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Week #10 – Using ArchiCAD’s Structure: Guiding Principles
10-1. Model Well in 3D to Draw Less in 2D

ArchiCAD Training (Best Practices Lesson 10-1)

This 35 minute lesson explores a variety of methods, settings and approaches to modeling to create clean, detailed elevations and sections.

When elements such as walls and slabs are stacked properly, ArchiCAD will not draw a line showing where one ends and the next one begins. The main requirements to get this result are:

  • The faces must have the same material
  • They must be co-planar – correctly aligned and snapped to be precisely in the same plane
  • The edges must meet cleanly, without any gaps or overlap

This works for “generic” elements such as walls, slabs, columns, beams and roofs. Note that many objects will draw their own edge lines regardless of positioning. However, some objects are “smart” enough to have a parameter or option to make certain edge lines disappear. A typical example is a cabinet which may show or hide the edge of the countertop to allow multiple cabinets appear to have a common top surface.

When the View menu > Onscreen View Options > True Line Weight is turned off so all lines are drawn as a hairline, it is easier to see the precise alignment of elements. However, to get the nicest looking drawings, from time to time it is important to inspect and adjust your drawing with true line weight turned on. One may need to change the settings of certain parts of elements; for example, in this lesson, the window sills were originally drawn with a heavy line, and were revised to make them thinner.

3D Vectorial Hatching is an option in the Elevation Settings > Model View that (when turned on) shows tiles, shingles or stonework etc. based on the surface materials. One may adjust which pen and therefore what thickness or weight these lines will be drawn with using settings in the Options menu > Element Attributes > Material > Vectorial Hatching dialog.

Modeling 3D elements in a more sophisticated manner can add more detail to the elevations and sections. Often this is done with complex profiles to show different materials and geometry (e.g. the walls with a stone base and stucco at the top; also the cornice under the balcony). In the Start Edition, since it does not allow complex profiles, one can create custom objects with a complex shape to partially work around this limitation.

Solid Element Operations (SEO) are often used to add more geometric detail or clean up connections or relationships between elements. For example, the ornate rafter tails are modeled using a simple object (as created by the Roof Framing wizard), then cut using an SEO subtraction to create the sculptural end. Similarly, the stem wall and footing is modeled with a complex profile, then this is subtracted out of the terrain mesh using an SEO.

In a section, framing may be shown using 3D elements or with 2D objects (built-in to the library or created as Patches) or simple linework. Both 3D and 2D methods may be used in the same drawing, based on your preference and level of skill. 3D approaches to framing generally are a bit more complex, but often save time when done right.

The lesson closes with an examination of some extremely detailed complex wall profiles that are provided as working examples in MasterTemplate. These walls are built with framing as well as extra details such as waterproofing. They require only a bare minimum of 2D drawing to create good-looking longitudinal sections or enlarged wall sections.

Please post your comments and questions below.


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
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ArchiCAD Training: Model Well in 3D to Draw Less in 2D

Let us know how you feel... (6 comments so far)

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  1. Graham Hobbs
    5 years ago

    In the sample house I built in the QS course I have not been able to show the material fill pattern in the Elevation view as in this lesson. In the similar IMT sample house, I can change the Elevation setting to show or not show the fill. In the QS sample house I have selected for the external face of the wall a material which has a vectoral fill in its definition (both Wd Siding Light and Brick – Common Bond). They show in the 3D window with colour and fill pattern. In the Elevation Settings, I have turned on Vectoral 3D Hatching for Uncut elements, but still do not see the fill pattern on the Elevation after rebuild. I have also checked and changed pens in both the Material definition and in the Wall settings.

  2. JohnWalker
    5 years ago

    The lesson confirmed much of what I already knew since I have relied heavily on custom profiles and solid element operations to improve modeling and sections. Do the schedules that calculate material quantities deduct for solid element operations or is that merely a graphic sleight-of-hand for visual appearance?

  3. RossCahill-OBrien
    5 years ago

    very good eric
    I will have to go back over some of the earlier lessons now that I can appreciate them more having done the quick start course. i might have more questions for you later but that was good and so important as i can see that it nearly is more difficult to make nice 2d drawings then 3d ones using archicad. seems to be strange but true. chat soon , yours Ross

    • Eric Bobrow
      5 years ago

      Ross –
      I’m glad to know the QuickStart Course has made some important things more clear to you. Re your comment about 3D being easier than 2D in ArchiCAD – well, I’m not sure if that’s really true – but (obviously) I do feel that modeling something in 3D properly gives you greater benefits than representing the same thing in 2D in multiple drawings.

  4. ChristopherEllis
    5 years ago

    Very interesting. I’ve tried very hard to model everything in 3D and thus create sections that need very little 2D work. 2D has the nasty habit of being wrong if anything changes in the model, so with 3D effort, errors are reduced, but more “up front” time is involved, but later work is vastly reduced.

    I’m looking forward to more lessons on complex profiles and patches. Thanks !
    Chris Ellis

    • Eric Bobrow
      5 years ago

      Chris –
      It sounds like you make a real effort to do things the right way!
      (I’m not surprised…)