Consistency through Templates

The seasoned AutoCAD® user knows that when setting up a template for complex plans, getting the right look requires creating layers with the proper line color, weight, and style.

We also want to achieve the same looks with Autodesk® Revit® Structure. Building a series of templates for different types of views and including this in your model template will produce a consistent look between Revit Structure and AutoCAD as well as easier and more efficient modeling.

The Visibility Graphic of Structural Elements

If you take a look at the drawings printed directly from a file created with the default Revit template, the drawings will not look at all like structural plans.

Figure 1

Note that the beam line weight and line pattern is defined by the default structural function assigned by Revit. Most of the steel beams will not be defined as “Girders” but as secondary beams (Category “Other” or “Purlin” or “Joist”), so they will be drawn with a very light line weight. There are two ways to correct this.

  1. You can laboriously change all the beams which are not girders to “Girder,” one beam at a time, or
  2. You can use a template with user-defined filters and property overrides from the start.

For concrete columns and shear walls you can use also a filter and property override to change their visibility. Since these elements tend to look small on the drawings, we are accustomed to shading them with a light grey pattern.

For the rest of the beams types (concrete or wood) we can simply manipulate visibility in the “Visibility Graphics” window. The “Girder” and the “Other” beam categories should be defined with the same line weight.

Figure 2

In my experience, it works much better if you also change the colors in “VG” to the colors you use in AutoCAD because it is very hard to distinguish structural elements on plan views. (I normally reverse the background so it looks exactly like a CAD plan.)

If you are working on a foundation plan view, you will need to adjust the line thickness and line type of the foundations. Follow your company standards in determining line weights.

An “out of the box” foundation plan view looks like Figure 3.

Figure 3

Depending on your standards, the foundation plan view should look like Figure 4.

Figure 4

Creating Filters

To begin setting up your template, open the ‘Filters” window (Figure 5) and create the filter names.

Figure 5

1. Steel Beam Filter. Type a new name for each steel beam family, then from the list of categories select “Structural Framing.” Next set up the filter rules. We will filter by the “Family Name” equal to the types of beams on the drawing. There will be as many steel beam filters as  different steel beam families you use (WF, Bar Joist, HSS, etc.).

Figure 6

2. Concrete Column Filter. Repeat the steps from the Steel Beam Filters except select the “Structural Column” category. Here you will also need to define multiple filters for your various family types (rectangular, square, round, etc.).

3. Shear Wall Filter. To create a filter for shear walls you have to define the shear wall types as “Core-Shaft” walls (that is the function of the wall). This way if there is more than one type of shear wall the filter will still work. The procedure is the same as before: for Category pick “Walls,” then at “Filter Rules” select “Function” and “Core-Shaft.”

Now that all our filters are set up, we are ready to create the Visibility Graphic overrides.

VG Overrides


Open the “Visibility Overrides” window in the plan view. Open the last tab, Filters, and add all the filters you just created. For each filter create an override for “Projection” and “Cut” surfaces according to your standards.

Figure 7

When all the overrides are done you can save this plan view as a “View Template” to be able to use it on the rest of plans. For  foundations you should create a separate view template.

The prints from these plan views will now be more readable and will comply with your company’s AutoCAD standards.

Figure 8

On plans containing steel and concrete beams, the usual practice is to call out the steel beam size on the plan but schedule the concrete beams.

To get this result we need to create a special tag family for the concrete beams.

Concrete Beam Tag

Open the existing “Beam Tag” family. Double click the “Label” and change it to from “Type Name” to “Mark.”

Figure 9

Save the family with a different name and load it into project.

Now when tagging beams the concrete beams will be tagged with your new tag and steel beams with the default tag.

View/Model Template

You can see that it is very useful to create a Revit template that corresponds to your company’s CAD standards. This template should include all your overrides, modified visibility graphics, dimension styles, text style, custom families, custom line weights, and patterns The template can also include schedule set up as well as custom line and pattern type for detail lines.

The project where you first defined the filters can be saved as a template or the view templates can be transferred to other projects. This way, your Revit drawings will be easier and faster to create and readable by any structural engineer.

Anamaria Brown is the owner of AMB Structural CAD, an AutoCAD and Revit consulting firm that specializes in drafting complex AutoCAD projects and Revit modeling. A structural engineer in her native Romania, she escaped to the United States in 1985 and almost immediately began working as a drafter for Skidmore Owings Merrill at the beginning of the CAD revolution. Deeply involved with Draft, Microstation, and the development of SOM’s AES, she quickly became the major projects CAD team leader for SOM and later for Epstein and Sons and Thornton Thomasetti. As a member of the National CAD Standards Committee she was involved with the creation of Version 3 of the NCS. Most recently she worked for TRC Worldwide in Sarasota, Florida. You may contact Anamaria through her website,

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