Working from a Sketch in Revit

Sketches can be a great source for starting design massing in Revit. In certain cases, hand drawings can be scanned from physical pen and paper drawings. In some design workflows, sketching directly within a computer application is becoming increasingly common. To support this digital workflow, in 2010 Autodesk released a tool for Apple’s iPad called SketchBook Pro (Figure 2-1) that allows you to sketch directly on the iPad or iPhone using a stylus or even your finger.

The sketch in Figure 2-1 was created on the iPad, but this example will work for any scanned sketch design—even one on tracing paper. In our sample scenario for this chapter, the designer has created sketches of a proposed building form and would like you to import each of the orientations into Revit and use them as context for a quick massing study. The building program allows a maximum building height of about 800′ [244 m] and requires a gross area of 3.5 million square feet [325,000 square meters].

Figure 2-1: A hand sketch from Autodesk’s SketchBook Pro for the iPad.
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Importing Background Images

Let’s look at how you can combine the design’s sketches with Revit’s massing tools to help deliver preliminary feedback about the design. When you open Revit for the first time, you’ll find yourself at the Revit home screen. This screen keeps a graphic history of the recent projects and families that you’ve worked on.

1. From the home screen, select New to open the default Revit template. Open the South elevation by double-clicking on it in the Project Browser.

2. On the Insert tab, select the Import panel and click the Image tool (Figure 2-2).

Figure 2-2: Select the Image tool on the Import panel

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3. Select the Ch 2 Massing Sketch.png file from the Chapter 2 folder on this book’s web page ( Once you select the image, you will be put back in the South elevation view.

4. You’ll see a large, empty-looking box with an X through it. This is the Image Placement tool. Place the image as shown in Figure 2-3 so that the base of the building sketch roughly aligns with Level 1.

Figure 2-3: The placed image. Note the location of the levels relative to the base of the image

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As you can tell from Figure 2-3, the scale of the sketch doesn’t relate to the real-world units of Revit. To remedy this, let’s quickly scale the imported image

Accurately Scaling Images

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Select the Measure tool from the Quick Access toolbar (QAT) located at the top of the screen. When the tool is active, pick between the two points, as shown in Figure 2-4. As you can see, the real-world distance in our image is about 70′ [52 m]. Depending on how you inserted your image, it might vary a bit. That’s fine; your next step is to learn how to scale these images.

Figure 2-4: Measuring the imported image

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You know the desired distance is 800′ [243 m] between the two points you just measured. One way to change the image size is to select the image and manually enlarge it by dragging the corner grips until the distance is correct—and in many cases this might be close enough. However, we’ll show you a more precise method:

1. Select the image and look at the Properties palette on the left. Notice the current dimension for the Height field is 85′-4″ [26 m] in our example. To modify the image size, you need to increase the Height value with regard to the desired and actual dimensions.

2. To determine this value, first divide 800′ [243 m] (the desired height) by 70′ [52 m] (the measured distance). Then multiply the result by 85′-4″ [26 m] (the current height) and enter the quotient. Using Revit’s built-in database functionality, you can do the math right in the Properties palette!

3. Type the formula shown in Figure 2-5. Be sure to add the = sign at the beginning of the formula. The height of the image will increase significantly (over 975′ [2,735 m]). But now the imported image has proportionally increased the correct amount.

Figure 2-5: A formula for adjusting the image height

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4. Move the lower edge of the sketch to align with Level 1 again. Also, increase the scale of the view to 1″ = 30′-0″ [1:500] so that the level’s symbols are more visible (Figure 2-6).

Figure 2-6: The resulting image

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