Dec 2014 Post Update: Content Studio now has a Thumbnail Automation Tool on the Revit Ribbon!

Quite often the thumbnail image is forgotten about when creating content. This leaves everyone (including you!) confused when you’re searching a library and all you can see are meaningless thumbnails like the ones shown below.

This article aims to provide you with some best practice advice on how to create and store thumbnails during family creation.

Process for 3D Families

Step 1: Create a view
In the family, create a new default 3D view and rename it as Thumbnail.

Step 2: Be consistent with viewing angles
Always angle the view cube to Top Front Right (or what ever angle is most appropriate).  The images below show a nice readable library of thumbnail images, all with the same orientation for ease of viewing.

 

Step 3: Set the scale to 1:1
If you leave the scale at 1:100 you will just end up with a thumbnail full of thick black lines due to the pen weights (even if you have thin lines activated in Revit).

 

Step 4: Set the level of detail to ‘Fine’
If parts of your geometry only appear at a fine level of detail and are therefore hidden at a Coarse level of detail, this could be confusing when browsing the library. Set the detail to Fine to show as much of the model as possible.
Step 5: Set the appearance to Shaded
Leaving the thumbnail as wire frame is just confusing. Setting it to hidden line doesn’t give much away about the applied materials in the family.  Setting it to shaded (called shaded with edges in older versions of Revit) will give a much more informed view of the family.
Step 6: Control the visibility
If the family is hosted. You may need to hide the sample host element. For instance: A door is wall hosted.  On the left is an example of what the thumbnail would look like if you were to save it with the wall turned on.  On the right is what it would look like with the wall turned off. Much clearer!
To do this, go into Visibility/Graphics and hide the Wall category.
        

 

You might find that items such as face based families will not allow you to hide the host sample via the visibility graphics dialogue box. In this case, you will need to reduce the host sample size so that it is appropriate to the view. You can also apply a transparent material to the host sample so it is not as prominent.
         

Sample host before modification                 Sample host after modification

Step 7: Lock the 3D view’s orientation
To prevent accidentally altering the thumbnail view when you edit this file in future, lock the view so that the orientation cannot be changed.
Thats it! Your ready to save the family with this view as the thumbnail. Jump to the end of this article to see how you should save the families.

Process for 2D Families

2D families do not have the same controls as 3D families and need to be tackled in a different way.
Step 1: Create a view
It is not possible to duplicate views in a 2D family. Therefore you need to customise the Ref.Level
Step 2: Set the scale to 1:1
If you leave the scale at 1:100 you will just end up with a thumbnail full of thick black lines due to the pen weights (even if you have thin lines activated in Revit). Note, if this is a symbol you may need to play around with the scale until the text or symbology looks appropriate.

 

Step 3: Set the level of detail to ‘Fine’
If parts of your geometry are hidden and a Coarse level of detail, this could be confusing when browsing the library. Set the detail to Fine to show as much of the model as possible.
Step 4: Set the appearance to Shaded
Leaving the thumbnail as wire frame is just confusing. Setting it to hidden line doesn’t give much away about any coloured filled regions or object styles. Setting it to shaded (called shaded with edges in older versions of Revit) will give a much more informed view of the family.
Step 5: Control the visibility
A common mistake with 2D families is to leave the reference planes visible.  Doing this will force the thumbnail view to zoom to the extents of the reference planes (which in most cases run far beyond the geometry), meaning the component is a small dot in the middle of the thumbnail.  To hide reference planes and other reference information, go to Visibility/Graphics and uncheck the visibility option on the Annotation tab.
Thats it! Your ready to save the family with this view as the thumbnail.

How to save the family…

In Revit, navigate to the Add-ins tab > Content|Studio pallet: Choose ‘Save Family to Library’
All data including Type Parameters, Category, Revit version, Author and more will now be stored in Content Studio awaiting your review.