How to Make an Illustration Using ArchiCAD

There is a multitude of software to learn as an architecture student, graduate and professional. There’s no time like the present to build your skills and find a tool that works best for you. Although the usual software as Sketchup and AutoCAD, not to mention Revit as the professional standard, one software we don’t hear much of is ArchiCAD. This guest post is by Palash Trivedi who’s kindly shown us how to create an illustrative scene in ArchiCAD and post-produce it in Adobe Illustrator and Photoshop.

❗ Note: I am not a pro in any of this software, I am sharing just what I have experienced while working in these. So, I may not be able to provide an in-depth review or analysis, but I have tried to explain what I know in the best possible manner.

What Is ArchiCAD and how did I come to use it?

ArchiCAD is a BIM Software of Graph iSOFT company made for Architects, to produce fast, accurate and complex architectural projects with ease. For those who aren’t aware of BIM, BIM means Building Information Module which basically treats your 3D models with real-time material properties and Information, unlike SketchUp which treats it just as an amalgamation of Surfaces and Fills. 

Plus, it has the basic CAD capabilities which can be used to draw in a 2D environment, but here the 3D model will be generated automatically with your 2D work or if you work in a 3D environment(Model Space) then your 2D works which contain the drawings will be created or will get updated automatically.

Do you prefer it over other modelling software like Sketchup, Revit, Rhino and if yes then why?

ArchiCAD vs SketchUp.

My preference is ArchiCAD 100%

SketchUp is easy to use, but so is ArchiCAD. ArchiCAD also contains a MORPH tool which simply works just as the SketchUp works viz. creating solids, push-pull, subtraction & intersection of solids. More than that, as I mentioned previously ArchiCAD works with materials and its information, so all your walls, slabs, roofs, beams etc. will be of actual materials like concrete, steel, bricks, stones etc. based on how you apply and use them in your project. Plus, you don’t have to use two different software such as AutoCAD for 2D work and Sketchup for 3D modelling. Both the process is done in ArchiCAD itself and they will be done simultaneously. 

Considering the OBJECTS, ArchiCAD 24 has included many new objects in its library, but if you want to use your own objects like some particular piece of furniture or doors or windows, then you can easily make them in ArchiCAD in a separate file and can use it anytime.

So, in the end, it depends on you on what to use, but if you want to spend more time in Designing instead of drafting and modelling, then I would strongly recommend you to use ArchiCAD.

ArchiCAD vs Revit

I will still go for ArchiCAD.  Here the comparison is not as contrasting as compared to SketchUp as both ArchiCAD and Revit are BIM software’s and both have their pros and cons when compared each other. 

Basic qualities

ArchiCAD is one of the oldest BIM or in other words one of the first BIM software’s which came into the AEC industry. Thus, they are more experienced in BIM and Revit which came very later. But in the past few years, Revit has become more famous and used thanks to its Parent company Autodesk which is more famous in the AEC industry than any other company. But it has some advantages also such as it has more plug-ins built-in than ArchiCAD and has a bigger Object library. But in the latest version of ArchiCAD, i.e. ArchiCAD 24, they have integrated the MEP plug-in which can do most of the things which a project needs. In addition to these, ArchiCAD also comes with the integration of LIVE SYNC with RHINO & GRASSHOPPER, hence creating parametric structures will also become more EFFICIENT in ArchiCAD rather than Revit which does have a plug-in called DYNAMO in it for parametric use but it crashes very often and is not that reliable.

Workflow & UI

When it comes to workflow and UX. ArchiCAD is again better than Revit as it is very easy to use as compared to Revit and has a more interesting user interface than Revit. ArchiCAD contains tools like PUSH & PULL, MAGIC WAND & MARQUEE, which can make it very easy and fast to edit and work on your project, but these tools or tools doing similar functions are missing in Revit, which makes it very tough to learn and work as well.

