How to Trace 2D Drawings to Create Your Model

This video tip focuses on a topic that should be of interest to many ArchiCAD users. In this demonstration, I show how to bring in 2D drawings (in this case, DWG files) as a tracing reference to make it easy and fast to create an accurate 3D model. This approach can be used for modeling existing buildings from CAD files, or taking a design from 2D CAD into a 3D model quickly for presentations or model coordination.

There are two versions of this presentation now available: the original 90 minute one that shows every step along the way, and a 44 minute excerpted version that leaves out some less essential details as well as much of the repetitive drawing and data entry. I still plan to create a shorter piece that will be more conceptual, and focus on the principles and the most important steps.

There is a timeline control strip for this video, so you can jump to any point you wish, or replay sections at will. You can switch between the 90 minute and 44 minute versions by clicking on the link (below right).

You may download the 90 minute version with this link (right-click and choose Save Link As or Save Target As):

ArchiCAD Tutorial | How to Trace 2D Drawings to Create Your Model

Please scroll down below the video to see an outline of the main steps as well as additional notes.


Click HERE to switch to 44 Minute Version

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Here is an outline of the process:
  • Create a new project
  • Import the DWG files into separate Worksheets and coordinate their origin points
  • Set up the Story Levels to correspond to the project heights
  • Use Virtual Trace to reference the ground floor DWG as a background while working on the ground floor plan
  • Move the original MasterTemplate base slabs, elevation and section markers, and gridlines to the vicinity of the traced DWG
  • Set up the wall tool for the proper thickness and height, then trace the outline of the building
  • Repeat for the upper story
  • Place windows in the walls using the plan DWGs as references for location and width
  • Open each of the Elevation viewpoints and correspond the DWG Worksheets for trace reference
  • Adjust window heights, types and glazing patterns to match the original drawings
  • Repeat for the doors, first on plan, then in elevation
  • Draw the first roof piece on plan by tracing over the roof outline from the original drawing
  • Coordinate the height and thickness of the roof in each elevation
  • Use these adjusted settings to create the rest of the roof system on the lower level, then repeat the process for the upper roofs
  • Trim walls to the roofs to clean up the model
  • Adjust some of the windows and doors to have arched tops with bricks above
  • Review the 3D model, elevations and plans, which now correspond beautifully to the original drawings

This entire process was done in real time, in 90 minutes!

To be frank, the first time I did this it took between 3 and 4 hours, because I had to become familiar with the project and how the DWGs were organized. The second time it took about 2 to 2 1/2 hours, and then I started over and recorded the process the third time in 90 minutes from start to finish.

At some point I will create a shorter, more conceptual explanation video and write an article that documents and explains the process.

I look forward to your comments and feedback.

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Bobrow Consulting Group also provides remote consulting services to help you use ArchiCAD more effectively. We can share a screen using GoToMeeting and talk by phone or Skype to go over your questions in context, and teach Best Practices. For more info or to arrange a session, email