breaking this repetition. 



Ever since I rebuilt this model a few months back, I have been wanting to generate an x-ray image of the Cranbrook project. I was having trouble getting the image to read properly because the design doesn't lend itself well to the x-ray style that I have shown in the past. The problem was the complexity of the structure in relation to the building form and ramping system. There was so much geometry competing for attention that the spatial understanding was getting lost. I then explored cutting several transverse sections along the length of the building to combine them into one perspective view. I wanted to see if I could create an image that could achieve a dual reading of the overall form combined with a clear reading of each individual section. This allows for a clear understanding of what is happening inside at specific moments throughout the design while also explaining the relationship of the outside form with the interior spaces. 

This illustration is made up of seven different renderings shown below. The first rendering acts as the base for the Photoshop file showing the entire exterior envelope of the design. The second rendering peels away part of the envelope revealing the structure behind. I then generated five section cuts using the ZORRO 2 plugin. To maintain certain control of the textures and color, I rendered everything as a clay model and then applied all of the textures and colors in Photoshop. You can revisit the clay model rendering tutorial HERE.

Above, a clay model rendering of the exterior envelope using Kerkythea.

Above, a clay model rendering of the structure with parts of the envelope peeled away. 

Above, five rendered section cuts using the Zorro 2 plugin to generate the cuts and using Kerkythea to render them.

With all seven renderings, I began piecing them together. I took each section slice and removed anything that was about 20 ft. away from the cut. I then used layer masks to blend the section into the large exterior building rendering.

Once the clay model renderings were blended together, I began layering in color. I took my time with this step, slowly adding textures to the ground and walls. I knew I wanted a lot of color in this image, but I wanted it to have depth. This meant using several color overlays to achieve lots of subtle changes in tones throughout the image. 

I probably used 15 different color overlays to create the final look. I was also splotchy with where I added the color. You can see in the final image that the blues are stronger in the shadows, the yellows are stronger in the light areas, and the reds are stronger in the transitional areas. Some Vignetting, light, and fog provided depth to the image and encourages more eye movement around the illustration.

Since this type of illustration requires seven different renderings, the setup takes a little longer than normal. However, once in Photoshop, piecing everything together goes relatively quick. I still think there is more room to clarify the reading of the image. The building envelope gets lost amongst the sections in a few areas. Ultimately, I decided that the sections should be hierarchically stronger which meant sacrificing the clarity of the building form. There may be a better way to pull this off which I will continue to explore in the future.





I have been really excited to do this post because it has been a long time since I have printed a portfolio and I have always been curious to see the quality that print-on-demand companies could produce. As much as I enjoy to work digitally, nothing beats seeing work in printed form. Pinups were some of my favorite times in studio and getting my portfolios back from the printer was always exciting.

I decided to test out several online p.o.d. companies and compare the positives and negatives of each. There is something really nice about being able to design a portfolio, upload it to a website, and have it delivered in the mail in about a week without ever leaving the computer. But with this convenience brings some limitations. 

1. Sizes are limited. Not only are they limited but each company varies between the sizes they offer. I can understand the difficulties of offering custom sizes for print on demand services, but I had to reformat my portfolio twice just to test out the prints between the companies. Working with a local print shop, you can typically print any size and shape you want which is a big plus. 

2. Paper and Cover Options. Most of the affordable p.o.d. companies only offered one type of soft cover, hard cover, and dust jacket. While the quality was not bad, options such as gloss versus matte were limited if not non existent. Changes in paper types and weight often meant large price increases.

The two companies I tested out were Lulu and Blurb. I wanted to test a third, Createspace, but the largest landscape book they could do was 8"x6" which was just too small. I went with Lulu and Blurb mainly because of their pricing and well established history. During my research, these two companies were consistently at the top in terms of cost and usability. So with that said, here are my thoughts on the two companies:


LULU (Softcover)

Lulu offered one landscape size, 7"x9" that would work for the proportions of my portfolio. The paper that comes with this size is 80# semi gloss with a gloss 100# soft cover. There is no opportunity to use a heavier weight but they do give you the option to choose between perfect bound or saddle stitch. If you have over 60 pages, you need to go with perfect bound which is the better looking option in my opinion anyways. Because I am creating a 7"x9" landscape, I am limited to these options but other orientations and sizes do offer more opportunities for customization. 

