When I originally designed this project back in undergrad, I put a lot of time into the design of the section. It's an important illustration and I therefore wanted to move away from the abstract illustrations described in the previous posts and move towards a clearer reading of the actual architecture. I didn't want the move to be too extreme so I kept remnants of the same gridded texture used in the other illustrations. Below I break down the image to show the steps taken to get to this point. 

1. Export Line Work

I exported several line work images from Sketchup. I typically export many line work options whether I know I am going to use them or not. It only takes seconds and gives me more options to experiment with once in Photoshop. In this case, I exported images with the face style set to "Hidden Line", then with "Hidden Line and X-ray", and an image with only the guides turned on.

2. Clay Rendering

Next I did a quick clay model rendering of the Sketchup model. I used Kerkythea to render the image below but really any rendering program will suffice just as long as the rendered image aligns with the Sketchup exported line work. I also tweaked the levels and desaturated the rendering to get the image below. See this tutorial on CLAY MODEL RENDERINGS and also this post on ADJUSTING THE LEVELS . I should also say that I used the Zorro Plugin to cut the model which allowed me to render the section.

3. Poche the Cut

I wanted the cut geometry to be graphically strong, so I shaded it red. Nothing fancy here. I used the polygonal tool to select the cut areas and used the paint bucket tool to fill the selections with red color. This process is described in more detail in the QUICK SECTIONS tutorial.

4. Tone

The image at this point is too stark and needs more color. I want the ramps and three structural elements to stand out in the section. An easy way to solve this is to add some warm tone overlays. With this illustration, I'm not concerned with materials. It's still diagramatic and I plan to have the perspective illustrations later on to provide that information.

5. Interior Depth

The design contains many ramps as well as layers of translucent materials but this is lost in the illustration. To fix this, a light blue paint with low opacity representing the translucent material was added above the ramps. I then copied this layer two more times to give a better perception of depth and layering between the ramps.

6. Texture

In the previous posts, I have been overlaying a graphically strong grid pattern over the illustrations to convey the idea of shifting organizing grids. The concept still follows through to the section, however, I want the texture to be toned down. I took a texture of different colored squares, stretched it to give more directionality, and then scaled it to work with the column spacing of the architecture. I next duplicated the texture and rotated to match the second grid system. Both layers were set to 20% opacity. 

7. People

The section was populated with people to give a sense of scale. A quick way to change the people into silhouettes is to go to "Image>Adjustments>Hue / Saturation". Then move the "Lightness" slider all the way to the left.

8. Contrast

At this point, I am happy with the illustration. But, the image still reads a little flat for my taste and is lacking hierarchy. More contrast helps to move the eye around the image. To do this, I duplicated the final image layer, desaturated it, and set the layer blend mode to "Overlay" on top of the original layer. This deepens the shadows and brightens the highlights. It's similar to adjusting the levels or curves, but gives a slightly different look. A similar workflow can be seen in the IMAGE SOFTENING tutorial.

Below, the final image




This week, I put together some diagrams that build off of the language of the first illustration created last week. As mentioned in the last post, the intro page illustration was designed to be a "teaser" for the pages to follow and get the viewer interested in exploring the the project deeper without giving too much away. The site analysis drawings produced this week are meant to bring some clarity to the underlying concepts of the project and help make sense of the intro illustration. 

Many of the formal moves in the design are related to the shift in the grid system which are derived from the major axis of the campus. This idea therefore took hierarchy graphically in the diagrams by using cool tones set within the warm background. I also wanted to emphasise the spatial relationships created by the placement of the new design so again I used cool colors to contrast the warm tones. I tend to layout all my project pages by moving from a macro view of the project (site plans, diagrams, process work) into more specifics and details of the project (floor plans, sections, vignette renderings) as the pages progress. For this diagrams spread,  I began with a macro view of the site with several diagrams overlayed on top of each other. I then broke down the overlayed diagrams into each individual diagram. I finished with a zoomed in view of the design explaining the proportional relationships. The next few spreads will look at the floor plans, sections and elevations continuing the idea of getting deeper into the details as the viewer moves through the pages. 

I have been making a big push to finish up this first series of portfolio pages before the end of the summer. Because of this, I haven't had much time to really breakdown the individual illustrations and explain the workflow. I plan to get a deeper into this stuff once the summer slows down and I get some more free time to allocate to this site. I am almost done with this portfolio (this being the last project) in which case I will start to look at finishing touches and printing. Stay tuned



The summer is coming to a close and I am making a final push to wrap up “Project Portfolio Upgrade”. I have spent the last two weeks developing a new 3D model for one of my old projects from undergraduate school. Some of you may recognize the design as it has appeared in many past posts and tutorials. The project was originally developed for a competition by Cranbrook Academy to design an addition to their art museum. It has always been one of my favorite projects and I was excited to revisit it and have a second go at it.  

