Views and Visualization

BIM for Architecture, Engineering, and Construction Curriculum


In this lesson, students explore the tools available in the Autodesk® Revit® software to create several types of common project views and specify the information that appears in them. Students will learn how to:

  • Create 2D views of their building model, such as plans, elevations, and sections—creating new views from scratch and duplicating existing views.
  • Create 3D views by duplicating and editing the default 3D orthographic view.
  • Customize the information presented in those views.

Creating Plan Views and Setting View Properties

When you create a new project, the Revit software automatically creates two types of plan views for each of the levels defined in the project template:

  • Floor plans, which look down on a level from a cutting plane above
  • Reflected ceiling plans, which look up to a level from a cutting plane below

While this initial set of views is typically sufficient to get started with your modeling, your views can get crowded and confusing as you add more elements and detail to the building model. Rather than trying to view all of the model information in a single view, it is typically a better practice to create many views of your model, each focusing on the types of information needed for a particular aspect of the design process.

You add new plan views by:

  • Using the Plan View tool to create a new floor plan, reflected ceiling plan, or area plan for any of the project levels
  • Duplicating an existing plan view and adjusting the properties of the new view

Creating additional views and customizing the information displayed does not change the underlying building model. All of the elements are still available in the model (regardless of visibility) and will be affected by changes made in any view.

You can set the properties of any view to precisely control how the elements in your building model will be displayed. You choose these settings by selecting a view in the Project Browser, then adjusting the view properties in the Properties palette.

The view properties vary slightly depending on the type of view, but the options available typically allow you to set:

  • View range—the location of cutting plane (the imaginary plane that cuts through your building model to create the 2D view) as well as the depth beyond and in front of the cutting place to display in the view.
  • Cropping—the crop region that limits the portion of the model that will be visible. Elements outside of the crop region are hidden in the view.
  • Scale—the relationship between the size at which elements appear in printed views and their actual size. The scale also affects relative size of text annotations and dimensions that appear in the view.
  • Level of detail—the amount of detail to show for the model elements. This setting ranges from Coarse (which displays simplified representations) to Fine (which displays the full detail).
  • Underlay—another level that can be displayed to assist with tracing or aligning elements between levels.

You can use plan regions to adjust the view range settings used for specific areas in a plan view. This is useful when elements are not being displayed, because they are located outside the view range (for example, clerestory windows, which are located high on a wall above the cutting plane of a view) or on slightly offset levels (for example, floors in a split-level house).

Creating Elevation and Section Views

When you create a new project, the Revit software creates four elevation views named North, East, South, and West. These names describe the orientation of the elevation view relative to project north.

As you progress with your design and modeling, you will typically need to create additional elevation views and section views to focus on specific aspects of the project. You do this by:

  • Using the Elevation tool to place an elevation tag that establishes the location and direction of the new elevation views.
  • Using the Section tool to place a section line that determines the location of the cut plane and direction of the new section view.
  • Duplicating an existing elevation or sections view.

Like plan view, you can set visibility graphics overrides and adjust the view properties to set the crop boundaries, view scale, level of detail, and visibility of model elements.

Creating 3D Views

You can create two types of 3D views in Revit:

  • Default 3D views, which are orthogonal projections of the building model elements. In these views, the appearance of the model elements is not affected by their distance from your viewpoint. Orthogonal views are used when accurately representing the size of objects is important. They can depict views from the ground level, but they are typically used to present bird’s-eye views.
  • Perspective views, which use a camera metaphor to create a perspective projection. In these views, the appearance of the model elements is affected by distance. Objects that are near the viewpoint appear larger, while objects in the distance appear smaller. Perspective views are used when having a realistic understanding of how the design will be perceived by nearby viewers is important. They are often used to create interior or exterior renderings.

You create new 3D views in three ways:

  • Using the 3D View tool (which appears on the View tab in the ribbon panel) and choosing the Default 3D View option. If this view has already been created, it will be opened instead.
  • Duplicating the Default 3D View, which appears as {3D} in the Project Browser. The view properties and settings will be copied and used to create a new view, which will appear in the 3D View section of the Project Browser.
  • Using the 3D View tool and choosing the Camera option, which allows you to specify the location and elevation of a camera object and a target for the camera view.

You can also add section boxes to your 3D views to cut away portions of the building model so that you can see inside. Each face of the section box acts as a cutting plane, so you can use the section box to create a wide variety of views to share your design and show the details of how it will be constructed—for example, 3D plans, 3D sections, and 3D detail views.

Adjust the Appearance of Elements in a View

You can change the appearance of the elements that appear in any view by adjusting the View Properties that control how objects are displayed.

You can specify the level of detail to display:

  • Coarse—shows the least amount detail and simplified representations of the elements for an uncluttered view.
  • Medium—displays elements using a level of detail that balances accuracy with complexity.
  • Fine—shows all elements using the most detailed, accurate representation.

You can also change the visual style for displaying the elements in this view. Your options include:

  • Wireframe—displays all edges and lines drawn in the model, but no surfaces.
  • Hidden Line—displays all edges and lines, except ones hidden in the view by other elements.
  • Shaded—displays all surfaces shaded and colored using the applicable material and lighting settings, but omits the edges and lines.
  • Shaded with Edges—displays elements in a style similar to Shaded views, but includes the edges and lines that are not hidden by other elements.
  • Consistent Colors—displays all surfaces shaded and colored using their material properties, but does not take light sources and shading into account.
  • Realistic—displays all surfaces using the render appearance of their material properties.

These display properties are set independently for each view. So you can create new views or duplicate existing views as needed, then assign different display properties to each view to achieve the desired visual effects.

You can further enhance your views using Revit software’s Graphic Display Options to:

  • Display shadows—showing the shadows cast by a light source at a preset location relative to the view or for a specific location, date, and time. To accurately display shadows for a specific location, you must set your project’s location and orientation relative to true north.
  • Enhance the edges—displaying the silhouettes of the elements in a special line style (for example, thick lines to emphasize the boundaries).
  • Display a gradient background—specifying three colors for the ground, the horizon, and the sky, which will be used to create a gradient background that adds context and enhances the realism of your views.

Displaying shadows can slow down the display of your views. If you are making many changes to your model and you find that your computer’s performance is feeling sluggish, try temporarily turning off the shadows in the open views. It is often helpful to keep two versions of a view—one with the shadows turned on for enhanced display, and another with the shadows turned off for quick editing.

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