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How to create live material legends in Revit

In today’s post we will explore an alternate solution for creating live graphic material legends. With this workflow you will be able to create live legends without cluttering the model with placeholder geometries, and without compromising how the legend looks or ties to your model elements data.

Live Material Legend in Revit

The Issue

If you have used Revit to document a project, you are probably familiar with how frustrating it can be to create graphic legends. You may have experimented with Legend Components in the hope it would be live with the model data, just to realize that you can’t tag the elements. You may also have seen or developed yourself some more complex workflows that rely on using Floor Plans or Drafting Views rather than Legend views to document actual model elements placed in the project to keep the documentation live. If you used this process, you know it is not perfect either. You need to place your model elements in a Design Option or in a different phase to keep it out of your actual model space. You also need to duplicate your views for every sheet, since Views, differently from Legends and Schedules, can only be placed in a single sheet. With all these limitations, it is likely that you ended up using Filled Regions and Text Notes to get your set done for the deadline that is due by the end of the day.

What if I tell you there may be a better way? In fact, you can create live Legend Components, as long as you tag the materials rather than the elements. By using Legend Components, you can create a single Legend and place it in multiple views, and you can also document data live to the actual elements in your project without hacking your 3d model.

This workflow we developed accomplishes all that by using a custom Generic Model family, a custom Material Tag, and a few Materials.


Custom Generic Model Family

Generic Model family for live Legend Component in Revit

This will be the graphic rectangle in the material legend, placed as Legend Components. It is a custom-made Generic Model Family with parameters for the Material and overall plan dimensions. All parameters are type-base to ensure they can be controlled in the Legend Components.

Custom Material Tag

Material Tag family for live Legend Component in Revit

This will be the text part in the material legend, referencing data from the material in each Legend Component instance. It is a custom-made Material Tag with Labels reporting the material’s Mark and Description parameters. The family allows for the control of which reporting parameters are visible, as well as overall dimension parameters to help align the tag with the Legend Components.

The Workflow

Create the Types for the Legend Component.

Before starting the Legend itself, first, we create a Family Type for each material we want to add to the Legend. There is more than one way to create these, but here we are going using the faster route, by creating new types directly from the Project Browser, without the use of the 3D space.

Creating live material legend in Revit
  1. Navigate through the Project Browser, scrolling down to Families < Generic Models < # MATERIAL LEGEND ITEMS_EL_R19.

  2. Right-click on an existing Type to Duplicate.

  3. Right-click on the new Type and go to Type Properties…

  4. On the Type Property window, pick a new Material. Make sure your material has the intended data. Under Identity Data check for the Description and Mark parameters. Under Appearance, check for the applied Surface Patterns.

  5. Rename the new Type as needed to inform the material it reports. In this example, we chose to match the name of the material.

Create the Material Legend

To cut to the chase we are skipping the part where we start the legend from scratch, and we are assuming you already have a Legend created in your project. Below we show how to add the Types created above as Legend Components.

Placing live material Legend Components in Revit
  1. From a Legend view, go to Annotate < Detail Component Panel, and select Legend Component.

  2. Scroll down the Family drop-down menu until Generic Models and pick the Type you wish to add.

  3. Move the cursor into the Legend and click to place.

  4. To add the tag, go to Annotate < Material Tag.

  5. Click above each Legend Component to place a tag in each.

  6. Use the tag’s invisible lines to help align each tag after placement. If needed, adjust the tag’s WIDTH and HEIGHT parameters to match the component’s size.

Once your legend is complete, feel free to pick and choose the tag Type depending on which parameter you wish to report.

Live Material Legend Tag Types in Revit

The live Legend

With the Material Legend setup this way, all the data is live. This means that any update within the Material will also automatically update in the legend.

Live Material Legend in Revit

To see the result in action, feel free to download the Revit project sample below.

Live Material Legend Sample_(R19)_EL
Download ZIP • 5.03MB



About the Author:

Clara is a design technologist coming from an architectural background and a drive to use the available technology tools to its fullest enabling a more efficient process that leaves more room for the creativity and the fun part of design to flourish. Clara also has a long history of fascination for topology, origami, complex structures and geometries which inevitably brought her to the computational design world. Since her days at school, back in Ouro Preto Brazil, and while studying abroad in Dessau, Germany, she has strived to implement technologies such as Grasshopper, Processing, Arduino and 3d Printing in her academic and side gig projects. While in the professional architecture industry she has often been the voice in the office advocating for the use of Dynamo and strategizing on ways to use the computer and Revit to cut the time spent in repetitive and tedious tasks.

Meanwhile, in her free time, Clara can be found attached to some Mountain around Boulder rock climbing, covered in clay while doing pottery at home, watering her ever-growing collection of plants or trying to figure out her next hobby.




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