Project Conceptualization

Everyone has their own skills, and weaknesses where it comes to conceptualizing a project. Some people can look at a CAD drawing, and are able to visualize the resulting project without any further clues. Others like to look at existing, similar objects, and picture them in the available space. Others again are excellent at creating the object, but cannot previsualise it before they begin, and thus, really struggle to start a new project, unless there are plans, and hopefully a drawing or photograph of the intended result.

The problem that I have is not visualizing the result, but convincing others that the idea is valid. With my background, I am quite comfortable with sketches (dimensioned or otherwise), creating &/or reading CAD drawings, or visualizing adaptions to existing objects. To pass on what I ‘see’, I have been using computer graphics to simulate the result as a photo-realistic representation. I’m not trying for perfection with the photoshopping – only enough to get the concept across, without spending hours and hours getting every last artifact, proportion and perspective locked down.

One project (the Entertainment Unit – to be featured in a future article/podcast) included using Photoshop to simulate the Unit in place in the room, allowing decisions about the final size, and appropriate colour of the finish to use, before a single cent was spent on materials.


I have used the same technique to work out designs for concreting around the home, both location, colour and texture (and also choosing between concrete and various crushed rock paths).


One other project was simulating the effect of adding a carport to an existing home, which went a long way towards helping the owners decide whether to proceed with the project, before paying a cent to a builder or architect.

The project detailed here is for a picket fence that I built for my home. As you will see, the before and after shots are quite dramatic, particularly when you consider that this shows the completed project again before any materials are purchased!


Photo 1 is as the front yard actually was at the time of planning a front fence. The plastic bags are not typical décor! I was attempting to grow grass at the time (just before the implementation of water restrictions….the results were as expected!)

The next 4 photos show the digital development of the scene, leading to the final design.


Photo 2 & 3 Removal of all unwanted details and addition of grassed areas
Photo 4 Addition of paving and hedge edging
Photo 5 The finished simulation of the front fence
The completed, as constructed results.


Photo 6 The finished (real) fence
Photo 7 The final garden, paths and fence

There were a number of benefits to using this method. It helped determining colour, and height of the fence, and the final design. It made construction (and material purchasing) much easier as well, as I had an excellent idea of what I was working towards.

3 Responses

  1. That’s really nice to see the end result before to begin :)!
    I have a simple question, but not directly related to the subject: what kind of CAD software are commonly used by woodworker? Autocad? SolidWorks? any wood-specific software to recommend? any free tools? … sorry, too much question 😉
    Thanks for your blog!

  2. Thanks for the feedback!
    Never too many questions 🙂

    AutoCAD is an excellent program, but unless you are making a lot of money from woodworking, and particularly are writing woodworking books, or selling plans, the cost of AutoCAD is very prohibitive.

    The one that I know a lot use, and is free, is Google Sketchup. It works in 3D, so trying to interpret orthographic drawings can be left to the engineers – you get to see what you want to construct in 3D space – revolve it around, peer underneath etc.

    Quick to learn, and you can easily output some images for clients.

    Save the few $thousand for AutoCAD for more woodworking tools! ($A6700 for the full version) Looking at SolidWorks’ website (I hadn’t come across it before), and I’d put it in the same ballpark as AutoCAD – immensely powerful, and again, like using an Abrams Tank to kill an ant!

  3. […] AutoCad, SolidWorks or Pro-Engineer) and to 3D immersive environment, I was really interested by this blogpost about project conceptualization. From there I looked for free 3D CAD softwares and tested few […]

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