I was in one of those moods to experiment and use more of the right side of my brain. The intro spread to this project seemed like the perfect place to do something a little different. The design has many  strong lines that at first glance don’t appear to relate to one another. There is also a grid system that influenced many of the big moves. With all of this complexity, the illustration needed to expose the rules of the design i.e. how the form responded to the grid systems as well as how the forms related to one another.  I wasn’t looking for a diagram though. The intro page should be strong graphically but at the same time be abstract, encouraging the viewer to investigate the rest of the project pages. 

Above, the new 3D model based on an old project from undergrad.

There was also an opportunity to use this illustration as a study for areas of the design that have not be developed yet like the roof garden and interior details. Breaking away from the 3D model and developing this illustration has spawned a few new ideas that I know I would not have arrived to had I not gone through this exercise. The complexity of an illustration like this really draws me into the project and gets me thinking about things that I just don't think about when modeling and sketching.

This illustration, like all of the other intro spreads, will set the tone for the rest of the portfolio pages of this project. Be sure to check back over the next few weeks. I plan to churn out a few more spreads and hopefully get out some new tutorials that are long over due.




I was able to develop a couple of illustrations this weekend to help illustrate some of the exterior spatial qualities of the theater design. The number of pages for this project are really starting to add up and I don't want to add any more than where I'm at now. As I mentioned earlier, I wanted this project to focus on process work and there are still some diagrams that need to be added. While I like the full page spreads of these perspective shots, I may end up combining them to a single spread to allow more room for process work.

These illustrations were extremely heavy in post processing. The outdoor theater perspective alone took a ton of Googling before I could find enough source images of crowds to cut from. Even with all of that time spent, you will still notice that the sun direction is off on almost all of the people. In this case, I put a higher priority on getting the right view on the people so that the perspective was correct which meant I had to sacrifice the correct lighting. 

Below are some of the screenshots of images as I worked in Photoshop. The Sketchup model is lacking in detail and textures not properly mapped which meant I had to spend a little extra time in PS to offset this lack of development.

Above, you can see the Sketchup model is not very well developed. However, this is more than enough information to allow me to get the illustration that I am envisioning.

The Kerkythea rendering provides the basic shading information for me to begin building off of in Photoshop. Any rendering program will work for this step. I use Kerkythea because it is free but it is by no means a requirement for this workflow.

I always start off in Photoshop by adding a background which, in this case, includes the sky and vegetation.  This step takes little time but adds a layer of completion that allows me to better visualize where I want to take this illustration. Plus, it's always a good rule of thumb to start with items furthest back in the distance and work your way forward into the foreground. Another one of those things I picked up from all my hours of watching Bob Ross paint on TV.

As I said earlier, I spent forever looking for images of people outdoors that I could cut and add to this illustration. It's really easy finding views of people from the back, but surprisingly difficult finding views from the front. It was also tricky finding the right density. I didn't want it to look too crowded, but also not too empty either. I ultimately used about 5 or 6 images to get the crowd shown above. Also, the perspective needs to match closely otherwise the whole shot will look off. The lighting for most of the people is coming from the wrong direction, but I wasn't too worried about that. I had to take what I could get. 

The problem with cutting people from multiple images is that there is a disconnect in color tones between my base rendering and all of the different images used. It's obvious that the people were cut from different photos and they just don't blend well into the illustration. A remedy for this is to use color overlays. In this case, I used a brown color overlay to blend all of the images together. Check out this tutorial I put together a while ago if you have no idea what I mean by "color overlay".

With this image, I did some more color tweaking with software called Topaz labs. I have been experimenting with a program they just came out with called "Topaz Restyle". It's primarily photography software but has been great for my arch viz work too. And, it only costs $30. It's worth checking out.

With all of that color editing, the last step was to turn it into a black and white image. It hurt to do this but the rest of my imagery for this project was black and white too. Besides, I'm a big fan of black and white images and I like the reading of this perspective in grayscale.


The second illustration was a little all over the place. It started off as a daytime scene but then went to a night scene midway through. The workflow was the same as above but with a completely different final result.

Again, the Sketchup model was not fully developed and some of the textures were not mapped correctly. However, this was overcome in Photoshop.

I rendered the model in Kerkythea as a daytime scene but also added lights to the interior to give detail and life to the design.

In Photoshop, I first added the sky and the trees in the distance. I then moved to the grass in the foreground and combined a couple of different textures to get the "overgrown" look. This is also the stage where I added more texture to the building.

The camera is actually sitting in a heavily wooded area therefore I wanted to throw in some trees to give a better sense of the surrounding environment. Unlike crowds of people, it is very easy to find tree silhouettes. This step went quickly but yielded dramatic results.

At a certain, point, I decided I wanted this to be a dusk scene. To do this, a blue overlay was added and some vignetting around the edges which allowed the interior lights to really pop.

