How to render landscape?

May 4 '12 22 Last Comment
May 4, 12 3:22 pm

I'm just a newb and learning how to render.  does anyone know where I can find tutorials/examples on great landscape renderings?  I don't want to use any software like blender, and typically use vray for rendering.  I guess I'm looking to see how ppl photoshop grass, plants, trees into their renderings and still make them look pseudo-photorealistic


May 4, 12 3:53 pm

I guess I'm looking to see how ppl photoshop grass, plants, trees into their renderings and still make them look pseudo-photorealistic

It is quick and easy way to do still images. Or if your computer is not capable of handling too many complex geometry. You may want to render building and the ground plane with vanishing point to add stuffs with PS such as trees, materials ( texture), people, etc.

But if you have time to invest, search a few Youtube videos on how to do it in programs like V-ray,Thea or Max. The process is not that complicated at all actually.  You may also want to look up forums for these programs, and ask questions about things you find hard to understand. You could also post your WIP to ask advice as well. There will be some 3D snobs who tend to look down upon the practice of retouching the (raw) still images with PS. But who care? You're not a 3D artist.

May 4, 12 5:12 pm

I've been working a lot of vray for sketchup.  It's shockingly good!

May 5, 12 9:28 am

It never matters how you reach a quality rendering (or photograph, for that matter). 

Go look on YouTube, there are tons of helpful videos.

May 5, 12 2:55 pm

One of the most helpful person in the industry I've found to be is Alex Hogrefe. He does awesome work and is willing to share his knowledge and expertise across the board. This kind of unselfish behavior is rare in our field, so I figured I'd pass it on!

He has given tutorials on nearly all attributes of rendering techniques. No matter which programs you use (Vray, Photoshop, etc etc) the methods all apply.

Good luck in your endeavors of becoming a Visualizer!

Also, although 3D programs like Rhino and SketchUp do a great job producing landscape elements, it's hard to beat the "realism" achieved by harmoniously juxtaposing pictures of real vegetation onto your rendered image (at least when it comes to the everyday constraints of the everyday individual). Unless your Alex Roman (see The Third and the Seventh), it's very hard to find time to realistically model every element, texture and shading for each and every object! That guy is above and well beyond most's league!!

May 6, 12 2:19 pm


The most important thing about rendering is

A good rendering start with good attitude.

Also remember the fact that renderings are not architecture or design but a leverage that can make average projects looks good and good project better.
If you understand these two things, you’re on the path to get a few free lunches from your architecture friends. :P


The Third and the Seventh is GOOD! He put in that project insane amount of time too.

Dani Zoe
May 6, 12 6:02 pm

@arch_newb: thanks for starting this conversation! I've been wondering how my landscape architect friends get such vivid and realistic vegetation into their images (similar to West 8's lovely renders!) 

from the comments here, is it really just vray or is it a combination of rendering techniques and photoshop techniques?

May 6, 12 7:15 pm

If you get competent at a rendering engine and then really good at photoshop you will be fine.  Most of what I see/do is  - build the site in SU or whatever and put in billboard plants and people so the scale is correct then export a basic SU image.  Overlay that in photoshop with a rendered image of the site at the same size but with no plants or people and add in the plants and people you want using the simple exported image as a guide to get the scale correct.  Then use photoshop magic to tie it all together.

May 6, 12 7:21 pm

i second the alex hogrefe suggestion, great site for arch students

May 6, 12 7:32 pm

You may want to check out Lumion. You can get better renders out of max and w/ more control, but for quick renders, I'm finding Lumion and a little bit of photoshop to be a really, really fast tool for getting decent renders out the door. It also does decent animations.

i r giv up
May 7, 12 11:52 am

ew sketchup.

May 7, 12 1:09 pm


Get off your high horse. Students have to start from somewhere, and even if the starting point is SU, it is still better than nothing. You can do a lot with SU too. Oh yah SU is also capable of satisfying  your fetish called parametric. SU+ Ruby language started out way earlier than  Rhino + Python.

