November 13, 2012

Architectural Rendering: Using Scale People

When adding people to an architectural render it is important to keep them in scale so everything about the render looks correct. So how do I keep them in scale and where do I find people to add?

In AutoCAD

The first way is to add people into your AutoCAD drawing before you import them into Photoshop. This is the simplest way to keep people to scale. There are free CAD blocks online with people that you can add to your building drawings. The blocks are generally not too well defined and you can't manipulate the people too much in Photoshop once imported along with your building drawing. If you are doing quick renderings, keeping people in your imported drawing would help you save a bit of time.

Importing CAD people into Photoshop or using actual pictures of people in your rendering separately from your building drawing are good solutions to give your more freedom while rendering. You can also use the free blocks to create shadow people, ghost people, or outlined people and export them into a pdf to the same scale as the drawings you are working with. Import them into Photoshop and then cut and paste them into your architectural rendering.

Courtesy of

In Photoshop

If you are rendering something in Photoshop, you should have a sense of scale in your drawing. Importing scaled people from CAD is the easiest method. If you are importing people pictures or outlines, stairs and doorways are a good way to help you scale the people into the rendering. I use a stair height of 6 inches so scaling people in a section is easy (assuming you are cutting through a staircase). You can also put a marker line in CAD before you export it to pdf to help you size people while rendering in Photoshop. Just be sure to mask over or erase the line before you complete your rendering. If you are importing pictures the best place to find people silhouettes is They come as vector drawings for Illustrator, though they can be opened in Photoshop.

Create a Rendering library

To make your life easier, I recommend creating a rendering library. This way, you don't have to keep creating new materials to use in your renderings. Once you create people to scale in CAD, save it into a people folder so you know where to go later when rendering. This is the best way to save time in the future.

Rendering Suggestions

People inhabit a space for only a moment. As a result, people are typically rendered with a low opacity. Generally architectural rendering focuses on the space, people are used mainly for a sense of scale as well as how the space might be used or to show the different types of users of a space so they should be subtle in nature, unless it is your intent to focus on people within your rendering. Using colored people within a grey-scale sections is generally not recommended since you want to focus on the building and not the people. Full resolution people should be used for refined renderings, however you can always use high resolution grey scale people instead.

Additional Information

If you are looking for a book on computer rendering, Bradley Cantrell and Wes Michaels' book, Digital Drawing for Landscape Architecture: Contemporary Techniques and Tools for Digital Representation in Site Design, even though it is for landscaping outlines the requirements and techniques for Photoshop rendering beautifully. Look for used or new books from an amazon seller since they are generally cheaper than Amazon even with shipping. Always be sure check seller reviews!

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