How to Get Your Materials Right

Every material in Revit has an appearance asset that controls how it looks in the realistic visual style and in renderings.  These assets come in different types and each type has a different set of properties.  For instance, you can give a generic asset an image texture, but a paint asset can only get a solid color.

Appearance Asset

It’s a really good idea to spend some time exploring the asset browser to familiarize yourself with all the pre-made appearance assets at your disposal.  You might find that an appearance you thought you’d need to create from scratch already exists!  Or you might find something similar that you can tweak until it’s just right.

Open the asset browser and set your view to show the largest possible thumbnails, so you can get a sense of what all the appearances are really like.  Then scroll through all the categories to see what’s in there!

When you create a new material from scratch, it will have a generic appearance aspect.  You can’t change the type of an existing asset.

Create New MaterialDefault Generic Type

If you want to make a new metal material, for instance, you can’t just create a new material.  You could duplicate and rename an existing material that has a metal appearance, but you might have to override a lot of properties afterward to get it how you want it.

Duplicate MaterialMetal

Alternatively, you can create a new material and then replace its appearance asset.  Open the asset browser and find the list of default appearances.  Choose the one you want and click the button to replace the current asset.


There are a lot of asset types.  Sometimes it’s obvious which one is the best fit, but sometimes it’s hard to know which one to choose!  You can look at the help files to get a detailed list of the properties that go with each type, but here’s a quick list of the options:

  • Ceramic
  • Concrete
  • Generic Material
  • Glass
  • Glazing
  • Masonry/CMU
  • Metal
  • Metallic Paint
  • Mirror
  • Paint (color only – no image option)
  • Plastic/Vinyl
  • Stone
  • Water
  • Wood

If you have a material you want to use in other projects, you can save it to favorites by dragging the image icon into the favorites window.  If you want more organization, you can create material libraries to hold different sets of materials.

Drag Into Favorites.png

How to Make Temporary Dimensions Easier to Click

Do you have a frustrating time trying to select temporary dimensions so you can type in a new value?  When the distance is short, it’s hard to select the number.  You have to be very careful to avoid clicking the little blue dot that makes the witness line jump around.  Zooming in makes it easier but still slows you down.

Tiny Temp Dimension
So hard to read, let alone click!
Oops!  Come back here, witness line!

The best solution to this hassle is to change the size of the temporary dimension text.  You only have to make the change once, and it will apply whenever you open Revit, no matter which project you’re in.

Open up the Options window from the corner Revit menu.

On the Graphics page, you’ll find a place to select the size the temporary dimension text.  The default is 8, which is pretty tiny.  Bump it up to something like 16, and it will become much easier to select the text rather than the witness line.  You can experiment with different sizes to figure out which one you like the best.

While you’re in the Options window, consider changing the Pre-selection color from the default blue to a contrasting color.  As the picture below shows, it makes it really easy to tell what you’re about to select.  And the large text makes such a big difference!

Large Temp Dimension



How to Navigate to Resource Files Without Hassle

Sometimes to take full advantage of Revit, you need to save and load external resource files.  These can be material libraries, pattern files, keyboard shortcut .xml files, etc.

It can be a pain to navigate through the file structure to get to these files, but there’s a shortcut method!

Say you’re trying to save your import line weights. (This is good to do if you ever import AutoCad files that use color to control line weights.)

Depending on your file permissions settings, you might get an error when you try to save to the default location (i.e. C:\Program Files\Autodesk\Revit LT 2016\Data).

Now to fix the problem, you have to navigate to that Data folder.  But it’s a pain!  The Save As window has a dropdown that shows you where to go, but it doesn’t let you copy the address.

So you could open up Windows Explorer and click through the folders until you get to the one you need.  But an easier method is to stay in the Save As window and create a desktop shortcut of one of the files.

After that, all you have to do is right click on the file on the desktop and choose “Open File Location.”  This will take you straight to the Data folder you were looking for!  There you can change the folder permissions, or just copy in the new line weight file manually if you saved it somewhere else.

This trick works for any folder that’s normally hard to get to.  If you can open a browser in Revit to see it, you can create a desktop shortcut.

How to Avoid the Annoying Warning When Deleting an Equality Dimension

Say you’re adding windows to a facade.  You temporarily create an equality dimension to get them spaced nicely but when you go to delete it, an annoying warning pops up asking if you want to keep the elements constrained or not.

If you don’t care, you can just hit enter to select okay, but if you want to get rid of the EQ constraint, you have to interrupt what you were doing to click the unconstrain button.

Instead, as soon as you click EQ to line up the windows, you should click it again to turn it off.  Then when you hit delete, you’ll get no distracting warning.  And your windows will still be nicely arranged the way you want them.

How to Source a Product From a Printed Photo

This isn’t a Revit trick but it’s so handy I just have to share it.

Say you need more information about a light fixture but all you have is a print-out with a photo – no links, names, model numbers, or any other identifying information.  You can try to describe it to google, but with the zillions of products available, it’s like finding a needle in a haystack!

Unhelpful Print-Out

Next time you’re in this situation, try making a scan of the image (if you’re starting from an anonymous digital file rather than a print-out, you can skip this step).  Crop out any extra white-space.  The goal is to get an image file that looks as close to the original photo as possible, so in this case I painted white over the asterisk my boss added.

Original Scan

The resolution was really poor, so I wasn’t sure if it would work.  Also I accidently painted a white line across the whole picture.  If I’d noticed it in the moment, I would have corrected it but it didn’t end up making a difference.

Cropped and Cleaned Up Version

Now comes the magic.  Go to Google Images and click the camera icon in the search bar to search by image.  Upload your cleaned-up version.

Chandelier Search By Image.png

If the picture you have is available anywhere on the web, Google will find it for you!

Chandelier Google Results
Google Search Results

This search gave me the name, model number, price, and also bigger versions of the lamp in the same style.  Five minutes after my boss handed me the paper, I sent her an email with a link to the product info!

Chandelier Website.png
Product Website

Once this method led me to a SketchUp model on the 3D warehouse, saving me hours of modeling time.  Give it a try for yourself, and if you have any cool stories, please share them in the comments!