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How to insert trees in AutoCAD (with Opacity Map)

If you are looking for a way on how to insert trees in AutoCAD, let me tell you that the best way I know to make this is by creating a new material that uses a normal image and its respective opacity map, also known as alpha channel in the 3D World.

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While AutoCAD can display transparent images easily, the method of simply inserting the image in the drawing is not recommended if you are working in 3D, because you will notice a bad square shadow in the tree, in the rendered image. And that’s not a good thing for your portfolio, right?

So, if you want real tree shadows in the render, you need to tell AutoCAD how the shape of the tree is built, and here is where the opacity map comes into scene.

To follow this tutorial correctly, you need to have at hand the image’s normal and opacity map, as you can see at the image below:

How to insert trees in AutoCAD

If you have not these things right now, don’t worry, at the end of this post you will find the Resources section; in there, you will find a tutorial on how to create the opacity map of an image, step by step.

Step 1. Workspace must be in “3D Modeling”. If it not, click in the Workspace Switching button at the lower-right corner of the screen and change it.

Start by creating a new planar surface. Click in the Surface tab in the Ribbon, and then in Planar. Click in any part of the screen to start the surface, and then, move the mouse down and click until you see the size of the surface matching your tree’s proportions. It doesn’t need to be accurate.

After this, we’ve got a big surface in the drawing area, similar to the one in the image below:

How to insert trees in AutoCAD

Step 2. Click in the Visual Style Controls (look at the blue arrow in the image above) and select Realistic.

Step 3. In the Visualize tab, Materials section, click in the Materials Browser icon.

In the first section of this window, select the Global material, right click, Duplicate. Name it whatever you want and hit Enter.

Step 4. Adjust in some way the Materials Browser window so you can see both, the surface and the Materials Browser, at the same time in the screen.

Select the new material, right click, Edit, and wait for the material to load.

In “Generic”, click in the white rectangle beside “Image”. Look for and open your tree’s normal image, the one with the white background.

In this moment you must be seeing part of the tree in the image’s rectangle.

Close the materials editor momentarily and drag the material to the tree’s surface.

The tree must be in the surface. If you see nothing, don’t worry, we only need to scale correctly the material.

Step 5. Select the material, right click, Edit, and click in the tree’s image in “Generic”. In this window, find the “Repeat” section at the bottom and change the value for “Horizontal” and “Vertical” to “None”.

In “Scale”, unlock the aspect radio button, so you can modify the image’s dimensions freely. (Look for the chain icon at the right side of this section).

Modify “Width” and “Height” values until you find the right combination for your tree. Close the Texture Editor when you finish.

Step 6. Still in the Materials Editor, activate “Cutouts” by making click in the little square beside this section. Look for and open the tree’s opacity map, the one with the black background.

In the “Texture Editor” do exactly the same you did with the normal map. Deactivate “Tile” in “Repeat” and give it the same dimensions in “Scale”.

You can close all the windows now. The material is finished. In my case, this is my tree. What about yours?

How to insert trees in AutoCAD

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