U C   B e r k e l e y
      D e p a r t m e n t   o f   C i t y   a n d   R e g i o n a l   P l a n n i n g

Prof.  Elizabeth  Macdonald

Computer Graphics for Planners
ArcMap AutoCAD Illustrator Photoshop SketchUp Links











These tutorials are designed to introduce planning students to the computer programs most commonly used to prepare graphic plans. This includes:

  • creating page layouts for graphic presentations
  • layering analytical graphics over aerial photographs
  • scanning and editing hand drawn work
  • producing computer generated images and plans
  • generating three-dimensional massing models

Raster or Vector?

Raster-based images are based on a collection of dots that made small enough and close enough together that the human eye can not perceive them as such. These Raster formats are generated by scanning pictures or paper drawings, digital photographs and by image manipulation software and certain basic drawing programs. Raster graphics are created and edited in Photoshop.

Vector-based formats can be scaled accurately, and can be measured and manipulated on a line by line, entity by entity basis, versus raster-based formats that can only be edited by virtue of changing the dots that make up the picture. Vector files can be scaled up and down, enlarged, and edited without a noticeable loss of image quality. Vector graphics are created and edited with ArcMap, AutoCAD, Illustrator and SketchUp.

ArcMap, SketchUp and AutoCAD use similar approaches to vector files: files are created in the computer in "real-size," without the need to scale components up or down. This is called the "model space." When it comes time to print from these real-size drawings, a page layout (called the "paper space") is created with a window (called a "viewport") into the model space. A predetermined scale is assigned to the window, and your drawings are instantly converted to this scale.

Illustrator, on the other hand, only affords the user a paper space. Images must either be scaled up or down as they are created, or drawn over a scaled base image that can be produced by one of the other vector-based programs. As such, Illustrator is most useful in creating page layouts and 1:1 scale objects.


CMYK is an abbreviation for cyan, magenta, yellow, and black - the four colors typically used in print media. RGB is an abbreviation for red, green, and blue - the four colors typically used by display projectors or computer screens. Using CMYK files will produce greater consistency between what you see on the screen and what comes out of the color printers. In either case, choose one format and stick with it for all of your files.

Where do I begin?

The first step to most planning processes begins with two approaches, known as "experiential" and "abstract."

Experiential refers to the experience of a place, and is achieved through site visits and on-the-ground work. Go out to your site, take notes, make sketches, and take digital photographs to record the experience of the place. These will provide great source material for backgrounds and presentation layouts at later stages of the planning process.

Abstract refers to a view of a place that can not ever really be achieved by an individual through their own eyes. This is a birds-eye view, or a view of a site taken from directly overhead. Aerial photographs taken by airplanes or satellites can be downloaded as image files and manipulated in the various programs that are part of this tutorial.

Your abstract approach using the computer can begin here by learning how to download aerial photographs and view them in ArcMap.