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.



This past post received a lot of feedback from you asking for a more detailed breakdown of the illustrations. The interior illustration in particular got a lot of attention so I am going to start with that one. Since several different parts of the workflow have already been talked about in the past, I will be adding links to the corresponding sections to avoid too much duplicate information on this site. 

1. For this interior shot, I started the process by identifying where and how I wanted to light the space. I designed some linear pendant fixtures to provide most of the ambient light. Then I looked to some specific areas to use the light to highlight the form such as around the stair enclosure and washing the large side walls.  

View selected in the Sketchup Model

Blue highlights show proposed locations of artificial light

2. Once the locations were determined, I began applying a unique material to these locations so that I can tell this material to emit light later on in Kerkythea. I use a color that I know is not being used anywhere else in the model, in this case red. I also renamed the material such as Light 1, 2, 3, etc. so that it would be easier to identify when imported into Kerkythea.

3. The model is then imported into Kerkythea where I can begin telling the material to emit light. This is done by finding the material on the left, right clicking, and choosing "Edit Material". In the material editor dialogue box, I first change the diffuse color to white. I next tell it to emit light by going to the "Self Luminance" section and giving it a "Radiance" color of white. The "Power, Efficiency, and Unit" settings will change based on how big your light and space are, but you can start with what I am showing and tweak the "Power" setting for more or less light. With the lights in place, I did a quick rendering which will be used as a base image in Photoshop. A more in depth explanation on this process can be found HERE

Above, a rendering from Kerkythea with artificial lights

4. Now that I have a base rendering, I am ready to go into Photoshop. I decided to overlay white line work onto the rendering to give the illustration a little more texture. Open the exported line work from Sketchup in Photoshop and move the layer above the base rendering layer. Go to "Image>Adjustments>Invert" to invert the line work colors. Then set the Blend Mode of the layer (found in the layers palette) to "Screen". 

Exported line work from Sketchup

Line work inverted to create white lines.

Rendering with white line work layer set to "Screen". 

5.  Knowing that I won't be overlaying anymore exported SU images, I want to adjust the perspective so that the verticals are perfectly straight up and down. Select all of the layers, then go to "Edit> Transform> Perspective". There was a post on this subject a while back going into more depth which can be found HERE.

6. This next step is something new that I have been experimenting with. I want to add some warmth and detail to the illustration in which case I would typically adjust the levels and add a color overlay. However, I have been playing around with a Photoshop plug-in by Topaz Labs.  It is primarily a photo editing software but it has been working great for my architectural illustrations. It offers a little more flexibility in terms of pulling out more detail and color in the images. I used the plug-in here to up the detail of the wood and concrete materials.

7. At this point, I am ready to get into the details of the illustration. The first couple of areas that I want to address are adding a background to the outside and fixing some lighting issues in the ceiling. 

8. People are always important for scale so I threw a few of them into the illustration. Reflections and shadows are key to getting your people to look like they belong in the illustration. Check out THIS VIDEO TUTORIAL for more on this subject. 

9. I wanted to play up the scale of the space and also the fact that so much light would be washing in from the outside. I can solve both these problems by using glare and fog. Using the brush tool and white paint with a really low opacity, I added a slight haze where I imagined a lot of daylight would be coming into the space. I also used this same method to create depth by painting in "fog" as the space projects further back into the distance. It's a subtle move but helps to emphasize the areas of the interior that I want emphasized and gets the illustration closer to the atmosphere that I am looking for. THIS POST explains in more detail how to add fog.  

10. More color overlays. There are still many different color tones going on throughout the illustration. One way to unify this is by adding color overlays. I do this on almost every illustration and this one is no exception. All of the illustrations for this project are going to have a slightly warmer palette so I am going to add an orange color overlay. Check out THIS POST for more on color overlays. 

11. The image is looking good at this point and this last step probably isn't always necessary. However, I used the Topaz Plugin "Adjust" one more time to tweak the colors and add detail to the illustration. 

