This tutorial covers how to make a basic page setup in AutoCAD in order to print your drawing(s).
Printing in AutoCAD is (historically) called plotting.
This tutorial assumes that you're drawing is set up in millimeters (in model space, 1 unit represents 1 mm). Please make sure you're drawing and units are set up correctly!
Layout: Model Space v.s. Paper Space
Drawings are constructed in Model Space, visible in the Model tab in AutoCAD. There is also one or more Layout Tabs. These display the contents of a Layout, also referred to as Paper Space. As the name suggests, these are to create layouts intended for plotting (printing) your drawings on paper.
Switch to the Layout 1 tab which should be present by default in new drawings:
By default, AutoCAD creates a white sheet with one viewport that displays the contents of your model space. More on that a little further on. First you have to setup your paper:
Click right on the Layout tab and choose Page Setup Manager...:
The following dialog will display:
AutoCAD selects the active Layout by default, so you can proceed by clicking Modify for the selected Layout. The Page Setup dialog will be displayed:
Here you can set paper sizes, the type of printer that will be used, etc. In this example we're creating an A3 Layout to be printed to PDF using the Adobe PDF Plotter.
- Select the Adobe PDF plotter (or other printer that suits your specific goal)
- Set the Paper Size to the desired format; A3 in this example
- Make sure the Plot Scale is set to 1 mm = 1 unit
- Choose the desired Drawing orientation
That's all for now. We will make the final (very important) configurations a little later on.
Your drawing should display one or more parts of your drawing that you've created in Model Space. This is done by means of viewports, which are literally a view port into your Model Space. By default AutoCAD creates one viewport for you.
You can move, scale and transform this viewport just like any other AutoCAD object in Model Space.
It's recommended to place your viewport object(s) in a separate layer.
You can create a new viewport through the menu View > Viewports > 1 Viewport You're asked to pick both opposite corners for a rectangular viewport.
Activating a Viewport
When you double click inside a viewport it becomes active. The border is displayed as a thick line and the Paper-/Model Space indicator in the bottom switches to MODEL:
When you double click outside a viewport (somewhere on your paper), the viewport is deactivated and you're back in Paper Space.
Set viewport scale
When a viewport is active, you can use the regular navigation and zoom tools to select the part of the Model Space that is displayed and at which zoom level (scale).
To get your scale accurate, for instance at 1 to 200 (1:200), you can use the zoom command. We assume your drawing is set up in millimeters in Model Space.
- Type z [enter] for zoom
- Enter the scale: 1/200xp for a scale of 1:200. Don't forget the suffix xp which tells AutoCAD to relate the zoom scale to Paper Space units.
If your drawing was set up in meters instead of millimeters, i.e: one modelspace unit represents 1 meter, you should use 1000/200xp in the example above!
Hide the viewport border from the plot
When you plot your layout, it will also plot the border of the viewport (the lines of the viewport object). If don't want the borders to be plotted, you can use the Plot setting of the layer your viewport is in. It's assumed you've created a separate layer for your viewport(s).
Open the Layer manager and click the small plotter icon in the Plot column for the layer your viewport is in. A red line will appear through the icon indicating that the layer will not be plotted; the contents of the viewport will still be plotted though.
Line weights and printing colors
There are several ways to print your lines in a certain color and line weight. In this tutorial we're using the method using Color Tables.
The Color Table translates the object's color into properties such as color and line weight. You can create a Color Table from scratch, but to make thing a bit more convenient, we will be using a pre-made Color Table. You can modify this one later when desired.
You can download our pre-made example From our website (zipped). The colors are set to correspond with the following line weights:
Using Color Tables
First we have to make sure AutoCAD can find the Color Table we're going to use. The file needs to be in a specific location:
- Download the pre-made Color Table from our website and save it.
- Open the location where you saved the file and unzip it.
- Right-click the zwart-wit.ctb file and choose copy
- in AutoCAD go to File > Plot Style Manager
An explorer window opens:
- Paste the file you've copied earlier into this location
- That's it, AutoCAD can now locate the file. You can close the Plot Style Manager
Now AutoCAD can find the file, but it doesn't know yet that it should use this Color Table. So next we're going to assign this Color Table to the Layout(s).
- Open the Page Setup for your Layout.
- For Plot style table choose zwart-wit.ctb from the pull-down. If it's not there, you probably didn't copy the ctb file to the correct location.
- Optionally you could check Display plot styles if you want to see the effect of the Color table in your Layout view.
So the color of an object determines how it will be printed. It's recommended to use the layer color to set the color for an object. So organize your layers and layer colors in such a way that it suits your desired printing properties.
