I recently had the pleasure of meeting Pittsburgh illustrator John Zanetta at a conference held by the American Society of Architectural Illustrators (ASAI). John has an incredible talent for visualizing urban design projects, painting traditional watercolors and knowing how to combine 3D SketchUp models, traditional hand drawing methods and hybrid digital painting techniques.
He’s a rising star in the field of visualization and I’m very pleased to feature one of John’s projects with his “step-by-step” explanation on how he created this aerial perspective for the schematic design of an Urban Agricultural District in a mid-western city.
Step 1 - Google SketchUp Composite Model. Using a hand drawn sketch and SketchUp massing model provided by the architect, John dropped the plan into the base model and added detailed context buildings into the model background which he downloaded from SketchUp 3D Warehouse. He exported the aerial view which was approved by his client prior to continuing with the visualization.
Step 2 - Overlay and Trace Method. John exported the SketchUp scene and printed it 10”x18”. He then began to block out the rendering on trace with a fine point pen, developing the image to a level in which he could review the concept with his client and discuss making any minor modifications to the drawing.
Step 3 - Completed Ink Line Drawing. Based on feedback from his client, John completed the black and white line drawing and scanned the image in preparation for the digital painting process.
Step 4 - Base Gradients. John’s first phase of the digital painting process involved applying a base gradient in Photoshop. He selected the direction of the light source and added warmer tones to the center of interest in the perspective. All digital coloring was done in Adobe Photoshop using a Wacom tablet.
Step 5 - Major Color Fields. John blocked out primary fields of color on separate layers. The base gradient layer was placed on the bottom layer and was visible through several of the upper layers. As shown in the layer structure (right side of the image), all of the layers of color were built up from the bottom up as one would do in an oil painting.
Step 6 - Building Detail. Within the blocked out layers, John applied some detail to the buildings keeping in mind the direction of the light source and using gradients to vary surfaces. Within each of the layers John used the “link layers” feature to stay inside the areas that he had originally blocked off. John used this feature throughout the process.
Step 7 - Reinforce Light Source. John continued to apply gradients within each blocked out layer to hint at the light source and add interest to the illustration.
Step 8 - Refine Color Fields and Texture. John continued blocking out the smaller color fields and adding texture manually with his Wacom tablet, mimicking brush strokes as well as putting a texture over the entire image.
Step 9 - Final Shadows. John added the base shadows to buildings and landscaping using the layer blending option “multiply” so the color underneath would affect the shadow color. The final image was eventually flattened and sent to the client for presentation. Great work John!
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