How to Achieve a Cardboard Model Effect

by GRAPHISOFT, lnagy and Judit Boros · updated: 12.29.2011

One presentation method many architects have used and are using is a physical model of the designed building created out of cardboard.

Let us see how we can achieve a similar effect for the ArchiCAD 3D model and renderings. Naturally what we need to achieve is that all our materials are defined to be the same whitish material. Also, we want to do it in such a way that after seeing our model in cardboard style we want to be able to quickly switch back to our original materials.

Using a separate attribute set containing material definitions can offer a solution.

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Here is how to achieve it:

  • 1: Go to Options\Element Attributes\Attribute Manager Dialog and switch to the Materials tab page.

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  • 2: Scroll down to the bottom of the list and note the highest index number.

In our case this is 141. This means that we will need at least 141 materials defined in our Cardboard material attribute set.

  • 3: Select the material that you will be using for the cardboard effect.

In our example we will be using the material “Paint-01”, which is a white material.

Note: It may be a good idea to spend some time fine-tuning this material to be exactly what you want as later hundreds of copies will be created and any changes to it later will require more time redefining and resaving it. So if you can get it right at the beginning it you will save that time.


  • 4: Exit the Attribute Manager. Use the File\New\New menu command to start a new ArchiCAD session. In the New Project Dialog, select the Use Latest Project Settings radio button and check the Launch a new instance of ArchiCAD checkbox, then click the New button.

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We do this because we want the same materials as in our file and we also want to modify and delete materials without changing the original file.

  • 5: Go again to the Options\Element Attributes\Attribute Manager Dialog and switch to the Materials tab page.

  • 6: Select all materials except the “Paint-01” material on the left panel.

Do this by selecting the first material on the list, then scrolling to the bottom of the list and clicking on the last material while holding down the SHIFT key. This will select all materials. Then click the “Paint-01” material in the list while holding down the CTRL/CMD key to remove it from the selection.

  • 7: Click the Delete button in the middle to delete all selected materials.

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We now have one material left in the list.

  • 8: Select the “Paint-01” Material on the left pane and click the Append button in the middle.

The material is copied to the right side and its index number is changed to “1”.

  • 9: Select this new Material on the right pane and change its name to “Cardboard” using the text entry filed under the list.

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The name of the material needs to be changed so it is not identical to any material we are using in any of our projects.

  • 10: With the “Cardboard” Material selected on the right pane, click the Duplicate button in the middle 9 times to create 9 duplicates of it.

  • 11: Change the name of these first ten materials to “Cardboard-00”, “Cardboard-01”, “Cardboard-02” … “Cardboard-09”.

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This gives us a bit more organization in the material names.

  • 12: Select all ten Material in the right pane and keep clicking the Duplicate button until you have the intended amount of materials.

Let us say you need 200 materials so you need to click the Duplicate button 19 times to create 190 duplicates.

  • 13: Click the Save As button and save it as and Attribute Manager (*.aat) file. Provide a descriptive name for it and click the Save button to save it.

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  • 14: Exit the Attribute Manager without saving. Then return to the ArchiCAD instance where you have your project open. Here again go to the Attribute Manager and switch to the Materials tab page.

  • 15: Select all materials and click the Overwrite button in the middle to copy them to the right pane.

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We are using the Overwrite button here because we want to preserve the index numbers of all materials defined in this Project.

  • 16: Click the Save As button and save another Attribute Manager file containing the Material definitions of this project. Give it a name and click Save to save it.

Now that we have the material definitions of our project saved, we can replace our materials.

  • 17: Click the Close button to close the currently open *.aat file. Then click the Open button (at the same location) and open the “Cardboard materials.aat” file. Its contents will be displayed in the right pane.

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  • 18: Select all materials in the right pane and click the Overwrite button in the middle to overwrite the material definitions of the projects with definitions in the *.aat file.

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  • 19: Click the OK button to leave the Dialog. Click the Proceed button in the next Dialog to accept changes.


  • 20: Go to the 3D Window to see the results. You may also select a dark or black background for the 3D Window so there is a better contrast between the model and the background.

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  • 21: When you are finished working with your cardboard style model, go back to the Attribute Manager and use the Open button to load the original materials attribute file for the project.

  • 22: Select and delete all materials from the left pane (one will always remain), then select all materials on the right pane and click the Overwrite button to restore their original definitions in this file. Then click OK, then Proceed to accept changes.

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With these last two steps the original material definitions of the project are restored.

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Later you can always switch to the cardboard material set whenever you need to use that style in your 3D Window and Renderings.

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