Have you ever wondered what kind of AutoCAD skills you really need to know to succeed as a designer? You may be already familiar with Cathleen Jones from her customization tips and rules for success on our blog, and now, she’s back doing another interview with us on the most important functions she learned in her 35-year career as a CAD designer. In the second of this two-part series, Cathleen shares her top AutoCAD skills you need to master to succeed.
1. Standard naming conventions, text styles, and dimension styles
“A lot of people coming into AutoCAD don’t understand basic drafting. Design and drafting all started on the drafting board and those details were taught in drafting classes—some CAD classes skip this step. I have the benefit of being a board drafter before I got into AutoCAD, so I had to learn, for example, what the standard height is for text in the drawing, title block, and so on. As you become designers and engineers I would hope that you would understand the importance of setting standards.
“A lot of times students say, ‘Well, I’m going to be an engineer. I’m going to have a drafter doing it for me.’ Yeah, but you’re going to be the quality control checker for those drawings; you’re the one who’s going to do the final check. Are you going to understand enough about what makes that a legible, readable, and understandable document? It’s important to know those basics.
“If you work for a small company that doesn’t have company standards, the United States National CAD Standard is a good place to start. You can also look up ‘CAD standards’ in Wikipedia for another starting point to setting company standards.”
Check out the “About CAD Standards” article on the Autodesk Knowledge Network.
2. Point filters – What good are they anyway?
“Point filters are really important for me, because I don’t necessarily care what the distance is from that wall to the center of that light fixture. I just want that light fixture to be centered in that wall. And so, for me, I want to have an X value and a Y value I can match up to center that both vertically and horizontally. It’s not so much the distance from something as, ‘Is it visually pleasing? Is it symmetrical? Is it centered?’”
Learn how to use pointer filters here.
3. PDF import – What else does it do?
“There are still subcontractors that give you PDFs. The beauty with AutoCAD is that those PDF files can be imported right into a drawing with the latest releases. You can clip them down to just the part that you want with PDFCLIP. Or maybe you just need an outline of something or the linework and text in a certain portion; then use PDFIMPORT to bring those objects from a PDF overlay (or file) into your drawing. Or maybe you just need to reference it to make sure your stuff doesn’t interfere with their stuff. You can use PDFATTACH or the External Reference Manager to attach or overlay that PDF. You don’t have to show it on your drawing later, but you were able to use the information in creating a more accurate picture for the project.”
Learn more about importing PDFs here.
4. Manipulating external references
“I love architects. They use more layers than anyone has any business using! They might have 256 layers for a wall, and you don’t want your drawing to have to carry all those when you attach the XREF. If I have a floor plan of an apartment, it probably has various units like studio, one-bedroom, two-bedroom, and so on, and they would be external references to the main floor plan. So I bring the floor plan into my drawing as an external reference, and the good news is that it then lets me see everything that’s been drawn, and all of that information is important. At the same time, I don’t want to have to fiddle with all those layers, and there may be parts, such as the dimensions, that I don’t want to show on my drawing. In the Layer Manager, I can turn off those layers. And in newer versions of AutoCAD, you can not only show Xref layers, you can select all non-Xref layers for quick selecting and manipulating. I’ve been wanting something like that for so long!”
Learn more about Xrefs here.
5. Viewports – They are not just rectangles!
“A lot of people just do square viewports. Viewports can be clipped just like a PDF and can even be circles or other shapes—just make certain that the shape you want is a closed polyline. It’s very creative. If you need to make it look like a key shape, you can make it look like a key shape. You can do whatever you want. Viewports are very, very flexible and can make your drawings look so much more appealing.”
Learn how to create odd-shaped viewports here.