15 May 2009
Vector programs give 2D drawings the edge
Feasibility studies and client presentations often bring out the need for a graphic approach to 2D drawn information. Line styles, the application of colour, tone patterns and hatching become fundamental to the information rather than being just an illustrative add on. Good freehand felt tip pen drawings have a natural charm, but what can be done using cad as the starting point?
Both AutoCad and MicroStation have a freehand pencil tool but it isn’t easy to create the qualities of a hand-drawn line. “CadSketch” by CA Design Associates is a Windows-compatible software that can open files saved in AutoCad format and apply a randomised hand drawn style to the cad drawing. Drawings can be saved as AutoCad files or they can be saved direct to Acrobat PDF format. It is available as a trial download with a full licence costing $89 (£58).
All the major cad programs are capable of some degree of graphic rendering of 2D drawings. The application of colour, hatch and patterns are in most cad programs. Colour and hatch are generally quite successful, however patterns can be problematic. They look great on the screen but they can render quite differently when opened in different applications or printed.
Graphic capabilities Many architects find the graphic capabilities of cad programs limiting and look for an alternative for adding presentation gloss to a 2D drawing. Adobe Photoshop is often used, but it’s not always the best choice. Photoshop is a tool for editing raster files. All drawing information is stored as pixels rather than vectors. The result is a huge increase in file size and a loss of quality which is particularly noticeable with very fine lines, gentle curves and whenever drawing is printed large. The preferred choice is Adobe Illustrator. Imported via either PDF or dwg format, all cad lines are retained as scalable, editable vector-based information.
To get the most out of Illustrator, it is worth investing in a graphics tablet. The ability to use a pen rather than a mouse makes the process a whole lot more intuitive. Wacom has recently upgraded its professional Intuous4 range of graphics tablets. The smallest device costs about £210.
Handling the graphic presentation of planning exercises is one of the aims of CityCad 1.5 from Holistic City. Developed in the UK by a team with experience of urban masterplanning, the software provides a productive 3D block modelling and area-based analysis tool for the early stages of a masterplanning project.
The drawing interface has the intuitive feel of Sketchup, but uses predefined styles with variable geometric parameters to allow the user to quickly build up a masterplan starting with road layouts and then progressing to modelling of individual blocks. The building blocks can be allocated varying heights and uses. These different parameters can then be used to generate a variety of 3D views, 2D diagrams and Excel analysis spreadsheets. Available as an eight-hour free trial, the software licence is available on a month by month basis priced at £175.
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