2020 | 015 – Model Well in 3D

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ARCHICAD Training Lesson Outline

Model Well in 3D to Draw Less in 2D

Methods, settings and approaches to 3D modeling to create clean, detailed elevations and sections.

  • NOTE: Topics indicated with bullet and italics (like this note) will be presented in the next training lesson.


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 surface
  • 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. 

Virtual Trace is helpful for ensuring that walls and other stacked elements are actually co-planar.

  • TIP: Sometimes snap points are too close to easily control; for subtle alignment issues I often move node points far away from other elements, isolating one key anchor point and making sure it is properly positioned. Then I bring each one back into position and snap to the anchor point.

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, window sills may default to a heavy line, and need to be 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 > Surfaces > Vectorial Hatching dialog.

It is most common to use OpenGL shading mode in the 3D Window, which represents surfaces with textured images. Sometimes it is useful to work with the same Vectorial Hatching in the 3D Window as is generated in Elevations; this can be done using the View menu > 3D View Options > 3D Styles... command or choosing one of the preset 3D Styles that includes Hatching.

To align bricks, blocks, boards or other patterns on a surface, select elements in 3D and use the Document menu > Creative Imaging > Align 3D Texture > Set Origin... command. The clickpoint can be on a corner of the element, or on any other point in the 3D model (including the corner of another element); use the same alignment point for multiple elements to get a consistent pattern.

  • TIP: The Wall Settings dialog provides options in the Model panel to Align the 3D Texture based on the Wall Edges, and for overriding the End Surfaces based on Adjoining Walls. There is also a Reset Texture button to return the custom texture alignment to the original setting.


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). 

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.

3D Framing can be done with individual elements (e.g. joists, rafters or plates made from simple or profiled beams, studs made with simple or profiled columns) multiplied with a standard spacing. Some framing can be integrated into wall profiles for plates or rim joists; other horizontal or angled framing and flashing can be done using dedicated complex profiles.

ARCHICAD Training Lesson Transcript

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