Did you know that there is an element visibility hierarchy in Revit?

Posted on March 18, 2019 by Raphaël Bélanger and Franck Murat
Category: Technical

Did you know that there is an element visibility hierarchy in Revit?

If an element is not displaying the way you want it to, there could be several possible reasons. Not knowing those reasons and exploring by trial and error can create a lot of frustration and wasted time for unsuspecting users. We’re going to explain some of the principles behind what controls the graphics to help you solve your problem more efficiently.

Did you know that there is an element visibility hierarchy? Some graphical modifications will override others due to this hierarchy. Trying to fix a visibility/graphics problem without knowing this hierarchy quickly becomes inefficient and tedious, since using overrides with lower priorities than those previously applied to the object will, unfortunately, have zero impact.

So what is this hierarchy?

To help you resolve your visibility problems, here is the full list of items or actions in order of priority (1 is the strongest and 10 is the weakest).

  1. Linework tool (line by line)
  2. Override Graphics in View → By Element → Halftone
  3. Graphic Display Options (Silhouette Edges)
  4. Override graphics in view → By Element
  5. View Filters
  6. View Depth - Beyond Line Style (between bottom of view and depth of view)
  7. Duct or Pipe Systems Styles
  8. Phasing Graphics Overrides
  9. Visibility / Graphics Overrides
  10. Project Object Styles

This list was originally provided in this Autodesk support article.

Example of this hierarchy in action

In the case of a view in which element visibility by phase is applied (priority no. 8), it is normal that modifications to the visibility / graphics overrides (if the visibility / graphics overrides are managed by view or view template) do not give a any results. It will therefore be necessary to find a solution using points 7 to 1, since it is these items that will have priority over the overrides related to the construction phases.

Note: It is important to understand that the styles, thicknesses, and line patterns of the project will impact virtually every level on this list, as the above overrides are based on these settings available in the Manage → Additional Settings in Revit.

Mastering the hierarchy

Mastering this hierarchy allows you to better understand how to manage the visibility of an element in a project. Although there will always be unique circumstances in each project, here are some recommendations that could improve your internal workflow.

Thinking of how to optimize potential changes in Revit is always a good idea. In this case, reversing the list point us in the right direction to configure our visibility overrides in our Revit template. Needless to say, a well-prepared template is essential if we want to create standards and gain productivity.

Settings by project or view (or set of views)

After setting the line styles, line weights and line patterns, defining the object styles (priority 10) and the element visibility related to the construction phases (priority 8), within our template is the best place to start.

Line Styles, Line weights and line patterns, (all the lines in Revit) are governed by these 3 settings. It is therefore recommended to configure them first and in a logical way using naming convention that can be continually improved upon.
Figure 1.0 Line Styles, Line weights and line patterns, (all the lines in Revit) are governed by these 3 settings. It is therefore recommended to configure them first and in a logical way using naming convention that can be continually improved upon.
The object styles define the default graphics of each object in projection (or when not crossing the cut plane of the view) and when cut (sections). Each category or sub-category is attributed a particular line weight and line pattern illustrated in Figure 1.0. On this figure, we see the 2 tabs to be treated first highlighted in red.
Figure 2.0 The object styles define the default graphics of each object in projection (or when not crossing the cut plane of the view) and when cut (sections). Each category or sub-category is attributed a particular line weight and line pattern illustrated in Figure 1.0. On this figure, we see the 2 tabs to be treated first highlighted in red.
Good management of your element overrides by construction phase will ensure clear drawings are generated for both demolition and construction. These overrides will apply depending on the phases and phase filters assigned to your views.
Figure 3.0 Good management of your element overrides by construction phase will ensure clear drawings are generated for both demolition and construction. These overrides will apply depending on the phases and phase filters assigned to your views.