RESOURCES: Lulu has its own software to create the portfolio or you can upload a PDF for them to print from. The PDF upload is what I needed to be able to completely design and customize my portfolio using the InDesign workflow described in the previous post.

QUALITY: The paper used in the book seems extremely high quality and had a nice matte finish. The cover has a gloss finish which grew on me over time but I would still prefer a matte finish on this as well. With that said, everything felt high quality and durable.  

TRIMMING: There wasn't any issues with the full bleed printing. The page trimming was consistent and accurate from page to page. The margins all appeared to be the correct size. The spreads aligned nicely though occasionally some were off about 1/16" of an inch but not enough to cause concern.

COLOR: The Lulu book printed a little more saturated than expected. The oversaturation helped some images to pop, while over darkening others. This meant some detail was lost in the dark areas and in some cases printed black where I was actually showing  gradients. Greys also printed with a slight warm tint. This was most noticeable on the cover that was designed to be completely desaturated. The color issues could probably be solved by tweaking the contrast/saturation and ordering more test prints. However, this can get expensive and waste a lot of time waiting a week for each test print to be delivered. For the most part, the quality of printing was well within reason and most would find the colors to be more than acceptable. The text in the portfolio printed very crisp even at such a small eight point size. 

The cost for my 60 page book was just under $20 (not including shipping) which is, in my opinion, a good price for a high quality 7"x9" all color, perfect bound portfolio.


BLURB (Softcover)

The Blurb book size I used was the 8"x10". Compared to the Lulu 7"x9", this feels a lot bigger and more substantial. Blurb defaults with 80# paper but gives options to use heavier weight if needed. 

RESOURCES: Blurb provides a plethora of resources, the best being their InDesign plugin. This plugin generates the perfect size template with all the proper bleeds and margins based on the size and number of pages you choose. They also have their own software to create portfolios or you can upload a PDF document generated from InDesign or other software which allows for complete customization. 

QUALITY: As with the Lulu book, the Blurb book had a similar high quality feel to it. The interior pages had a semi-matte finish as well as a gloss cover. Blurb has options to upgrade to premium papers but the price increases substantially with these options. Unfortunately, they don't offer any other finishes for the soft cover. Overall, the construction of the book looked good and seemed like it could hold up well over time.

TRIMMING: The full bleed design looked great, but trimming was off vertically by about an 1/8" on some pages. It's something most people probably would not notice. I designed the portfolio to have some tolerance for trimming movement, but it's something to be aware of if you are expecting the pages to be cut perfectly. There were also minor misalignments between spreads by about an 1/8". With this said, the hardcover book that I will be talking about next was trimmed almost perfectly. I'm not sure if this had to do with the book binding or if it was simply because it was a different print job.

COLOR: I was pleasantly surprised with the color. Everything was almost dead on. The darks showed all of the detail and saturation was spot on. The greys did not have a hue to them but read as a true desaturated grey. Blurb provides a color profile that you can load into InDesign which allows you to calibrate the colors and preview before you send it off to print. I think this played a big role in allowing me to fine tune the colors exactly how I wanted them.

The cost for the Blurb soft cover 60 page book was right at the $30 price point. With the increased size, quality paper, and extremely accurate color reproduction, this seemed more than reasonable.


BLURB (Hardcover)

I also tried out a hard cover as a last second decision and I am glad I did. This ended up being the book I was most excited about. The hard cover added another level of quality and professionalism that you don't get with soft covers. The addition of the dust jacket meant I had another opportunity to build in more design to the book. I can imagine the inside flaps of the dust jacket taking on many uses such as a place to introduce a resume or intro excerpt. For school applications, the hardcover may be a little much yet for the professional world and job interviews, it could be a nice touch.

