June 9, 2016

From Napkin Sketches to Revit

I have been in the business of designing buildings since the late ‘80s. And, over the years, I have seen the design and documentation practices change a lot. I started off sketching ideas on “trace” (aka, tracing paper or onion skin), copy paper, paper bags, lumber, wall board, and even the proverbial napkin. After the idea was sketched, I would turn the sketch over to a drafter to be turned into working or construction drawing (CDs). The drafter would then use any number of mediums: stone and chisel, chalkboard and chalk, paper and pencil, vellum and ink, CAD or BIM tools to create these CDs. But my process was always the same regardless of the medium, start with a sketch.
We are now in the digital age of design, and our design methods are certainly smarter than they have ever been before. We have instant access to information to make our design bigger and better, but there is still something to be said about getting ideas out of your head and put to paper.

Getting the idea from your head into Revit:

Beginning with a napkin and a conveniently available Ideate pen, I quickly sketched out an idea for a restaurant.
After I had my sketch, I took a picture with my smartphone (previously I would have handed the sketch to the drafter), and sent it to my computer via Bluetooth, (back in the day it might have been sent by facsimile machine). Note as long as your image is a .bmp, .jpg, .jpeg, .png, or .tif file, you can import it into Revit.

In Revit, I started a new drawing, then used the Image tool to insert the image into the Revit model.
Simply “click” to place the image into a floor plan view or an elevation view. Note that images cannot be placed in 3D views. If you need images in a 3D view investigate the Decal tool. Or maybe that will be the topic of a future post.

Once the image has been placed in the View, it will most likely not be scaled. This is where the Scale tool can be used. The object is to figure out what size something is in the sketch and scale it to the desired size it should be in Revit.

Select the Image to access the Modify|Raster Image tab. Under the Modify panel is the Scale tool.
Once the Scale tool has been accessed Revit prompts you to “Click to Enter Origin”. Because the image is a raster file, Revit cannot snap to a point on the sketch. Pick a point on the sketch from which Revit should scale the image up or down.
After selecting the origin point Revit prompts to “Click to Enter Drag Point”. As you move the cursor a listening dimension is displayed indicating the length from the origin to your cursor location. This is where you specify a referencing length within the sketch that will then be scaled to the desired length.

Move the cursor along the sketched wall to the corner of the building. Again, you cannot snap to the image pixels, so the point being measured is only as good as the sketch and where you decide to click the drag point.
After specifying the drag point, Revit prompts to “Click to Enter New Position of Drag Point”. Ignore this prompt, simply enter the desired real-world length. For example, in my sketch, the distance between the origin point and the drag point (considered the reference length), measured out at 14’-3”, in the sketch but is supposed to be 36’-0” in the model. Entering 36’-0” will scale the referenced length of 14’-3” to 36’-0” scaling the entire image to a “real-world” size.

After the image is scaled, use the image as a guideline for the design. This is where you can test how well scaled your sketching skills are. Keep in mind that you will not be able to “snap” to the sketched lines, and use the sketched image as a guideline.

With the napkin sketch scaled, use any Revit tools to trace over the image to develop your design and move it forward in the BIM world.
Check out the accompanying video to this blog post and prepare to take your drawings from napkin sketches to Revit.

For more information on training and consulting for the various products Ideate services, visit our website.

Ron Palma
AEC Application Specialist
Ron has 25+ years of experience in the architectural industry as a drafter, designer, lead project designer, trainer, and a CAD manager implementing Autodesk Architectural Solutions for residential design firms. His instructional accomplishments include: Autodesk Certified Instructor (ACI), trainer, support technician, educator at Portland and Clackamas Community Colleges, as well as a U.S. Army certified instructor. Ron holds a BA in Instructional Design suma cum laude, is a member of the Oregon Army National Guard, where he is a First Sergeant of an Infantry Company, specializing in training and mentoring soldiers in their careers, and has been deployed to Afghanistan in support of Operation Enduring Freedom and Operation Resolute Support. Ron is a published author and continues to write professional technical training manuals and shorts for AutoCAD, AutoCAD Architecture, and Revit. As an Autodesk Certified Instructor and Revit Architecture Autodesk Certified Professional, Ron continues to provide Revit Architecture and AutoCAD training and support for various AEC firms. @RonPalmaAEC