✱ How to Print Large Format PDF Drawings to Scale on a Mac

With more and more of the world going paperless all the time, Adobe's Portable Document Format (PDF) has taken over much of the architecture and construction industry as the preferred file format for sharing drawings. In fact, many estimators and contractors that I work with don't have the ability to work with anything else. I'd love to just give them my BIM file but that's another rant for another time. For some of us, this could mean having to purchase (or subscribe to) the Adobe Creative Cloud to get Acrobat Pro or buy Bluebeam to be able to create PDF's. Granted, these professional programs allow you to do much more than simply create PDF's, but the cost of entry is fairly high.

There is an alternative. I've recently found a free open source PDF printer that solves a few problems called PDFwriter for Mac.

While the Macintosh has a built-in PDF creator, it's lacking in several ways when it comes to creating large format PDF's. Of course this isn't a mainstream problem, so typical users won't see the value in this tutorial. But for us working in the industry, this is a big pain in the ass. The main problem with the built-in solution is that it forces you to click through several extra steps to print to a PDF by using the little pull-down menu in the lower left corner of the Print dialog to create one. Another problem is that it's not available in some programs (as you'll see below). On top of that, printing large format can be problematic.

PDFwriter acts like any other installed printer and can be used for any kind of PDF creation. It takes steps out of the process by allowing you to just hit Command+P and Enter if you're in the PDF print-making assembly line process. It also gives you the benefit of having large format paper sizes so you can print drawings to scale which then allows you to email them to someone expecting to do scaled take-offs or plot the files for you at a service bureau.


Here's the process to get great PDF prints from your drawing files with PDFwriter (Steps 1-4 you'll only need to do once):

Step 1: Download the software from SourceForge.

Step 2: Install the software.

Step 3: Make sure you read the ReadMe file. It contains really important info like where your PDF's end up. See this clipping especially:

Step 4: Make sure the printer has been installed into your system by checking System Preferences > Printers & Scanners.

Here are the steps involved each time you print:

Step 5: Open up a drawing in your favorite CAD program and use the Print... command. Here's the Print dialog box from formZ as an example. Notice the typical system level PDF pull down menu does not exist. No, we do not want to print the drawing onto 25 pages.

Step 6: Choose PDFwriter from the device drop-down list at the top. Click on the Print Settings... button to choose the correct paper size that you want. Make sure you choose the correct scale of your drawing here too. Every program works differently with scale, so make sure the preview looks like you expect the final output to look here first. 

Step 7: Print your file using the options you want. The process will then run and disappear, not really letting you know anything has happened. Don't worry!

Step 8: Go to the folder they indicated in the Readme file (see Step 3). I created a shortcut to it by dragging it into my sidebar for easy future access.

In that folder, you'll find a high quality PDF of your plans. Each page will have a weird file name but that's not a big deal. You can rename it however you want at this point. I recommend you use my file naming article as a guide. 

This workflow works well for any CAD program you're using on the Mac where you have to output large format, scaled PDF drawings and not buy expensive PDF creation software. Happy printing!


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Link: formZ LAB releases the Catenary Curve Tool

Antoni Gaudí would be so proud. Get your new, free extension for FormZ 8 from the LAB.

Image courtesy of formZ LAB

Image courtesy of formZ LAB

A chain, hanging under its own weight with both ends anchored, forms the characteristic curve know as the catenary. An overhead utility wire, a tram cable, and a chain connecting two posts will each assume this form.

Grab your copy here.

Link: Vote for where Thea Render should go next

Over on the Thea Render forum there's a poll happening for you to have a voice in choosing the next modeler they are going to integrate with. Even if you don't currently use Thea, you might in the future and wouldn't you like it integrated into your favorite modeling app? I voted for FormZ and Bonzai3d because I want more rendering options in mine. You get 2 votes.

Thea already integrates with 3dsMax, Blender, SketchUp and Cinema4d and I know a lot of people like it. What's your experience with it? Leave a comment below.

Vote here.

Link: Create a Realtime Walkthrough of your Revit Project with Autodesk Showcase

Even though my thoughts in my recent article on realtime rendering came to the conclusion that I wasn't willing to spend a ton of time on the bleeding edge of that technology, I haven't ignored it either. The truth is that the idea for that article came from me spending a decent amount of time figuring out realtime rendering using Autodesk Showcase, which comes with either a perpetual license or subscription to some of their suites. The funny thing that you probably can relate to is that I didn't even know Showcase existed or what it did when I found it. Luckily the office I work in has this type of subscription and I had a presentation to create, so the stars aligned.

I ended up making a tutorial that takes you through the process of getting your model out of Revit and into Showcase with a lot of steps along the way to make a successful and very nice looking realtime model. It is now live over on the Novedge blog where lots of additional people other than Method visitors can see it. This works well because this is certainly not an Autodesk-centric site. So if you're interested in my process for creating realtime walkthrough's, please go check it out and let me know what you think.

Click here to head over to the Novedge blog and read my tutorial.

✱ Which Rendering Program is the Best One for Me?

I get asked all the time what 3d rendering program I use and why. This is coming from a particular point of view - mine. I do architectural work. I do my own design. I work in small and large teams on small and large architectural projects. You may not do the same thing as me, but I'm sure there's some overlap if you're reading my site. I hope this is useful for you. 

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News: Maxwell Render Now Free For Faculty & Students

Next Limit:

As of August 2014, Maxwell Render is offering FREE licenses to academic institutions and the students enrolled in their courses. 

This is great news for those of you either in school or working at one to start using Maxwell Render. It can be used for anything non-commercial.

Read more about it on the Maxwell Render site.

Pixelmator, my favorite image editing program is on sale. Get it!

This is a quick heads-up that my favorite image editing app on the Mac, Pixelmator (Mac App store link), is on sale right now for $16! It's normally $30, which is a crazy low price to begin with when you compare it to Photoshop which costs almost that much per month to use (and never own). It has an crazy average rating of 4.5 stars out of 3,052 reviews. It's the real deal.

I've talked about it many times here and in my videos, and have used it to create the image you see above among many others. (If you use this link to buy it, Method will get a few pennies from the sale, and it won't cost you anything extra. Please help support this site!)

Why do I like it? Watch this tutorial video I made at about the 34 minute mark to find out. You'll see exactly why I love using it and just how fun, easy and powerful it is. Not to mention, the less I'm tied to Adobe apps and a subscription, the better. You seriously can't beat this deal. 

So if you need an app to adjust images, make graphics for print or your web site, paint textures for your 3d scenes, or fix old photos, get this app now! What are you waiting for?

✱ Should you be considering a realtime rendering program for architectural presentations?

✱ Should you be considering a realtime rendering program for architectural presentations?

I’m sure you’ve heard of "realtime rendering," but just in case you haven’t here is a quick explanation: your 3d object or scene is being rendered by the computer on the fly, allowing the person viewing it to interact with the model and look wherever they want. The most common application of it is in video games, and as far as architectural visualization is concerned, it’s what’s next. Here's my current thinking on the subject.

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