Rendering Plans in DataCAD
Some of us have spent tremendous energy trying to mimic this infill shading operation in CAD with hatching or else via tricky export techniques to other programs. But now with functions like DataCAD's Solid/Pattern/Bitmap Fill, you can find all those same capabilities in your CAD program.
We have long had line-work entourage available in CAD programs, but for rendered plans we need rendered entourage. In DataCAD, tree, car, and furniture stamps are now available with fill and shade for easy placement in a rendered plan.
Luckily, we can now also call upon pixel-based entourage libraries for use with rendered plans if vector-based rendered entourage is still left wanting. Unfortunately, with pixel-based entourage, you have to factor in issues of background and resolution. Such entourage normally uses a white background that look odd when placed in a CAD drawing with a dark color background, so you probably will want to make sure you have a white background for the CAD drawing.
The other factor is resolution. If you use the same pixel-based tree stamp at various sizes for your site plan, you may find it distracting when they print at differing degrees of sharpness in the final presentation.
Text and Color
Architects have long sought ideal text fonts that could live happily in both CAD and presentation environments. In the past, much energy was devoted to mimicking desktop publishing fonts within traditional CAD software. But now that TrueType fonts are a normal option with DataCAD (and in other up-to-date software), we no longer have to mimic those fonts; we have them all at our disposal without any extra effort.
With the evolution of traditional CAD programs and with the latest crop of inkjet printers, most architects decently-equipped can now make color-rendered plans a normal part of presentation documents. No longer are the costs of color reproduction prohibitive. Some architects are still cautious about the use of color in their documentation, but color can be very effective.
With DataCAD, you can choose from standard color palettes, and even from customized ones such as the Benjamin Moore Color Palette. It's still tricky to get the printed output to match the screen display, but once this is mastered, we arrive at rendering plan nirvana: the deluxe color marker set that never dries out!
While more and more rendering and desktop publishing operations can now be done in DataCAD directly, there are still times when exporting to another program is advantageous. With increased DWG/DXF export control, as well as the growing popularity of PDF as a transfer format, CAD users have been turning to programs such as Adobe Illustrator, CorelDraw, Lightscape, Radiance, DesignWorkshop®, and Sketchup to do sun studies, for instance, and to create advanced tone and shading effects.
An invaluable new asset introduced in DataCAD 10 is Plot Preview, which displays output in PDF format. This is as close to WYSIWIG (what you see is what you get) as you can get before actually printing your drawing.
Saving a rendered plan as a PDF file through Plot Preview (or via batch plotting) is also the best way to ensure that it will come out looking the same to your client as it does on your screen when you send it via e-mail or post it on the Internet.
We users of DataCAD and other updated traditional CAD applications finally have all the tools we need to create a fully rendered plan as a CAD document. These tools may take a while to get used to, but the investment in time will be well worth the effort and will give our presentation plans more "soul."
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Evan H. Shu, FAIA is an architect with Shu Associates Inc. in Melrose, Massachusetts. He is a contributor to publications such as The Architect's Handbook of Professional Practice and Architectural Record and is publisher and editor of Cheap Tricks, a monthly newsletter for DataCAD users and computer-using architects.