Landscape Special Interest Group March 2018 pm


In this session, we covered the VBvisual Plant tool and how to visualize plants, whether by using a VBvisual plant, an image prop, or something created with the Existing Tree tool.

Topics Covered:

  • 00:16    We began by looking at the VBvisual Plant tool. The challenge with using an image prop for a plant is how it looks at you turn it in a 3D view—it might look great from the front or the back, but not from the side. Plants from the VBvisual Plant tool look great regardless of the viewing angle. They’re created from a symbol that the VBvisual Plant tool picks up. The idea behind these plants is that they’re very easy to use for visualization—for early design work—which is why they’re in the Visualization tool set. You can choose different heights and seasons. The leaves are a series of textures applied to 3D polygons that make up the trunk and branches. They shouldn’t be used in situations where you want to use hidden line rendering, but they’re great for OpenGL rendering. However, they don’t automatically work like a Vectorworks Plant.
  • 08:07    The challenge was whether a plant from the VBvisual Plant tool could be used as a Vectorworks Plant. We showed how this is possible. We converted the VBvisual plant into a group and saved it as a symbol. In Plant Tool Preferences, we selected the newly created symbol in the Copy from Symbol setting. Now, the VBvisual plant symbol was part of a Vectorworks Plant—the look of the VBvisual plant with the functionality of the Vectorworks Plant.
  • 16:17    Image props are another method for showing plants. An image prop is made of two images: the photograph and a mask. In this case, everything that was black became the transparent part of the mask. The cordyline australis that we created looked great from the front or back, but not from the side. The way around this is to check the Crossed Planes option in the Object Info palette, or to use the Auto Rotate option. A plant made from an image prop is very realistic because it’s made from a photograph. We now went back to our Plant Tool Preferences and selected the image prop plant instead of the VBvisual plant in the Copy from Symbol setting. These are the options Vectorworks: Either you have something that looks great in 3D but isn’t very realistic, or you have something that’s very realistic but doesn’t work very well in 3D. Making an image crop can be very time consuming—you have to clean out all of the background bits using Photoshop or similar software. To make your work easier, find an image with a plain background, one where the sky or a blank wall makes up most of the backdrop. See “Preparing Images for Image Props” (epodcast067) on my website for a movie on how to make an image prop. Enviro Graphics ( offers images of plants and trees with monochrome backgrounds.
  • 30:39    The Existing Tree tool also has a 3D Properties setting. In the Object Info palette for the shape, you can add a 3D canopy and trunk. The shape is rather blob-like, but you can add a texture by clicking the Apply textures to classes option and ensuring that the class has the proper texture selected. Adding the texture also makes the shape partially transparent.

Landscape March 2018 pm
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  1. Fantastic episode! When looking for images to use as image props, what file size/dpi range do you shoot for, 300K or so?

    1. I’m not sure if I know of an optimal size for your images. If you use images that are extremely high-quality, they give better results when you create a high-quality rendering (such as custom Renderworks or final quality Renderworks) but you will notice that your file size becomes massive. Generally, most of my images with image props around the 2000 to 3000 pixels in height. The DPI doesn’t matter, it’s all based on the number of pixels.

  2. Hi Jonathan,
    I’m wondering how to set the insertion point in a plant image prop. I’ve got a bunch of masks of plants I’ve made but if I crop them at the bottom they will look cut off. I’m having to adjust the z value for each plant to try and get it to not float above the ground or look buried. If I could just set the zero point in the 3-D symbol that would be much quicker! Any ideas?

    1. the normal insertion point for a plant image prop is the bottom centre of the image. If the image looks like it’s floating above the ground then change the Z value for your image prop to move it down. If the image looks like it’s underground, then adjust the Z value to move the image prop up. If you create the image prop as a symbol (one of the options when you create your image prop) then you can change the insertion point of the symbol by moving the image prop up or down inside the symbol editing area. If you do it this way, every time you use your symbol it will have the correct Z elevation

  3. Thank you very much for the Visual Plant and image prop info. I bought some Visual plants library awhile ago, but have problems in placing them correctly to the data base, so my Vectorswork Landmark 2018 does not find them. The tree options from VP came as .jpg , do I need to convert them somehow after installation? Please reply. Due to huge time difference between NZ and Finland unfortunately I can not be online during the webinar but will be happy to follow recordings.

    1. The landscape special interest group has an evening session that should work for you in Finland (your morning).
      the plant images need to be imported into Vectorworks as an Image Prop (save the prop as a symbol). then you can add the symbol to the 3D part of your plant.

  4. Hi Jonathan, I wonder do you know a resource for photorealistic conifers? I have been searching and searching without success and do remember that somewhere in these forums I saw a link, but cannot find it anymore. – Visual plant only sells deciduous trees.

    1. have you checked your Vectorworks library, using the Resource Manager? Also, check your Vectorworks Service Select Library.

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