In General

When a Revit model has materials setup correctly and lighting fixtures properly placed, it will look great in Enscape without changing any of the default settings. For example, the image below was saved using the default settings. Simply clicking Start on the Enscape tab, in Autodesk Revit, can produce beautiful graphics like this without any user input.

Revit model with default Enscape settings with daylight

This is great, but what about models in the schematic design phase that do not have materials fully developed yet, or lighting fixtures placed? Or, what if I want to explore the plenum space, for a project in the construction document phase, to look for structural or MEP issues? You may find that the space is too dark. This post will address these questions.

To better understand the issue, we will look at a space with no windows or lighting fixtures. This example, as shown in the next image, will also use the default generic wall around the perimeter of the room; that is, one of the walls found in the templates provided with Revit.

Revit view of subject model

Enscape usually does a good job illuminating a scene even when it does not have lighting fixtures or materials applied… it works similar to the auto exposure on a camera. However, when we open our test model in Enscape it looks like this.

Example if dark image

This image is pretty dark… let’s take a look at why the walls are so dark. Notice the generic wall’s material is set to By Category, which means it uses the material assigned in the Object Types dialog (if one has been assigned).

Default wall material settings

Looking at Object Types, notice the ‘Default Wall’ material is assigned to the wall Category. Interrogating that material, we see the Appearance asset, which is what Enscape uses by default in a Revit Material, is set to a rather dark color.

Object Style settings

Just like in the real world, and in lighting analysis applications, lighter colors reflect more light than darker colors. Thus, when Enscape is applying ambient lighting and calculating exposure, the result is the dark image above.

What happens if we delete the material assigned to the wall category in Object Types? In this case, there would be no material associated with the walls under consideration. What does Enscape do when no material exists? Does it apply the less-than-awesome grey tone we often see in Revit itself?

When a surface does not have a material, Enscape applies a nice white tone as shown in the image below.

Only the wall material was changed in this image

It is not uncommon for a family to not have a material associated with it, as materials can be freely deleted in a Revit project (you can even delete the last material with no warnings). To show that Enscape deals with Loadable Families the same way, the image above has a generic box family (see red arrow) which was created with no material assigned in the family editor. The result is the same as the walls, an aesthetically pleasing white tone has been applied by Ensacpe.

Now let’s change the wall type to the typical 4 7/8” metal stud wall found in the template file we started from. Here are the Appearance asset properties for this wall:

Material settings for gypsum wall board

And here is the result in Enscape. Notice the result is pretty close to what Enscape does when a material is missing.

Only the wall material was changed in this image

Ok, that makes sense. But what if my design or client dictates the walls are a darker color?

There are a couple of ways to deal with this. As mentioned at the beginning of this post, proper materials and lights almost always result in a nice image. So, just to make this point again, here is what the space would look like by just adding lights and not changing any Enscape settings or adjusting the wall material.

Only lighting fixtures added to the scene

If you are not ready to place light fixtures, or your MEP consultant has not added them to their model yet, you can still quickly get a decent looking image from Enscape. If we open the Enscape Settings dialog from within Revit, we see an Ambient Brightness slider on the Image tab as shown in the next image. This setting can be used to brighten a scene.

Making changes in the settings dialog results in an instant update in Enscape. Here is what Ambient Brightness looks like at 75%.

Adjusting ambient lighting to 75%

Ambient Brightness Defined: Brightens the scene while keeping occluded image regions still darker to emphasize the geometry and depth. This cannot be done in Photoshop!

And Ambient Brightness at 100%.

Adjusting ambient lighting to 100%

The image gets a little better if we check Auto Contrast as seen in the next image. Notice how this change helped bring out the color in the wood flooring.

Adjusting ambient lighting to 100% and auto contrast enabled

TIP: Double click a slider to set an individual Enscape setting to its default value.

Another option, without changing Ambient Brightness, is to change manually adjust the Exposure Brightness setting as shown in the next image.

Adjusting auto exposure

Exposure Brightness Defined: Sets the desired brightness. If Auto Exposure is enabled, this is the target image brightness.

The next two images show the same space which has been further developed; windows and lighting fixtures have been added. The first image has the darker walls and the second has a lighter option with wall covering added to create an accent wall on the left.

Final image with lights and windows with darker wall finish

Final image with lights and windows with white wall finish and wall covering on accent wall

Another similar issue is exploring Plenum spaces in Enscape. When you are in a watertight ceiling space with various structural and MEP materials, the same settings just described can help. We will look at one example and introduce a time saving option.

In the next image below, with the Enscape settings completely reset, this is what we see in a plenum space filled with pipes, ducts and structural elements. Way too dark!

Initial view of enclosed plenum space

Simply adjusting the Auto Exposure makes the image look pretty good.

Exposure brightness modified in plenum space

Now, if we go back into the occupiable parts of the building, the image will be way too bright. We would have to turn Auto Exposure back on.

Scene overexposed due to previous plenum space settings

Using Enscape’s saved settings option (see image below) will streamline the need to switch back and forth when needed.

Created saved settings in Enscape Settings dialog

In conclusion, spaces lit with natural daylight, electric lighting and/or employing lighter color materials will automatically look good in Enscape. When these elements are lacking, Enscape has settings we can use to quickly compensate and still achieve quality images that will convey our design intent faster than any other product on the market today.

Dan Stine

Dan Stine
He is an Author, Blogger, Educator,
BIM Administrator and Wisconsin registered architect.
He work full-time at LHB – a 250 person full-service design firm.

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Best Practices - for Revit project setup