Integration with Structural Engineers and MEP Consultants

Revit has a slight edge here as it has a wide range of plug-ins that are built in it, and secondly due to the already established market of Autodesk due to which many Structural engineers are already working on Revit. But ArchiCAD 24 has been significantly improved in terms of interoperability and management, and it has a better IFC (Industry Foundation Class) export option through which any Structural or MEP consultant can easily work on it, also it as introduced a BIM cloud which can be used for the teamwork with different agencies in the same project. So, it’s just a matter of time for ArchiCAD to become better.


When it comes to Visualization, both are equal in terms of output which is definitely not as good as the rendering engines like Vray or Lumion. ArchiCAD comes with CINEMA 4D & has recently bought the rights for Twinmotion and UNREAL engine which can be a very good combination but it has just been started and there are many things to improve here. 

While Revit also has a decent rendering engine in itself but when compared to other Rendering Software they both fall way behind. But both of the software can be easily used with Lumion so it does not matter much on these aspects.


I have a personal preference for ArchiCAD over Revit due to the above-mentioned reasons, but for students, I would suggest learning both the software as both have their own place in the Industry and both will make your CV very strong.

ArchiCAD vs Rhino

These two cannot be compared directly as they both are used for very different and specific reasons and these can vary from person to person. Rhino is a parametric software that is used for making complex and organic forms while ArchiCAD is a BIM software that is specially made for Architects and can make some level of complex forms in it also. But as I mentioned earlier, ArchiCAD as a plug-in for Rhino & Grasshopper, so making parametric buildings is also very much possible in ArchiCAD also. So, using both of them together would be a much efficient way provided you want to make a parametric building, otherwise just for straight or curved surfaces, ArchiCAD is more than enough.

How to Create the Illustration

Step 1: Creating a View (ArchiCAD)

Arrange a Particular View in 3D model space which you wish to generate.

Step 2: Generating a 3D document (ArchiCAD)

Create a 3D Document of it by right-clicking on the 3D Documents panel on the right side and then select “NEW 3D DOCUMENT FROM 3D”.

It will just create a Separate file of that particular view which you can edit.

❗ Note: ArchiCAD also has different view modes in 3D model Space just like Sketchup,i.e, Hidden Lines, Shaded, Vectorial etc. So I have used a Simple View mode in the View space which shows the model in just black and white surfaces, but the model already has its material properties and surface finishes. So whenever you will make a 3D document, it will be shown in the actual surface finishes which you would be providing while making the model.

Step 3: Creating a Worksheet (ArchiCAD)

Once you have generated the 3D document, you now have to create a WORKSHEET of that Document. So as shown in the image, without making any changes in the 3D document, just go to that 3D document and click on the worksheet tool in the tool’s panels on the left. 

Create the worksheet by dragging down your mouse from top left corner to bottom right corner around the area which you want to export.

It will show a small circle with the name of the worksheet written inside it on the right side as shown in image. Right click on that circle and then click “OPEN VIEW WITH CURRENT SETTINGS”

Now you have entered the Worksheet which will look like this:

Step 4; Editing the view in Worksheet (ArchiCAD)

Now click on the “Suspend Groups” as shown in image. This will allow you to edit each line and surfaces individually. You can change the color, line type, linewidth of the lines and color, its transparency or any material hatch to the surfaces.

This is how you can edit the SURFACES; just click on the surface you want to edit and all the options will be visible in the toolbar.

This is how you can edit the LINES

STEP 5; Using Marquee tool (ArchiCAD)

After completing the editing of lines and surfaces, you have to export it as a PDF. 

In order to do that, select the MARQUEE TOOL from the tools panel from the left side as shown in the image. Select the whole area as shown.

STEP 6: Exporting as PDF (ArchiCAD)

Now select SAVE AS (Shift+Ctrl+S) and Select PDF. 

Click on use MARQUEE AREA and FIT TO PAGE as shown in the image and select the page size according to your choice, Finally click OK to save it and it will be exported as a PDF.