Finally, some of you may have noticed that I am trying to raise money for the latest version of Photoshop. Everything on this site has been produced using CS2 and I think it is about time I upgrade to the latest version. If you find this site helpful and would like to see future tutorials with the latest Adobe software, please consider making a contribution. More information can be found on my ABOUT ME PAGE as well as on the side bar. Thank you in advance for all of your support and thank you to those who have already donated. See you next week. 





Life has been busy lately. However, I have managed to squeeze in a little time to create two new spreads. I have moved to a different project in the portfolio and I wanted to change up the style a little. Much of this portfolio so far has been very graphically intense meaning I rendered or post processed every image on the page. It's very hard for me to accept any "white space". This way of thinking comes from the fact that I am trying to fit as much information into as few pages as possible. The problem then becomes how to manage the hierarchy and avoid having the graphics all compete against one another.

One way to solve this is by taking the "less is more" route. Thinking minimally is outside my comfort zone but at the same time I find minimalist graphic design beautiful and refreshing. The difficulty comes from having to choose what to present and what not to present. If there is white space left on the page, I instantly start thinking what can I fit in there. For some reason, I have this fear that if there isn't a lot on the page then it may appear like not much effort or time was put into the design. On the other hand, presenting minimal graphics successfully could show a certain comfort in the design and clearly drive home the concept.

With that said, I also wanted to explore putting some spreads together that didn't require any rendering time and minimal Photoshop time. This site has many tutorials that look at abstract illustrations (such as this and this) yet there is very little on using these types of illustrations in portfolios or presentation boards. More than anything, I wanted to see if I could get these pages to be as informative and expressive as some of my other project pages.

With the introductory page, I started out with a bold image. You may recognize this image since it was pulled from this post, with the colors desaturated. The only color comes from the highlighted text which also spills over into the next spread. The graphic itself has nice lines and draws the viewer in without giving away too much.

The most important part of this project was how the form was developed. This meant giving up a lot of space for simple line drawings and not over thinking how to graphically explain this idea. These first few pages have set the tone for the rest of the project pages and the goal is not to stray too far off course. It's a good exercise to get myself to think differently about page layout and I'm interested to see what comes out of it.  



Last week I briefly posted some images that I had developed for the "rendering" spread of this particular project. I didn't post the spread itself which is shown above. I thought I would spend this week breaking down how I got to this point. In other words, the process of deciding views, composition, etc.

As simple as the spread may seem, a lot of trial and error went into the design as with all of the spreads seen so far. It's all about developing many iterations before finalizing the design. I rarely have everything come together on my first try. More importantly, I often don't accept the first outcome without also experimenting with several other ideas. I do this iterative analysis because it encourages creativity. I tend to jump to past solutions first when designing, but forcing myself to look at multiple other solutions requires me to think more outside of the box. 

Architecture illustrations are time consuming so I wanted to be careful not to render something that I ultimately wouldn't use in the final composition. I therefore started by putting together a selection of potential views that I thought told the story well. 

Above, a selection of interior views exported from my Sketchup model

Above, a selection of exterior views exported from Sketchup

With the views selected, I began testing out different layouts. There were a couple of key factors that influenced the layout design:

1. Hierarchy: What images are the most important and how do I get the viewer to look at those first?

2. Page Coverage: How much white space, if any, do I want to have?

3. Contrast: Do the images compete too much with one another or do they enhance one another?

4. Readability: Is it easy to understand the images?

5. Relationship to other pages: How well will this spread relate to the other spreads of this project?

6. Text: Is there room for text and if so, how will it work with the composition?

7. Number of spreads: Do I need more than one spread to get my point across properly?

I went back and forth multiple times trying to decide whether or not to use more than two pages for the illustrations. Ultimately, I went with a single two page spread which has a denser feel but I think works best with the rest of the pages. I am not a big fan of portfolios with too many pages so I often defaut to designs with the minimum amount that best tells the story. I also went with all full bleed images with minimal separation between them which saturates the pages with color.

Since I had a clear plan for the layout, I knew exactly what images I needed to spend time rendering. Knowing what images were going to be next to one another also meant that I could post process more effectively ensuring that images used similar color tones and lighting. 