Once these settings are configured in your Revit templates, consider adjusting the view templates to standardize visibility / graphics overrides (priority 9). We recommend establishing basic view templates that will cover all types of drawings you issue (ex. A100 Floor Plan). However, try to minimize the number of templates you have as much as possible so that they remain useful and practical.

If each or almost every view requires a different template (because of all the settings included in your templates), you might want to exclude some of these settings to maintain efficiency and responsiveness (example: the view scale). Another tip, if you name your view templates according to your standard sheet naming convention, it will be easier to associate the right view template with each view.

Manage your templates strategically by including only the necessary settings to avoid managing too many templates. You want to avoid having a template for almost every view. In red, we have highlighted 2 elements to normally include.
Figure 4.0 Manage your templates strategically by including only the necessary settings to avoid managing too many templates. You want to avoid having a template for almost every view. In red, we have highlighted 2 elements to normally include.

Using the same logic, also adjust the depth of views and  "Beyond" line style (priority 7), duct and pipe systems (priority 6), view filters (priority 5), including those that represent your internal standards, and possibly object silhouettes (priority 3). Again, try to integrate them as much as possible into your view templates.

Filter hierarchy

Speaking of hierarchy, there is also a hierarchy in the filter priority. Element visibility overrides that use the first filter applied in the view override all of the following filters. Make sure you name the filters to easily find them. If you have a strategy that prioritizes the types of objects that the filter controls and how it controls them, their priority will be easier to understand and manage.

Example: For a filter that applies to the walls according to the values of the "Function" parameter, the name of the filter could be: WALLS_Function_Foundation aka CATEGORY_Parameter_Parameter Value. The goal is to facilitate the understanding of the graphic constraints applied in your view. Consequently, when you have graphic problems, the source of the conflict can be pinned down much more rapidly.

Figure 5.0 Setting up a filter naming convention that reflects its main purpose makes it much easier to understand and therefore also easier to manage the graphic constraints applied in the view.
Figure 5.0 Setting up a filter naming convention that reflects its main purpose makes it much easier to understand and therefore also easier to manage the graphic constraints applied in the view.

Usually all these settings are more or less generalized within the same Revit file. They should therefore ideally be firm-wide, integrated with the project template(s) and then altered as needed, to meet the graphic specificities of each project.

Overrides by element

The most "flexible" overrides are also the most "dangerous": priorities 4, 2 and 1, in particular, should only be used as a last resort. Yet, they are often the favourite overrides for Revit beginners, because they are so easy to use. These are the ones we want to avoid as much as possible in a project, because you will have to remember where you used them in case you need to modify them or simply not to have a nasty surprise when you modify your templates, filters, etc.

So, make your teams aware to: 1) not use them without thinking really hard about the potential consequences and 2) to notify the rest of the team when they are used. Again, from experience, the more templates there are, the more that standardising and controlling graphics will become mission impossible!

Overriding Graphics by Element or Line-by-Line View: these two methods are sometimes essential, but try to avoid as much as possible because they are very manual and difficult to locate and modify thereafter Overriding Graphics by Element or Line-by-Line View: these two methods are sometimes essential, but try to avoid as much as possible because they are very manual and difficult to locate and modify thereafter
Figures 6.0 and 7.0 Overriding Graphics by Element or Line-by-Line View: these two methods are sometimes essential, but try to avoid as much as possible because they are very manual and difficult to locate and modify thereafter.

In conclusion

As you may have gathered, these recommendations apply primarily to printing views and shared work views within the team. For a temporary work view, there is no issue with using all the available visibility/graphics tools that you want.

This article merely scratches the surface of visibility/graphics management in Revit, but we hope that it helped shed some light on this subtle point about element display. Since prevention is better than a cure, we hope you take advantage of your newfound knowledge of element visibility hierarchy by improving your Revit template. These seemingly “small” irritants can often have a major impact down the line on user engagement and ultimately, the success of organizational BIM deployment.


Raphaël Bélanger
BIM Specialist


Franck Murat
BIM/VDC Technical Director

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