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ArchiCAD Basic Training – Module 3
3-1. Drawing Exterior Walls, Entering Dimensions from a Drawing

ArchiCAD Training –  (Quick Start Course – 3-1)

This 21 minute video lesson starts the process of developing an actual building, following the dimensional information from a drawing. There are two PDF files, one for USA users in feet and inches, and the other for International users with metric standards. Please open the appropriate PDF and print it out as a reference while you go through parts 1 and 2 of this module.

Your Downloads

You may need to right-click the following links and select Save Link As to download the file to your computer.

After ArchiCAD is started up, a New project is created using the standard template (use the one for your version of ArchiCAD) and default profile (this choice is set in the New Project dialog box, and affects menu setup and palette placement). After this file is opened and the profile is applied, your screen should look similar to what is shown (both USA and INT versions are demonstrated).

The wall tool is activated and dimensional information is set (6″ or 150mm thickness). The geometry method is switched to Polywall, so that multiple walls can be drawn in a continuous process, and the first set of walls is created using dimensions from the PDF drawing. Both USA and INT units are referred to for each step to make this easy to follow for all users. The lengths are confirmed using the Measure tool.

The rest of the building outline is created in a second series of input steps. This time there is a variation: one of the wall distances is set to line up with an existing element using a Guideline. The activation of guidelines is discussed both for ArchiCAD 15 (as shown onscreen) as well as ArchiCAD 10 through 14 (and Start Edition), as these are slightly different.

The building is viewed in 3D in perspective and axonometric views, then rotated using the orbit button.

The process of creating the building exterior walls is repeated using the INT version as a quick review, which also makes clear that these steps can be very quick when you know the actual distances you need to input.

TROUBLESHOOTING NOTES: If you make a mistake in entering one of the end-points of a series of walls (when drawing with the Polywall method), you may back up one step with the Backspace key (PC) or Delete key (Mac). You can actually go back as many steps as you need, then continue on from that point. If you want to start over entirely, use the Escape key, which will cancel the entire chain of walls. If you complete the series, but decide it’s not worth keeping (or simply want to practice doing it again), use the Undo command from the Edit menu (or Command-Z or CTRL-Z).

For best cleanup of wall intersections, make sure you connect the new wall you’re about to draw to the Reference Line of the existing wall you want to connect with. To see which side the reference line is for an existing wall, you can hover your mouse cursor over the edge of the wall on each side; on the reference line side, you’ll see a heavier Mercedes (three line symbol indicating you are on the edge), while on the other side, you’ll see a lighter Mercedes cursor symbol. Simply follow the reference line edge to the end of the wall, and when you see a heavy check-mark cursor, you can click to start your new wall.

As you start to draw your wall, you’ll see a ghost image with the “rubber-band line” attached to your cursor, and the thickness of the wall indicated with a lighter line (usually one side or the other, but perhaps it may be centered). If the wall image looks to be facing the wrong way for your needs, you may change the Construction Method in the Info Box from Left to Right or Centered while in the middle of drawing the wall; return your mouse to the drawing area and you will see the ghost preview image of the wall update to the new position.

Thank you for visiting the Best Practices Course website. The video lessons are available for members only. If you are an active member and would like to watch the ArchiCAD training video on this page, please login to the website. If you are not currently a member, please visit the following pages for more information and to sign up for the Best Practices Course, the QuickStart Course or for the Best Practices ArchiCAD Coaching Program. Eric Bobrow, Creator of the Best Practices Course

Your Downloads

You may need to right-click the following links and select Save Link As to download the file to your computer

Click here to see the transcript of this ArchiCAD training lesson...

ArchiCAD Training: Drawing Exterior Walls, Entering Dimensions from a Drawing

Let us know how you feel... (20 comments so far)

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  1. RobMeneses
    7 months ago

    Love the course Eric.

    Just a dimensioning question.

    We use millimetres on our projects, but for obvious reasons our contractor hates seeing dimensions like “1,271mm” on drawings.. It would be better that the would show as “1,270mm”

    Is there a way that AC can round up or down to the nearest 5mm or 10mm automatically? I know I can manually change individual dimensions but that can lead to errors later on if any of the walls or elements move.


    • Eric Bobrow
      7 months ago

      Rob – There are some options available in the Options menu > Project Preferences > Dimensions that can be adjusted in relation to the style of dimensions as well as the number of decimal places of accuracy. These are organized into named preferences such as Plain Meter, Plain Millimeter or DIN. I experimented a bit, and don’t see a way to get exactly what you’re looking for. DIN will show 1.27 rather than 1,270.

      DIN does have an option for rounding to the nearest 5 mm, so 1,271 would round to 1.27 and 1,276 would round to as 1.275 (with the 5 shown as a smaller numeral in a slightly raised superscript position). So this is almost what you’re asking for in terms of rounding. I tried customizing Plain Meter to have 2 decimal places plus extra accuracy of 5, and got a similar result; however I don’t see a way to customize Plain Millimeter.

      I suggest that you ask Graphisoft tech support if they have a suggestion, or post the question on ArchiCAD-Talk.

      • Eric Bobrow
        7 months ago

        Rob – One more thing…in general, I would recommend the Best Practice of defining the dimensions of the actual element precisely; for example, drawing the wall exactly 1,270mm in length (or placing a window or other element that precise distance from the measurement reference) so that these rounding issues are actually not seen. There are times that you can’t avoid this, of course, including when you place multiple elements evenly spaced and they work out to a somewhat odd distance from each other. However in general, most of the time these issues can be avoided by precise placement.

