What is the best modeling/rendering software for landscape design?

Landscape Architecture for Landscape Architects Forums GENERAL DISCUSSION What is the best modeling/rendering software for landscape design?

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    Alexandra H

    I believe a variation of this question was asked a few months ago, but from a student’s perspective.  I have been in the job force for the last 3 years and have been tasked with evaluating different software, mainly with the objective of producing professional digital renderings for clients.  I have some experience with Autodesk impressions but found it limited.  Are there any suggestions on what may be the best/most user friendly programs for this purpose? 

    Alexandra H

    Examples of renderings completed with various software by repliers would be highly appreciated!


    Jordan Lockman

    Do you want something that is integrated with your construction Drawings?

    Alexandra H

    Not necessarily… more like presentation pieces such as plans and perspectives.


    Usually the most user friendly program is not the best program to use. It’s like doing construction drawings with Windows Paint. Yes Win Paint is easy, but by no means a good tool for a professional and serious task.


    For rendering landscapes, the best combination of modeling and rendering programs is to use 3dsMax, Vue, and Vray for 3dsMax. The learning curve is steep, but not impossible. Once you know those programs, your work will be presented in the best way. Your efficiency will also improve because you won’t have to spend so much time photoshoping vegetation and you can render multiple views overnight while you sleep.


    An example of what these programs can do would be any digitally done movie such as Avatar, or just look at any professional rendering company’s catalog.

    Alexandra H


    April Prey

    My 2 cents as a second year BLA…

    Our program is teaching Rhino 3D, along with the Rhino Terrain plug in, which is to be integrated into the next release.  Other than SketchUp, this has been my first foray into ‘real’ 3D.  As Ida said above, the learning curve is a bitch – I hear 3dsMax is even worse.

    BUT – the point I am getting to is: part of the issue with Rhino is that it does not seem to be extensively used, so resources to help you out when you get stuck are scarce to non-existent!  I have gotten stuck using Photoshop, all alone, at 1 am – and can get past a sticking point in minutes by Googling “photoshop image will not take color” (I had inadvertently deleted the RGB color channel!!!)  Problem solved in no time as Photoshop is used by millions and has been around a while, so the resources are there.

    If I was in your shoes, I’d go with the software that’s been around the longest and has the most extensive choice of training materials, forums, books, tutorials.  Because any real 3D program, IMHO, has a steep learning curve – so having good sources to rely on is key.



    David Barbarash

    Check HERE for examples of professionally done renderings. When you click on a post, you’ll get a series of images as well as a short blurb on the software used.


    I agree wholeheartedly with ida & April here, go with what has the deepest user base. Take a look at the other forums on cgarchitect or dig around youtube for a while and you’ll get an idea how well specific software packages are supported by the global user base.

    John Galbavy

    Sketchup has many great rendering plugins that are relatively cheap with a medium learning curve. I checked out the availible options at a site called sketchUcation to see what is best for my needs and I love what I got. I would suggest a program that runs inside sketchup because you can easily use your SU textures to render with. I bought twilight for 99 bucks and I love it so far.


    sketchup + render {in} and photoshop


    Tosh K

    Rhino is easy to learn, is nurbs-based allowing more rigorous free form modeling, and with V-Ray or Maxwell can provide a solid base rendering for photoshop.  3dsMax also has nice output.


    In general, the model is useful as a base for digital renderings.  Rigorous use of adobe suite can save time and effort as getting great results from render engines can be a steep learning curve.

    James Melnick

    I’ve been messing around with various render programs and there seems to be quite a bit that all vary in price and quality of the output.  I’ve kind of had to learn it on the fly as I finish my MLA but so far i’ve been using SU Podium and am pretty happy with the results.  The learning curve isn’t too bad and there are a ton of tutorials and great forum sections to help with training.

    Denis Vasiliev

    I think SketchUp and Twinlight or similar free software (say Kirkithea)

    Steve Mercer

    Unfortunately the answer to your question is it depends.  Overall workflow is always a consideration.  It does you no good if you have to jump through extra hoops to go from your concept, and construction drawings to your 3D perspective drawings and then start over in the rendering department.  Overall my workflow is BricsCAD (a AutoCad clone) and LandFX for concept thru Construction drawings.  LandFX has a SketchUp plug-in and it swaps 2D tree symbols for 3D tree symbols in SketchUP. But it will also go the other way too.  So if you adjust your design in SketchUP Pro you can send the design back through the plug-in back into LandFx to update your quantity take-offs. I do my 3d Perspective drawings in SketchUP.  If I just need a quick an dirty rendering inside SketchUP… Lumen RT or Shaderlight are good options.  If you need even better and larger renderings Vue has a SketchUP plug that allows for a smoother transition into Vue.  There will always be limitations.  It is the nature of software (and software versions 🙂 )  The trick is to find a workable workflow for you and stick with it.  Because the learning curves are steep in all these programs.  I look forward to the day when the dna mapping is completed for all the plant material we use.  Hopefully by the time that happens the computing horsepower will improve to the point that someone can write a program based on the DNA growth habits and the cultural habits of how the plant is to be grown.  You would then place those plants into an environmental model that mimics the real world environment.  You would then be able to actually see your landscapes grow over time based on parameters like annual prunning techniques.   It will be years though before we see something like this.


    Best Wishes,


    Denis Vasiliev

    In autodesk i AutoCad could become best if there would be function of alignment and central point available

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