ARCHICAD Design | Views 3 – Lighting Tricks & Surface Studies

By Eric Bobrow | Design Views Series

Jan 21

In this 24 minute video, I share some of my favorite quick tricks to optimize lighting and adjust Surface settings to improve your ARCHICAD 3D window views. PLUS: Swap in and out different sets of Surfaces to study and compare schemes!


ARCHICAD Video Tutorial Transcript

ARCHICAD Tutorial – Design | Views 3 – Lighting Tricks & Surface Studies

Hello, this is Eric Bobrow, and this ARCHICAD video tutorial, the third one in my Design Views series, will go over tricks you can use to improve the lighting in the 3D window while you’re working and also to study different surface schemes, trying out different surface appearances for your design very quickly. [0:00:22]

Here you see the very, very simple project that I have been using as a quick basis from the standard USA template.  Now, what I do here will work equally well in the international template or other project setups.  You notice that the colors look rather muted and dull.  We can change that by going to the sunlight, right-clicking on a view here, and changing the sunlight to a higher level and in fact making it contribute to the ambience more by changing the number here or rolling the slider. [0:00:56]

Now, you can see this is much brighter, and you may prefer that.  I’m going to just give you the chance to easily compare it by saving a view here, and now we can go back and forth.  Double-click, and you can see what it is, and like that.  Now, let me rotate around to the other side, and you see that even though we’ve got light on this side, it’s a little dim here, so I’ll show you how you can change the sunlight direction and save that as a view. [0:01:27]

So, go to 3D Projection settings here and move the sun around, perhaps over the shoulder of where you’re looking from, and here you can also go into sunlight and adjust this, but it remembered the 100 that I had there.  Let’s just say OK.  Now, it’s much brighter.  We’ll save this view as Rear AXO with Sun.  OK.  Now, if I go back around, you can see how things are dull, so depending upon what view you’re in, you may want to just simply switch the sun this way and then take whatever view you’d like.  [0:02:03]

Now, let’s go to an interior view.  Let’s say that I switch under the View menu, 3D View Options to Perspective.  Now, where am I located here?  If I move around, maybe zoom out, you can see that there are no windows on this side.  That’s the back part of this little building.  Let me go to the floor plan, and we’ll set up a particular camera position. So, I’ll go to the Camera tool, click in a corner, click here.  This is where I’m standing or floating in the air, and this is where I’m looking, and you can see these two numbers.  [0:02:37]

Generally, it’s good to have them horizontal with the same value.  Five feet would be a reasonable eye level.  Now, with that selected, if I right-click on this and say Show All in 3D, now we’ve got that view, so depending upon how you go to 3D, it will use that camera position.  Now, it looks a little odd because of the pink ceiling.  That’s because this roof was made with insulated framing members, and we’re not actually seeing the framing, and we don’t have a ceiling, so we’re going to put in a ceiling.  [0:03:07]

Down here, there’s actually no floor.  It’s just the ground plane that’s put in with this particular style of view, so let me go back and put in a floor and a ceiling to make it a little bit more realistic.  I’ll go the Slab tool.  We’ll pick Concrete Slab, just to start out with, and Magic Wand here, and you can see that now we have a slab in this area.  I’ll put in a ceiling.  I’ll switch to the Ceilings layer so that I can turn it on or off separately from the floor, and I can also go and switch to a different type of slab.  In this case, the ceiling is an acoustic ceiling, and I can change the height up here. [0:03:49]

Let’s say take this up a little bit, and then Magic Wand on the inside face here, and now you can see that there is a separate slab here that is the ceiling.  So, let’s take a look back in 3D, and you can see now that we’ve got a floor and a ceiling.  Now, it’s rather dim here because we don’t have any interior lights, and in fact, you can’t really cast interior lights in the standard 3D window because in the 3D window, we just have the sunlight and ambient light, but you can make it look brighter by changing the way that the surfaces reflect the light.  [0:04:23]

So, for example, what are these two walls here, and the rest of the exterior walls?  Well, they’re made out of 2×6 wood framing with stucco on the outside, or actually siding here.  That one was siding, but it’s got gypsum on the inside, so gypsum board on both of these here.  Now, what does gypsum board look like?  If I go to the options Building Materials, and we go to Gypsum Board, we can see that its surface is using a surface with the same name.  So, let’s check what the surface gypsum board looks like.  [0:05:00]

