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SULIS - Sustainable Urban Landscape Information Series.
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Drawings to Enhance Your Design

Description/Purpose

As a landscape designer, your objective is to provide your customer with a design that is

  • functional
  • maintainable
  • environmentally sound
  • cost effective, and
  • visually pleasing
As a businessperson, your objective is also to sell your design. However, most homeowners viewing a landscape design presented in plan view (drawing 1) will have trouble visualizing what it will look like in their yard.

Drawing 1
Drawing 1

Landscape designers can use other drawings to compliment the plan view including section, elevation, section/elevation, and perspective drawings. Following are examples of each of these drawings as well as tips on improving drawing speed without sacrificing quality.

Section Drawing

A section drawing shows a cross-section of the site plan, providing a view of the horizontal and vertical dimensions.

  • Easy and quick to do.
  • Best to use when vertical details need to be communicated: stairs, grade changes, slopes, etc.
  • Requires a plan view drawing and the measurement of elevations that you want to show on your section.
Step-by-Step Process:
  1. Place a sheet of paper on your plan view drawing (graph paper is helpful). Draw a base line through the area that you want to show in section. Then, use known vertical information and draw a point on the base line that corresponds to each elevation. In drawing 2, each contour line represents five feet above or below pond level.

    Drawing 2
    Drawing 2
    Adapted from Reid 1987 p. 117

  2. Construct a series of horizontal lines above and below your base line to represent even increments of vertical change. Then, from the points on your base line, draw a vertical guideline, and connect the dots. In drawing 3, the lowest point is the bottom of the pond at -15 ft., and the highest point is the hill at 25 ft.

    Drawing 3
    Drawing 3
    Adapted from Reid 1987 p. 117

  3. On a clean sheet of paper, trace your elevation line. Then, draw in any corresponding features on the baseline at the correct elevations (drawing 4). Since a section shows only the profile along a cut line, it is not necessary to include features behind the line. If more detail is desired, a section/elevation drawing is a better choice (Reid 1987; Wang 1996).

    Drawing 4
    Drawing 4
    Adapted from Reid 1987 p. 117

Elevation Drawing

An elevation drawing represents a side view of the site plan.

  • Elements are drawn as if a person is standing directly in front of the scene with no perspective.
  • Elevations show more depth and surface detailing than sections but are not nearly as detailed as perspective drawings.
  • Relatively easy to do.
  • Best to use when a simple structure façade needs to be shown
    (Pierceall 1984; Reid 1987; Wang 1996).
Step-by-Step Process:
  1. If something will be built from this drawing, then exact scale is necessary. However, if the drawing is simply for presentation, then scale can be approximated. Drawing 5 is used for presentation and is thus not drawn to exact scale.

  2. After establishing the scale you want to use, lightly sketch in any façade from measurements or from photographs. If there are items to show in front of the façade (such as plants), make sure your lines are light. For quick methods of sketching in structures, see "Tips and Tricks on Improving Drawing Speed."

  3. Sketch in any plants you want to show. Be sure to show the height of trees or plants in relation to other plants and to the structure. In your sketches, it is helpful to the client if your drawings represent the plant's approximate shape and growth form (Reid 1987).

    Drawing 5
    Drawing 5

Section/Elevation Drawing A section/elevation drawing shows a cross-section of the landscape plus elements a selected distance beyond the base line (drawing 6).
  1. All vertical features are drawn at the same scale.
  2. Easy to do.
  3. More interesting and informative than either a section or elevation drawing.
  4. A good choice for showing vertical elements as they relate to activities and use.
Step-by-Step Process:
  1. Follow all the steps for Section Drawing and Elevation Drawing.

Drawing 6
Drawing 6
Adapted from Wang 1996 p. 95

Perspective Drawing

A perspective drawing presents images as if one is looking through a camera lens (drawing 7).

  1. Depth, proportion, and relative distances are included to convey the volume of a space.
  2. Most difficult to do, but often the most important in helping clients visualize a space.
  3. Line, textures, and shadows are more important in perspective drawings than any other (Pierceall 1984).

