Imaging Options Inside Archicad – Part 1

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ARCHICAD Training Lesson Outline

Inside Archicad you can visualize your project in many different ways, all coordinated by the data you input to describe the design. Plan drawings are one form of looking at the project, as are the other construction documents as well as the 3D Window and Creative Imaging (Sketch or Photorealistic Renderings).

We can also export the model data to other programs for better rendering or easier sharing, presentation, study or collaboration.

In this section of the course, we'll  primarily look at visualization - seeing the model in 3D. We'll start with the options inside Archicad.


3D Styles allow you to see the model in the 3D Window in different ways.

Quick visualization (also known as OpenGL-based imaging) can be done:

  • with textured surfaces
  • with or without shadows
  • with or without outlines, and with a choice of thickness
  • simple shading
  • white model

In addition, precise vector-based delineation may be done with or without shading or shadows (textures are not currently available in this mode).

3D Styles are controlled from the Image menu > 3D Window Settings > 3D Styles menu.

A list of presets is available for selection, which you can modify or extend.

3D Styles are included in the View Settings, a real time saver.


Graphic Overrides (GO) are available for Plans and other construction drawings as well as the 3D model. GO are constructed as one or more Rules based on Criteria that determine where or how they are applied.

Criteria can be simple - such as applying to all 3D elements or all Walls, or more specific, such as all Walls on the Interior Wall layer that are designated as Load Bearing.

Overrides can change the Line Type, Pen Settings, Fill Type or Surface of these elements.

LIMITATION: Graphic Override Rules affect the entire element uniformly. That means that we cannot change just the exterior wall surface or just one skin of a composite.

Pen Sets may be used to create subtly different effects. For example, one can activate a Pen Set that has mainly black pens in order to make the 3D Window view more crisply delineated. Grey pens can produce a more subtle edge effect.


Shadow casting is available for both OpenGL and Vectorial categories of 3D Styles. In the 3D Window we will only see shadows from the Sun; interior lighting is not shown (to see lights, one has to use Photorendering or export to another program such as Twinmotion).

Sun position can be set manually in the 3D Projection Settings dialog, or based on the Heliodon calculator available in that dialog.

Sun studies can be shown onscreen and/or generated as a video file using a dedicated command. This allows you to pick a date and time range and generate a series of images with the sun moving to different positions based on the date and time.

This can be done from any vantage point (perspective or axonometric view), with any version of the model (as controlled by layers or renovation filters, etc.).

To get a top-down view, use the 3D Window Settings dialog and choose Parallel (axonometric) views and select the Top option. Rotate the camera control to 270 degrees (straight below the placeholder building icon) to match the normal Plan orientation.

It is possible to copy Shadows and paste onto a Site plan when you use a Vectorial 3D Style. Draw a flat Marquee around the area you're interested in (which could be the whole project or just one part), then use the Copy command. When you're in a Vectorial mode, you'll get a dialog allowing you to choose which parts of the image you want to copy. For this purpose, select Shadows only; don't include Polygons or Lines.

Go back to the Plan view and zoom out far enough to see the full area you were looking at in the 3D top view. Paste in the shadows; they should land on top of the building and site, perfectly aligned.

Adjustment or cleanup of the shadows may be helpful for clarity. To quickly select all of the shadow fills, use the Undo command then Redo immediately; this will select them all (with handles). You can then change the Fill type (for example, set as a 25% grey Fill with a Transparent background so you can see through them) and set on a convenient Layer (so you can control their visibility).

Fill consolidation may be used to combine multiple separate Fills into fewer elements. Extraneous shadows can be deleted or edited to create a better graphic result. Consider turning off certain elements in the 3D model if their shadows are not relevant or confusing.

Another variation of this approach may be to deliberately include polygon elements in the Marquee > Copy command so that one can get a somewhat more rendered effect when pasting onto the Site Plan.

2D Graphics may be added to the Site Plan - many of the Tree objects in the standard Archicad Library can be represented as a simple graphic fill. Instead of rendering or placing actual shadow polygons from the top-down 3D model view, one can copy and paste the tree graphics and slightly offset them to simulate a shadow, and change the Display Order to slip them underneath the actual tree symbol while simultaneously changing their graphic settings to look like a darker shadow.

TIP: Explode these shadow versions of the tree objects into Fills so they won't be double-counted in a schedule; place on a different layer so they can be shown or hidden as needed.


The Elevation Marker has options for how to show Uncut Surfaces. For a traditional construction document, one can set this to a single color and select a white pen or fill. Similar options are available for Sections and Interior Elevations.

For a more rendered appearance, one can select one of the Shaded options, and possibly include Vectorial Hatching for linework representing siding, shingles or stonework.

NEW: In Archicad 25, we now have an option to show Surface textures for the elements. 

One can also activate Sun Shadows and select an arbitrary angle (the most common one is 45 degrees off to the side and up in the sky) or use the settings from the actual Sun position (for a more realistic appearance).

The Sun shadows have some options for representation, allowing you to make them more subtle or more pronounced.

Vectorial Hatching will give certain surfaces a linework Fill pattern to represent bricks, boards, shingles stonework or a dot pattern. In Archicad 25, the Vectorial Hatching option is now called "Surface - Cover Fill Foreground". I recommend turning this off if you opt for Surface textures, since they do not precisely coordinate and overlay in a messy way.

The Marked Distant Area option (in Archicad 25: "FADE DISTANT ELEMENTS") in the Elevation Settings allows additional differentiation between foreground (near) elements and background (distant) elements. The distant elements can be represented with a simpler appearance, perhaps eliminating surface fills and/or changing the pen to make them grey or a thinner line.

Manually drawn Fills and Lines can be placed to supplement the automatically generated view.

This can be an option for adding surface textures before AC25; now this may be unnecessary although it allows selective emphasis.


  • To add a heavy border for the edge of the building (against the sky) one can use a polyline. 
  • Add a colorful fill behind the building to give it a more rendered effect. Gradient or radial fills work nicely.

Even though these Elevations can have a rendered, presentation-style appearance, all annotation options remain available. Text, labels and dimensions can be added. Smart Window and Door markers with ID info coordinated with the element can be placed using the Label tool.

It is possible to have a single Elevation Marker produce a Shaded Elevation with Shadows, then use Graphic Overrides to simplify the representation for standard construction drawings. This allows the creation of different drawings with distinct styles to be created individually or as part of a Clone folder - which can define a common style for all Elevations or Sections or Interior Elevations. I will demonstrate this using MasterTemplate, which has these GO's built in. In Archicad 25 the Graphic Override can be set to work with EITHER Surface Textures OR Surface Cover Fills but I haven't figured out a way to use GO's to switch between these two options.


QUESTION: What is the keyboard shortcut for Drag A Copy? The one listed in the menus (Mac: Command-Option-D) doesn't work.
ANSWER: This is a conflict with the built-in Apple shortcut for hiding and showing the Dock. You can use the Options menu > Work Environment > Keyboard Shortcuts and add a new shortcut key combination such as Command-Option-Control-D; this is actually easy to press since the three modifier keys are next to each other. [This is demonstrated towards the end of the lesson recording.]

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