Thursday, 2 May 2013

Revit contour label orientation

A few times I have tried to search for information on how to control the orientation of contour labels in Revit - always without success.  It seems that Revit likes to orient the text of contour labels to be readable only if you are walking uphill on a Revit toposurface.  That works fine until "uphill" happens to be in an Easterly direction or even worse in a Southerly Direction, then the text can be upside-down.

All of the advice I have read is that this cannot be changed, and that you should not fight against Revit - just go with it and accept the way it is.  Most of the time I would agree with that advice, but just occasionally you might be forced into beating Revit in this battle . . . .
Like maybe your boss threatens to sack you if you can't make such a simple change to a drawing;  or the client threatens to sack your boss . . .

The Revit Contour Label Orientation Issue

Most of the time this issue is not a big deal, but some numbers can be confusing when read upside-down - 6 & 9 for example.
In this example, the contour labels are in millimetres, so it is pretty obvious that "0009" must be upside down, and it will be unlikely to cause a problem.  However, it is more common to work in metres on site plans and landscape drawings, so the numbers immediately become confusing, if not downright dangerous - especially if you can't easily trace the contours around to see the problem (unlike this example where it is easy to pick the mistake due to proximity of correctly oriented labels):
Your first response is likely to be to search the type properties for text orientation, but there is nothing there to change (at least not in Revit versions prior to 2014).  You can confirm this by looking at Wikihelp.


How to make Revit contour labels readable

The only solution to this problem that I could come up with is to put a tiny zigzag in the contour so that for a very short distance the contour direction is reversed.  you can then apply a lable to this section.  It is not so easy to do because when you edit a toposurface Revit likes to take shortcuts when you place points of a similar height very close together.
So you have to force Revit not to take shortcuts.  This can be done by inserting points of a slightly lower height - by trial and error to see where they need to go.  Fortunately Revit is very kind in that it shows the new contour lines as soon as you place or move a point.
The extra points must be very close in height to the contour height otherwise you'll get a nasty jagged area visible in 3d.  The zigzag also needs to be very small, so that it is easy to hide in plan.
Once the contour is "fixed" you can place a very short contour label line that only crosses only the reversed section of the contour.

With any luck, the contour label will obsure the zigzag.  Obviously you need to remove the upside-down label by shortening the line - that means you cannot have one continuous contour label line running across several contours.  You have to resort to lots of tiny separate label lines.

When Would You Use This Workaround?

I have to confess that this is a really nasty workaround - it is very labour-intensive and fiddly.  So I would advise you NOT to use this except in extreme circumstances where your credibility or job might be threatened. 
Sometimes it is not worth admitting to Revit's quirky behaviour and inconsistency if it might contribute to negative perceptions of Revit in your workplace.  So, do you fight Revit or fight your workmates/bosses?
Another situation that it might be worth doing is where you think there is a real risk that someone might dig a 3 metre hole on site when they misread a 6 for a 9 !!!

There is another possible solution that may avoid confusion, even if it does not placate the boss: Try making the label text underlined - that generally makes it obvious that it is upside-down, even if it looks horrible.


  1. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

    1. haha, cant handle some light hearted criticism ey?!

  2. Interesting post. How about generally avoiding placing labels where they read upside down?