So, the surface for gypsum board here has a little texture.  It’s got a stucco texture.  It’s generally pretty white, but you can see how dark it gets around here when it’s not facing the light.  Now, we can boost this up here so that it reflects more light, ambient and diffuse- different effects depending upon what angle the light is coming from, but this will generally make it brighter, and so if I say OK here, you can see how much brighter everything that was made out of gypsum appears, so that’s a good quick change that you can do.  [0:05:37]

Another thing you can do is actually change these and override the surface with a different surface appearance than the building material.  So, I can, for example, take the inside surface here and change it to generic interior.  Now, that’s actually pretty dark and ugly, but one of the nice things about it is that generic interior, we can just change, and everything that’s designated as an interior surface with no other designation will update.  [0:06:06]

Now, I’m going to leave this, or actually I’ll just make this one the same as well.  I’ll take it.  This is an interior wall that I’m going to make all three surfaces here, lock them in together, and change them so that they’re generic interior.  OK, so now everything is going to be sort of a little dark, but you can see how it’s brighter because the sun is coming from that side.  [0:06:31]

Now, what about the ceiling here?  Let’s take a look at how we can use some paint colors or just generic colors to do this.  I’ll make the underside of this a white color, white like this, and you can see it’s brighter, but it’s still not very bright.  Let’s take it to another color here, which could be white ceiling, and when we do that, oh, much brighter there.  Now, what’s actually happening is that the ceiling is not just reflecting light.  It’s actually got its own light source behind it, essentially.  You can see it’s emitting light.  It’s brighter than the surroundings.  [0:07:11]

Now, how is that done?  If we go and have it selected and then go to the options, Surfaces here, we’ll see that White Ceiling actually doesn’t reflect more light here, but it has an emission color.  So, emission, in this case, you can look at this and think about it, maybe this would be like a glowing lamp.  It’s glowing from inside.  I double-click on the emission color or click.  You see how it’s between white and black, and it’s actually fairly close to the white side whereas color white, which is what we tried earlier, actually has a much more muted emission color, and if we go to something like the generic interior, it’s even lower.  It’s darker.  [0:07:59]

Let’s just make the generic interior brighter and see what that does.  See how that brightens it up?  Let’s take the generic interior and actually try a different color on it.  So, go in here.  I actually did it.  I’m not sure.  We want the generic interior.  That’s the one I wanted to change, and we’ll go in here, and let’s just give it a little bit of a yellow tint.  Maybe not quite so bright, but something like that, and you can see here now that the color is not showing up very much, probably because the emission is changed.  [0:08:39]

Let’s go here and make the emission a little bit like a yellow color, and now you can see it’s got sort of this glowing yellow look, and you can see how that’s changed it.  Now, anything we had designated as generic interior would update there.  So, I’m working very quickly, and you could say crudely, but I want to show you how things are linked together and how you can use either a generic name or a color or paint, depending upon what version of ARCHICAD.  The surfaces that have general colors may be called color, or they may be called paint.  [0:09:11]

Now let’s take a look in the MasterTemplate sample project and see some similar things, so if I go to an AXO view here from this side, and we take a look at this wall, we’ll see that this wall has some overrides.  Now, the overrides here are AMT.  That’s ARCHICAD MasterTemplate exterior default on one side, and interior default on the other. Now, these surfaces here are similar to generic exterior and generic interior in the standard template that is supplied in the USA and probably has a similar setting in the international version.  [0:09:57]

I actually have set up several ones under Surfaces- AMT Exterior Default and Secondary and Interior Default and Secondary.  So, you can have two, and by extension just creating additional similar ones, you can have more than two specific colors that you can play around with.  Let’s see how that works.  If I go to the Exterior Default color here, and let’s say we make it this blue and say OK, you can see how it’s changed the color and say OK.  Now everything that’s designated as Exterior Default will change.  [0:10:34]

None of the interior ones changed.  Now, I was using it as a surface override on walls that were made out of composites.  If you have a wall like this that is a complex profile, then it becomes a little bit trickier. If I go edit the selected complex profile, I need to actually make sure that individual surfaces are designated because we don’t want, for example, this lower stone to switch from the ledger stone.  We want it to use the natural surface here, and the same thing with this one.  It’s limestone that has no overrides, but if I zoom in, you can see the stucco that I’ve selected right here has an override, but it’s not uniform.  [0:11:20]