QUALITY: Compared to all of the books I printed, this felt like the highest quality for obvious reasons. The hardcover had a linen finish with options to customize the color at an added cost. Because most portfolios aren't thick books, the hardcover helps to give the book a more substantial feel and weight. 

TRIMMING: For whatever reason, the pages for this hardcover book trimmed much more accurately than the softcover Blurb book. The margins were near perfect and the spreads aligned really well. 

COLOR: Similar to the softcover, the coloring for this book was very accurate. I have printed a lot in my lifetime and I was more than pleased with how accurate these colors were reproduced.

The cost jumped another $10 going from a softcover to hardcover with dust jacket. This increase may or may not be worth it to some, but I came away impressed with the final product. 



I didn't actually do a test print from this company because they didn't offer a size that worked for me, but I still wanted to include them in the list. The reason being because if I had created an 8"x10" portrait oriented portfolio, I could have printed the entire book for $6. From my research, they use a 60# paper and a similar glossy softcover to Lulu and Blurb. I prefer to design landscape oriented portfolios, but I am not completely opposed to portrait orientation. I have seen them done well in the past and I may give it a go for my next Vol. 4 portfolio. I am curious if anyone has ever used Createspace before and how their experience was. The company is Amazon owned, and at that price point, hard to ignore.  



I am really excited about how the Portfolio Vol. 3 turned out and thought it could serve as a helpful resource to those creating their own portfolios. I have reworked the "Portfolio Design" section of this site so that all of the Portfolio Vol. 3 posts are in one place and easy to find. The final printed portfolio will serve as one more resource on this site to aid in portfolio creation. 







I have talked about portfolio setup in the past but not specifically the workflow. I don’t hide the fact that I prefer to build my layouts in Photoshop. It's what I'm most comfortable with but also what gives me the most flexibility to blend images into one another and really experiment with layouts. I have seen others create their portfolios in Illustrator and InDesign which works too. I have implemented InDesign into my workflow, but as a management tool and not so much as a design tool. InDesign acts as a master file that houses all of my text and organizes all of my PSD files in one place. This means I can quickly comb through many pages at once to study the flow of the story and transition of graphics. It's very easy to get caught up focusing on each spread as its own entity. InDesign allows me to see the document as a whole and creates a malleable environment to easily move pages around and make quick edits to text. Below, I outline the workflow that I used to create my latest portfolio and prepare it for printing.

1. Determine how the document will be printed

The process begins with deciding where and how I will print the portfolio. For this example, I will be focusing on online printing since this is the easiest and most accessible option for most people. Knowing how you will print the portfolio will inform certain specifications and sizes to be used. For example, blurb only offers a few sizes that will work for my portfolio and the proportions are quite different from my standard 6"x9” size that I have used in past portfolios. Therefore, I want to keep this in mind when designing my new portfolio because the size significantly affects the grid proportions and layout. However, Blurb also provides an InDesign plugin that sets up the file for bleeds, setbacks, and other pertinent document settings. This helps minimize any formatting issues when its time to upload the final portfolio design.

2. Photoshop Template

Once I determine where the printing will be done, I next set up a Photoshop template. This template is meant to mirror the InDesign document template exactly. Therefore, I will be using the exact same bleed settings and setback guides. Below is how I set things up in Photoshop:

2A. Initial Page Size: The individual page size will be 8” tall by 9.5” wide. This is the final cut size given to me by the online printing company. This means when you open the portfolio and look at the spreads, they will be 8” tall and 19” wide. Since I like to design by the spread and not by individual pages, I am going to set my Photoshop template to the 8”x19” size. I am also going to set the resolution to 300 dpi (dots per inch) and set the color mode to “CMYK Color”. The image below shows the setting I used when starting a new document. To make changes to the page size and resolution, go to “Image>Image Size.”