May 7, 12 3:25 pm

I agree with tee - get of your highhorse flex.  I'm a 15-year+ MAX user.  I model everything in sketchup now.  I've pretty much established that you can do everything that MAX can do (given the right plugins).

If I am doing a photorealistic rendering, however, I'll import the model into MAX.

J. James R.J. James R.
May 7, 12 4:15 pm

I did this in SU.

May 7, 12 6:28 pm

jj - pretty solid - except for the palm trees on the right.  ;)


And the recessed downlights in the center soffit need to be turned on.


Other than that - pretty decent!

May 7, 12 7:36 pm

Get Bradley Cantrell's book on Landscape Dig. Representation. Wickedly informative book and he's also a great prof. down at LSU.

May 8, 12 1:04 am

Alex Hogrefe for starters - sketchup/kerkythea/photoshop.
Then move to Ronen Bekerman for renderings - vray, max, etc.

May 8, 12 1:05 am

Oh, and there are a ton of more advanced photoshop things on Ronen Bekerman's blog as well. Start with Alex Hogrefe's first for sure though!

Stephanie BraconnierStephanie Braconnier
May 11, 12 12:34 pm

I do all the visualisations for my firm and I never. ever. render grass or trees. Not just because we don't have the proper software (we use vray + rhino) but also because it takes an assload of time and you can do it just as well if not better in photoshop. If you have the patience to cut out high-quality trees, that is.

A few free grass brushes, good blend modes, and good base photos to work with do wonders.

May 11, 12 1:34 pm

I agree with Stephanie as well.

J. James R.J. James R.
May 11, 12 2:23 pm

I'd also toss out that to get good-looking plant material...

... your plant textures require subsurface scattering. You can get away without applying SSS (subsurface scattering) to grass or anything low to the ground.

But anything eye level or higher definitely requires it. Plant tissues transmit light through the actual surface of the tissue and it's difficult to get that semi-translucent effect using other cheat methods. Rendering SSS quickly pretty much requires a rack-mount server because the light files for SSS, anisotropy, blurred and translucent materials quickly gets into the gigs.

Then there's also the issue of building randomization in real-time via proxy objects and using randomized displacement maps to generate real looking grass while populating a scene with a decent amount of landscape objects.

You can minimally do this in SketchUp. Unfortuantely, SketchUp is only a 32-bit program and will not process files over the 1.8 gig mark. This is where you pretty much get into 3DSmax territory. As much as I love 3DS, I find it a little more cumbersome and difficult to work with than SketchUp.

J. James R.J. James R.
May 11, 12 2:32 pm

You also get into the argument of objectivity.

These images are suppose to reflect real-life scenarios.

There's a possible gray area here— just like with a news photo,  there's a limit to alterations one can preform on a photo, e.g. color and lighting corrections. But the moment you change a photo, it questions the integrity of not only your photo but your entire organization.

While I do understand that renderings are suppose to be marketing pieces convincing people to buy into or support a project, one must also consider that they are accepting your images as a factual representation of what will be there.

So, you must ask yourself, why am I adding decoration to this rendering?

Is this what the finished landscape will actually look like?

Are these the actual species of trees that will be planted?

Will these areas actually be landscaped?

Does the architect have any control over the surrounding area?

If you add to much to a rendering, the entire objectivity of the rendering is potentially lost.

May 11, 12 4:40 pm

@Stephanie Braconnier

I do all the visualisations for my firm and I never. ever. render grass or trees. Not just because we don't have the proper software (we use vray + rhino) but also because it takes an assload of time and you can do it just as well if not better in photoshop. If you have the patience to cut out high-quality trees, that is.

 I think you can use instant function to do grass which are aesthetically more pleasing to audience. If you use instant function, calculation time is not a big part of equation anymore either. I saw a pretty good Youtube video for grass.

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