Landscape architecture and design traditionally leans towards the more artistic and ephemeral side on the spectrum of building design disciplines. It requires a vast knowledge of plant life and natural elements, and also the ability to ground a work of architecture into a building site. This is no easy task, and takes years of experience and work to become good at it.
As landscape design is unique, so are the tools people use to do it. Many landscape firms still rely on tried and true methods of hand drawing and rendering to produce their production drawings, but more and more are finally merging their efforts to a more digital approach to visualization.
The tools on this list are tailor made for landscape designers who are looking to improve their process and better inform their workflow. Being able to render landscape work will result in better architect relationships, and an end product that aligns with the initial idea.
These are the best rendering tools for landscape design.
While Lumion is a powerful rendering program for a host of different applications, it’s toolset lends itself particularly well to the landscape field. It allows you to take a base 3D model - say something made in SketchUp - and add lifelike trees, plants, people, and other landscape elements that will add the appropriate level of detail to your images.
Lumion is fast, relatively easy to use, and comes with an incredibly robust library of objects and foliage designed to help architects and landscape designers create large, beautiful visualizations.
While not technically a rendering tool, SketchUp should be installed on every landscape designers’ machines. It is the easiest 3D modeler to understand and use, and has a large catalogue of ready-made components that landscape architects might find helpful as they are conceptualizing and refining their designs.
SketchUp works well with most rendering tools available, offering a smooth transition for anyone looking to take their visualization game to the next level.
Let’s be honest, V-Ray is good at pretty much everything. For those landscape architects who have the highest of aspirations in terms of presentation quality and adaptive workflow, V-Ray is the only choice. It’s the most popular rendering engine on the planet, and can produce visuals and animations that will make sure projects get sold and built how they were initially designed.
However, V-Ray is not cheap, and represents a steep learning curve that not everyone has the time or patience to summit. If you do, though, you’ll be rewarded with a quality of work not likely to be rivaled by your colleagues.
Adobe has been developing photoshop for almost 3 decades, and continues to support the best, most widely-used post-production tool in circulation. It’s software that every design professional should know how to use, especially landscape architects and designers. If rendering trees and foliage isn’t in the cards, why not simply add images of real content to populate and image?
Photoshop, of course, lets you do more than just superimpose ficus trees over your SketchUp exports. You can add materials, change lighting effects, and make a flat image come alive with a bit of practice and technical know-how.
Revit was developed to be the BIM software that would usher building design and construction into a new era of communication and drawing. That sort of happened. For landscape professionals, the switch from 2D drafting software to Revit makes sense now more than ever. There are some very useful tools that help disseminate topographic information and use a highly detailed 3D model for direct rendering and visualization.
In fact, AutoDesk is working hard at using revit to create streamlined visualization loops that inform the design process unlike ever before. Learning Revit might take some time, but switching your office over can have effects that go well beyond simply drawing. It will help your office communicate with itself, and with architects and builders. And, it renders!
Okay, I’ll admit. I hate to deprive the landscape professionals of the rendering tools that have likely got them where they are today. Drawing by hand still has a lot of benefits, and should never be abandoned completely from an office or practice. It’s for ideas, and in certain situations makes sense for client meetings and presentations, too.
There will always be room in the landscape design industry for a drafting table, a few trusty pens, and a large bucket of colored pencils.