2B. Image Bleed: My portfolio has images and colors stretching all the way to the page edges, so I need to add a bleed to my template. The standard bleed dimension is 1/8” on all sides. Some printers may require something different so it is important to confirm this dimension with them before setting up the template. To add the 1/8” bleed space, select “Image>Canvas Size”. First double check that the anchor is in the center, and then increase the width and height by 1/4.” Obviously, the extra 1/8” could be added when setting up the initial page size, but I wanted to show how to add the bleed after the document has been created.

2C. Setup Guides: Once the size of the canvas is set, I insert the guides. I want to mark the locations of the cut line, text setback, and the fold. To do this, you must first turn on your rulers by going to “View>Rulers”. With the rulers on, select the "Move Tool" and simply drag guides from the rulers to the locations you need them. You can precisely place guides by choosing “View>Add Guides”. You can also lock the guides by choosing “View>Lock Guides”. The image below shows the state of my template at this point.


3. InDesign Document Setup

I want the InDesign template to be identical in size to the Photoshop template. This allows me to easily place the PSD files directly into InDesign without any alignment issues. 

3A. Initial Page Setup: Before setting up the InDesign Template, first look to see if the online printer has provided any online resources. For example, Blurb offers a plugin that generates a template for you. However, in some cases, a template will need to be created from scratch which I outline below. 

Go to “File>New>Document.” In the new document dialogue box, make sure “Facing Pages” is checked. This will allow you to create spreads instead of individual pages. Also, estimate how many pages your portfolio will be and insert that number into “Number of pages”. The number of pages does not have to be exact and can be changed as the document is developed.

Change the width and height to the final “Cut” size of a single page. In my case I want it to be 9.5” wide by 8” high. InDesign defaults to picas, not inches which is the unit I want to use. A little tip when setting the width and height is type what you want in inches and follow the number with “in” such as “8.5in”. InDesign will give you that dimension in picas. You can also change the units by going to “Preferences>Units and Increments” and change the ruler units to inches for both the horizontal and vertical. 

I set my margins to 0.25” except for the inside margin which is set to 0.5”. The margins act as a barrier by which important text and images stay within. However, images and graphics can extend outside of this line and should continue all the way to the bleed edge. Different size margins are okay to use but I wouldn't suggest going less than 0.25”. You will want a larger margin in the inside edge to account for binding.

Finally, I set the bleed to 0.125” (1/8”) for all four sides. 

Choose “Ok” to complete the setup.

3B. Master Pages: Masters are essentially templates that you can overlay on multiple pages. When you make a change to a master, it will update all book pages that the master was applied to. This is useful if you are adding page numbers, a title, or a graphic that needs to appear in the exact same place on multiple pages. In the case of this portfolio, I really only need it for page numbers. There are situations in my portfolio where the page number gets lost in a dark background, therefore, I create a second master with white text. To view master pages, go to “Window>Pages” and you will see the masters at the top. Clicking on a master thumbnail brings up the master page where you can make changes. They can then be applied to the portfolio pages by dragging them on top of the pages you wish to apply them to in the pages palette.

4. Develop Photoshop Spreads

With the documents set up, I began the process of laying out the designs in Photoshop. I used filler text to determine general placement of paragraphs and titles. I placed all my text into a group layer of each PSD file so that I could easily turn off the layer when it was time to place the file into InDesign. 

5. Place PSD Files into InDesign

As I develop the PSD files, I insert the new files into the InDesign document using the “Place” method. Placing the PSD files creates a link between the two programs so that if a change is made to the PSD file and saved, it will update in InDesign without the need to place it again. 

To do this, simply drag the PSD file onto the InDesign page and align the bleed edges. The longer route is to go to “File>Place.” When the dialogue appears, navigate to the PSD and choose “Open.” Then click on the desired InDesign page to place it. Finally, adjust the location so that the bleed edge of the PSD file aligns with the bleed edge of the InDesign file. 

