With a digital camera, a CAD program, and an image editor, you can show your clients their "finished project."
With a digital camera, a CAD program, and an image editor, you can show your clients their "finished project."

What if there was a way to show your prospects a picture of their project before you bid it? All it takes is a digital photo, an inexpensive 3D CAD program like 3D Home Architect ($40, www.broderbund.com), and a good image editor like Paint Shop Pro ($99, www.jasc.com). Here's how you do it:

Get the image. Use a digital camera or camcorder. If you don't have one, your lab can take regular film and make a disk of digital images. Or, use a desktop scanner to convert a paper photo into a digital image.

Draw the addition. 3D Home Architect is point-and-click simple, but it is powerful enough to create a basic model of most projects. Spin the 3D model by eye to match the existing photo's angle.

Put the pieces together. Use Paint Shop Pro to take a screen shot of your CAD model, then combine the images on screen. Paint Shop Pro can adjust sizes, fill in missing features, and add notes.

--Joe Stoddard is a technology consultant to the construction industry, stoddard@cbczine.com.