Tag Archives: Drafting

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.

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

Drawing Complicated Polygons

It often happens that you end up drawing a complicated polygon element with multiple different nodes independent or snapped to other elements. For example, you may be drawing a floor or ceiling plan with the slab tool, snapping to the face of framing. It usually happens that at least one node of the slab ends up snapped to an incorrect point of the wall.

In most cases, I just keep moving and come back and adjust that node after the geometry is fully placed. If it is one of the first nodes of the polygon, I have even just canceled the operation and started over.

But as is the case with ARCHICAD, there is always a better way!


To cancel the last placed node of any polygon element (Slab, Fill, Polyline, Line, Spline, Wall, Beam, Roof, Mesh, Shell and some Objects), you only need to hit the delete key once.


Typing the delete key can be repeated to cancel each previous nodes all the way back to the first placed node. Just keep in mind the minor efficiencies that need to be managed. If you end up undoing multiple nodes just to fix one node, it may be faster just to move on and adjust or hit esc and start over.

New HVAC Library Symbol

A note to Model Managers & Job Captains; our library has a new object that will replace several non-dynamic drafting symbols. The new object is dynamically resizable, and retains a constant arrow size. It has separate pens for the symbol and for the arrowhead, and includes all supply & return symbols. The old symbols will be excluded from the WWA Library 20, so if you have not started adding register symbols to your RCP and Floor Finish plans, use this new symbol instead. If your plans already include the previous 6 symbols, we will create an archive library or load them into your embedded library when the time comes to move into the next version of AC (just look forward 6 or 7 months).

Screen Shot 2016-02-01 at 5.50.27 PM

This single object may develop into a 3d/2d combined object, with controls to turn the 3d component off. For now it is a more versatile version of the collection of 6 mechanical symbols already used in most of our projects.

ARCHICAD 19 New Feature- Snap Reference, Snap Guides, Guide Lines

One of the more complicated (but useful) features of ARCHICAD 19 is the new snap & guide line features. The complexity and and subtle nuances of this feature are evident by the number of videos ARCHICAD has produced to explain them. Below is the first of 26 videos. If you go to the play list in youtube and watch only one, make it video #21 on the list.

There are three basic naming conventions to start to understand these new features; Snap Reference, Snap Guide, and Guide Lines.

Snap References are any point, line or arc used to define a snap guide. These can be manually placed by hovering over a point or vector for 1 second, then waiting 5 milliseconds for the point or line to be defined. These times are predefined by ARCHICAD’s settings.

Snap Guides are the on screen elements most difficult to understand or get accustomed to using. These can seem to clutter your screen, but a few tips will help understand how to properly leverage snap guides to greatly improve modeling and drafting efficiency.

  • First any element  you are editing or creating is going to use all vectors and points as a potential snap reference, this can really clutter the screen for complicated polygons.
  • Second, any snap reference will only show up to two snap guides at a time, so setting more snap references is going to potentially clutter the screen substantially more.
  • Third, the basic direction (x,y,z) and angle divisions, as well as any perpendicular, parallel, bisecting or tangential vectors of a snap reference will be available as snap guides. Getting accustomed to properly using snap guides will improve modeling and drafting speed.
  • Fourth, snap guides can be locked to (more like the previous versions Guide Line feature) or extended with the right click functions pin guide and lock to guide

Screen Shot 2015-07-17 at 12.08.24 PM

Guide Lines can be placed as a permanent reference that need to manually cleared. To place a guide line select and drag the guide line bar at the edge of the open view to the line or arc to be used as a guide line. These start to drag from the edge of the screen as orthogonal to the window, but can be placed to any angle or arc in the x,y,z directions. To remove a single guide line right click on it and erase it, or you can right click and select clear all guide lines. Guide lines are semi-permanent; they will remain on the window, even after closing a teamwork session. Only after clearing all guide lines or completely leaving the teamwork project will guide lines be cleared. Guide lines are also specific to each view type, and will remain placed even after closing or switching views.

