Category Archives: Drafting

Pen 0 and Pen -1

Pen 0 and Pen -1 have specific functions, as background pens for fills; to show transparent or solid white but matches the background (regardless of work environment customization of the background color).

These pens can be a bit dangerous if applied to anything but the background pen of a fill or cut element.

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In the case of a file audited this morning, there were over 500 3d elements using Pen -1 as the foreground and, in some cases, the contour pen of model elements. This resulted in a file prone to crashes, and lengthy error warning cycles.

I was able to fix these by using a combination of the element ID manager and the Find and Select tool. Read about that here.

In the end, it is best to avoid pens -1 and 0 whenever possible. Pen -1 should be replaced in your workflow habits with pen 91 or 51. Those pens are always white for all pen sets. In many cases, especially with drafting and cover fills, pen 0 is unavoidable, but should still be used carefully, so as to not apply it to anything other than background pen settings.


Find and Select – Selected & Editable

Find and Select is one of the coolest tools in ARCHICAD, if used correctly. You can read more about it here.

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One really cool feature of the find and select palette has been proving to be incredibly useful recently though. I have been doing some line work clean up for DWG export from work sheets. Using a series of stored step by step find and select criteria, I have been able to consolidate line work, fills, convert to pLines, and more; with incredible efficiency. I can also preview the clean up process efficiency right in the F&S palette; so when I run a line consolidation, I can see how many lines I have before unifying into polylines, or how many fills I have before and after consolidation.

TheĀ Selected/Editable indicator also gives an idea of elements locked or not reserved, which makes the clean up more effective; as it helps avoid running a line work consolidation with elements that can not be modified.

It’s a small thing, but a huge indicator in terms of cleanness of the final output.

3d Lines & Drafting

Our BIM Manual has a description of what we model, when we model elements, and why we model them. The third element, the “why”, is one of the most important parts of managing a high quality model, and producing accurate and well coordinated documents from that model.

With this in mind, a lot of our project teams have been pushing the boundaries of even the most basic drafting elements. One example of this is in site models & plans, specifically property lines and setbacks. Intuitively, it makes sense to use polylines or even fills for this. Thinking outside the box however, it makes more sense to use a 3d element, such as a grid or a morph.



Using a 3d solution allows you to coordinate the property & setback lines on all (or select) stories simultaneously with fewer elements. It also allows coordination of the building in 3d. Since our final CD Site Plans are typically drafted anyway, this is largely a process and 3d solution. But using a morph does allow for boundary line type & pen control, so it can also be incorporated into the final documents.

Interesting Composite Glitch

This is an interesting glitch we ran into today in a migrated project (started in AC16, now in AC20). The file runs pretty well for having passed through so many versions of AC, but there is an interesting error in the composites, one that I was able to replicate to some degree even in AC21 (non-migrated file).

If a composites skin separator is set to “off”, it may appear correct in the plan view (view map or project map), but show with remnants of the skin separator in the drawing (view placed to a layout).

Screen Shot 2017-09-14 at 6.29.07 PM

In the image above, the line selected is deselected, and even though the pen is set to “21”, which is a white skin separator pen in our template, the glitch occurs.

Screen Shot 2017-09-14 at 6.29.21 PM

As you can see above, the composite shows correctly with no skin separators.

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However, once placed onto a layout, the skin separator shows in places. Some composites, depending on skin settings and line/pen types, show up.

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However, by turning the skin separator “on”, as in the image above, and setting all hidden separators to pen 21/41/61 (depending on composite type), we can achieve the desired results, as seen in the image of the placed drawing below.

Screen Shot 2017-09-14 at 6.31.30 PM

Gradient Fills!

Dan has done something interesting with his exterior elevations. The elevations are too long for the layout. Typically we have a break line/match line for buildings like this. The break line on this project has one added unique feature.


Full Elevation with Break

the elevation beyond the break line has an added fill, using a gradient fill instead of a basic white masking fill.


Selected Gradient Fill

This gives the elevation a gradual “disappearing” at the break line.


Enlarged Gradient Fill

Roof Wall Connections

I feel like I have written this all somewhere before, but it begs repeating. Roof wall connections can be tricky, and solid element operations are not always the answer. In this example, we have an eave bearing wall running perpendicular to the roof slope.

The original model was built using SEO’s. This created a section error, showing the ceiling finish running through the wall structure:


Also, notice the selected wall is taller than it should be, running above the roof plan. This wall height should be modeled to stop at the highest intersection of the bottom of the roof core. Then the roof and wall, while both selected, can be cleaned up with the Merge function (Design > Connect > Merge, or Right Click > Connect > Merge).


The result is a properly cleaned up section view!

Info Box Content

The Info Box is an instrumental palette to the ARCHICAD work environment. There is content in the Info Box that is difficult, if not impossible to adjust anywhere else. A large function of this palette is to give an easy access to each element’s Selection Settings. There are, however, a few items in the Info Box that are not available in the Settings Dialogue. These are the Geometry and Construction Method settings. A handful of element types have these incorporated into the settings dialogue, such as the Geometry Method for the Shell Tool. The Shell Tool has an additional Construction Method that is only available in the Info Box.

The Info Box for all available tools with Palette only content:

The geometry method is useful for a wide range of functions. Wether it is drawing 4 walls with a simply x/y input, setting a shell to rotate a given shape rather than just a dome or arc, or setting your labels to place more precisely with a three point click instead of a simple click and drop in place; the Geometry and Construction method settings only available in the Info Box will help model more quickly and precisely.