Can someone tell me if it is possible to take a photograph of a building
elevation and create a CAD drawing of the elevation from it
assuming that the lens distortion has been removed prior to using the image
any help appreciated
I would insert the picture as a raster image and use it as a templet to
draw over, then remove the image and scale the drawing to full size. To do
that you will need to have a the dimension of some part of the building
that can be used as the reference.
It's a long process and needs to be done carefully, with many "Display
Order" "Send to back" instructions and difference coloured lines to show
above the photo...
...but it is possible.
Yes, it is possible. I do it occasionally, using
Windows XP Pro 2007, and AutoCAD LT 2004. I do it so seldom that
I forget how every time. But here is my recollection.
Start with a .jpg photograph. I don't know whether other
formats will work.
Right-click on the screen-listing of the .jpg photograph.
Select "open with Internet Explorer".
Right-click on the photograph (now in Internet Explorer).
Close Internet Explorer.
Open an AutoCAD file. If you have not already created an
empty layer (not layer 0), then do that now, and call that layer
"photo" or something like that. Make that layer current.
Type command "pasteclip", or "^V".
The photograph appears in a box with grips. You can move or
zoom or stretch the photograph with the grips (if you are set to
show grips). Escape to eliminate the box with the grips. You
still can use "pan" and "zoom", or you can go back to the grips if
Some times when I zoom, terrible things happen to the
photograph image. If anybody knows why, please tell me!
If you want to draw with AutoCAD on the photograph, then open
a new layer, make it current, and draw. You can zoom into the
photograph in order to draw very accurately, generally up to the
resolution limit of the photograph.
The photograph layer generally uses most of the memory in the
AutoCAD file. When you finish drawing, if you do not want to show
the photograph, then you can freeze the photo layer. Or you can
erase the photograph, and free that memory, by right-clicking on
the photograph, and selecting "Cut" or "Clear"; then purge the
If you have any trouble with this procedure, contact me, and
maybe we can clarify it by telephone while we both go through the
If anybody has a better way of doing this, please tell us.
Professionally. This is the proper way to do it: Fast production. Low labor
expense. High quality.
(1) Take photos as far away as you can, and at a height of as near to center
as you can, and as close to staight on to the center of a side (or face) as
you can (do this for each side or each face) while still having sufficient
detail. This will reduce distortion due to angles of view.
(2) Save a copy of each of these photos in full color. Save a copy of each
of these photos in full grey scale. Save a copy of each of these photos in
"2 color" black-n-white.
(3) Use CorelDRAW and CorelTRACE (most older versions are even capable of
this) to undo the distortion of the building. This means that the sides of a
building which is photographed from the bottom up close, which looks skinny
at the top and wide at the bottom, becomes the same width from to to bottom
when scaled in the picture. Do this to all of the similar pictures which are
in color, in greyscale, and in black-n-white, using the SAME distortion
removing commands for each. Save all of these "fixed" images as bmp or jpg
or whatever you prefer (and is usable).
(5) Use 3dStudioMax (2.0 or any newer) to quickly create a mesh of the
images as multiple boxes, while using the saved fixed images as backgrounds
in the editing of the boxes. You might occationally find, by comparing the
full color backgrounds and the grey scale backgrounds and the 2 color b/w
backgrounds, something that you missed.
(6) Map the boxes, in 3dsmax, either combined or seperate as needed, the
full fixed images or parts of the fixed images. View the results, and then
if necessary adjust the boxes.
(7) If you need, save the 3dsmax in 3ds or dxf format for Autocad (at least
version 2000) and then use Autocad to very quickly find dimensions of the
Other programs work, but do not produce as quick and useful a result. A lot
of people hate 3dsmax because they, when they were younger, were not able
to learn its full capabilities due to lazyness and/or impatience. It and
autocad are the absolute best, even better than the vastly more expensive 3d
programs out there.
CorelDRAW, CorelTRACE, 3DStudioMAX, AutoCad.
To get good (really quick, no help need, instructor level) at these: (using
them 8 hours per day and 5 days per week)
CorelDRAW has about a 6 month learning curve.
Writing good quality scripts for CorelDRAW is about a 6 month learning curve
for the non-programmer.