  2. DavidYuguchi
    2 years ago

    Nevermind, I realized you have to enter both feet and inches, then it works.


  3. DavidYuguchi
    2 years ago

    The box to set the wall thickness doesn’t seem to accept Inches (“), only feet (‘). So, if I type in 6″, the program changes it to 6’. My work around is to type in .5 and it changes that to 6”. Is this a glych? I think I will need to enter inches for thickness, not feet.

    So far, your tutorial has been very clear and helpful, but it really helps to be able to rewind to see each tool choice and use. Not always clear in your lecture is the option of using the drop down menus instead of the mouse actions (such as using Edit/Reshape/Adjust instead of the toolbar buttons).


    David Yuguchi
    ArchiCAD 19

  4. HoweiChan
    4 years ago

    Hi Eric. I enjoyed your live lesson on Morphs earlier today.
    Right now I am following along with this tutorial 3-1. At 3:10 you change the thickness of the wall from 9″ to 6″. I am using Archicad 17 and when I try to change the thickness of the wall using the structure “Wall EXTR Generic” from the default 8″ to 6″ Archicad would not let me change it. Is this something that happens because I am in Archicad 17 and not 15 as shown in the tutorial? I got around the problem by selecting the entire exterior wall and opening the Wall Selection Editing menu and changing the thickness to 6″. Is the Wall EXTR Generic always going to be 8″ thick?

    • Eric Bobrow
      3 years ago

      Howei –

      It sounds like you have a composite wall selected, rather than a mono-element wall. Composites are usually made of several skins and defined in the Options menu > Element Attributes > Composites. To change the thickness of a composite you need to change it there, rather than in the Info Box or the Wall Settings.

      Perhaps you may want to change to a mono-element or simple wall – this is done in the Info Box or Wall Settings dialog. Once you change to a simple wall, you will have a large choice of building materials, and also be able change the thickness directly.


  5. RoyGacus
    4 years ago

    hi eric! i tried to watch the quickstart course 3-1 video but cant view it and i already log-in..thanks

    • Eric Bobrow
      4 years ago

      Hi Roy –
      I checked and the video on this page had not been updated to give access for the new ArchiCAD Training Pass members. I have corrected this, and you should be able to watch the video now.

  6. SunderIsaac
    6 years ago

    It has been great so far I am a new user of ArchiCad and the course has been very clear and easy to follow.
    I am sure happy I invested in this course.


    • Eric Bobrow
      6 years ago

      Sunder –
      Thanks for your feedback.
      I’m delighted to read that you have found the course so clear and easy to follow!

    • Olof Bern Antonsson
      5 years ago

      I second that…

  7. MariyaLilith
    6 years ago

    Thanks for explaining the mercedes symbol and it’s relationship to the reference line; and that it’s necessary now to click on the corner point to get a reference line.


  8. TerryMartin
    6 years ago

    I saw someplace in the program that you can show walls as half log siding and I haven’t been able to find it again. Any ideas where to look?
    Also I’m now interested in purchasing your Master Template. How do I proceed?

    Terry Martin

    • Eric
      6 years ago

      Hi Terry –

      In the Wall Settings dialog, open up the Model panel, where you can set the materials for each side of the wall. You will see a “Log Details…” button, which opens up a dialog which allows you to set the height of each log (if it’s set to 0, there are no logs), and the style (one side only, both sides, etc.) and other variations.

      I’ll contact you personally to get you set up with MasterTemplate at the special $195 pricing reserved for members of the Best Practices Course.


  9. Eric
    6 years ago

    Terry –
    You need to select some walls first, then the command will be available. You can select all the walls (activate wall tool in the Toolbox, use Edit menu > Select All Walls command or CTRL-A / Command-A) or just certain ones that you want it to focus on.

    • TerryMartin
      6 years ago

      Thanks Eric

  10. TerryMartin
    6 years ago

    When I try to use the automatic dimensioning the Exterior and Interior automatic dimensioning are grayed out and I can’t activate them

    Terry Martin

  11. WEndy Grumet
    6 years ago

    I was drawing a new project using the master template and wanted to make a copy and paste it on the same page. I was doing multiple furniture plans of the same space. It kept pasting it directly on top of the existing drawing . I ended up having several copies on top of each other that had to be deleted. I finally made another version and opened it up in my old profile so that I could make copies. Any tips for this? When I do remodels, I do not want to have to make separate projects when I am trying to show optional solutions on the same plan.

    • Eric
      6 years ago

      Wendy –

      This is an interesting question. ArchiCAD does not have any built-in tools for managing different options or versions of a project.

      Generally, this is approached with the use of layers. If you’re working with furniture plans, you could create additional layers for furniture, and place the different versions each on a different layer. Then you’d also create additional layer combinations, starting with the Furniture Plan that exists in the template, and simply duplicating it and varying which furniture layer each one shows.

      Optional: create new View for each of these Layer Combinations to make it simpler to switch between them. You’ll definitely need to do this if you are going to print out these different versions as drawings on layout sheets.

      While we try to anticipate most parts of the project workflow directly in MasterTemplate, this is not one of the things we tried to handle. In part, it’s too complex to predict exactly what people will want to vary between schemes – in your case it’s furniture, in another case it might be the shell of the building or the interior partitions, or a combination of all of the above.

      Anyway, this question is perfect for a coaching call, so feel free to submit it when we have one of our calls and I’ll demonstrate some of the things I just wrote about here.