Drawing 7
Drawing 7
Adapted from Reid 1987 p. 166

There are many books that focus in great detail on perspective drawing. True perspectives are drawn to scale and are important for large-scale, high-budget projects. However, for many landscape designers, accurate perspective drawings drawn to exact scale are not necessary. In many cases, all you need to draw is a good likeness of what your plan will look like. Simply learning the basic elements of one- and two-point perspective will give you the tools to create quality drawings that will be extremely important in selling your design.

One-point perspective:

Key aspects of one-point perspective (drawing 8):

  • All lines parallel to the line of site converge to one vanishing point on the horizon line (A).
  • All horizontal lines that are perpendicular to the line of site are drawn parallel to horizon line (B).
  • All vertical lines in the space are drawn vertical in perspective (C).

    Drawing 8
    Drawing 8
    Adapted from Reid 1987 p. 158

Step-by-Step Process:
  1. One-point perspective is similar to viewing one face of a transparent cube straight on. So, begin by drawing that face as a square (drawing 9).

    Drawing 9
    Drawing 9
    Adapted from Ching 1990 p. 110

  2. Next, draw a horizontal line (H.L.) through the square that represents the eye level of the viewer. The lower or higher the line is, the lower or higher the viewer is. In drawing 10, eye level is about 5 feet above the ground plane, or the bottom of the square.

  3. Establish the center of vision (C.V.) on the horizon line and draw lines from the center of vision through each corner of the square. In drawing 10, these represent the horizontal edges of the cube which are parallel to our central line of sight and which converge at the center of vision. If the center of vision is left of center, then more of the right side of the cube will be seen as in drawing 10. If the center of vision is right of center, more of the left will be seen.

    Drawing 10
    Drawing 10
    Adapted from Ching 1990 p. 110

  4. Determine the depth of the cube. The cube's depth depends on how far away you are. The closer you are, the more you will see of the top, bottom, and sides. The farther away you are, the flatter the top, bottom, and sides will appear. One method to estimate the cube's depth is by using a 45º right triangle. Since the sides of a 45º right triangle are equal, if drawn in perspective, its diagonal will mark off equal segments in perpendicular lines (drawing 11).

    Drawing 11
    Drawing 11
    Adapted from Ching 1990 p. 110

    For example, to determine the cube's depth in drawing 12, assume you are standing 30 feet away from the front face of the cube. Then, measure 30 feet (at the same scale as the cube) from the center of vision to a point on the horizon line. This point is the vanishing point (V.P.) for all 45º diagonals receding to the right. From the left end of the square's baseline, draw a line to the V.P. This line will cut off a segment of the right-hand baseline that is equal to the front baseline.

    If the diagonal vanishing point is moved toward the center of vision, this is equivalent to moving closer to the cube (V.P. 2 in drawing 12) (Ching 1990; Leach 1990).

    Drawing 12
    Drawing 12
    Adapted from Ching 1990 p. 111

Two-point perspective:

Two-point perspective is similar to viewing the corner of a transparent cube. If you can see two sides of an object, then use two-point perspective.

Key aspects of two-point perspective (drawing 13):

  • If you establish each side's vanishing point and extend all parallel lines until they reach them, then the angle of the lines will be correct.
  • There are two vanishing points (right and left).
  • There are no horizontal lines except at horizon line, and all parallel lines on the same plane or object surface vanish to the same vanishing point (Ching 1990; Pierceall 1984).

    Drawing 13
    Drawing 13
    Adapted from Ching 1990 p. 112

Step-by-Step Process to draw a simple house in two-point perspective:
  1. Establish your eye level with the horizon, and draw the horizon line. Then, draw in the near corner of the house. Next, draw in all guidelines (for the top and bottom of the roof and the front and side of the house) making sure to extend the lines to their vanishing point (drawing 14).

    Drawing 14
    Drawing 14
    Adapted from Smith 1994 p. 42

  2. Establish the center of the sides by drawing 2 diagonal lines from corner to corner. A perpendicular line through the point at which they intersect indicates the centers (drawing 15).