CorelTRACE has about a 1 week learning curve.
3DStudioMAX has at least a 13 month learning curve. 13 for a programmer, 18
for a non-programmer.
AutoCad (AFTER you have learned the others) has about a 6 month learning
I used to be an instructor of each of these. If you do not have a lot of
time, and want to force feed yourself through the learning curve quickly (in
about 1/2 the time), simply open them up one at a time in the order that I
gave, read the ENTIRE help files from start to finish twice, and go through
ALL of the options, and try ALL of the possible combinations, and reload
sofware and operating system when necessary.
Thanks for the information, it is really useful and I will continue to look
back here to see if there is any other ideas.
Fortunately I can do photogrammetric rectification, an odd skill I picked up
over the years (go figure!), so I can use my leica laser to do a quick trig.
to get the size of the building and the reference points to stretch the
image back to a usable reference image - making sure that I have removed the
lens distortion first of course - but just wanted to make sure that it was
okay and possible to draw from this image for a full elevation.
Only ever done stone by stone drawings of parts of a building before now, I
don't use Corel (got tired of it some years ago), but am proficient in
Photoshop and Illustrator and have a passing knowledge of CAD for the
purposes of Photogram. of specific angles and their removal etc...
It sounds as though, from what people are noting here, that it is possible,
but that the number of references points and measurements just needs to be
increased, to take account of the size of the building etc...
Would it be better to photogram. rectify a part of the building on its own
and then stitch together, or just do the whole building at once? Also, what
happens to the 3d parts of the building? I have only done stone by stone
drawings of small areas, so never had to deal with any 3d points of a
building, just 2d. What will those parts transfer like?
Its a long terrace of buildings, very dilapidated,so I am concerned that
getting the correct distance from a building over the entire length may be
problematic - thus giving false distance points over the entire range - but
could stitch line drawings better later on in the process if multiples are
used - so perhaps that is the way to go?
Again, will keep looking back, so any pointers appreciated
thanks again all
You didn't mention whether you were looking for 2D views/elevations of
the buildings or a 3D model.
I am in the business of using scanned image files to create accurate,
well structured 2D CAD files. It is commonly called CAD conversion.
I use Autodesk Raster Design, an Autodesk product that runs in AutoCAD
(but not in LT). Raster Design has all the tools necessary to
adjust the image files to correct distortion of any kind.
Typically I work from B/W TIF files of the original drawings or
blueprints because that way they come into Raster as a transparent
image, making tracing over easier.
In your case the photographs of the buildings would probably be
opaque, if they are actual photographs of the building with all the
background imagery included.
Tracing over would be more work because every line type would have to
be a color so it would show over the photograph, which would be set up
so as to be in the back of the draw order.
Bottom line, yes it can be done. Would it be expensive? Yes, if you
don't have the software and want to buy it to do it yourself. It will
also be expensive
to have someone in the business do it due to the time necessray to set
up the drawings and trace all the elements.
thanks for the reply - already noted the 2d v 3d question in a follow up
tagged to the end of this discussion.
Not sure that I agree that it would take a long time, as I have already
completed smaller stone by stone drawings in a relatively quick time. In
fact I have drawn every stone on a bronze age burial Cairn in only 3 days
from rectified photographs (which I can do) - okay, your nose and ears bleed
and your eyes pop out and your head hurts like hell, but it was all
completed in three days!
thanks for the information though
I've used a photo recification program called Photoplan
Found it quite useful for drawing building facade elevations, although not
especially quick. Basically you trace over a picture that has been streched
square so it looks more like an elevation.
There's also Sitemaster, which looks similar, although havn't used it.
Think both have free trial versions.
Hope that helps
Thanks for the info
photoplan is indeed okay for perspective work, but at nearly £800 and a
trial version that puts square artifacts over the output pictures +, if
memory is right, you need a version of AutoCAD, as its a plugin, its not
exactly cheap and/or simple
though I have used it with some mixed results
thanks one and all - I will see if I can do it and if not, then beg a large
format with a reduced distortion lens adaptor and spot point the building -
easier to stretch it out and measure that way
funny how a good full plate film camera can still sometimes work better than
most modern stuff