Similar to the other illustration, I turned this into a black and white image. In this case I think the image in grayscale is stronger than in color. The textures read really well and there is a nice contrast between the silhouette of the tress and the building behind them. Depending on time, there are a few more shots that I wanted to illustrate. However, I want to revisit a few other projects for this portfolio before the end of the summer. Much more later.




A couple of years ago, I posted this video by Alex Roman. It has been a while and I figured it was time to revisit it. A lot of people ask me where I get my inspiration from and this is one place I constantly go back too. It never disappoints.  More than anything, I try to study the way he uses light, applies textures, and composes the shots. The video perfectly illustrates many different lighting scenarios: day, night, warm, cool, overcast, etc. He also finds unique and abstract views of the spaces that help push me to rethink the way I compose my own shots. 

The Third & The Seventh from Alex Roman on Vimeo.



The entire video is CG. Everything (modeling, textures, lighting, rendering) was done by Roman. Even the music was composed by him. He has uploaded some "making of" videos Here that help describe the process he used to complete the film. It also looks like he is coming out with a book soon about this video which I look foward to seeing.




Progress is being made on the theater section of project portfolio upgrade.  I put together some floor plans and sections/elevations of the design as well as compiled some of my past process work into another spread. I decided to group the plans, sections, and elevations into one spread because a) I want to leave more pages for process work and b) I like the visual relationship between the drawings. I typically don't render floor plans mainly because I prefer the clean, diagrammatic look of simple line drawings with poche walls. But, because I wanted to emphasize the geometric relationship of the plans ,sections and elevations, I therefore wanted to illustrate them similarly too. 

I have been designing and developing the 3D model as I put together this portfolio and I therefore haven't had time to fully resolve all of the geometry.  The 3D model was not in a place where I could cut a section and render the floor plans. Instead, I took the CAD floor plans that I had been developing along side the model and imported those into Sketchup and quickly extruded them. I now had something that I could throw into Kerkythea and render as seen below.

Above, A Sketchup model of just the first floor plan.

Above, A  base rendering in Kerkythea of the first floor plan.

To finish everything off, I took a site plan rendering that I had made previously and blended it with the floor plan rendering to add a some texture and give some context of how certain walls relate to the exterior form. I also took the CAD floor plan and overlayed it on top of the illustration to get neatly poche walls and edges.

This project section of the portfolio is almost complete. I still want to add  more site analysis diagrams along with some eye-level perspectives of what one would see when experiencing the different spaces of the design. The spreads are still lacking a sense of scale and place so I want to end with renderings that show people inhabiting the spaces, activities that will take place, and how this design blends with the site to generate a unique and exciting experience.


Below are the series of spreads developed so far for this specific project.




The long weekend has given me a chance to catch up on some things, one of them being project portfolio upgrade. I have been spending time developing a new 3D model from scratch and it still is nowhere close to being completed. However, I wanted to get the page layouts started and I knew I had the shell of the design in a good place to begin the exterior illustrations. The good thing about this project is that I have a ton of process work to include with the design so less pressure is put on the final illustrations. Process work is always a good thing to include in portfolios and I plan to play it up for this particular project.

Below are the portfolio pages that I have started:

I'm a big fan of black and white images. I decided I would try to go all black and white for this project. Typically, I would not suggest jumping around with different styles in a portfolio to the extreme that I am. However, this portfolio is more experimental for me. It's a way to test out a lot of ideas that I have while at the same time hopefully providing some inspiration to others.

The site plan was fun to develop. One of the main goals was to get the building to morph with the ground in an interesting way. I wanted the illustration to have the effect of the ground pealing away around the built form. I went through a lot of trial and error before settling on style that seemed to work. 

Since I went the black and white route, texture became more important than ever. Since I don't have color to distinguish material, texture became my only means of communicating all of the different surfaces. Ultimately, I think the design benefited from this way of thinking.

More portfolio pages to come so check back soon.



I received a lot of comments asking for an explanation of how I made the model and more specifically the curved geometry. Sketchup by itself is not well suited for "organic” modeling. You need the right plugins to get the “rhino-esk” functionality. What I have done in this model is not considered complex however anything more intricate probably should not be modeled in Sketchup. Software like Rhino is better suited simply because these programs use NURBS based modeling instead of mesh which allows for more editability and handeling of complex geometry. In the case of my model below, I can start to bridge the gap between Sketchup and programs like Rhino by using free plugins.


Before I get into what plugins I used, I wanted to talk about the process. One of my biggest pet peeves is when people design based on the limitations of software. I’ll admit that I prefer to model in Sketchup. However, I am not going to change my design based on what I know I can model in Sketchup. Before I started modeling, I evaluated my design based on sketches and massing. I came to the conclusion that I could accomplish what I wanted in Sketchup without going into Rhino. The two programs work well with one another so it would not have been a daunting task to model back and forth between the two. At the same time, I like the simplicity of working in one software vs. going back and forth between multiple programs.

