AECbytes Tips and Tricks Issue #66 (March 21, 2013)

Using the Morph Tool to Create Custom Objects in ArchiCAD

Thomas M. Simmons
President, ARCHVISTA Building Technologies

Commonly viewed as Graphisoft's answer to SketchUp, the Morph Tool is a fairly new addition to ArchiCAD that can be used to create freeform elements. It is also a powerful early design tool for massing studies and for creating custom objects. Morph Tool users can mold their ideas for unique designs and complex forms via a combination of drawing and modeling techniques. Once the design is created, the Morph can be saved as an object.

How the Morph Tool Works

Before we review the steps to create an object, let's first review some concepts about how the Morph Tool works. Compared to traditional construction elements in ArchiCAD, the Morph has very few modeling limitations. The tool allows users to manipulate every edge and every surface of a Morph, moving and shaping a design in any direction, providing a freeform process for modeling. 

The Morph element is comprised of three primary sub-elements; Nodes, Edges and Faces. Each of these sub-elements can be individually edited to define and shape a Morph with the help of the pet palette and real-time feedback. As you model a Morph, the Selection Settings vary depending on whether you select an entire Morph or any of its sub-elements. When a sub-element is selected, only the Model panel and relevant controls are available for the selected Face, Edge, Node or a combination thereof.

When creating Morph elements, users are not limited to the basic input methods. Any element in ArchiCAD can be converted to a Morph using the Create Morph Using Selection command from the Design menu or from the 'right-click' menu. So, for example, if you wanted to shape a Wall into a custom form, you could draw a Wall using the Wall Tool, select the Wall and choose Create Morph Using Selection to transform the Wall to a Morph. 

Using the Morph Tool to Create a Custom Shape

Now that we understand some of the basic Morph concepts, we are ready to create an object with the Morph Tool. For this exercise, we will create a custom steel structural shape for a walkway canopy design.

The first step is to create a section in the model looking at where the canopy will be built. We will use this section as a reference for designing the outline of the canopy, which we will use as a 3D reference. Select the Section Tool and draw a section where the canopy will be placed.

To draw a 3D reference in a section view, select the Morph Tool and then select the Polygonal Morph geometry method.

Next, draw the outline of the structural shape that will be used to support the canopy design using the Polygonal Morph.

Once complete, go to the 3D window and you will see the outline as a 3D form with zero depth to the form.

To give the form depth, first select the Arrow Tool and select the Morph.

Next, select the Morph Tool and select the Box geometry method. Then click on the surface of the structural form, and select the Push/Pull command from the Pet Palette. Pull your curser away from the form to give the form depth and enter 6” in the Tracker.

Next, we need to give the steel structural form some detail. With the Morph element selected, click the Morph Tool and the Polygonal Morph geometry method again. Click the edge of the Morph and select Offset All Edges from the Pet Palette.

While still in the command, click the Alt Key (Windows) or Option Key (Mac) to invoke the Copy command which you will see as a “+” sign on the Cursor. Enter the thickness of the steel as 3/4” and select Enter from the keyboard. We now have an offset of a line around the inside edge of the Morph.

Now let’s add some additional steel supports before we adjust the depth of the steel. To do this, go back to the Section. Select the Morph Tool and then select the Polygonal Morph geometry method.

Draw steel supports at intervals within the steel frame to support the structure.

Next, go to the 3D Window and you will see that the structural supports you modeled in Section are offset from the steel structure. To move them into alignment, select each of the structural supports, click a point on one of the supports, select the Drag command in the Pet Palette and with your Shift Key held down to constrain, drag to the edge of the steel structure.

Once completed, select the Morph Tool and choose Select All Morphs from the Edit Menu. You should see the all the Morphs now selected.

Next we will combine each of the Morphs that were drawn into a single Morph. To do this, select the Union command from the Modify Morph sub-menu in the Design menu.

Finally, select an area of the Morph to offset the steel structure so we can give some depth to the structural supports. Once selected, click the Push/Pull command from the Pet Palette and enter a depth for the structural support as 2 1/4”.

Complete this same step for each area of the steel structure and then repeat these steps on the opposite side of the structure. The final Morph should like the following image.

Creating an Object from the Morph

To create an Object from a Morph, go to the Floor Plan and select the Morph.

Then go to the File menu, and in the Libraries and Objects sub-menu, select Save Selection As... and Object.

Give a name to your object and click Save. Next, a Change Object’s Basic Settings dialog will appear. You can edit this dialog’s defaults, and when finished just click OK.

The object is now saved and can be accessed in your Object Tool.

To learn more about modeling with the Morph Tool as well as how to use ArchiCAD more efficiently in your practice, visit


About the Author

Thomas M. Simmons, the founder of ARCHVISTA, Inc. and LearnVirtual, has spoken at major industry events including AEC Systems, Ecobuild, AIACC Desert Practice Conference, and the AIACC Monterey Design Conference. He has authored several books on Building Information Modeling, ArchiCAD and architectural technology. He was formerly the Director of Technology with the award winning firm of EHDD Architects, San Francisco, and has earned a Masters of Architecture from UC Berkeley. He can be reached at


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