Applying Materials Within a Revit Project

Materials can be assigned to elements in Revit projects in several ways. For example, an entire category of elements, such as Walls, can be assigned a single material in one step. Or, a face of an element, such as the exterior surface of a single Wall, can be assigned a material.

Generally, materials are organized and specified using the Material Browser. The Material Browser can be accessed directly, or it can be accessed during a material-application process.

Applying a Material to a category of elements:

1. Open an existing Revit project.


2. On the Manage panel, Settings tab, click the Object Styles tool.


3. In the Object Styles dialog box, highlight a Category of elements for material application (for example, “Walls”).


4. Click the entry in the Material column (for example, “Default Wall”).

5. Click on the ellipsis (“…”) next to the Material entry. This takes you to the Material Browser, where you can specify material settings for the selected category. (See the Material Browser tutorial for further information on materials.)




Using the Material Browser to Specify and Create Materials

This post covers two related concepts: Setting and Editing Properties for Existing Materials and Creating New Materials.

The Material Browser is Revit’s interface for setting the attributes and properties of simulated materials in projects. The Material Browser can be used to specify those attributes for existing materials as well as to create new materials for application within the project.

The Material Browser can be accessed directly from Revit’s interface by choosing the Materials tool within the Settings panel of the Manage tab.


The Material Browser provides control over material properties and material assets. Material properties are specific parameters that define the visual and performance characteristics of simulated materials. Material assets are groups of properties.

Revit’s material properties are grouped into four types of material assets:

Graphics assets include the properties for non-rendered display of materials. For example, the color which Revit uses to display a material in the default (non-rendered) 3D view is controlled here.

Appearance assets include the properties for rendered display of materials. For example, a material’s reflectivity and transparency properties are organized into appearance assets.

Physical assets include properties related to a material’s structural performance and behavior. For example, properties such as a material’s yield strength are organized into physical assets.

Thermal assets include properties related to a material’s thermal performance. For example, properties such as a material’s thermal conductivity, density, and permeability are organized into thermal assets.

To Set or Edit Properties for Existing Materials.

1. Open the Material Browser (Manage > Settings > Materials).

2. Scroll vertically to find the existing material you wish to edit. Click on the material name (for example, “Default Wall”).

3. Click the Identity tab if you wish to edit the material’s Name, Descriptive Information, Product Information, or Annotation Information.


4. Click the Graphics tab if you wish to edit the material’s Shading (its appearance in non-rendered 3D views and elevations), Surface Pattern (the appearance of its outer surface in non-rendered views), or Cut Pattern (its appearance when it is cut in non-rendered views).


5. Click the Appearance tab for full control over the appearance of the material in rendered views.


Generic. The value for Color refers to a base color under neutral lighting. The setting for Image allows you to select an image as a “diffuse color map,” i. e. the underlying image affecting how light is reflected from the material. Image Fade (only available if an Image is selected) controls the relationship between the image and the base color. Glossiness affects how “shiny” or “glossy” the material appears. The dropdown selection for Highlights controls how light is reflected from the material’s surface.


Material rendered without image (left) and with image (right).


Reflectivity. These settings affect how the surrounding environment is reflected in the material’s surface. The reflectivity settings are related to the Generic settings for Glossiness, i. e., glossier materials will tend to perform better as reflecting surfaces.

Transparency. The Amount can be set between 1.0 (100% transparent) and 0.0 (0% transparent, i. e., completely opaque). The Image setting allows an image to be used as a transparency map, and Image Fade controls the opacity of this image. Translucency (available only for nonzero Transparency values) controls the amount of light scattered by the material as the light passes through. Refraction simulates a physical property associated with the extent to which light rays “bend” as they encounter the material surface.


Variations in Refraction. Glass (left) and Water (right).


Cutouts. A cutout is simply a grayscale image which affects the transparency of a material. White pixels in the image render as transparent and black pixels render as opaque. A color image can be used as a cutout, but it is interpreted based on its equivalent grey values.




Self Illumination settings are used to make a material appear to glow. However, self-illuminated objects do not cast light onto other objects. (Note: Other rendering software, like 3DS or Maxwell, will allow self-illuminating objects or emitters to cast light onto other objects.)


Self Illumination.


Bump. A bump map is an image applied to the surface of a material which has the effect of giving the material a bumpy or irregular appearance. Revit interprets the image according to its grayscale values: black pixels appear lower while white pixels appear higher.


Bump map.


Tint. The tint value changes the appearance of the material’s base color.


An untinted blue material (left), and the same material with a yellow tint added (right).



To Create a New Material.


1. Open the Material Browser (Manage > Settings > Materials).

2. Click the New Material button at the bottom of the dialog box.

3. Choose either Create New Material (to create a new material entirely from default settings) or Duplicate Selected Material (to create a new material based on existing material settings for a selected material).

4. Modify settings as described above.

3DS Max Design: Rendering a Still Image.

The process of rendering a still image usually follows this workflow:

Create a Camera.

Fine-Tune Camera Position and Parameters.

Adjusting a camera’s parameters.

Set up Render Parameters.

Render the Image.


Create a Camera.

Usually, the first step in creating a rendered still image from 3DS Max is to create a camera. There are two kinds of cameras in 3DS Max. Free Cameras are useful for creating animations (see 3DS Max Design: Rendering a Simple Path Animation). For still images, Target Cameras are more useful.

  1. Choose Create menu > Cameras > Target Camera.
  2. Click in the active viewport to set the location of the camera. Drag and release to aim the camera.

Fine-Tune Camera Position and Parameters.

Adjusting a camera’s position in the viewport. Use this procedure to manually adjust a Target Camera’s position and viewpoint.

  1. Choose Views > Viewport Configuration > Layout. Select a layout configuration with multiple viewports.
  2. Click in one of the viewports to select the Camera view. Other viewports can be set to Top, Left, etc., to provide adequate multi-dimensional views of the camera’s position in the scene.
  3. Click Apply; click OK.

Adjusting a camera’s parameters. Use this procedure to precisely adjust a camera’s parameters.

  1. Click on a camera to select it.
  2. In the Command Panel, click the Modify tab (second from left).
  3. Make adjustments under the appropriate rollout (e. g., Parameters, Depth of Field Parameters, Maxwell Parameters).

Set up Render Parameters.

Choose Render Setup (click F10, or Rendering > Render Setup) to access the Render Setup dialog box.

The Common tab includes basic settings such as render size and file destination, as well as more advanced settings for fine-tuning rendered output.

To render a single image (instead of an animation): Check the Time Output area: “Single” should be checked.

To change render output size: Make appropriate selections in the Output Size area.

To change file destination: In the Render Output area, click Files. Specify the file name, location, and type. (Note: this will turn the Save File toggle on; it will remain on until you turn it off.)


Render the Image.

Choose Rendering > Render.