Student Portal News Letter Archive
For the Love of Design
Bimonthly Academic Newsletter
Vol. 2 No. 2 // MAR 2016

Landscape Lesson:
Custom Plant Symbols in 6 Steps

Eric Gilbey, PLA, ASLA, Prof. APLD, Product Marketing Manager — Landscape Industry at Vectorworks, Inc.

Hi, and welcome to Landscape Lessons, a recurring series on the Planet Vectorworks blog where I share tips and tricks on improving your landscape design workflows. This time, we’re releasing a lesson exclusively to students before it’s available to the general public. That’s right — you get to take advantage of these tips before anyone else.

In this post, I’ll go over how to customize 2D plant symbols in Vectorworks software in six steps. While you can always create a plant object from scratch, it’s far easier to just modify a symbol that already exists. This option is helpful if you can find a plant symbol that looks similar to what you want, but you just need to tweak the coloration or linework to better reflect your plant’s visual character or give your professor a better perspective on how your design will look in a different season. And with over 300 symbol options in the library, finding a similar plant shouldn’t be too challenging. Now, let’s get started.

Step 1: Open the Resource Browser and choose a plant that’s similar to what you’re looking for to adjust. I know, we’ve kind of explained that already.

Step 1

Step 2: If you want to create a reusable plant symbol, right-click on the object in the Resource Browser and select “Duplicate” so that you retain the original version while modifying your customized one. To modify a plant object for just one design, drag and drop the object into your workspace and begin editing within the document itself.

Step 3: Now you’re ready to edit the graphical aspects of your symbol. Right-click the object and select the “Edit” option in the menu that appears. When the program prompts you to “Select Part to Edit,” you can choose “2D Graphics,” “3D Graphics,” or “Definition.” Choosing “Definition” lets you edit the smart data within the object, and “3D Graphics” is self-explanatory. We’ll be covering both of these options in future Landscape Lessons, so sign up to receive updates from the Planet Vectorworks blog if you’re interested. For now, let’s focus on customizing an object’s 2D representation, so select “2D Graphics.”

Step 3

Step 4: Each aspect of a symbol’s representation is broken into the following: Outline, Interior Linework (for things like branch lines), Canopy Fill/Color Fill, and Bloom. Preconfigured classes control each aspect, so when you start customizing, you can isolate each class’ visibility using the Navigation Palette by changing your “Class Option” to “Active Only.” This way, you select only the parts of the symbol that you want to customize. Note that you should follow the preconfigured classes that exist within the symbols because the Plant tool is designed interact with them. If you want your customized plant to function like the rest of the predesigned plant objects, follow the basic configuration outline. This is also important to remember if you’re designing a plant from scratch and still want it to integrate with the rest of your plant objects. When creating the shapes for a new symbol from scratch, choose “Create New Plant” in the Vectorworks pull-down menu. The new symbol will appear and be ready for your data input.

Step 4 part 1
Step 4 part 2

Step 5: Once you’ve selected the aspect that you want to customize, head to your Attributes Palette and choose which fill, line type, line width, and opacity you want. Make sure that you keep an eye on how your symbol’s aspects are stacked when you make adjustments. For instance, if your blooms are under your interior linework, as in they’re sent to the back visually speaking, your design will produce incorrect shadows and massing. You can avoid this by making sure your object’s outline or fill is on the bottom when you’re done customizing. Just right-click on a specific aspect and select “Send to Back.” When you’re done, exit the “Edit” window, and your changes are now part of that 2D symbol.

Step 6: Make sure that you give your customized symbol a unique name so you don’t confuse it with the symbol on which it’s based.

Step 6

Have fun using your new symbol! The more symbols you make and save to your library of objects, the easier it will be to bring your design visions to life. If you have questions about any landscape tools in Vectorworks software, email me or tweet me at @EricGilbey.