Sunday, January 3, 2016

The Making of Town House: A Digital Watercolor Tutorial


For the past few months, I have been working on my rendering techniques, more specifically in producing such authentic watercolor effect using SketchUp as modeling tool and Fotosketcher as rendering engine. As a result, I was able to come-up with a new improved watercolor illustration method which requires a few additional watercolor hand drawn textures and photo manipulation technique. Here, the idea is to play with different watercolor textures (hand drawn images) and blend it in your SketchUp model image with the right amount of tones. This NPR technique is very suitable for quick conceptual design presentation, producing such remarkable similarity to traditional watercolor paintings. Four software programs were used for this NPR visualization method: (1) SketchUp, (2) Adobe Photoshop, (3) Fotosketcher, and (4) Picasa. Here are the steps…

STEP 1: Open your skp file and choose engineering-meters template (or any template with no tinted horizon). The process began with SketchUp modeling of a town house and then followed by inserting entourage in the scene (2D image people, 3D model car and 3D model electric post). The following entourage can be downloaded in 3Dwarehouse (the official repository website of all SketchUp users).

Image 1: Engineering- Meters Template

Image 2: SketchUp model: Town House
STEP 2: Group your entourage (2D image people and 3D car). Here, select the entourage models> press the right click button> select ‘make group’. This will enable us to easily hide and unhide the selected group(s) when creating a scene.

Image 3: Group the selected model(s)

STEP 3: Find your preferred perspective view. Save your scene: view> animation> add scene. Creating a scene in SketchUp enables you to capture a state of model, thus you can go back to the same view and settings when needed.

Image 4: Create Scene

STEP 4: For the main scene, set your SketchUp models to monochrome style with shadows turned on. Under the edge style option check the edges, profiles, depth cue and extensions.


Image 5: Monochrome style

STEP 5: Export the main scene (all models) in monochrome style. To do that, go to File> Export> 2D Graphic and save in JPEG format. Export the image in high image size or better quality in order to capture the greatest amount of detail.

Image 6: Export 2D image

Image 7: Adjust image quality

Here is the result

Image 8: Result (Monochrome Style)

STEP 6: Export the entourage models only. To do that, select all (ctrl+A)> hold shift and click the entourage group> right click on the town house and electric post model > select hide. Set-up your entourage models with default styles such as shaded with textures and edges. Disable the shadows. Export the group model into 2D image. 

Image 9: Hide the selected model

Image 10: Entourage (shaded with texture)

Here is the result


Image 11: Result (Entourage Shaded with Texture)




NOTE: Notice that we only exported two images (1) monochrome style with shadows and (2) textured entourage without shadows. The idea is to play with different watercolor tones in our exported monochrome image and the rest is adding details such as textures, plants, people, birds, and so on.

STEP7: Open all the exported images in Photoshop. The monochrome image will be the background layer while the exported textured entourage image will be the first layer. For the first layer, set the blend mode to multiply with 76% transparency.

Image 12: Background and first layer

STEP 8: Using Photoshop, fill the background scene with all the watercolor hand drawn images (plant entourage). To do that, open the watercolor image in Photoshop> use the magic wand tool> right click on the image> click ‘select inverse’> drag the image to your scene using ‘move tool’. Change the image view if needed (horizontal or vertical) before dragging the image to the other file layer.

Image 13: Sample Watercolor Entourage

Image 14: Change image view (horizontal)

Image 15: Use the Magic Wand Tool

Image 16: Drag the image

STEP 9: The entire entourage image layer should be set in normal blend mode while the grass lawn watercolor texture and fence image should be set in multiply blend mode.

STEP 10: In order to fit all the entourage images, you can adjust the image size by using transform command. Select the layered image> press ctrl+T or (go to edit menu> transform> then choose any of the following transform command.)

STEP 11: Adjust the opacity of each entourage layer with the value ranging from 65% to 95% opacity. Reproducing the entourage at full color would not allow for additional color to be added. Therefore, it was necessary to lighten the opacity of each layer. The farther the entourage from your main object (town house) the lesser the opacity.

Image 17: Transform, Blend mode and Opacity


STEP 12: Erase all the excess colors. Save your work in JPEG format.

Here is the result

Image 18: Render result so far


STEP 13: After we have completed layering all the watercolor entourage in Photoshop, were ready to apply the watercolor effects using Fotosketcher. Open your last image in Fotosketcher and select watercolor style ‘Painting 5’. This filtering process created a wonderful character for the image which gave an overall watercolor effect with an informal hand drawn and painted quality. Save image in JPEG format.

Image 19:  Fotosketcher Settings

Here is the result

Image 20: Fotosketcher Render Result


STEP 14: Going back to layering procedure, open the last edited image and watercolor horizon canvas in Photoshop. Set the blend mode to multiply. Adjust the opacity with 70-80% value. Save image in JPEG format.

Image 21: Watercolor horizon canvas


Here is the result

Image 22: Result


STEP 15: To enhance the image with more authentic watercolor effect we will edit the image using Picasa. The procedure is as follows: click ‘sinusuwerte ako’ (lucky me)> Posterize the image> set to Orton mode> click ‘sinusuwerte ako’ again> adjust the temperature tuning> save in JPEG format. Other setting option: aside from the settings above you can also try the Sharpen and HDR mode.

Image 23: Picasa workflow


Final Render Output

Inage 24: FINAL OUTPUT


Thanks for taking the time to read the tutorial. I hope you will find it helpful to your future projects.

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