Using images with background transparency to enhance your presentations

Did you know that one of the newest features of Autodesk Revit Building 9 based products was allowing you to use images with a Transparent background?

This is particularly interesting when you’re trying to enhance your elevations with images of trees and people, etc.

But you need to figure how this feature works. We’ve taken the example of a beautiful Classical Styled Italian Villa.

The idea is to put some images of trees on the South Elevation in order to make it more appealing to our Customer. As you can see, for the moment, your elevation view is quite “Empty”!

So, let’s start by importing the image of a tree in PNG™ (Portable Network Graphics) image. Apart from being an excellent, lightweight image format, it’s also royalty-free! In the File menu, choose the “Import/Link” image item as described below.

Then, in your “Open/Import” dialog box, choose the desired Tree image in PNG format. In order to select it in an easier way, you may want to choose the “Thumbnail” Display Mode. Once OK, either double-click on the image icon or select it by clicking once on it and click on the “Open” button.

A big Dash cross representing the boundary of your image centered on your mouse cursor will then appear, prompting you to place your Tree image. Click at the desired location on your Elevation view to place it.

Once clicked, the image won’t display straight away as it’s located in the background. To display it and display the “Plan location” option in the options bar, click outside of your Revit model and then click again on your image. The “Plan location” options menu will now display.

Now, just select again your image and select the “Foreground” options from the “Plan location” drop down menu as shown below.

Strange…Have you noticed what’s going on there? The background is not transparent as expected. Let’s fix that! We will now open this image in Adobe® Photoshop® to check what’s been setup. Well, it seems like the issue is quite simple, this image has no “Transparent” background which is by the way quite a bit different to a real Alpha Channel.

Let’s create our transparent background together…In the “Layers” palette, double-click on the unique layer icon in order to unlock it. Just validate the “OK” button of the dialog box that appeared. The Layer will be set as unlocked versus its previous state.

Now, pick the “Magic wand” tool up. It should be set to a “32” Tolerance value, “Antialiased” and “Contiguous” option boxes checked. Then, click on the white zone around your tree as described below.

In order to be sure to have taken all the white zones of your tree image, select the “Similar” option of the “Select” menu as described below.

Once all the white zone’s selected, press your “Backspace” key on your keyboard in order to erase the white color. You can now see the transparent background appearing (represented by grey and white squares).

Last step is now to save your Tree image. In the “File” menu, select the “Save As…” item.

In the “Save As…” Dialog box, select the “As a Copy” option and verify that the “PNG” format is selected as well. Rename your file by adding a “With_Alpha_Channel” extension to differentiate it from the previous version and click on the “Save” button to validate your choice.

Now, just place your image back on the Elevation view in your Autodesk Revit Building Model as shown below reusing the procedure explained at the beginning of this document. The tree background is now transparent!

Here are the kinds of results you should be getting once all the steps are completed.

Last but not least, the printing step. In order not to have any printing issue like black square background behind your Tree image, do not forget to check the “Raster processing” option in the “Hidden Lines Views” and finally – in the Appearance settings – the “Presentation” and “Colors” options as “Raster Quality” treatments. You will get an excellent result.

Now, enjoy!

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