iScape: A Fun Way to Try a New Look for Your Yard
Got a yard that needs landscaping but no idea what to do? iScape, a $4.99 app available at the Apple App Store, will help you put your vision into action. Don't expect professional results, but if you just want to try out a few ideas, this app for iPhone and iPad can get you going in the right direction.
09/18/12 5:00 AM PT
One of my favorite boredom killers is to plan out a new yard for my house. Every couple of weeks, I build a picture in my head of what my improved yard will look like: Lush green grass, maybe a nice shady tree with a bench under it, or perhaps a peeing cherub water feature.
So when it came time to stop dreaming and start planning for real, I thought I'd go looking for an iPad app that would help put my mental vision into a more tangible format. I went to the app store and searched for "landscape design" and found iScape. At first I tried the free version just to get a feel for it, then moved up to the paid version, which has a multitude more options.
Really a Photo Editor
This app acts a little like a stripped-down version of Photoshop, with landscape elements available to insert into a photo you take of whatever piece of land you want to redesign. There are individual elements such as trees, shrubs, flowers and sculptures; and then there is a palette of textures such as grass, mulch or gravel.
The textures are used to fill in an area you trace with a pen tool, while the elements can be placed, sized and rotated.
To use it, you can either take a photo right from the app or choose one from your photo library. In my case, since I have a camera-less iPad 1, I had to import my photos from iPhoto first. Not the end of the world, just a reminder to myself (and my wife) that an iPad upgrade needs to happen soon.
A Few Hangups
OK then, time to get started. I open the photo, outline the lawn -- which I want to replace with grass that's actually green -- and, wait, what? I need to download all of the textures first? A few minutes later, and that's all done. Now to place an element.
Oops. You have to download those too. It's a good thing I'm doing this over WiFi, otherwise I just blew through my data plan.
Once everything's loaded into the database, you can choose from an assortment of elements. Add a fence, a tree, even a fountain. While the image database does in fact contain a cherub fountain, the water pours from urns rather than from the cherubs themselves. Alas. I guess they had to keep it classy.
Once you place an item, double-tap on it to bring up an action menu that allows you to further scale the item, flip it, duplicate it, move it to the front layer, lock it or delete it.
Overall, there is a broad but not exhaustive selection of items from which to choose. It's enough to get an idea of what your landscaped yard might look like, but not quite enough to give you that artist's-rendering look.
The app supports 14 different languages and is designed for both iPhone and iPad. The iPhone version is nearly identical to the iPad version, only smaller. My initial fear was that the iPhone version would be a step above worthless because of the smaller screen, but it works just fine for trying out new ideas. If you only have an iPhone, I'm not sure it would be worth it to buy the full-featured app, but if you have both devices, it's nice to have it on the phone as well as the tablet.