What I’ve done is I’ve gone to the outside and used the option here to customize the edge, and I’ve made it the exterior default, which used to be white, but now it’s showing as blue, and I’ve also made it a heavier cut line.  This is a way that we get a more detailed cut line, and of course, on the inside here, this is again overridden.  Instead of it just being gypsum board, it’s going and making that outside, or actually the interior face to be the interior default like that.  [0:11:53]

So, that’s how I’m able to do it, and you can do it as well for anything that is a composite.  Let’s go ahead, then, and do an interior view and see how that works.  You’ll see with this interior view that things are very bright, probably brighter than most of the ARCHICAD models that people show me.  That’s because I’ve got the surfaces, and I’ll just take these three here.  These surfaces are set with that interior surface, so we’ve got the interior default, and in this case, instead of having emission, I’ve just got bright reflections of the ambient and diffused light.  [0:12:37]

If we go in here, you can see that the emission is off there.  I’m just going to take this surface color, and let’s say let’s give it a nice yellow color- maybe a little less intense there, and you can see what that does and say OK.  Now, what I did was I just changed all the walls here because I changed the interior default, but what I’d like to do is actually change these walls, then, possibly to an accent color.  So, the ones that I had selected, I’m going to just go and change their interior one to the secondary. [0:13:14]

Now, when I do the secondary, it will update with probably what’s white in this case.  I could go and make that some other color as well. So, we can maintain, then, several walls- whichever ones we want as sort of a different setting than the main ones.  The main ones- let’s see.  We’ve got this.  Yeah, you can see how that updated, so now it’s white.  That secondary color, if I were to go in here, and let’s say Option Surfaces, and let’s say take the interior secondary and give it just a little bit of a blue tint here, and maybe we need just a little bit more intensity so that we can see it around here. [0:14:00]

Let’s see.  We’ll take the reflection down a bit and say OK, and now you’ll see that all of those changed, so basically, we can change each one of them independently.  Now, let’s take a look back outside at something that gets a little bit more challenging, and that is the siding here.  So, the siding here is actually a surface texture, so it’s not just a color, and I’m selecting the three walls that have that particular override.  In this case, they’ve got an override applied, Shingle Roofing- Cedar.  [0:14:39]

Now, I could change this to something like a siding, like a red siding here, which maybe could be good, but what I’d like to do is actually make it more of a generic secondary color for the exterior and then experiment with that.  So, what I’ll do is I’ll actually switch this.  Instead of being a specific color, I’ll switch it to the exterior secondary.  The exterior secondary, initially, is starting out as white in this template, but I’m going to go and override it with different options here.  [0:15:15]

So, the way we do that is we can go to the Surfaces and take the exterior secondary, and we’re going to create a new look to it, clicking on New, but instead of creating a duplicate, which would be another new material or a brand-new material here, I’m going to say replace the current settings with one from the catalog.  [0:15:45]

So, what is a catalog?  The catalog is a set of surfaces that are defined in the ARCHICAD environment.  Some of them are within the standard library.  Some of them are online, and you can also download a variety of surfaces.  GraphiSoft provides some extra ones for subscribers, so if you have Archiplus or a similar maintenance program, you may find that you have a whole bunch more that you can load in here.  [0:16:12]

I’m going to take this particular one here, and you can see it says Wooden Plank – Horizontal and say OK, and what it did was it replaced the current settings of the exterior secondary with this one.  Let’s see what that looks like.  So, it took a moment, but there you can see how the material, the appearance, the surface changed to the catalog version.  [0:16:39]

Now, I like this version here, at least well enough to do for a study, but I would like to try out some different things, so let’s see how we can save this setup and then try out different variations.  To do that, the simplest thing to do is to go to the Options menu and open up the Attribute Manager, which is found directly under the Options menu, or in some versions you’ll have an Element Attributes submenu, and then it will be down near the bottom.  [0:17:05]

Here’s Attribute Manager.  What we can do is we can select these surfaces, and you notice that they’re sorted alphabetically here.  Sometimes you’ll see them sorted by number, but you can click on alphabetical, and in this case, because all of the AMT MasterTemplate ones have an asterisk here.  These are the generic ones that are set up.  They float up to the top of the list alphabetically.  Now, I can go and take all of these first ones here that I’ve got set, and I can copy them over by name over to the other side.  [0:17:39]