STEP 7; Editing the pdf (Illustrator)

Now open that PDF file in Illustrator and you can edit anything on It by using the Select Same tool by going to the Select Tab respectively as shown in the images. Try to use layers to keep everything separate as it will provide better control over the view for the editing.

STEP 8: Save as Ai file (Illustrator)

STEP 9: Importing the Ai file into Photoshop 

Create a NEW file in the Photoshop and Click on PLACE LINK Option from the Files menu and select the Ai file.

If you want the canvas to be of the same size, then first make the Photoshop panel of the same size as of the Ai file and when importing the Ai file, select on “CROP TO MEDIA BOX”, it will keep the size of the view the same.

STEP 10: Editing & Exporting the final work (Photoshop)

Now you can add various things like, humans, trees, vehicles birds etc. in the view by using either brush tool or clone stamp tool as shown in the images

After finishing, save the .psd file and Export it as a JPEG or PDF file according to your need.

The final output will look like this:

Hope this tutorial opened a different kind of workflow for you and if you ever want to experiment with ArchiCAD, this can be a great first exercise to try.


How to Create Iterative Massing Diagrams in Sketchup

Massing diagrams don’t need to be complicated or take a long time to put together. In this week’s post, guest author Ellie takes us through her workflow from thinking about the programme all the way down to finishing touches and exporting your diagrams. This is especially helpful if you want to showcase an iterative process in yoru design work and make it clear, simple and effective.

Establishing your Programme

Before you get started make sure you have established the programmes you wish to feature within your building, and begin to make connections between different programmes and understand which require more space and which need much less.

There are several ways to visually document your programme that will also help you understand the spatial qualities these programmes will require. Three different examples of these programme diagrams are:

  • Bubble Diagrams
  • Hierarchy diagrams
  • Spider Diagrams.

The Bubble diagram consists of drawing different sized bubbles for each programme depending on the amount of space required or importance, they are grouped and laid out like an abstract plan of the building and help you to understand which programmes may sit next to each other and which can be apart. The hierarchy diagram used in this tutorial is useful for grouping programmes into larger zones and then breaking down the smaller spaces required for each. The size of the ‘stack’ again depends on the amount of space it needs. The Spider diagram is very similar to a mindmap except for the linking lines between the programmes show which spaces need to be connected and can be physically linked in the building.

Using CAD Modelling Software as a Tool for Thinking

Once you have established your programme you can begin to think about massing and the form of your building and begin modelling your ideas in CAD software. The software we will use for this tutorial is Sketchup as it is geometry-based and lends well for modelling simple forms easily and quickly. The key to using CAD software for massing models is not being too precious about your models and using a few tools to extrude and distort forms and not being caught up in walls or floors. Working from home for the past year has proven that CAD modelling CAN be used as a thinking tool in the way that wood and foam models were used before and is equally useful and easy.

Learning the Basic Tools 

To get started creating massing models in Sketch up you need to learn a few main basic tools: The line tools, Shape tools, Push Pull tool and Scale tool. If you are not yet familiar with using SketchUp it may be useful to watch a tutorial such as this one from The Sketchup Essentials to get to grips with the software before you begin.

The way you model will depend on which is most important to you: specific form, or programme. In this tutorial, we will be following a specific form concept and then building the programme into it, but if you wish to build your form around the programmatic elements and the spaces they need then you may wish to start with the next step and work backwards. Massing models don’t have to fit a certain mould after all!

In our case, we will begin by drawing a basic shape using the shape and line tools, and then the push-pull tool to begin pulling the shape into three dimensions. You can then continue to divide and extrude the shape to form different masses.

Dividing the Form into Programme Zones

Once you have established some forms you like you can begin to play around and divide them into floors and programmatic zones. The way I did this is by selecting the top plane of the form [by double clicking] and using Ctrl + the move tool to drag a copy to the side.

Then using the line tools I divided the form into different areas and extruded them to fill single or double-storey heights. Before extruding each area I grouped them to prevent them from merging with other geometry so that they can be isolated and copied into other iterations. To do this simply double click the plane and right-click → Group.