    Drawing 15
    Drawing 15
    Adapted from Smith 1994 p. 42

  3. Draw in the top and bottom of the windows, and extend the lines to the same vanishing point (drawing 16).

    Drawing 16
    Drawing 16
    Adapted from Smith 1994 p. 43

  4. Sketch in the position of the door and windows, using the lines of the roof and horizon as a guide. The basic outlines of your house are finished (drawing 17). On a clean sheet of paper, trace the house lines and add in the details (Smith 1994).

    Drawing 17
    Drawing 17
    Adapted from Smith 1994 p. 42-43

Perspective Points to Remember
  • Size: with two identical objects, the one further away will appear smaller, and the one closer appears larger (drawing 18). With two objects of differing sizes, the larger one appears closer and the smaller one appears further away.

    Drawing 18
    Drawing 18
    Adapted from Ching 1990 p. 93

  • Overlapping: an object in front of another creates an illusion of depth (drawing 19).

    Drawing 19
    Drawing 19
    Adapted from Ching 1990 p. 93

  • Vertical location: the higher an object is in a picture plane, the farther away it appears (drawing 20).

    Drawing 20
    Drawing 20
    Adapted from Ching 1990 p. 95

  • Aerial perspective: objects look lighter in tone the farther away they are from us (drawing 21).

    Drawing 21
    Drawing 21

  • Texture: a surface texture receding into the distance will gradually show less detail (drawing 22)(Ching 1990).

    Drawing 22
    Drawing 22
    Adapted from Ching 1990 p. 97

Tips and Tricks on Improving Your Drawing Speed

You can speed up the process of creating elevation or perspective drawings by using photos of a site using a slide projector, LCD projector, computer scanner, or overhead projector.

Step-by-Step Process:

  1. Take photographs of the areas of your site that you want to show in a drawing.

  2. Depending on the equipment you will use, have the photos made into slides, clear overhead copies, or transfer them to graphic files by using a scanner or digital camera. (The fastest way is to use a digital camera when taking the photos).

  3. Enlarge the photos so that you can trace the important elements in them. If you are using a slide, overhead, or LCD projector, set up a screen onto which you can place your paper, and adjust the size and focus of the image onto your paper. If you are using an enlarged paper copy of your photo, using a lightbox will help you see the photo's images.

  4. Trace the essential edges and objects. Sketch in plants or other objects from your base plan that do not appear in the photograph. Remove the paper and add in shadows and textures to make your drawing look more realistic.
Additional Tips:
  • Take photos of your plan view drawing at various angles to simulate a bird's eye view. When taking the photos, frame the plan to fill the camera's viewfinder. Follow steps 3 and 4 above.

  • Develop your own library of landscape graphics to use in elevation, section and perspective drawings. If you see a graphic that you like, use it! For some ideas, see http://www.sustland.umn.edu/design/index.html.

  • Practice: by practicing your drawing skills, your speed and ability will improve.


References:

Bickford, John. 9 Feb. 2002. The Artist's Magazine, "Aiming for Accuracy."

Ching, Frances D.K. 1990. Drawing: A Creative Process. Van Nostrand Reinhold. New York.

Leach, S.D. 1990. Photographic Perspective Drawing Techniques. McGraw-Hill. New York.

McClish, Jerry. 9 Feb. 2002. The Artist's Magazine, "Creating Space."

McClish, Jerry. 9 Feb. 2002. The Artist's Magazine, "The Ups and Downs of Eye Level."

Pierceall, Gregory M. 1984. Residential Landscapes: Graphics, Planning, and Design. Prentice Hall. Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey.

Reid, Grant W. 1987. Landscape Graphics. Whitney Library of Design. New York, New York.

Smith, Stan. 1994. Drawing: The Complete Course. The Reader's Digest Association, Inc. Germany.

Wang, Thomas C. 1996. Plan and Section Drawing. Van Nostrand Reinhold. New York.


This implementation report was developed by Elizabeth Vaughan, student, University of Minnesota Department of Horticultural Science.

 
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