The final result is a spread that has a lot of information, but does it in a controlled manner through the use of a simple grid layout. I'm curious what the consensus is out there as to which layout you think would have worked the best. More white space? Four pages instead of two? I even considered doing a daytime spread and a corresponding night time spread.

Below is the progress of all of the spreads up to this point:





So much has happened in the past few weeks and I was amazed that it has been so long since I last posted. The past week in particular has been especially difficult to focus on the site. What I am posting this week is more or less a filler for a more in depth post that will soon follow. Below are a series of images for the visitor center portfolio pages that describe specific moments of the design. I have begun compiling the images into another 2 page spread but have not fully resolved the layout yet. More on all of this later.



I put some more time into project portfolio upgrade continuing to develop the visitor center pages. The above sheets are a first pass at the layout and will serve as an introduction to the design and concept. Since the relationship to the landscape is such a crucial part of the design, I wanted the look to be bold and stand out in the opening pages. This meant desaturating the facing page and really playing up the color and texture of the site plan itself. Since the original project was designed so long ago,  I had lost most of the information and therefore I had no idea where the exact location of the site was. All I had was an image of one of my old presentation boards. To get around this problem, I took snippets of satellite imagery and combined them together to create the final composition. 

Above is the  hand drawn site plan from the original project. I began by importing the image into AutoCAD and scaling it to the proper size. I then traced the topo lines and exported the line work as a PDF. This gave me a scaled base to work from in Photoshop.

I needed some textures and trees and the easiest way for me to find these was to take screen shots of satellite maps. In a matter of minutes, I had a good collection going. Above are the textures that I used in the final composition.

As mentioned above, I began with a PDF of the AutoCAD exported line work. I also used the rendered roof plan from the previous page for the visitor center building.

I next started to overlay field textures. The satellite images had lots of brown and red tones. I fixed this by adjusting the Hue and "colorizing" the images. I also inverted the topo lines to give them more contrast with the ground.

The roads came next.

Then came the trees. I spent very little time actually cutting them out. Since the trees are typically darker than the ground, I just set the layer blend mode to "darken". 

Finally, I did some color correcting and added shadows to play up the topography.

Below are where things stand at this point. I have three pages started which all still need some tweaking. I am planning two more spreads. One for diagrams and the other for interior/exterior illustrations. More on this later.




The last portfolio I created was in 2010 midway through my last year of grad school. It's been a long time and I have a lot more content now. You may have noticed that I have revisited many of my old projects and have continued to develop and illustrate them. Because of this, I now have new images not represented in any of my portfolios. I have some ideas for layouts and I want to spend the next several weeks putting together new portfolio pages. This will be an evolving portfolio moving in parrellel with my site as new illustrations are created.

The above pages are the beginning explorations and are still in the draft phase. Many of the individual illustrations vary in style so part of the challenge is getting them to read well with one another in the same spreads. I plan on adding two more spreads to this particular project which will include a new site plan, process work, and some interior renderings. It's probably important to note that this will be considered a post graduation portfolio and that I won't be trying to claim this as a project finished in undergrad even though it was started in under.

I have some goals with this new portfolio:

Clean: I want the pages to have more "white space" than I normally give. This means using more pages and less dense layouts. The idea is to focus on clarity of content not quantity of content.

Good flow: The information and graphics should transition into one another and be displayed in a logical order to better tell the story.

Range of styles and process work: I want this portfolio to have a range of styles to keep things fresh from project to project. Process work such as sketches and early diagrams are also key to giving this portfolio a human touch and revealing the design workflow.

Relational: I'm going to look for opportunities to combine diagrams and organize the pages so that images feed off of one another. 

Explore color: My first portfolio was entirely black and white. My graduate portfolio was a complete 180 introducing much more color. With this next portfolio, I want to be bolder with the color selections and and use color to my advantage to get the pages to read clearer. 


