How to Trace 2D Drawings to Quickly Create a 3D ARCHICAD Model

By Eric Bobrow | General ARCHICAD Tutorials

Jan 26

Learn how to bring in 2D drawings such as DWG files as a tracing reference to make it easy and fast to create an accurate 3D model. This approach can be used for modeling existing buildings from CAD files, or taking a design from 2D CAD into a 3D model quickly for presentations or model coordination.

Many interesting topics are covered, including the creation of worksheets, importing DWG files, setting up Virtual Trace for the plan and elevations to show the corresponding 2D drawings in proper alignment to the model, and some complex manipulations of ArchiCAD library doors and windows to match the original design drawings.


  • Create a new project 
  • Import the DWG files into separate Worksheets and coordinate their origin points 
  • Set up the Story Levels to correspond to the project heights 
  • Use Virtual Trace to reference the ground floor DWG as a background while working on the ground floor plan 
  • Move the original MasterTemplate base slabs, elevation and section markers, and gridlines to the vicinity of the traced DWG 
  • Set up the wall tool for the proper thickness and height, then trace the outline of the building 
  • Repeat for the upper story 
  • Place windows in the walls using the plan DWGs as references for location and width 
  • Open each of the Elevation viewpoints and correspond the DWG Worksheets for trace reference 
  • Adjust window heights, types and glazing patterns to match the original drawings 
  • Repeat for the doors, first on plan, then in elevation 
  • Draw the first roof piece on plan by tracing over the roof outline from the original drawing​
  • Coordinate the height and thickness of the roof in each elevation​
  • Use these adjusted settings to create the rest of the roof system on the lower level, then repeat the process for the upper roofs​
  • Trim walls to the roofs to clean up the model​
  • Adjust some of the windows and doors to have arched tops with bricks above​
  • Review the 3D model, elevations and plans, which now correspond beautifully to the original drawings

This entire process was done in 90 minutes! This 44 minute video is condensed from the original recording made in "real time" that shows every step along the way. This excerpted version leaves out some less essential details as well as much of the repetitive drawing and data entry.

To be frank, the first time I did this it took between 3 and 4 hours, because I had to become familiar with the project and how the DWGs were organized. The second time it took about 2 to 2 1/2 hours, and then I started over and recorded the process the third time in 90 minutes from start to finish.

ARCHICAD Video Tutorial Transcript