Guide to Photoshop for Architecture

Tutorials and resources on how to best utilize Photoshop for architecture
Photoshop for Architecture

When referring to the software and digital tools architects use on a daily basis, Photoshop usually comes in a close second to the usual choice of CAD and 3D architecture programs. In architecture, Photoshop can be used for all manner of tasks and in many architectural practices is the primary image creating and editing tool.

Photoshop can be used at a basic or expert level, with many of its users learning at an early age during their education. There is also an abundance of tutorials scattered all over the internet covering just about anything the program is capable of.

Within media creation, Photoshop provide a limitless workflow

Here we will provide an introduction into how the program can be used for your architectural projects and aim to provide some of the useful Photoshop tutorials we’ve discovered during our time of using the program. Covering architectural presentation, visualization and photography, along with our recommendations on how to purchase the software.  

How architects can use Photoshop?

In architecture, Photoshop (often accompanied by a drawing tablet) is predominately used for image and graphic creation, helping to produce architectural renders, visualizations and diagrams for presentations and client documents.

This differs from architectural photographers who prefer to use the image adaption, editing, and enhancement tools. 

Photoshop for Architectural visualisation

Photoshop can be used to create renderings and visualizations from just a SketchUp model through photomontaging or used to provide the final touches to an externally rendered image through a post-production process …very similar to an architecture photographer.

The below tutorial shows an excellent example of what can be produced with Photoshop and SketchUp, from just a simple 3D model. This is most applicable to architecture students who don’t often have the time to produce a fully rendered singular or set of images.

For post-production work on an image rendered out in a different type of software such as vray or corona render, Photoshop can be used to enhance or hide certain areas of the rendering. For example the image sharpness could be increased, or the reflections/shadows made stronger.

Most rendering software will allow you to save out  the “render elements” as separate files, meaning that the reflections, refraction, diffuse colors, shadows and lighting elements can be imported into Photoshop on separate layers. This offers a huge amount of flexibility when adding the final touches.

Raw rendered images (especially external representations) can often lack atmosphere and depth, and a solution to this is to use Photoshop to add some light background fog or rays of light to help emphasis the background and foreground.

Luxury Visuals have provided a quick insight into this here:

Another area where Photoshop helps with architecture visualizations is the placement of people within an image, this can be a tricky process to do well, but once master will really help take your images to next level.

VizPeople provide a really insightful tutorial on this below:

Photoshop floor plans, elevations and sections

Adding materials and texture to create depth and interest to 2D drawings is particularly relevant to architecture students producing elevations and sections of their work.

Architectural practices tend to have varying styles with some opting for fully colored / rendered drawings and others simple, black and white line drawings, which there is a lot to be said for.

But for architecture students, the coloured/rendered graphical approach is almost a must, and Photoshop is just about the best software with its layering and blending modes in achieving this. 

We have mentioned Arqui9 before as they have some of the best tutorials for arch viz on the internet, and here they are again with a tutorial on creating an architectural section:

Floor plans should in our opinion be kept simple, with just a solid fill for the walls and maybe some shadows to add depth, but if you prefer to add some extra color to them then this second tutorial by Arqui9 is very useful:

Architecture presentation diagrams

Photoshop is an excellent program for producing architectural diagrams that aim to communicate design concepts, thought processes and site analysis. Again its layering system provides a very flexible and simple workflow that allows for easy annotation of site maps and photographs.

There is an abundance of symbols, fonts and infographics that can be imported into and used for your projects communication.  

For organizing and producing your presentation boards, we recommend adobe InDesign over Photoshop. Photoshop files can become very large, really quickly, and you will soon find yourself struggling to open the large formatted files if you try to do it all in Photoshop.

InDesign is specially designed for laying out graphic and written material within one singular document and workspace, that manages file sizes a lot more efficiently than Photoshop does.

Yes it’s another program to learn but its interface is very intuitive and the time spent initially learning how to use it, will be saved time and time again moving forward.

Use Photoshop to create your files and InDesign to organize them.

InDesign makes aligning various images and drawings on a page very easy through its guides that snap to alignments, centers and even spacing’s. Photoshop just isn’t designed for large scale organization with multiple images on a singular page.

Here showitbetter.co have created an excellent video discussing and demonstrating this:

The composition and organization of your presentation boards is also important to not only showcase your work but to also tell the story of the process and sell the scheme to your audience.  

Again showitbetter have produced a video on this below:

Photoshop for architectural photography

When editing architectural photographs, Adobe Lightroom is best for subtle level and light adjustments and has been specially built for this process. 

This is available on Amazon here

But if the editing process requires something a little more severe, like the removal of a lamp post, extra/greener grass, or a complete color change of car for example, then Photoshop can become a life saver. 

Photoshop has the ability to mask off individual areas and use separate adjustments that can change the appearance of selected elements in your photograph in a non-destructive manner. The mask simply sits over the selected part of the photograph, and when tuned off the adjustment is removed and the image is back to its original state.

This is incredibly useful when experimenting with different adjustments or if you’ve made a mistake.

There is a very useful article on archdaily that talks about the role of Photoshop in architecture photographer here

Software choices

We have mentioned here that a full Photoshop license can be expensive and for many (particularly students) is out of reach, and so this why Adobe have created their suite of “elements”, that offer a stripped down version of their products. 

However with that said, Adobe to offer a heavily discounted rate to their Creative Cloud, that provides their whole suite of products.

Adobe Creative Cloud

The newest release of Creative Cloud brings innovation and collaboration together like never before. More connected. More creative. The future is yours to imagine AND students and teachers save over 60%!

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For just Photoshop however, we have used both versions, and can say that for most applications Photoshop elements provides a very good substitution to the full license. Most users would not notice nor miss the professional features that have been removed.

Adobe Photoshop Elements

Containing most of the features of the professional version but with fewer and simpler options... edit, composite and create beautiful images, graphics, and art on desktop and iPad.

Try for Free at Adobe

But for those looking the full suite of features, the full licenses can be subscribed to, with more information and additional subscription plans available via the links below:

Adobe Photoshop

Start with Photoshop. The go-to for all digital creators. Impressive images, rich graphics, and incredible art Anyone can do it all with Photoshop. Get Photoshop on desktop and iPad with free trial.

Try for Free at Adobe
Adobe Illustrator

Create beautiful vector art and illustrations. Drawing is just the beginning of what you can do with Illustrator. Create logos, icons, packaging, web graphics and so much more.

Try for Free at Adobe
Adobe InDesign

The next page in layout design. Create, organize, and publish printed books, brochures, digital magazines, iPad apps, interactive online documents, and presentation boards.

Try for Free at Adobe

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