A Beginner's Guide to AutoCAD

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A Beginner's Guide to AutoCAD

Fri, 10/09/2020 - 14:17
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AutoCAD is a software utilizing computer-aided design (CAD). The company behind the program is Autodesk. Artists can draw and edit designs on the computer faster and more efficiently than by hand, saving time and enhancing productivity. You can also collaborate with others on your team to create your finished product. 

According to Statista, the CAD market is worth over $5.5 billion for 3D design and $1.97 billion for 2D design. By 2028, experts predict the usage will rise to $10.48 billion for 3D design alone. 

You might think it's challenging to learn AutoCAD, but some fundamental elements of the program are relatively easy to understand. 

Why Do Businesses Use AutoCAD?

There are many benefits to using AutoCAD. One of the most significant advantages is the numerous free online tutorials. If you don't fully understand one of the software's functions, it's easy to pull up a YouTube or text tutorial and learn the ins and outs of designing with AutoCAD. 

Other advantages of CAD for your business include saving time and raw materials. You can test ideas in the software instead of making hard-copy prototypes and wasting precious resources. You can perfect the design and create a single prototype instead of dozens. 

Learn These AutoCAD Basics

To get the most from your AutoCAD program, you should learn the fundamental components of how to use this software:

Learn the Controls

Once you launch AutoCAD, you can choose from an array of controls. Here are the ones you need to understand to start your first project:

  • Start Drawing button: Click the button to start a new drawing. 
  • Tabbed ribbon controls: You'll see a familiar ribbon with controls you might see in Microsoft Word or Photoshop. Here, you can open files, save documents, create a new file and so on.
  • Command Window: Access the Command Window from the bottom of the program window. Here you can enter direct commands or choose from various options. If you don't fully understand how commands work, you can still complete tasks from the ribbon controls and menus.

You could also enlist the help of specialists to create custom commands you use frequently. Once you understand the basic layout of AutoCAD, it's time to delve into the specifics of how to work within a drawing.

Use Your Mouse

Your mouse becomes your drawing device within AutoCAD. Here's how it works:

  • Left-click allows you to select options and move to specific locations. 
  • The scrolling wheel enables you to pan and zoom across the screen.
  • The right-click function lets you get to shortcut menus quickly. 

If you want to complete some commands without your mouse, you can also press F2 to pan. Other options include using a digitizing puck or stylus with multiple buttons. 

Save Templates

If you create similar designs frequently, it may be worth your time to save a drawing as a template. You can then create a new file from the template, making minor changes and saving your time and effort for future similar projects. Create a template by following these steps:

  • Open the file you want to save as a template.
  • Go to File/Save As.
  • Save it as an AutoCAD Drawing Template or .dwt file. 

You should give your template a different name than the original project to avoid confusion. Most designers keep their templates in a separate folder from their projects. 

Include Details in Your Drawings

Once you've outlined a basic sketch, you can import details to bring your drawing to life and make it truly unique. Accomplish this with these steps:

  • Start by creating a block or collection of objects grouped to scale. 
  • Insert the file into your project with the Insert command on the toolbar or by entering "I" in the Command Window. 
  • Click the block to select it and move it or rotate it to the location you prefer.

Once you've added the block once to a drawing, you can insert it multiple times without importing it again. The shortcut works well for landscaping projects where you might need to add multiple shrubs, trees and other details to a layout. 

Change the Background Color

There are numerous reasons why you might want to change the background color of a drawing. Perhaps you want to see the difference between multiple versions of the design, or you simply want to add more contrast between the object and background. To change the background color, follow these tips:

  • Open the Command Line Window and type "OP." Press Enter. 
  • Choose Display in the Options dialog box, and click on the Colors button in the Window Elements dialog box. 
  • Choose Uniform Background as an option. 
  • Select the color from the drop-down list, apply it and close the window.

For a beginner, sticking with one of the color options listed is your best bet. There are some more advanced AutoCAD features that allow you to further personalize your choices, but save those for when you're more adept at using the software and are ready for a new challenge.

Work in Sheet Sets

Most projects require multiple drawings or options for your clients. You'll find yourself working in sheet sets frequently. Here's how to use them:

  • Once you have a few drawings, navigate to the Sheet Set Manager palette. 
  • Click on the Open button arrow and choose New Sheet Set from the options. 
  • In the Create Sheet Set dialog box, pick the radio button for Existing drawings and click next. 
  • Add pertinent details, choose the layout you like and select the files you want to add. 

Double-check that the correct sheets are selected and ensure you are happy with the layout and other details. Create your Sheet Set by clicking the Finish button.

Learn By Practicing

The best way to learn AutoCAD or any new software program is by getting into the system and trying different techniques. Find some online tutorials and go through simple projects until you feel comfortable enough to create something unique. As you move through your first custom project, look up tutorials for anything you don't know how to do. Experience makes using AutoCAD easy. You'll be surprised how quickly you pick up this useful design tool.