To check that the PSD file is properly linked to the InDesign file, you can make a change to the PSD file in Photoshop and save the changes. Then, move back into InDesign and see if the link is asking to be updated. A list of all of the linked files can be found under the "Links" palette which can be turned on under "Window>Links". If a link does need to be updated, right-click on the link and choose "update link" or choose the "update link" icon at the bottom of the links palette.

6. Add Text in InDesign

Next I need to add the final written text into InDesign. As mentioned above, I prefer to add text in InDesign instead of Photoshop because it allows me to easily manage the text in one place ensuring consistency throughout the document along with easy proofreading. It also exports as a vector graphic to PDF which will yield crisper results when printing. The Photoshop files are rastorized when placed in InDesign meaning any text in the Photoshop files would be rastorized as well. 

7. Export to PDF

The final step is packaging the portfolio to be uploaded to the online printing company website. Most online printers prefer PDF files, but it is important to confirm this with your online printing company. Choose “File>Export”. In the export dialogue box, choose a location to save the document and be sure to select “Adobe PDF (print)” as the format, then click “Save”. 

Once the PDF dialogue box appears, you will see a ton of options. This is again a time to check to see if the print company that you are using has specific settings that they want you to follow. For example, Blurb has an entire section of their site dedicated to explaining the settings they want you to use. Below are general settings I have used in the past if the print company does not already have specific requirements:

7A. Under the “General” tab on the left, set the “Adobe PDF Preset” to “High Quality Print”

7B. Under the “General” tab on the left, verify that “Pages” is selected and not “Spreads”

7C. In the “Compression” tab on the left, leave the default settings as is. Bicubic Downsampling should be set to 300 pixels per inch for both color and grayscale images. The only reason you should change this is if you need a smaller file size.

7D. In the “Marks and Bleeds” tab on the left, ensure “Crop Marks” is checked under "Marks" and that “Use Document Bleed Settings” is checked under "Bleed and Slug". This ensures the printer can print the bleed and also know where to trim the document.

I want to emphasize that these are general settings and different situations may require different settings. While this is meant to give you a starting point, it is crucial that you follow the specific requirements of the printing company that you are using. This portfolio workflow in general is one that works best for me, but may not be best for everyone. It gives me the right balance of creative flexibility along with organization and editability.  I am sure there are some things I forgot to cover in this post so I will be sure to update as I think of them.



Every year around this time, I have made it a tradition to illustrate a winter scene. With the holidays around the corner, this weekend seemed like a good time to try out some different ideas and techniques related to snow scenes. Sitting down this morning, I didn't really have a clear plan on how I wanted to tackle this illustration. The goal was to create a winter site plan with snow, something I have never done before. I am also making some final touches on "project portfolio updgrade" and I am in need of a few more renderings for the Cranbrook project. I thought why not kill two birds with one stone on this one. 

A couple of decisions I had to make early on were how much snow was going to be on the ground and what time of day. I was looking for something with a lot of texture. Therefore, a light dusting where the grass showed through the snow seamed like a good idea.

1. As always, I started with a basic rendering of the Sketchup model.

Above, the Sketchup model followed by a Kerkythea base rendering below.

 2. I needed some context for reference so I brought in an aerial image and placed it underneath my design in Photoshop. Though most of this aerial image will get covered up, it helps provide a sense of scale when Photoshopping in trees and textures. I also destaturated the building by about 50% to tone down the strong orange and green colors.

3. I began rummaging the internet for snow textures and trees. A good snowy base was crucial, so I started by filling covering much of the grounds with a basic white texture. I also added snow covered roadways to break up the base snow texture and help illustrate the location of the roads. There will continue to be many textures layered on top of this image so I didn't spend too much time getting everything perfect.

4. Next came the snow cover roofs. This step simply involved selecting each section of the roofs with the polygonal tool and painting them white with the brush tool. I then followed that by overlaying some more snow textures found online to give the white paint more depth.