What did that do?  It actually made a copy in a temporary file.  Now, this temporary file, I can go and save out for reference, and so I can go and save it as an XML file.  We’ll call it Surface Scheme 1, and I’ll put this in a folder, so I’ll create a new folder here.  Say Study1, and just get back into Study1 here and save it.  I’m doing this in a separate folder because I found that if you have multiple schemes in the same folder that it can get a little bit confused, so I’ve just put it in a separate folder.  [0:18:19]

Now, let’s say that I wanted to change the settings.  I’ll just say OK.  I haven’t made any changes here.  I’ve just saved it.  Let’s say that I want to go to the surfaces and change the exterior color, and we’ll make this white again or something rather bright like that here, and that will update, then, on here.  Let’s say that we wanted to make the interior ones- you see the yellow one.  Let’s go to the interior default, and let’s just put that into white as well.  [0:18:59]

OK, so now you can see that inside, it’s changed to white.  So, now we’ve got a much more monochrome building with just a little bit of blue accent in there, etc.  Go to the Attribute Manager, and we’ll select these guys here.  We’ll send them over here, and we’ll save them in a different folder, so go up one level and create a new folder, and in that one, we’ll say Surface Scheme 2.  [0:19:34]

Alright, now here’s what we’ve got on screen, the sort of more monochrome thing.  Let’s imagine that I’m sitting with a client and saying, “Well, I have this really wild idea to add some extra color.  Do you want to look at it?”  “Sure, show it to me.”  Alright, so now what we do is we come back into Attribute Manager.  I’ve nothing open here.  Say that I want to import something, so we’ll go back to Study1, and we’ll get Surface Scheme 1.  That appears here.  You can see that wild color, and I can select all of these and bring them in, or just individually I can pick one and do by name.  [0:20:12]

Now, there are other ways that you can do this with Index, but in this case, the simplest is by name, so do that and say OK and apply the changes, and within a few seconds, we now have the other scheme, and we can go back and forth in the same way.  Let me give you one more trick here that you may find useful.  This surface here was picked up from the catalog, and that’s fine.  That’s a great way to do it, but sometimes you want to actually bring in a surface that you’ve picked out.  [0:20:45]

Let’s just go look at the surfaces here.  Let’s find one that’s a Siding – Vertical here, white.  OK, so this is a vertical siding.  It’s rotated this way.  Alright, let’s just say that that one is something that we want to try out in its place here.  Now, there’s no easy way to copy those settings and put them into the exterior secondary position.  We’d have to go and match all of these settings, match this, change the sizing – all of that just to get it to match, so the simplest way I’ve discovered is to go to Attribute Manager, and let’s take that siding one here.  [0:21:28]

This is Siding – Vertical White, and I’ll just send it over by name here.  Now, I’m going to change the name so that it can overwrite this one here.  So, the name that I’ve got here – this is Exterior Secondary.  I’m going to copy that here.  Go here and temporarily change this here, so this is in a temporary file, and now I’m going to go and overwrite by name, and you can see how instantly the exterior secondary now has a different appearance.  When I say OK, it will say, “Do you want to apply it?”  We’ll see that there it is.  [0:22:07]

OK, so that’s a quick way that you can use the Attribute Manager to either save schemes and restore them and swap back and forth, or you can take one type of surface from one position in your current environment and then override it on top of an existing surface by taking it out temporarily, changing the name, and then writing it back in to overwrite the one that you want.  [0:22:32]

So, I hope you’ve enjoyed this ARCHICAD video tutorial on Lighting Tricks and Surface Studies.  If you’d like some of the resource files that I have set up for these tutorials, you can opt in to my email list, and you’ll get a copy of the graphic overrides and some of the other tools that I’ve been working with.  If you’re already on my email list, you’ll be getting emails from me with downloads.  That’s one of the things that I’m sharing at this time, during this video series.  [0:23:04]

Now, it is my pleasure to share this with you and all other ARCHICAD users to help you get the most out of ARCHICAD.  If you’d like to help me do that, to reach more ARCHICAD users, then please like the video on YouTube, share it through social media, and subscribe to my YouTube channel, and if you’d like to really turbocharge your ARCHICAD workflow, consider investing in MasterTemplate, where this sample project that I’ve been showing you in this series, as well as a lot of other resources are packed into a file structure that embeds best practices and methods.  You’ll find complete information and the opportunity to purchase MasterTemplate at [0:23:50]

This has been Eric Bobrow.  Thanks for watching.  [0:23:53]

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