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Finally! Working with PDFs in Revit

Updated: Aug 3, 2019



Arguably the most exciting new feature in Revit 2020 is the ability to insert PDFs into project models. Users have been begging Autodesk® to have this functionality added for years and they have finally answered the call. The potential uses for this new feature are endless, most obvious being able to use PDFs to assist with modeling existing facilities.

The PDF button is where you would expect to find it, conveniently located on the Insert tab of the ribbon.


Clicking on the PDF icon will trigger the Import Image dialog box. Because this is the import image dialog, you can now insert PDFs, BMPs, JPGs, PNGs and TIFs from the same dialog. In the same theme you could also insert PDFs by clicking the image icon and then switching the file type to PDF because it's the same dialog.


Once you select a PDF to be inserted and click open, Revit will show a thumbnail of the page or pages contained in the PDF. In the top left corner of the dialog the number of pages contained in the PDF is displayed. Top right there are buttons allowing the user to toggle between small and large thumbnails. At the bottom left you will find a dropdown list allowing you to specify the resolution of the PDF page being inserted. You can select between 4 resolutions, 72 DPI, 150 DPI, 300 DPI and 600 DPI. Higher resolutions have a longer delay as Revit processes the image import. At the bottom right the selected page size is displayed, if different page sizes are present in a multi-page PDF the page size will update as different pages are clicked in the dialog. You can only insert one PDF page at a time so after finding the page you need to insert, simply click on the thumbnail and then OK.


You will then be returned to the active view in your project model, left clicking will place the PDF centered on the arrow.


Depending on your intended use for the PDF, you will likely need to scale it to a known dimension in the PDF. This is done exactly as would with any other image. We have experienced the most success using the Graphical method. First click the PDF to activate the Contextual Ribbon. Next click the Scale icon and select the Graphical method. Next pick a basepoint to scale the PDF followed by another point in the PDF at a known dimension. Revit will display the dimension length between the two points at the present scale. To re-scale the PDF, type in the actual dimension and the PDF will be scaled up or down accordingly.


If you are inserting a PDF for the purposes of modeling an existing building, we recommend re-positioning the PDF to a logical point in the PDF such as the building corner and locate it at the Project Base Point. To do this you will need to temporarily turn on the Project Base Point in Visibility Graphics. It is a subcategory of the Site object group. Once the Project Base Point is turned on, relocate the PDF as needed and then pin it in place. This will prevent accidentally moving the PDF while the existing model is being constructed. Once you have the PDF positioned and pinned you can turn the Project Base Point off.


Modeling existing buildings is just one of the numerous potential uses for PDFs in Revit. You could use this functionality for any number of things such as inserting control diagrams from manufacturers, adding on-sheet specifications, and PDFs of details while you work to Revitize your detail library.

If you need additional assistance with this concept or your team struggles with any other tasks using Revit, we can help. BIM Consulting Services specializes in custom web-based training, Revit content development, implementation and much more. Contact us today at 833-Go-Revit to learn about how we can help advance your team's Revit skillsets; whether that be small vignettes or full blown training from the ground up.