Landscape Design Drawing Technique
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Landscape Design

Landscape Design Drawing Technique

Extension > Garden > SULIS > Design > Color Techniques for Landscape Design

Description/ Purpose:

Illustration by Gunda Luss

Adding color to a landscape design makes a plan come alive! It also communicates depth, texture and interest to a plan, and helps the viewer to better visualize the finished landscape. The following report reviews color palettes, explains various media available to the designer, and presents tips for improving technique for using color in landscape designs.

Design Considerations:
The best method for adding color is to use a simple color palette for each project and emphasize only the essential elements within the design, leaving details to the imagination. Overuse of color may result in a gaudy plan that is too busy and detracts from the design itself. While surfaces in the foreground need to be correctly rendered, in the distance, these same materials will appear only as values. Even highly textured surfaces will appear white in bright sunlight. An eraser can become the best tool in eliminating extraneous details and adding highlights.

Definitions of coloring terms:

Primary Colors Red (carmine), yellow and blue (phthalocyanine) from which all other colors may be mixed.
Secondary Colors Orange, green and purple, made by mixing adjacent primary colors on the color wheel.
Tertiary Colors Colors located between primary and secondary colors on the color wheel, created by mixing any adjacent primary and secondary color.
Hue The clearest form of any color, without the addition of black, white or its complement.
Chroma The intensity, strength or saturation of a color. The intensity of a hue can be reduced by its complementary. For instance, the intensity of green can be reduced by adding red – the eventual result being a neutral gray.
Value The lightness or darkness of a color, E.g. light or dark blue.
Shade A color darkened by adding black.
Tint A color lightened by adding white.
Complementary Color Colors opposite each other on the color wheel. Mixing complementary colors will produce gray.
Monochromatic A color scheme using values of only one color. Sepia (reddish-brown) is a common choice in illustration.
Analogous A scheme using two or three adjacent colors on the color wheel. Example: yellow, yellow-green, green or blue, purple, violet. This scheme is equally useful in creating a simple palette for an illustration or a garden design.
Warm colors Generally thought of as yellow, orange and red, which seem to advance toward the viewer. However this distinction may also be made of blues and greens. Example: ultramarine blue is ‘warmer’ than cobalt blue. Willow green is ‘warmer’ than sage and Cadmium red is ‘warmer’ than carmine.
Cool Colors Generally, blues, greens and violets, which appear to recede.

Sources: Architectural Drawing & Light Construction, Third edition by Edward J. Muller, and Color in Architectural Illustration by Richard Rochon and Harold Linton.

The Color Wheel:
Figure 1: The Color Wheel

Relationships between colors are described by the color wheel. Used by artists of various expertise, the color wheel introduces primary, secondary and tertiary colors as well as color complements. The primary colors are red, blue and yellow, and cannot be created by mixing other elements. However, any two primary colors mixed together will yield a secondary color – orange, green or purple. Tertiary colors are created by mixing a secondary color with a primary color. For example, yellow-green is made by mixing the secondary color green with the primary color, yellow.

Color Complements are color opposites and contract each other, creating a vibrant, active color palette. They are located on opposite sides of the color wheel from each. An example of a pair of complementary colors is purple and yellow.

Color Palettes:
Depending on time and design requirements the palette used may vary from monochrome to complex. Outlined below in increasing levels of complexity are some options. The simplest palette is monochromatic, that is, using tints of one color for the entire drawing. Sepia tone is a classic example, although this may create a retrospective appearance.

Figure 2: Plan illustrated with sepia tone colors. Design and illustration by Gunda Luss.

An analogous color palette uses colors adjacent on the color wheel.

Examples of analogous palettes:
  • Yellow, Yellow-green, Green
  • Green, Blue-green, Blue
  • Blue, Purple, Violet
  • Yellow-orange, yellow, chartreuse
Figure 3: