Views & Visualization

Views & Visualization


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.

Learning Objectives

After completing this lesson, you will be able to:

  • Use 2D and 3D views to accurately convey information about their design to different audiences.
  • Adjust the properties of model views to emphasize key elements of their design and hide unnecessary or unwanted detail.


Creating Plan Views

In this exercise, you will learn how to:

  • Create new plan views by using the Plan View tool or duplicating existing plan views.
  • Select which types of elements appear in a plan view by setting visibility graphics overrides.
  • Turn on cropping and resize the crop region for a plan view.
  • Adjust the view range (the height of the cutting plane and the view depth) for plan views and plan regions.
  • Select another level to underlay in a view.
  • Change the scale of a plan view and adjust the level of detail shown.

Figure 1.6.1. Duplicating an existing plan view

Video Tutorial

Student Exercise

  • Create a plan view called Level 1-Structural that focuses on the structural elements of the first floor.
  • Set the visibility graphics overrides to:
    • Hide the furniture, furniture systems, and specialty equipment model elements.
    • Override the graphics for the structural column elements with a heavier line weight and highly visible color (for example, red) that will highlight the structural system in the view.

Figure 1.6.2 - Floor plan view with structural columns highlighted

  • Create a plan view called Level 1-Furniture that focuses on the interior design of the first floor.
  • Set the visibility graphics overrides to:
    • Override the graphics for the furniture and furniture systems elements with a heavier line weight and highly visible color.
    • Override the graphics for the wall, door, stair, and structural column elements to display using a halftone effect. These objects will be visible, but less prominent as you focus on furniture placement.

Figure 1.6.3 - Floor plan view with furniture elements highlighted

  • Create a plan view called First Floor-Residence that focuses solely on the first floor of the residence.
  • Turn on cropping and resize the crop region to limit this view to the residence portion of the model and underlay the second floor level as a guide to assist with aligning elements between floors.
  • Set the scale for this view to be 1/4 = 1'-0" (1:48).

Figure 1.6.4 - First floor plan view with second floor elements displayed as an underlay

  • Create a plan view called Second Floor-Residence that focuses solely on the second floor of the residence.
  • Turn on cropping and resize the crop region to limits similar to the first floor view.
  • Change the visual style for this view to Shaded with Edges.
  • Adjust the view range for this view to explore its effects:
    • Move the cut plane to 5'-0" (1.52 meters). This higher elevation will make the features of the loft wall visible in the plan.
    • Move the cut plane to 6'-0" (1.82 meters). When set to this elevation, the doors cannot be seen.
    • Return the cut plane to the default elevation of 4'-0" (1.22 meters).
    • Change the view depth to Level Below (First Floor). With this setting, objects placed on the first floor level are also visible in this view.
  • Set the scale for this view to be 1/4 = 1'-0" (1:48).

Figure 1.6.5 - Second floor plan with view range adjusted to show elements on floor below

Creating Elevation and Section Views

In this exercise, you will learn how to:

  • Place elevation tags to create new elevation views.
  • Draw section lines to create new section views.
  • Modify view properties to adjust the crop region, level of detail, and scale of elevations and sections.
  • Set visibility graphics overrides to choose which types of objects appear in the views.

Figure 1.6.6. Creating elevation views using the elevation tag

Video Tutorial

Student Exercise

  • Create an interior elevation view for all sides of the living room of the residence and give them a descriptive name such as Living Room Interior-North.
  • Open one of these interior elevation views, and adjust the view properties:
    • Turn on the cropping and crop region visibility, then adjust the crop region as needed to show only on the living room walls.
    • Set the scale for this view to be 1/2" = 1'-0" (1:24).
    • Set the level of detail to Fine.
  • Create a view template from this elevation view and apply this view template to the other interior elevation views.

Figure 1.6.7 - Interior elevation of the north wall of the living room

Creating 3D Views

In this exercise, you will learn how to:

  • Duplicate the Default 3D View to create additional orthogonal views.
  • Use the Autodesk ViewCube widget and the AutodeskSteeringWheelswidget to change the view settings.
  • Use the section box to create 3D plans and section views.
  • Use the Camera tool to create new perspective views.
  • Adjust the crop region, far clip offset, and camera and target positions for perspective views.

Figure 1.6.8. Moving the faces of the section box in a 3D view

Video Tutorial

Student Exercise

  • Create an interior perspective view of the living room in the residence by using the camera tool to place a camera in a position similar to Figure 1.6.9.

Figure 1.6.9 - Camera and target locations for interior perspective view

  • Change the name of the new perspective view to Living Room Interior and adjust the crop region and zoom as needed to create a view similar to the one shown in Figure 1.6.10.

Figure 1.6.10 - Interior perspective view cropped and zoomed

  • Duplicate the default 3D view and change its name to 3D Section.
  • Reorient the model and move the faces of the section box in order to create a section view that displays the interior features of the residence and the studio by cutting through the spiral stairs as shown in Figure 1.6.11.

Figure 1.6.11 - 3D section view cut through spiral stair

Adjusting the Appearance of Elements in a View

In this exercise, you will learn how to:

  • Use the View Control bar to quickly change a view’s display properties―for example, the level of detail and the visual style.
  • Display shadows and specifying the location of the lighting source.
  • Set a project’s location and orientation to cast accurate shadows in a solar study.
  • Use Graphic Display Options to enhance the silhouettes of elements and add gradient backgrounds to 3D views.

Figure 1.6.12. Setting a view’s graphic display options

Video Tutorial

Student Exercise

  • Use the Camera tool to create an exterior perspective view, called Exterior Perspective, that shows the east exterior walls of the residence and studio.
  • Use the View Control Bar to quickly review the appearance created by applying each of the visual style options, and choose Shaded With Edges to show the colors of the materials assigned (incorporating the effects of the lighting settings).

Figure 1.6.13 -Exterior perspective view using the Shaded With Edges visual style

  • Duplicate the Exterior Perspective view–name the new view Exterior Perspective-Realistic and choose the realistic visual style to enhance the view by showing the render appearance of the materials.

Figure 1.6.14 - Exterior perspective view using the Realistic visual style

  • Duplicate the Exterior Perspective view, and name the new view Exterior Perspective with Shadows.
  • Adjust the graphic display options to cast accurate shadows for a day in June in Los Angeles, CA, and create a gradient background to mimic the effect of a late afternoon or sunset. For this exercise, assume that project north is aligned to true north.

Figure 1.6.15 - Exterior perspective views with shadows and different gradient background colors


Creating Plan Views and Setting View Properties

  • Which types of objects are copied when you duplicate a view without detailing? With detailing?

Duplicating a view without detailing leaves out certain elements such as annotations, dimensions, door tags, and window tags. These elements are included when duplicating with detailing.

In both cases, the visibility and graphics settings are carried over. For example, if the furniture lines are set to red in a view that is being copied, they will still be red whether or not the view is duplicated with detailing.

  • What factors affect whether it is better to duplicate with or without detailing?

Detailing is best used when preparing structural or construction documents. When considering these applications, details like dimensions and door tags are important for designing, planning, and scheduling.

Duplicating without detailing is more useful to convey architectural ideas. This reduces clutter and allows you to focus more clearly on the space being designed.

  • How would you change the view properties to show clerestory windows with sills located at 6 feet (8 m) above the floor level?

By editing the view range of a plan view and setting the cut plane to 6 feet, we would be able to make the high clerestory windows visible. However, this change may hide lower windows. To fix this, we can create a plan region around the clerestory windows and set the view properties in this region independently of the rest of the view.

Creating Elevation and Section Views

  • What types of information are typically displayed in:
    • Exterior elevation views?
    • Interior elevation views?
    • Building sections?

Exterior elevation views are useful for showing the architectural details and materials of the building facade and are often used to illustrate the exterior architectural appearance and features.

Interior elevation views are useful for showing the details of elements placed on interior walls, such as moldings, cabinetry, and fixtures.

Building sections are typically used to explain the vertical relationships between building elements and their connection details. They are also useful for displaying the details of vertical shafts and circulation elements, such as stair wells and elevators.

  • Should you create interior elevations for every room? What features of a room are best illustrated using interior elevations?

Interior elevations are typically not needed unless it is necessary to display a specific aspect of the design that cannot be explained well in a plan view. These features often include moldings, cabinetry, fixtures, appliances, and other interior details where the placement height is best explained in a vertical view.

  • What are the key differences between elevation and section views?

Elevation and sections views are similar in many ways. The key difference is typically that elevations display an external projection of the elements that appear in the view, where sections are used to display a cut through the key elements.

Creating 3D Views

  • What happens to the accuracy of objects that appear at the edges as you expand a perspective view’s crop region?

When expanding the crop region of a perspective view, the objects near the edges appear to be stretched out. To prevent this, it is important for the focus of the image to be located in the center of the image.

  • If you want to include a broader view of your model in a perspective view, how should you change the camera placement?

If the view has already been created, you can use the Autodesk SteeringWheels widget walk option to back up and see a broader view. You can also show the camera in a plan view, and then move it farther away from the target object.

  • Can you use a section box to cut away parts of a perspective view?

Yes. In a 3D perspective view, the section box can be displayed and its edges can be moved in much the same way as in the default 3D view.

Adjust the Appearance of Elements in a View

  • What visual styles would you recommend for views that will be:
    • Printed in construction documents?

Hidden line. This visual style minimizes the visual clutter by obscuring hidden lines and keeps the image simple for printing on noncolor printers.

  • Presented to clients to show materials recommendations?

Realistic. This visual style gives the truest representation of selected colors and material appearances.

  • Used to check for intersections or interferences between objects?

Wireframe. This visual style enables you to clear see how elements interact and join, even if the edges would be hidden by the surfaces. Wireframe views are similar to X-ray vision.

  • How are the shadows displayed in your view affected by:
    • Project location?

The latitude of the project location determines where the sun will be located in the sky at different times of the day and the year. This is reflected in the position of the shadows cast in model views.

  • Time of day?

The time of day also affects the position of the sun in the sky—rising from the east in the morning and setting to the west in the afternoon. As the day progresses, the shadows cast in model views change to reflect this position.

  • Month of the year?

The month of the year also affects the path of the sun in sky. During the summer months, the sun’s path is relatively high in the sky and shadows cast at midday are typically short. During the winter months, the sun’s path is relatively low in the sky, and the shadows cast at midday are much longer.

Key Terms

Key Term
Plan View
A horizontal view looking directly down toward a level from a viewpoint above.
Reflected Ceiling Plan View
A horizontal view looking direct up toward a level from a viewpoint below.
Elevation View
Interior or exterior vertical views with a line of site parallel to the ground. Elevation views typically present external projections of building elements.
Section View
A vertical view that slices through a building to displays the relationships between the cut elements.