Revit Fundamentals: Standards Control

If you use any Autodesk Revit flavor to create AEC drawings, congratulations! Now to determine if you should keep on reading this article we need to find out where you fall in this ‘usage’.There are generally three types.

A) you loaded the software a while back and got to work using the out-of-the-box settings, and you never looked back.

B) you loaded the software recently and have not made too much progress.

C) you loaded the software, built in your standards and don’t need to go through that again.
If you fit A or B you ought to keep on reading. If you fit C you might still pick up something interesting. Whether you recently installed Revit or never really look at the look and feel as a whole this article hopes to explain where you can start to make the biggest impact in the shortest amount of time. Revit controls standards differently than AutoCAD or its verticals ACA/AMEP.
Within AutoCAD you control line weights (how thick a plottedline appears) via a CTB file (color dependant plot style table), and STB file (named plot style table), and depending on that, controlled at the layer properties or even at the object property level.
Notice something? Lots of places where things can be defined and ultimately get messed up. Revit is a bit simpler. Line weights are defined in one place, the Line Weights dialog found under Settings.As shown in Figure 1, this little gem of a dialog doesn’t look like much. You have simple tabs across the top which correlate to the type of Revit view being displayed. The primary tab is Model Line Weights and it is here that you define how wide the line pen slot 1 prints (or plot for you AutoCAD users). Now for each pen slot you can increase the complication by adjusting for each scale. What this does is allow a concrete wall, for example, to have an X wide line for 1/8" scale plans and a Y wide line for 1/16" scale plans. That does have value in my eyes.
But check out pen slot 16 at 1'=1’-0". Yep, you read it correctly. A half-inch line is what you get for scales down to 1/8"=1’-0". Then it thins down to 0.20" at 1/32". I’ve been around since the days of pen plotters and I don’t recall ever seeing a pen wider than 2mm. At 1/2" I would suspect the pens would have been empty after each plot!
Figure 1- Revit 2010 Line Weights dialog
So where did this pen weight theme come from? I have no idea but it is the first thing I recommend to toss and replace. Notice I said toss not fix. My assumption is you know what you need from your pens and therefore starting with a clean slate is best. The line weights is the first step in a lengthy process of customization, but once you have this done and you plot it out, it will most probably never change again.
So what theme to use? What did you use before? In AutoCAD I’m sure you have a CTB backed up somewhere or perhaps a standards manual. Crack it open and look. But you could go further back, you know, to when drawings were made by hand...whoa...Yea, back when I had hair I created drawings using pens with ink in them. And those same pens are available still today and you can look them up! I did a quick search and turned up an image of Koh-I-Noor pens tip sizes, as shown in Figure 2.
Figure 2- Koh-I-Noor standard technical pen tip sizes for their Rapidograph pens
It has a range from 0.13mm to 2mm, thirteen pens in total. Now back in the day I recall using 0.45mm as well, so I include it to bring our list up to fourteen pens. Now you may say "I only need five pens" and that may be true, but this dialog has sixteen slots and you can’t reduce that. You will just have to work around that you have more than you need and if needed apply some logic to your theme.
Okay, so we have a list of pen sizes - time to implement. For starters I personally feel having a bunch of scales isn’t needed for most work. So to begin I delete all the scales except for 1/8"=1’-0". To delete a Line Weight Scale just click the column header and then click the Delete button. Once that is done ponder how you want to list your pens. Most users go thinnest to thickest and I agree with that. But if you take a look around in any Revit template you will notice that pen slot 1 is used a LOT. And as you poke even deeper into families and other dialogs you will find more cases where pen slot 1 is used.
This is so rampant that I bet even after you "finish" your customization, you will come across a condition you missed. Okay, now wouldn’t it be nice to tell when you didn’t customize something? Sure it would! So here is a concept - use pen slot 1 as something you have yet to set. Then use pen slot 16 as something not your discipline. The other 14 slots are your standard pens increasing in size.
So what you would do as you begin is open the standard template, open Object Styles, show all disciplines and expand categories. Select all slots and change to pen 1. Then as you go about your customization, anytime you see pen 1 used - you have to decide what pen it should be (2 to 15) or that you don’t need it to be anything of your concern and make it pen 16.
After that I do add one more scale, 1/16"=1’-0" that I use for overall plans. For each pen I halve the size, except pen 1 and 16 which I make the thinnest size Revit will allow. Once done my dialog looks like Figure 3. Now notice I am using metric sizes for the pens, generally only to be absolutely accurate. Soon as I exit this dialog the sizes will be shown in Imperial equivalent as that is my typical units setting.
Figure 3- My completed Line "pen" weights
Now don’t worry about other scale not included. Revit will use the closest (but not larger) Pen Weight Scale to the view being printed. So your 3/4" scale views will use the same pens as 1/8" scale. At 1/16" it shifts to the other scale. Keep in mind that my choices do have a slight bias for structural engineering documentation.
Did you know Morse Code is really a line pattern? In Revit you combine a line pattern with a line weight and create line styles. But you also combine line patterns with line weights for object styles. So to begin you open up the Line Patterns dialog, also found under Settings. As shown in Figure 4, at first this should seem familiar as it follows basic CAD principles. My only issue with the out-of-the-box line patterns is who made this up? Was it the AIA? An engineer? Someone else? Again, in an effort to own your standard I suggest creating your own patterns according to whatever guide you choose. You can then decide to make true half patterns to use when required. And my personal favorite, create a Level line pattern to use with level types. The default template uses Grid Line...duh!
Figure 4- The Line Patterns dialog
The key to customization here is to name them uniquely so that if and when you have to Transfer Project Standards from an outside Revit project you don’t lose your line patterns. Put your company initials, an odd character, something to just make the odds of overwriting them very low.
I’m getting to the good stuff now, and the end of this article. The next step and largest is to open up the Object Style dialog, also found under Settings. Once you open this you will be presented with a complete list of all object types available in your flavor of Revit. As needed you can expand the dialog listing to include all discipline categories. Now as shown in Figure 5, I have adjusted all categories to be pen 1 because in my world pen 1 is for what I have yet to set. I then started with Structural Columns and changed the Projection and Cut slots to 6 & 8 respectively. That means when I see a column edge, be it in plan or elevation, it will use pen slot 6 (0.35mm) and use pen slot 8 (0.50mm) for columns cut in the active view.
Figure 5- Object Styles for Structural Columns
From here if you have play Sherlock Holmes a bit to determine what category controls what view condition of the object. For example a concrete Structural Column below a slab is defined graphically by the Hidden Lines category slot. Each category has potential to be something you need to customize or something you never will need. This is when I use pen slot 16 again. If am sleuthing and just can’t create a condition when a category is used graphically then I change the pen weight to 16. This then tells me at least I looked at it and decided I didn’t need it.
Now another trick to this is to use a really bright color (perhaps hot pink) during the hunt. And if I never find the condition in which the category is applied, leave it pink! That way if at some time in the future I do see a hot pink line, not only do I know that was a problem it will be obvious back in the Object Styles dialog what category slot needs correction.
So there you go. A little bit of insight of what steps to take to start your customization. Is there more? Absolutely! Not only do you apply your line weight and patterns to the Object Styles, you will need to do so for your Line Styles and then put those to use in your annotation families and detail lines. Then for cases when you have to deviate from the Object Styles, you can apply these same sort of changes at the view properties level via Visibility/Graphic Overrides dialog. If you want more of this story, let me know over at my blog.

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