Once in a group, you can edit these shapes by double-clicking into the group and pressing Esc to exit it after editing. I also pulled up the cores of my building along the blue axis to emphasise their location.

Exporting your Final Massing Models

Once you are happy with your massing models and their zoned copy you can begin to export the forms to turn into a comprehensive set of iterative diagrams. To do so, set up a scene on the Scenes tab. Check out this tutorial on setting up Scenes in Sketchup.

To set up the right isometric view make sure to select the Parallel Projection Camera from the Camera tab, and then highlight the model and click Iso on the camera angles tab.

You may want to draw a small line as a marker so that you can move each new iteration to the same point to ensure each screengrab is consistent. To get three different views for form, zones and circulations you need to export three different images. Firstly capture an isometric view of the entire form before dividing up, do so on the Hidden Line Style with Model Axes and Guides unchecked.

Then go to File > Export > 2D Graphic. When exporting your images choose PDF and be careful to name the images as it can be easy to mix up very similar iterations, it can be useful to also create a separate folder for the images to make them easier to locate.

Repeat these Exports with the zoned model in the Hidden Line style and also in the Wireframe style, all as PDFs, not JPEG.

Doing Post Production in Adobe IIllustrator 

Now it is time to produce a diagram from the models you have made. It is worth mentioning first if you are unfamiliar with Adobe Illustrator it may be worth watching a tutorial series to getting started. Check out our 10 Essential Tools in Adobe Illustrator for some helpful tips.

First open your PDF Straight into Adobe using File > Open and selecting the chosen image. You can open all three styles of the mass and work on them in parallel. Firstly with the zoned form, select all the lines and go to Object > Live Paint > Make to begin adding colour. Live Paint is one of the best tools in Illustrator!

Now you can use the Live Paint tool to begin adding colour to each zone of the building. Once you have added colour you can select all the lines and change them to white should you want them to blend into the page colour. 

Now lock this layer and start a new one and use the Pen tool to draw a shadow extending from the cores to their origins and lower the opacity.

For the entire form models, repeat these steps adding one single chosen colour or create shadows using shades to show the entire form and again change the lines to white. 

For the Wireframe images:

  1. Thicken and change the colour of the lines that go around the perimeter of each zone to indicate where they are but allow view through the entire form.
  2. Then using the Pen tool draw a path into and around these zones depicting circulation in and through the space. In the diagram below I used four different lines to correspond with the four main zones.
  3. Then using the Polygon tool placing small triangles to indicate the direction of the route.

 Bringing the Image Together

Once you have edited each iteration and each of its layers you can begin to assemble a final set of diagrams.

  1. First open a New Illustrator Document in the page size you wish, I recommend A2 or A3, then Select and Group each iteration layer and Copy onto the new document.
  2. Using the rulers drag out some Grid lines for the rows and columns and align each layer on a specific point.
  3. Now using the Pen tool you can add lines to connect a path from each iteration and each type of diagram, using the Scissors tool to trim around the models. Repat for the other iterations and add text.
  4. Finally export your image as a JPEG making sure to Select Artboards and you are finished! Here is the final result below.


The Easiest Way to Add Textures in Photoshop

Adding textures in Photoshop doesn’t need to be a long, complicated process. In fact, it’s a simple case of image manipulation. In this tutorial we’ll be learning how to:

→ import and adjust images
→ using clipping masks and blending options
→ working in a non-destructive way

But what does adding textures to our images do?

Well, illustrations, sketches and post-produced styled images can produce an array of creative outcomes that a normal render wouldn’t be able to do. Textures allow us to provide a sense of materiality, show context and add a layer of interest within our images. Photoshop is a great tool for this because it can perfectly manipulate images meaning that you don’t even need the finished material to begin with – opening up a range of possibilities and chances for exploration.