Work Environment adjustments should be made to encourage guidelines to be effective and efficient when needed and not cluttered when not needed. I have added two short cuts to avoid this:

Screen Shot 2015-07-17 at 11.56.35 AM

In the work environment > keyboard shortcut settings sort by new features in alphabetical order to get access to Snap Guides and Snap Guides and Points. I have added a shortcut for each to be Ctrl + S and Ctrl + Opt + S respectively. These do not override any default ARCHICAD shortcuts, and most likely will not interfere with your personalized shortcut scheme. Note that if you turn off snap guides and points you will loose the cluttered looking view from above and you will not be able to snap or lock to a reference angle or axis (x,y,z, 45º, etc.), but you will be able to click on an existing vector or node to snap to.

Screen Shot 2015-07-17 at 12.00.37 PM

Exploding PDF’s!

As many are aware, one of the new features to ArchiCAD 18 was the “explode PDF” function. This became very useful this morning in streamlining the creation of manufacturer specific details and components. The product cut sheet was from Hafele, and the linework on the sheet seemed to have originated from a vector file (essential for conversion from PDF back to linework; exploding a pdf that is all point/pixel images will result in no content or image files only).Screen Shot 2015-05-28 at 9.04.31 AM

Simply drop the PDF onto any ArchiCAD 18 window, right click and select “Explode into Current View”. The ArchiCAD default short cut for this is command + =, or the function is available from the edit > reshape drop down.Screen Shot 2015-05-28 at 9.04.41 AM

The next window gives options for incorporated the images layers, line types, fill types, applying uniform fonts and pens, etc. In most cases I uncheck the “Keep Original Elements After Exploding” box.Screen Shot 2015-05-28 at 9.04.50 AM

The result is a series of figures, lines, fills, polylines, text boxes (for recognized fonts), and other editable elements.Screen Shot 2015-05-28 at 9.05.00 AM

A quick clean up of the un-needed elements and a consolidation of linework and fills results in a ready to use detail from a manufacturers cut sheet.Screen Shot 2015-05-28 at 9.05.49 AM Screen Shot 2015-05-28 at 9.05.58 AM

Also worth noting is the easy transition of this linework into a more consolidated and easy to populate GSM object file. In the case of this Hafele drawing, it will only appear in one drawing for one project, but if the product is used widely throughout the project or on multiple projects GDL is always better than fragmented lines and fills.

Last of all, this feature is only available for AC18 and later. If you need to explode a pdf for an AC17 project you can explode it in a separate AC18 pln file and save as an ArchiCAD17 Project for copy and paste.

Spline Leaders & On-Screen View Options

Using the spline tool as a leader for dimension text offset or as an arrow for annotation on details, sections, elevations, interior elevations, or plan elements can be an effective method if used properly. If used improperly it creates a nuisance to clean up later. The spline should start from the text box in a horizontal direction, not angled up or down; from here it can make one or more bends to get to the arrow head that the text is associated with.

Below is an example of what the text/spline relationship should NOT look like:

Bad SplinesNotice the splines arc or angle directly from the text box. To correct this go to the View drop down > On-Screen View Options > Spline Handles:

On-Screen View Options

This will turn on the spline handles as a non-print (view only) element. Drag the handles to start directly horizontal from the spline origin at the text:

Correct SplinesThese handles are available without the on-screen view options set to show spline handles, but they will only be visible/accessible if the spline is selected and will show as a faint green editing handle.


To ensure that splines are tangential when first placed set your spline options to “Natural” in the spline or info box settings. The following examples were all traced from the same 6 points, but only the Natural setting creates a consistently tangential curve:

Screen Shot 2015-05-27 at 10.13.52 AM

Drafting Aids- Cursor Snap Variant

This one may become obsolete once AC19 is released, there are some really cool looking guide-line features and additions being implemented with the new version. In the mean time, this may be helpful for anyone working on details or SD models with buildings at varied angles.

The cursor snap variant options are only adjustable after you start drawing an element (2d or 3d), and while holding shift to lock to a specific axis. The selected cursor snap variant will be applied for all elements in all views until it is changed.

The default snap variant is perpendicular, but at times I find it helpful to change to vertical or horizontal when moving elements to associate between two different angles. It can be a quicker/easier solution than trying to set up hotspots, temporary guide line, or line/polyline place holders to move or place elements.

In the video notice the light dashed extension direction from the line end to the cursor location, and how the orientation changes with each variant.