5. I spent a lot of time looking for winter trees in plan view. Luckily, inserting the tree images into the illustration is simple because they are essentially silhouettes. Images of winter trees have no leaves and white backgrounds because of the snow. All I needed to do was set the layer blend mode to "Multiply" to get rid of the background but still keep the tree and shadow. 

6. I liked the idea of letting the grass and landscape peak through the snow and I was able to find a texture online that gave me this look. I copied it several times to generate a larger texture. I started on the roof garden and carried this texture throughout the site. 

7. It's usually around this time that I begin tweaking the colors. In this case, I wanted the image to read largely cool with lots of blues. However, I added a yellow color overlay to offset the cool tones and give some contrast. I also wanted the interior of the building to pop so I amped up the warm tones in these areas as well.

8. I plan to add falling snow which significantly reduces the clarity and detail of the base image. I jumped into my TOPAZ LABS Photoshop plugin to increase the detail and texture to help offset this dilution. I endued up using the "Clarity" preset within TOPAZ ADJUST to get the below result.

9. Finally, a winter scene would not be complete without some falling snow. Because of the view, vertically falling snow that I have used in past illustrations would not work here. Instead, I used the radial blur filter which created an interesting effect. The texture is great and really sets the mood for the scene. A detailed tutorial on how to create falling snow can be found HERE.



All weekend has been spent working on the cover design for the Project Portfolio Upgrade and it is turning out to be extremely challenging. There is a lot of pressure that rides on the cover. It's the first thing the audience sees. It's the first thing they judge. It sets the mood of the entire portfolio.

I have been debating in my head how minimal to go. For instance, do I just go with text and no graphics? I have always liked the portfolios that go this route because it gives the impression that the designer has a certain amount of control and refinement. In a way, it peaks my interest more and encourages me want to open up the portfolio to see what is inside. However, minimal can be difficult to pull off.  A lot of focus is put on the font, size, placement, alignments. 

On the other hand, I could go with bold graphics. In a large pile of portfolios, unique geometry and strong color can get your stuff seen. The audience will most likely  remember a cover with bold graphics and colors over one with a white cover and some black text. The problem I have with a bold cover is if not done right, it can come off as looking desperate for attention, and in some cases competes with the content inside. 

I wanted to see if I can find that sweet spot right in the middle of minimal and bold. In other words, I want a design that shows a certain amount of refinement and control, but still keeps a similar language to what is going on inside. If you have seen any of my project pages, they use very bold colors and textures. Therefore, I want to carry some of that texture and graphic style to the cover, but maybe leave behind the color. This will help to tone down the loudness of the cover but hopefully still grab the viewers attention.

Below are some of the first iterations that I did. As you can see, I started out very simple and slowly built in more texture and info. I used the favicon of my website as a large graphic to overlay the spread which gives some movement to the page as well as provides me something to relate text to. 

The last two images are what lead to my final design. I liked the idea of using layers of transparency to build depth and thought it could transition well into other parts of the portfolio such as the table of contents. So I kept playing around with the favicon graphic along with text and texture and ended up with the image below.

The above image was close, but I still wasn't getting the transparency effect that I was looking for. I then brought in some large text and placed it in such a way that it appeared to slip behind the white graphic. I sized the text so that the "03" rested completely in the white zone and so that the viewer would read "folio" and understand that it was the word "portfolio" wrapping around the book. 

Once the cover was complete, I carried over much of this language into the table of contents. I like the contrast of going from light colored pages to dark color pages so I inverted the background to get a predominately black spread for the table of contents. I also set up a grid to help place the text and create alignments and relationships.

I still have a few more pages to work on inside the portfolio but once those are done, I will start doing some test prints from various online printing companies (The image at the top of this post is just photoshopped. I haven't actually started printing yet). There are a lot out there and I am curious how the quality/price differs from company to company. I plan to post on every step of this process so be sure to check back often.