I see this spread as being the 2nd and 3rd pages of a total of 8 pages for this particular project. These pages document the most fundamental information of the project i.e. the plans and sections. I have laid out the sheets so that the rendered section is the focal point from which all other information is generated. I have located the plans and sections in such a way that I could graphically explain the cut locations with minimal linework. The plans are minimal, but I always prefer clean and simple floor plans and the contrast seems to work well with the corresponding dark sections page. I plan to add some more text calling out the room uses in both the plans and sections however I will keep the text light to avoid drawing too much attention.

In this spread, both of the above illustrations are graphically strong and it is easy to overcomplicate these pages. I therefore avoided adding anymore graphics or diagrams to either page and clearly designated an area at the top of the page for the body text. In an another attempt to simplify things and to relate the two diagrams to one another, I shared the callout labels. I think there is an oportunity to do more with the callouts but this will have to be explored another day. 




A few weeks back I posted an x-ray illustration of one of my old projects as sort of a last minute idea. This was the first time I had ever done an "x-ray" illustration and I immediately became excited about the possibilities. I'm really drawn to this style because of the way it reveals scale, tectonics, and the relationship of inside to outside. The thing is, this style is really easy to replicate assuming the 3D model is built correctly. I have a habit of thoroughly grouping parts of my 3D models so that I am able to move large chunks out of the way for easier modeling and editing. Because of the way the model is grouped, I am also able to selectively "peel" away parts of the building facade when it comes to rendering the final design. Below is a break down of the illustration as well as a few tips for combining the images.

Above, the Sketchup model with the roof being removed.

The first step involves rendering the model multiple times. I did three separate renderings with the first one showing the complete model, the second with the roof off, and the third with some walls removed. I rendered the model without materials because there was already so much geometry being overlayed on top of each other. I was afraid adding materials would start to over complicate things and muddy the reading of the illustration.

Rendering 1: Model as is (Kerkythea).

Rendering 2: Roof removed (Kerkythea).

Rendering 3: Walls and some floors removed (Kerkythea).

Ultimately, I didn't use the 3rd rendering because some of the lower floors were not fully modeled and much of the information was repetitive with the second rendering.

With all three renderings completed, I began layering them in Photoshop. I started with rendering 1 and used that as the base image. I then took rendering 2 with no roof and moved it above rendering 1 in the layers pallet and set the blend mode to "Multiply".  I added a layer mask to rendering 2 and began selectively erasing areas that I didn't want showing through.

It's important to maintain the clarity of the exterior form. Throughout post processing, I'm constantly pulling back and looking at the whole image to make sure the exterior form still reads well and isn't getting lost within the interior layers. One way to manage this relationship is by focusing on the corners and edges of the exterior. With the layer mask still active, I selected the areas I wanted to define, and began erasing parts of the interior (rendering 2 layer).

By giving the exterior corners and edges of the design more definition, the dual reading of exterior and interior is much easier to understand.

The last few steps involve me spending time adding textures and background elements to liven up the surrounding site. I tend to default to minimal materials when the complexity of an image such as this is so extreme. More materials in my opinion would make it more difficult to understand the forms. Instead, I focus more on texture to differentiate between built form, hardscape and landscape.

Finally, I tweaked the color/ levels and gave the image an HDR effect.




I spent most of the day designing and developing the above model that I didn't leave much room to do an illustration or even a post. However, this is what several hours got me. I've done a few illustrations with this model in the past looking at different ways to portray the relationship between the structure and spaces within the design. My first attempts were with a section and an exploded axon illustration. Something I haven't tried yet is a rendered x-ray shot. This is my first "test" illustration with this style and I see a lot of potential for this idea to create some graphically interesting and informative illustrations.

The work flow is pretty straight forward. I rendered the model three times, each time removing layers of the model to expose the spaces inside. I then took all three renderings and overlayed them on top of each other in Photoshop. Using layer masks, I tweaked the transparencies to get certain spaces to read stronger than others.

Below, the three renderings used to compose the final illustration.

Since I didn't have much time to put this together, the way the designed is peeled away isn't as elegant as it could have been. There is still a lot of information not shown such as the stairs with the cylinders and the structure within the floors. Either way, I like the complexity that the illustration achieved in such a short amount of time. I'm interested to see what kinds of results I can get with some of my other models.