I was going to include some of these details regarding Surfaces in my post about the little changes in ArchiCAD 18, but I decided it made more sense to give them their own article. What follows won’t make you a Surface Master, but it will cover a few quick basics about creating new Surfaces.

Creating a New Surface is Easy

When you create a new Surface in ArchiCAD you have a few options (once you open the Surface Settings and click ‘New’). You can duplicate an existing Surface or you can choose from any loaded catalog of Surfaces. The default ArchiCAD library has quite a number to choose from. Being able to start from a pre-defined Surface is more important now with the new CineRender engine as it means someone else has already spent time optimizing and tweaking the Surfaces to react properly in a rendering. If you are creating a new Surface from a loaded catalog, it’s just a matter of searching through the library folders for what you want. Fortunately everything is nicely organized, labeled, and there are preview pictures.

If you have an existing Surface and you want to change what it looks like (but don’t want to change parameters manually in the Surface Settings), you can replace it’s settings with something from the Catalog as well. To do this, choose the Surface you want to change in the Surface Settings, click ‘New’, then choose ‘Replace Settings from Catalog’. From that point on it’s the same as creating a new Surface, except your existing Surface will be completely updated to match whatever you choose. Be careful when you replace the settings of an existing Surface, as the Vectorial Hatching won’t update—though it will when you create a new Surface. I’m not sure if this is a glitch or not; I can see it both ways.

It’s also worth noting that if you delete a Surface, it’ll still exist in the catalog, so you can always bring back just about anything you need (without having to copy it in from another file). This also means if you change an existing Surface it should be easy to change it back (using the ‘Replace Settings form Catalog’ option we just discussed), assuming the Surface came from the original catalog (or is available from elsewhere, more on that in a moment). There are of course drawbacks to over-deleting Attributes like Surfaces, but we’ve talked about that elsewhere as well.

Add New Surface

If however what you are looking for isn’t in the default library catalog—before you start searching for custom images on the Internet and manually tweaking existing Surfaces to meet your needs—there are two other locations to look. If you click on the blue globe in the bottom left of the Add New Surface dialog box, you’re given the option to download additional Surfaces available to SSA users (SSA is fancy for subscription) or to search BIMcomponents.com. At the moment BIMcomponents doesn’t have much, but if you are on Subscription, I highly recommend downloading the bonus Surfaces. There are a number of interesting ones in there. For example some really nice stone patterns:

some bonus stonework

BIMcomponents.com and its lack of Surfaces to download

Anytime you go to BIMcomponents.com and curse that your needs are not being met, share something. That is how magic happens. The strength and power of BIMcomponents.com relies on us users sharing the content we’ve generated—whether it’s Objects, Surfaces, Attributes, or Templates. In ArchiCAD 18 there is a Share button in the Surface Settings. This allows you to send a Surface you’ve made or tweaked over to BIMcomponents.com so that others can use what you’ve built or improved. Please remember to use this Share Button. If you make a nice material, share it with everyone else. Don’t hoard. That benefits no one.

Think about it this way. Right now there are very, very few Surfaces on BIMcomponents.com. If every ArchiCAD user (or just a fraction) committed to sharing one Surface a month between now and December, by the new year we’d have THOUSANDS of Surfaces available to borrow and search for. This should be easy to do. You up for the challenge?

Remember to Share Materials

Okay so clearly that hardly scratched the Surface of…oh wait. So clearly that covered only a tiny fraction of how to work with Surfaces in ArchiCAD 18. But when faced with a big new feature like the CineRender engine, starting small is okay. Learn how to use the wide range of Surfaces Graphisoft provides. See how close you can get to what you want with that, and then focus on what comes next. Try tweaking or loading a new Surface. Then share it on BIMcomponents.com. What you create doesn’t have to be the best. It just needs to exist. And be shared. And remember, the first Surface you create might not be great. But the 10th or 100th will be amazing.

For tons of videos on rendering in ArchiCAD, check out the playlist on Graphisoft’s YouTube channel (this link or the videos below).

These aren’t about Surfaces, but did you know about these bonus features in ArchiCAD 18? Make sure to follow Graphisoft North America on Twitter. Click Here.





  1. Omar Han Corzo

    Every time I open a new project, I only get the “default” surfaces, the ones I created “live” only on the project I uploaded them. How do I make them exist in every project? Thanks for the help.

    • Jared Banks

      Attributes (like Surfaces) are file specific. If you want work done in one file to show up in other files, you need to add those Attributes into your template and start all new projects from that template. If you need to add new Attributes to an existing project, you can use the Attribute Manager to copy Attributes between files.

      • Obie

        Hello Jared,
        How can I add those attributes into a new template?

        • Jared Banks

          Open your template. Then open the attribute manager. From the attribute manager, on the left side, open the file with the attributes you want. Then you can copy them over. It gets a bit more complex than that, but that’s the basics.

          Alternatively, if it’s not too many attributes, just rebuild them in your template.

          You can also copy and paste elements with those attributes into your template, but that risks bringing in a lot of other garbage.


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