AutoCAD - How to Start Drafting as an Architecture Student

One of the basic skills required by an architecture student is to know how to draft drawings in AutoCAD. In fact, in most colleges and universities, AutoCAD is the first software that is taught.

Although tedious to make, CAD drawings are easy to read and understand by the people involved in the construction of the project. Hence, it is extremely important to make them as accurate as possible in order to avoid miscommunication, which might lead to drastic mistakes on-site.

You can download the free student version of AutoCAD from the official Autodesk website.

Workflow In AutoCAD

There are certain ways to make drafting in CAD easier. Drawing every single line and element individually is not only time-consuming but also makes drawing hard to understand by those who attempt to read it.

1. Get Familiarized With The Tools:

The very first step is to familiarize yourself with the tools available. Some of the tools which are often used are:

  • Drawing Tools Like Lines, Rectangles, Ellipses, Arcs, etc: Their functions are self-explanatory.
  • Trim Tool: The trim Tool, as the name suggests, trims lines and objects. This tool, however, cannot trim blocks.
  • Move Tool: This tool moves selected objects to specified locations.
  • Copy Tool: Copies of selected objects are made using this.
  • Scale Tool: Selections can be scaled bigger or smaller proportionately using this tool.
  • Offset Tool: Offsets of the selected line can be made accurately based on entered values.
  • Array Tool: This tool can create copies of an object in an arranged and organized manner.
  • Mirror Tool: The mirror tool flips your drawing in the desired distance and axis. You can choose whether or not to keep the original drawing. 
  • Fillet: The fillet tool joins two lines. It is useful when trying to create closed and joint boundaries.

2. Work In Layers

Layers make working in AutoCAD so much easier and more organized. There are hundreds and thousands of elements that need to be drafted in a drawing which will not only overwhelm the ones who read it but might also confuse you.

  • In the Home tab, press the 'layer properties' button to open the layers tab. You can create, delete and edit layers in this.
  • Place different elements in different layers. For example, place all the walls in one layer and all the windows in another.
  • Preferably, give different colors to each layer to make the drawing visually easy to understand. These colors can be set in the layers properties panel.
Layers in AutoCAD

3. Shortcuts

Every tool has a shortcut in AutoCAD. In order to get the list of shortcuts, press the following: 

  • Manage tab > Customize user interface > customization tab > customization files > keyboard shortcuts. 
  • You can either copy-paste the text or download it.

But one of the amazing features of AutoCAD is that you can also customize your own shortcuts. To do this:

  • Manage tab > Customize user interface > customization tab > customization files > keyboard shortcuts > shortcut Keys > command List box
  • In the command list box, select the command that you want to create a shortcut for.
  • Bring that particular command under Shortcut Keys in the Customization Files box.
  • Click 'access' in the properties box.
  • A pop-up box will appear. Enter the shortcut of your choice and click OK.
Finding the Keyboard Shortcuts

4. CAD Blocks

This is one of the most important and convenient aspects of AutoCAD. When you make certain elements like windows or doors, which are repetitive in your drawing, you can make them into blocks rather than drafting them each time.

Making Blocks

  • For example, if you are making windows for your drawing, draft one window accurately.
  • Click on the insert tab and press the 'creative block' button.
  • A dialogue box will appear. Click on 'make selection' and select the window that you have drafted. 
  • Select a reference point for it. This is optional.
  • Once the selections are done, name the block and save it. 
  • Now you can copy or move the block anywhere in your drawing.

Editing Blocks

  • Select the block and right-click it
  • Select the 'Edit block' button
  • A screen with the CAD block will appear
  • Make all the necessary changes and press '()'
Furniture Blocks in AutoCAD

Why Use Blocks?

Now you may ask why we need to make blocks when we can just directly copy-paste the drafted window. 

Let's say you finished drafting the front elevation of a residence. But due to certain reasons, you now have to change the window design or dimensions. Without the use of blocks, you have to sit and individually change the design of each window. But if you had made your windows into a block, you simply have to edit one block. Every single window will change, saving you hours of repetitive work.

You can also download pre-existing blocks from the internet.

5. Movement And Selections

On the bottom of the work window, there are a variety of buttons available that help with accurate selections and movements of elements in a drawing. Preferred settings simply need to be checked according to requirements.

Selection: Pressing the arrow mark opens up a drop-down menu of all the options available like center, tangent, end-point selection, etc. These buttons allow you to accurately select an element, making your drawings clean.

Movement: Most of the time, you need to move parts of your drawings in certain directions and to a certain location. AutoCAD has settings for this too. For example, turning on the perpendicular movement button allows for only movement in perpendicular directions. 

These buttons can be unchecked if they are not needed. 

Dragging from Right - Selecting only what is completely in the outbound box
Dragging from Left - Selecting all components even if a part of it is selected

6. Adjusting Lineweights And Transparency

In a CAD drawing, in order to show the placement of objects, line weights and transparency is used. If an object is closer, heavier line weights are used, and if the object is farther, lighter ones are. 

  • In order to change the line weight, click on the line or the element.
  • On the Tools panel, near the layers tab, there is a line properties box.
  • The box has different settings like line type and line weight. 
  • Click on the drop-down menu of lightweight and change it to your desired value.

The same steps can be followed for changing transparency.

Changing line weights and transparency in a layer

7. Clean Lines

AutoCAD is popularly used for its accurate and clean finishings. This is why it is important not to overlap lines while drafting, which will clearly be visible while printing hard copies. These can easily be cut or termed by the various tools available. 

But sometimes, this clean-up work might prove to be tedious. AutoCAD has a command, the overkill command, which does the work for you. 

  • Type OVERKILL and press enter.
  • All duplicate linework, including overlapping lines and curves, will be cleaned up and joined properly.

AutoCAD will definitely be overwhelming when you first start. But once an efficient workflow is set, it becomes easier and faster to draft.

AutoCAD - How to Start Drafting as an Architecture Student