I really enjoy discovering new methods of combining SketchUp models with hand drawing. My new “Digital Watercolor” method takes the hybrid process one step further and adds filtering with Photoshop to give the image a soft watercolor-like appearance.
This studioINSITE project was for a new hospital healing garden. The outdoor space was filled with variations in surface textures, different visual experiences and sculpted topography for patients to explore. The two digital watercolors I created were used for fund raising purposes. Here is my step-by-step process:
Step 1 Base SketchUp model. One of the talented landscape architects in my firm studioINSITE constructed the base SketchUp model by importing an autoCAD site plan and populating the model with the different elements and topography as per the concept design. I began my visualization process with the model as shown.
Step 2 Background Site Photo. This digital photograph was taken at the location of the new hospital and shows the exact view one would see standing in the healing garden. I used the photo to create the realistic background context for the SketchUp model.
SketchUp Healing Garden View One
Step 3 Selected View and Exported jpeg. This eye level view was populated with 3D people in the foreground and several in the distance. I composed the scene to include many of the site elements and adjusted the sun angle to highlight the shaded pathway through the wooded area. Notice how well the background photograph with the mountains appears in the view. I exported a 4000 pixel wide jpeg of the view with the edges turned off (an important first step in the digital watercolor process).
Step 4 Exported Edges. I turned off all faces, sky, and shadows in the SketchUp model. I exported just the edges of the model at 4000 pixels wide and saved a jpeg (I added a colored background and frame to the jpeg in this blog post to improve seeing the linework against the white background).
Step 5 Composite SketchUp View. In Photoshop, I brought the two jpeg’s together and gave the linework layer a 50% transparency in order to lighten the lines. I would add back hand drawn lines in the next step of the process. I then lightened the entire image and printed it on 11”x17” coated bond paper. Why lighten the jpeg? - I always print a lightened image in order to reduce the color intensity in the print before adding back color with markers and colored pencils.
Step 6 Hand Illustration and Coloring. I applied Chartpak AD markers to the print and intensified the color of the rocks, grass, tree leaves and pathway. I also traced over much of the computer linework with a hard graphite pencil. The overall image looked entirely different than the computer generated version once the hand drawn pencil lines and color markers were applied to the print. Notice again that the image does not have a strong contrast of dark and light colors. This was intensional as I increased the contrast in the final Photoshop filtering step.
Step 7 Digital Watercolor Filter. I scanned the artwork at 300dpi and opened the image in Adobe Photoshop. I applied a watercolor filter to the image, saved and then adjusted the levels to increase the dark shadows and highlights. The final jpeg had a strong “appearance” of a hand painted watercolor - with much more character and authenticity than if it were a straightforward exported view from SketchUp!
SketchUp Healing Garden View Two
This second view option of the healing garden was established using the same SketchUp model. I followed the exact steps as the earlier view. By processing two views as the same time, I was able to produce two digital watercolors more efficiently.
SketchUp Model View. This jpeg reflects the final selected view that was printed 11”x17” on coated bond paper.
Digital Watercolor. This jpeg shows the final digital watercolor.
The 2010 Blog Collection , a 116-page catalog of my best blog posts from 2010 is available on Blurb!