In this tutorial, we’ll be using a white Sketchup model as the base for our image. You could apply new textures to simple line work, clay renders and even on top of existing photographs – there isn’t any limit! Textures are also great when creating simple digital collages; something that can convey key ideas of your project.

Before We Begin

First of all, let me start by saying if you are working on intricate files with a lot of detail you need to be saving constantly and keeping your layers in order! There have been a countless number of times I’ve kicked myself for merging layers or not naming them. If you need to remind yourself to do a little clean-up every now and then, set a ⏰reminder or alarm on your phone.

Working non-destructively means that you’re not erasing or permanently altering original images. If it does come down to doing so, make sure that you make a copy by hitting Ctrl + J and just hiding it. You never know what could go wrong or if you wanted to change something in the future, you don’t lose the original image.

Similarly, it can be a good idea to keep a 📂 library of resources or assets that you can use regularly. There are some amazing texture libraries and websites out there with free images to download – but you don’t necessarily need them all! I’d suggest starting off with your own or even downloading some from other architecture content creators. My good friend Oliver from Learn Upstairs has some awesome packs you can buy and keep forever.

How to Add Textures

💡 I’ve gone ahead and imported my Sketchup image into Photoshop. If you wanted to add base colours like I’ve done, you’re absolutely welcome to do so. If you want a texture only collage with no linework then you don’t need to add any colour and can use the Sketchup model as a base or guide.

  1. When selecting areas to fill with the Magic Wand Tool (W) you can achieve a seamless fill by expanding the selection by a few pixels so that it selects the area underneath the linework too. Just go to Select > Modify > Expand. Then, make sure that both layers are set to the Multiply blending mode and the linework layer is at the top.

2. Find the kind of texture image you’re looking for. Since this image is more of an illustration and not a realistic render, we can use a digitally-made texture. Alternatively, you could also draw in an element, watercolour or hatch and even use a photograph – it all depends on the style you’re going for.

I love using Architextures for all my collages and sketch images. The website has an easy interface and a whole bunch of options to adjust the image according to your liking. There are even pre-made textures for you to choose from. Here’s the brick texture I’ve downloaded:

3. After importing into Photoshop, you’ll obviously realise that at a reasonable scale, the texture won’t fit both walls. In this case, we need to Duplicate and scale the image accordingly. You can do this by clicking on the image with the Move Tool (V) and with Transform Controls on, click on one of the control points and drag. ❗ Try not to distort the scale of the image by either pressing Shift or making sure the link icon is clicked in the top toolbar.

Now you will need to duplicate the image (Copy / Paste works fine here) and create a large enough image that will cover one side of the wall. Then, select all the layers and Right Click > Merge Layers. Rename this to Brick Texture and create a hidden copy.

4. Now we can distort the image to fit the correct perspective. It’s a little tricky to see the wall and lines behind so you could either move the layer behind the linework or reduce the opacity for the time being.

Then, select the corner control point, Right Click and select Distort. Now you just need to drag the corners to roughly match one of the walls. Don’t worry about going over the edges either, just make sure to cover as much as you can. Now, we can repeat the same process for the other side of the wall.

5. Then, select both layers by holding down Shift and Right Click. Here you have to make sure that both texture layers are on top of our previous colour fill. Click ‘Create Clipping Mask’.

Et voilà! You’ve successfully added in your texture. The best thing about this is that you can always go back to adjust the scale, colour and position of the texture images. I personally like a rough, imperfect look to it.

6. Additional adjustments. In the image below, I’ve lowered the opacity slightly and created a new Layer Mask which I’ve then painted over with the Brush Tool (B) to make some areas appear even fainter. You could layer the image with more textures, paint in some weathered details and repeat the process for the other parts of the image.

You also don’t have to stick to the lines. Think about the surrounding white space and how that could be used to enhance the perspective. If you also wanted to turn off the linework altogether, that’s also an option. The great thing about using Photoshop and working non-destructively is that you can always go back and experiment.

For more awesome tutorials like this one, check out our 🌞 3D Sun Path Diagram or How to Make Maps articles too.