The Landscape Planning Drawing Process

This is my process for land planning drawings, from conceptual drawing to final illustrative site plan (its a bit different for smaller site scale projects).

Step 1. Preliminary Information

I love to start with a survey. If that’s not available at the time, i check the Cities GIS for the site, hopefully thats available. As a last resort i use just an aerial photo. In any case, i always use an aerial photo of the site under the property boundaries and any other info i have at the time, the more the better. A new source ive been using is Google Street View to take a look at the character of the site as well as microsoft live maps “birds eye feature”

(google maps aerial)

(microsoft live maps birds eye)

(google maps street view)

(final cad drawing with aerial and boundaries as well as any additional information obtained about the site)

Step 2. Sharpie and Tracing Paper (Sometimes)

I like to start with pen and paper. I don’t always do this, as i am addicted to drawing in cad, but it really does help get the major ideas out of the way. Points of egress, circulation, where major elements should be, views to preserve, etc. This is a really, really rough drawing. Its simple meant to locate where i want to draw things. Shown Below is the same drawing made pretty to show the client.

Step 3. CAD – Concept

Now i move back into CAD and develop a plan. The final product will be conceptual, but will have all the major elements laid out. This stage lasts a long time as major ideas are hammered out back and forth with all the individuals involved in the process.

Step 4. CAD – Illustrative

Once the ideas are finalized and i feel that we are getting fairly close to the end product, i illustrate the CAD drawing. Im placing emphasis on the word illustrate for a reason. This part of the drawing can and should be outside of your offices standard CAD rules and procedures. This is purely meant to make a high quality illustrative drawing. Emphasis should be on line weights, type of planting symbols, details like roof lines, adding vehicles or people, paving materials, and again line weights (good line weights and details together make all the difference). This is a chance to add some personal style to your drawings as well. Many people think its all in the coloring, but an early part of the style is in the illustrating.

Step 5. Rendering (or coloring as i like to call it)

Isn’t it so much more fun to go to work and color than going into work and rendering? It doesn’t sound as professional, but it is fun to come home and tell your friends and family that your tired from coloring all day. Coloring is another chance to add your own style. There are many ways to do this, from computer aided to colored pencils, so you really have to do what you are most comfortable with and what fits into your time frame. For me, its almost always markers unless im lucky enough to have time for colored pencils. Usually my marker drawings at least get an hour of colored pencil added at the end.

Step 6. Final Product

No we have a 95% rendered plan. I scan this and bring it into photoshop where i clean up mistakes and add fun lighting effects to the water or special shadows. I also adjust the hue and saturation so it prints as close to the true colors as it can be. That image is then taken into Adobe Illustrator where logos, scales, title blocks and labels are added. Bringing the drawing into illustrator to do these things reduces the overall file size and gives you more flexibility since illustrator is meant to work better with text and vector lines such as logos.

I hope this can be helpful for some who are still trying to get a grip on the process they want to use. its taken me some years to develop this and it changes more and more every year as new tools become availble and as i learn new skills. I would love to hear from anyone who has there own process and what they would change about mine –


11 Responses to “The Landscape Planning Drawing Process”

  1. November 3, 2008 at 3:03 pm

    What about the site visit?

  2. 2 jessie
    February 4, 2009 at 3:11 pm

    Do you color with the markers on vellum, or on paper? The process we currently use is to color on vellum, and then overlay an acetate copy of the line drawing, and scan it. Is this what you do? Using the acetate layer over the colored vellum seems like an out-dated process to me…it doesn’t scan very clean, as the acetate copy is made on the copying machine…any suggestions?

  3. February 4, 2009 at 4:34 pm

    wow, that does sound a little overly complicated. we simply plot the black and white file out on the plotter (regular bond paper) and color directly on that and scan it in from there. if you are dealing with hand drawn stuff and not cad, i would do one scan of the black and white to preserve it, then color right on the drawing. once you have it digital in black and white you could print it out a hundred times if need be, or you could even take the black and white drawing and put it in photoshop and overlay it on the rendered version

  4. November 4, 2009 at 12:57 pm

    Wow guys, aren’t you scanning or export directly out of cad to pdf / eps and using photoshop? I only use markers when I’m doing really rough concepts.

    Photoshop is so much more flexible i.e. you can tailor your colour, your exact colour to suit you drawing….then if you don’t like it when the whole thing is done you can adjust it.

    More advanced photoshop users can use brushes for street trees which is really handy when you do massive plans like we do in China and the Middle East.

  5. March 3, 2010 at 1:24 am

    Great synopsis of your design process… Nothing can beat a hand rendering ! Photoshop can not even compare to the artistic nature of an artists hand. Very impressive…


  6. 6 Teresa Chuang
    August 23, 2010 at 11:22 am


    My name is Teresa Chuang and I am a writer based in Taiwan. I recently found your beautiful works from this website. And I must say, I am really impressed by your creation and drawing skills.

    I am currently writing a book called “Design drawing” which will be published by one of the largest publisher in Taiwan and will be used as the teaching material in design related colleges. This book is focused on basic skills which students acknowledge and practice in order to learn about design.

    I am thinking about introducing you and your works in this book, especially your outstanding drawing skills and the concept of your art. As you know, nowadays there are so many works done by computer, however I believe the hand-drawing is still highly valued in design. And your work will definitely be the best example for that. Moreover, I think it is a great change to expose your artworks to Chinese market.

    Please let me know if you are interested in this, if so, we can discuss further in detail.

    I will be looking forward to your reply.
    Thank you

    Yours sincerely,

    Teresa Chaung

  7. 7 Pookie Lovez
    January 3, 2012 at 9:45 pm

    Hi ,

    My name is Pookie Lovez and i am trying to do a project that was given to me by my teacher over spring break.
    I recently looked up your website an dfoud this was exactly what I needed for my project. Thank You .

    yours sincerely,

    Pookie lovez

  8. 8 shravan kumar
    June 5, 2012 at 3:00 am

    hello, my name is shravan. i like d way u descrideb ur work, but i would suggest dat if u go for a site visit,do some drawings der, wat i ment is some conceptual drawings, becoz for me i get a good idea right on site dan afterwrds in my work space…n moreover it would also suit d surroundings, help in good colour combination.

    by the way ur way of working is really great..i sort of like it…

  9. July 18, 2013 at 4:46 pm

    It’s perfect time to make a few plans for the future and it’s time
    to be happy. I have read this publish and if I could I want to
    recommend you few fascinating things or tips. Perhaps you could write next articles relating
    to this article. I want to read more things approximately it!

  10. 10 Nancy
    February 1, 2014 at 12:09 am

    Beautiful results. I will definitely be trying to adopt some of the steps you outlined.
    Would you mind sharing where you got your tree blocks?

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