Category Archives: Surfaces

New Surface from Internal Settings

Getting a surface image or color to render out properly can be difficult due to the number of variables that need to be managed. I have gone through a basic exercise to explore 4 different surface settings for reflection to compare results on surface color in Open GL and CineRender views. The surfaces I generated are a basic medium gray and a bone white surface with varied reflection and emission settings.

For the purposes of this exercise, I have eliminated all Transparency and Emission variables, and only made adjustments to the Reflection and Glowing Settings. By playing with the Specular Color, you can further adjust the hue of the CineRender view.


Matte Settings


Semi-Gloss Settings


High Gloss Settings


Mirror Settings

Note that the final color of the rendered view is impacted to varying degrees based on the reflection settings. Further adjustments can also impact the color, intensity, reflectivity of the surfaces include: Lamp Settings and location and hue, Rendering Engine preset, Rendering Sky Preset, and Surface Color.


Open GL View


CineRender Outdoor Daylight Medium + Lamps 50%

Custom Surfaces for CineRender

There are quite a few resources for ready made CineRender compatible surfaces. We have 2 catalogues of surfaces in our library folders. If you want to develop a new surface from scratch, you need to duplicate an existing surface, or create a new surface from the Library Catalogs and then edit it. In this exercise, we will be duplicating our basic massing surface to create a new stone surface.


Fig 1.0 Creating New Surfaces

Once the surface has been created by duplicating a previous surface it can be manipulated and edited to include the correct image and render out properly in CineRender, ARCHICAD’s 3D window, and BIMx.


Fig 2.0 New “Duplicated” Surface

The first thing to do after creating the surface is to apply a Surface Texture. This can be an image from our Arroway texture catalog (FS01 > WW AC Library > 01 Arroway Textures), or from a custom photoshopped image. For this example, I am using an Arroway image and its corresponding bump map image (for the CineRender settings).

After the Surface Texture is applied, you can start to play with the scale, light settings, and transparency. For solid surfaces, transparency should always be set to 0. Emission Attenuation is not completely relevant, unless you are applying an Emission Color to the surface. This can be a very helpful effect if you want to alter the color of a surface, just be aware that the surface is actually emitting a color with this setting. Below are some examples of various Emission Color Settings. Note that, in order to get the surface to match the original image, the Emission Color should be black, or as dark as possible.

For this Surface, we are simply going to leave the Emission Color Black with no Attenuation. With a black Emission, you will get a solid black surface until you apply Reflection and Glowing Settings. After years of trial and error, I have found that the ideal Reflection Settings for semi-matte surfaces are:

  • Ambient = 75-85
  • Diffuse = 75-87
  • Shininess = 8-15
  • Specular Glowing = 0-12

Lastly, if you have a bump map image for the surface, make sure you check Bump Mapping under Alpha Channel Effects. This will define a bump map option in the CineRender settings when matched to the Internal Engine. A bump map image is easy to generate in photoshop with the threshold filter. Keep in mind that the lightest parts of the map are the closest, or the “bumps”; and the darker portions are the recesses.

From here, lets just switch over to the CineRender settings and match. Simply click Match Settings… and choose Update CineRender Settings (from Internal).

Match Settings_Cinerender

Fig 5.1 CineRender Settings

Match_update CineRender

Fig 5.2 Match CineRender from Internal Settings

From here, you can go to the Bump map tab, and change the image to the correct black and white bump map from the Arroway Catalogue, or one that you have created for a custom surface. The Bump Map and the main image file need to align perfectly and be saved at the same size and resolution.

You can check that they are both being aligned and resized properly in the Size tab of the CineRender Settings. You can click on the more Info “…” to the right of the line that reads Use Image Proportion:

Apply Bump_Surf Images

Fig 6.0 Surface Sizes used in CineRender Settings

You can quickly adjust and test the intensity of the bump map by doing quick “outdoor daylight” renderings of a single element or surface. With a little luck and lots of trial and error, you can come up with a surface that maps out correctly and looks good in all views and formats it will be used in!


Fig 7.0 Rendered Stone Surface


Missing Fills

Missing surfaces come up frequently, since they are most obvious when looking at the model. But any missing attributes can cause problems. Missing fills can cause issues with library parts not reading properly, and can cause files to slow down.

Fills are also a sub-attribute to surfaces for elevations, sections, and interior elevations. This can be a problem, since the missing fill can often be represented by an undesired fill surface fill in the elevation view. In example below, the fill that went missing was a surface fill for a tub filler. It was supposed to be a simple screened fill, but had been replaced with a really complicated detail fill, as the default “next closest fill number”.

Surface Missing Fill

Surface has Missing Vectorial Hatching (Surface Fill)



The PDF Generated with an Incorrect Fill is 285 MB



Once the Surface Vectorial Hatching is Corrected, the PDF is 42KB

Apply to All – Edge Settings

If you have adjusted edge surfaces of a slab or roof and want to make them uniform, there is an apply to all check box in the element selection settings. This option is also available for morphs using multiple surfaces on a single element. The check box is at the bottom of the element selection settings (Com + T on most work environments), and appears when you change a surface type for an element using multiple surfaces.

Screen Shot 2016-04-05 at 10.24.08 AM

There is an indication that multiple surfaces have been used for a specific surface override shown as a yellow/red square stack to the left of the override setting.

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For some, this may be getting ahead a bit. If you are unfamiliar with editing individual faces of a morph, slab or roof here are the methods for each:

  • For Morph Elements, hold Cntrl + Shift and click on a morph face(s). Then open the selection settings (Com + T) and edit the surface. If a morph face is already using a desired surface you can use the pick up & inject parameter functions to “eye dropper” surface settings to individual morph faces.
  • For slab and roof settings simply click on the edge of the reference plane and select the top right icon on the pet palette, or the “Custom Edge Settings” button.

Screen Shot 2016-04-05 at 10.14.18 AM

Depending on wether the edge is part of a roof or slab, you will get different options in the resulting dialogue, but the surface adjustments are available for both:

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Surface Mis-Alignment

If you ever run into a situation where a surface, running across multiple elements, looks correct in 3d, but is misaligned in elevation, the problem may be due to the wall or beams direction. We ran into this recently on a project that, despite all the efforts to align surfaces in 3d, change surface settings, surface fill settings, or even redo portions of the model, the surfaces did not clean up correctly in elevation.

Screen Shot 2015-11-02 at 8.39.16 AM

Fig. 1.0 Misaligned Walls In Elevation

This was a difficult one to duplicate, since the align surface command works for most surfaces and conditions. But in this particular case the wall was a bit of a jig saw puzzle and alignment was always slightly off. The issue was the walls orientation, or direction, and not the surface settings. Ideally walls should be drawn in the same direction when they abut. To check the direction of the reference line of a placed wall go to View > On-Screen View Options > Walls & Beams Reference Lines. This will show the location and orientation of the wall or beam in a floor plan view.

Screen Shot 2015-11-02 at 8.37.54 AM

Fig. 1.1 Wall Reference Lines Direction/Orientation In Plan

This is not something I recommend checking for, but rather keep it in the back of your mind for when you find a tricky elevation that does not seem to align properly despite all the align surface attempts. The fix is to simply mirror the wall from its center point perpendicular to the reference line in order to get the correct or matching direction of the walls below or adjacent to it.