I have taken several trips up to Maine over the past month and experienced some beautiful landscapes with stunning fall foliage. This has inspired the latest illustration for my Cranbrook project. Autumn scenes are not that much different from your standard landscape scene except for the warmer color tones of the trees and overall warmth of the image. 

On the other hand, bird's eye views are, in my opinion, some of the toughest views to illustrate. It is difficult to find Google images at the proper view angle of landscape elements, cars, buildings, etc. On top of that, this view reveals much more of the background requiring more modeling of surrounding buildings and landscape. In my case, it means more time Photoshopping these elements in. However, the extra effort can be well worth it because this view angle can provide a clear understanding of the relationship between the design and its surrounding context which was my main objective. The design sits adjacent to, and is heavily influenced by the Saarinen Museum. I, therefore, wanted to illustrate this relationship as clearly and dramatically as possible, but still keeping the focus on my design. The bird's eye view met this criteria. 

There was a heavy amount of Photoshop work that went into this illustration due to the amount of trees as well as the underdeveloped Kerkythea rendering. Below are the steps I used to layer in all of the key elements. I should note that although the steps seem clear and straight forward, there was actually a lot of back and forth between adding trees, grass, fog, textures, etc. While I used the overall structure of the steps below to piece together this illustration, it was very much an iterative process.

1. SKETCHUP TO KERKYTHEA: I spent most of my time on the design of the addition which left much of the context looking barren. I made the decision to not spend time modeling in more detail into the surrounding buildings and landscape but instead use that time in Photoshop. All that extra modeling would not show up in any other illustration views and I could Photoshop these elements in much faster. 

Above: Sketchup Model
Below: Kerkythea Base Rendering 

2. BACKGROUND AND FOREGROUND TREES: The landscaping was going to make or break this illustration. I Photoshopped in the trees starting in the distance and working my way towards the camera. I used several images to cut from so that I would have a good amount of diversity in color and avoid too much repetition. 

3. GROUND COVER: It is surprisingly difficult to find grass images at this angle. I tried to bleed as much color into the grass as I could because I was going for warm tones and didn't want to see too much green. I created a video tutorial a while ago showing the steps I use to add grass seen HERE.

4. ROAD TEXTURE: The only surface I haven't touched yet was the road. It's one of those subtle moves that you don't think will make a big difference. However, I have realized over the years that these are the details that bump illustrations to the next level. So spend an extra ten minutes and add a quick overlay onto the surface. I also added a few leaves on the ground to get that autumn feel.

5. BUILDING LIGHT AND SHADOW: With much of the landscape in, the buildings needed to be punched up. I adjusted the levels and used the burn tool to give more contrast to the architecture. I also increased the intensity of the interior lights. This process is similar to one I used in THIS POST.

6. DEPTH VIA FOG: Now come the big moves. Fog seems to be the most under utilized adjustment in arch illustrations. I even use it in interior illustrations. In this case, I really wanted to play up the depth between the background and foreground trees. It's a 30 second process but completely changes the mood of the scene. I give a more detailed description of adding in fog in THIS POST.

7. COLOR OVERLAY: While the fog is dramatic, it is also washing out the image. To fix this and bring all of the colors of the image into a similar range, I applied a color overlay. Since this is an autumn rendering, I went with bold reds and oranges. A tutorial on color overlays can be found HERE.

8. MORE LANDSCAPE COLOR DIVERSITY: The grass was looking a little too even in tone and I wanted to take on more complexity and color. I took the same grid texture that I have been using in the other illustrations for this project, adjusted the perspective to match the illustration, and overlayed it on top of the grass. I then applied a slight guassian blur which gave me the look I was going for.

9. DETAIL AND COLOR ADJUSTMENT: I tend to favor images with higher contrast and color saturation, so I jumped into the Photoshop plugin TOPAZ LAB ADJUST to increase the detail of the image and tweak the colors. I also duplicated the image and set the layer blend mode to "Overlay" for a little bit more contrast as shown in THIS TUTORIAL.

The Final Illustration