In Sketchup, curves take a little longer to model and therefore it is tougher to test out many iterations and ideas. Instead, I worked out details and form through sketching and massing. Above, I've shown some of the sketches produced when designing the new form. Each sketch is looking at a particular situation and making tweaks on the form. Something that takes seconds to sketch could take hours to model. Below is one of the massing models used to explore basic forms and ideas. I used a plan and section which gave me basic volume information from which I could develop my massing.

You may notice that there are certain elements that can be seen in the final model, but nothing is fully resolved. I was focusing on where and how the building cast shadows, how to form the land around the building, and how the form would reinforce my concept and performance, among other things.

Once I had a good base going, I began modeling the curves and softening the transitions. I have tested out many plugins and the problem I come across with most of them is how unstable they are. If they were not used just right or used inside of a group, they would crash my model. The series of plugins that I have found to work best are the FREDO Tools and more specifically the Curviloft plugin. You need to install 2 ruby scripts, the LibFredo6 found here, and the Curviloft found here. You will also need to log into Sketchucation (Free) to download the plugins.

For this model, I really only used the "loft by spline", however I have often used the "loft along path" and "skinning" in past models. I started the process by (1) taking line work off of my base massing model, (2) using the Arc tool to soften the corners, (3) leaving me with smooth line work to loft.

Once I had a series of lines ready to loft, I started the Curviloft plugin. The process is really straight forward. (4) I choose the first spline curve, (5) then I choose the second spline curve, (6) and then hit the check mark twice to complete the process. The plugin creates a smooth surface between the two spline curves, allowing you to choose how many times to subdivide the surface among other options. The best part is that the plugin is really stable and can be used inside of groups.

I only used 2 splines for most of the lofting, however, as you add more splines to a single loft, it allows for even more complex geometry, and the plugin handles it with ease.

Finally, time was spent cleaning up the edges removing any unnecessary line work. This meant hiding a lot of the line work. Below, I am showing two screen shots. One with the hidden geometry on, and the other with it off. This tells a better story of what is going on with the geometry and how well a model can be cleaned up for presentation purposes.


If you have ever used Rhino, 3DS, Maya, etc, you know that lofting is one of the most basic tools. However, it is an essential tool that is lacking in Sketchup without the plugins. I'm curious what your thoughts are on these plugins and if you have suggestions for other plugins to try. There are obviously a ton out there, so let me know which ones you use the most.



A lot of energy has been going into project portfolio upgrade with a couple of projects in a good place. As I revisit some some of my older projects, there was one in particular that I have been wanting to study further. This project was started in a studio that focused more on process and less on the final result, meaning no digital model, floor plans, or section were ever fully realized. You may recognize this project from one of my favorite video tutorials describing how to transform a rough massing model photo into something presentable.

I spent the weekend developing a Sketchup model and working through details to give me a little more graphic information to work with once I start piecing together the portfolio pages. This will at least give me a base to build off of in Photoshop since Im not planning on adding many textures to the model itself. More on this later.




A few weeks ago, I created a post on "going minimal" and this week I am adding two more spreads to the project. I mentioned in the first post how difficult it is for me to leave white space on the page and I think the above two spreads show this discomfort through a denser layout than the first two. While I don't exactly have the white space concept figured out, it is forcing me to think differently about page layout. For example, I am giving the content more breathing room than I typically do. More space around the images means smaller images to account for this extra space. However, I think the clarity and readability of the pages make up for slightly smaller images. 

It's rare to find an illustration on this site without some sort of grunge or sketch texture overlayed on top. However, with these latest spreads, less energy was put into textures and more into line weights and contrast. Since I am working to avoid using rendering engines for these spreads, getting floor plans, sections, and elevations to read clearly with depth means using line weights and SU shadows to my advantage. I like the look of thick profile lines that define the boundary of the imagery as well as the contrast created from sharp / dark shadows simply exported from Sketchup. These moves help to hide the "Sketchup look".

Finally, I took some screen shots of the grids I set up in each of the files.  Simple, clean layouts will reveal the smallest misalignments. Setting up grid systems allowed me to place each object and text in a location that had a relationship to something else. While not everything landed perfectly on the grid, the grid did help me to give proper and equal spacing to the imagery, align column grids, and find patterns in the geometry that aren't instantly noticeable without the grid. The grid spacing was based on a few variables such as the number of images displayed on the pages, the "9 square cube" concept, and/or the rule of thirds. 


I'm up to four spreads with this project. I still might put together a spread comprised of perspective vignettes similar to what is on the first page. It's going to take some experimenting to get the interior shots to display like I am imagining in my head. More on this later.