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Colin Smith
June 8, 2017

Architect and YouTuber Frank Zhang of Architectural Aesthetics walks us through the SketchBook tools he uses to create Early Process Architectural Renders. Frank’s video tutorials and speed drawing sessions are a great way to get your head around Architectural concepts and design practices. In fact the full Meditation Camp Proposal this project is a part of is also featured in a video on Frank’s channel.

Architects have traditionally hand drawn their architectural renders but these days we see less and less hand drawn images in the architectural design process. However, I do not think this means that hand drawing skills are obsolete, in fact quite to the contrary, elegant hand renderings are even more sought after amidst swarms of digitally processed images. Now, designers have found the right tools with which they can show off their hand drawing chops, tools such as SketchBook.

The purpose of this tutorial is to demonstrate why I have come to see SketchBook as the perfect solution for early stage architectural visual communications. We will be looking at a step by step tutorial showing you how I created this presentation board all within SketchBook Pro, taking advantage of its rich brush presets, organized Copic color library, and handy tools that facilitate design drawings.

Final Presentation Board

Axonometric Drawing

Let’s first look at the axonometric drawing. Without getting too technical, axonometric drawing is a form of architectural communication where you present your building as an orthographic projection. I  have broken down the creation process of this drawing down to three components: pencil framework, inking, and coloring.

Step 1: Pencil Framework

Axonometric Drawing Step 1

During this stage in the process the goal is to hammer out the bulk of your design as quickly as possible. All while still clearly communicating the formal relationships among the structural masses of your building. During this process, my preferred brush is the hard pencil tool. It does a great job at mimicking marks made by traditional technical pencils.

The Hard Pencil Tool

An important tool that will significantly reduce the time you spend during this stage is the predictive stroke tool. What this functionality does is that it analyzes the lines you have laid down, then based on the tool’s ‘reading’ of your hand’s intention, the movement behind the lines (whether they were supposed to be straight or circular) and it automatically helps you ‘correct’ the lines. Though I do not recommend to have this functionality on the whole time, it is beneficial to have it help you draw parallel lines effortlessly after you’ve determined the general outlook of your axonometric drawing.

The Predictive Stroke Tool

Step 2: Inking

Axonometric Drawing Step 2: Inking

The objective of the inking step is to emphasize the forms of your design. By accentuating the lines, communicating the scale of your project by adding simple human figures and conveying the materiality through lines indicating textures. During this step, my preferred drawing tool is the felt pen from the artist brush preset. I use it as I would traditional technical pens, as it produces uniform lines regardless of how much pressure you exert on the drawing surface. Therefore, by establishing a strict hierarchy of line weights, (thickest lines for exterior forms, thinner lines for exterior texture, and thinnest ones for interior forms) we will enhance the readability of our drawings.

The Felt Pen Tool

The Felt Pen Tool

There are many ways of tracing straight lines, for the sake of speed during the inking process I prefer to use the Line Tool, find it under the Draw Styles panel.

As for the simple human figures, I use the fill tool with a basic white color-fill to make them appear on top of the base coloring while in the same layer. The Fill Tool does a great job at detecting closed shapes and works well for this.

Step 3: Coloring

Axonometric Drawing Step 3: Coloring

During the coloring process, instead of using the RGB color wheel, it is faster to take advantage of the built-in Copic Marker color library. Under the design group, an abundant palette of color presets are labeled meticulously so that you can refer back to a particular color at any time.

It is worth noting that because of they match the nature of real Copic Markers, they are semi-transparent and highly saturated.  To achieve a more somber and professional lookI suggest you should duplicate your coloring layer and manually tune down the saturation during the post-production process.

The Copic Marker Library

For this stage of the drawing the tool I prefer is the vintage marker in the artist brush preset . I believe this Brush Set is available on iOS and Desktop. However, you can easily achieve the same effect with the Copic marker tools, which comes with a built-in alcohol based blender tool.

The Vintage Marker Tool

Section Drawing

For Section Drawing, the workflow is similar to Axonometric Drawing with a few more unique tools I’d like to introduce you to.

Step 1

Section Drawing Step 1

In step one, the first tool I want to point out is the Symmetry Tool. If the form of the project you’re working on is perfectly symmetrical, you can reduce your working time in half by using this tool. Even if the details are not symmetrical but the structure is you can turn the tool off whenever you need to make a non-symmetric addition and still save time.

The Symmetry Tool

The next tool is the Ruler Tool. Comparing to the line tool, using the ruler tool gives you more control over the precision of your straight lines.

The Ruler Tool

Step 2

Section Drawing Step 2

When it comes to coloring an orthographic architectural drawing, often we need to represent the shadows to convey the interior spatial quality of our design. For this purpose, I recommend using the Glaze Brush preset in the Artist brush set. With this tool, you can cover large areas with transparent colors.

The Glaze Brush Tool

Final Presentation Board

Final Presentation Board

And there you have your finished Presentation Board. In conclusion, as a one stop solution for sketching and early architectural renders, SketchBook is great. It lets you create compelling images with its rich color library and drawing tools, it saves you time with its robust undo and layer functionalities and saves you money on traditional art supplies.

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Colin Smith

Colin is a Sr. Product Manager on the Automotive and Conceptual Design Team at Autodesk. During his 25-year career in the CAD industry he has worked in customer support, training, consulting and as a product manager for Alias and Fusion 360. Currently, he works on SketchBook Pro and Create VR and is based in Toronto, Canada.