You could set the color for each object individually, but then it's harder to make changes afterwards. For a few exemptions this may work, but avoid using 'per object' colors as much as you can.
Once you've completed the basic setup, you're ready to plot your Layout.
Preview the plot
When you've enabled Display plot styles in the Page Setup, you can get a rough idea about how your drawing would look when it's printed.
Using the LWT button in the bottom toolbar, you can enable or disable the displaying of line weights in your Layout.
To get the most accurate preview, you can use File > Plot Preview, or the Preview button from the Page Setup dialog.
Plotting a Layout
Click right on the tab of the Layout you want to plot. Choose Plot.
When you've selected a 'real' plotter, your drawing will be plotted as soon as you click OK in the Plot dialog. In this tutorial we've selected the Adobe PDF plotter. Once you click OK, your drawing is plotted to an Adobe PDF file. You will be prompted to select a location where to save the PDF file.
If you're using the Adobe PDF plotter, using the Plot preview function isn't really necessary. You can just plot to a PDF file and see if it's what you wanted.
Display one or more scaled views of your design on a standard-size drawing sheet called a layout.
After you finish creating a model at full size, you can switch to a paper space layout to create scaled views of the model, and to add notes, labels, and dimensions. You can also specify different linetypes and line widths for display in paper space.
Model Space and Paper Space
As you know, you create the geometry of your model in model space.
Originally, this was the only space available in AutoCAD. All notes, labels, dimensions, and the drawing border and title block were also created and scaled in model space.
After paper space was introduced, you could click a layout tab to access a space designed specifically for layouts and scaling. In the following illustration, paper space is active. There are currently only two objects in paper space: a drawing border block, and a single layout viewport, which displays a view of model space.
Working with layout viewports is described in more detail later in this topic.
Four Methods for Scaling
There are four different methods in AutoCAD that are used to scale views, notes, labels, and dimensions. Each method has its advantages depending on how the drawing will be used. Here's a brief summary of each of the methods:
- The Original Method. You create geometry, annotate, and print from model space. Dimensions, notes, and labels must all be scaled in reverse. You set the dimension scale to the inverse of the plot scale. With this method, scaling requires a little math. For example, a common scale used in architecture is 1/4" = 1'-0" which is 1:48 scale. If a note is to be printed ¼" high, then it must be created 48 times as large, or 12" high in model space. The same scale factor also applies to dimensions, and an ARCH D drawing border at that scale is 144 feet long. When the drawing is printed as a D-size sheet, everything scales down to the correct size.
Note: Many AutoCAD drawings were created with this method, and many companies still use it. Once everything is set up, the method works well for 2D drawings with single views and inserted details.
- The Layout Method. You create geometry and annotate in model space, and print from the layout. Set the dimension scale to 0 and the dimensions will scale automatically.
- The Annotative Method. You create geometry in model space, create annotative dimensions, notes, and labels (using a special annotative style) in model space from the layout, and you print from the layout. Annotative objects display only in layout viewports that share the same scale. The dimension scale is automatically set to 0 and all annotative objects scale automatically.
- The Trans-Spatial Method. You create geometry in model space, create annotations in paper space on a layout with dimension scale set to 1, and you print from the layout. This is arguably the easiest, most direct method, and it is the method of choice for this guide.
Talk to other AutoCAD users in your discipline about these four methods and why they chose the method that they use.
Specifying the Paper Size of a Layout
The first thing that you should do when you access a layout tab (1) is right-click the tab (2) and rename it (3) to something more specific than Layout 1. For a D-size layout, ARCH D or ANSI D might be good choices.
Next, open the Page Setup Manager (4) to change the paper size displayed in the layout tab.
Note: You might be wondering why there are two entries in the list for every sheet size. This is because some printers and plotters do not recognize the drawing orientation setting.
A layout viewport is an object that is created in paper space to display a scaled view of model space. You can think of it as a closed-circuit TV monitor that displays part of model space. In the illustration, model space is active and accessible from within the current layout viewport.
In a layout, when model space is active, you can pan and zoom, and anything else that you could do on the Model tab.
Important: You can switch between paper space and model space by double-clicking inside or outside the layout viewport.
For example, let's say that you created a backyard deck design in model space, and now you want to lay out and print your design from a layout tab.
The view in the layout viewport is not yet set to the correct scale.
Note: You can use the MVIEW (make view) command to create additional layout viewports in paper space. With several layout viewports, you can display several views of model space at the same or at different scales.
Scaling Views and Trans-Spatial Annotation
Here are the steps to follow if you use the trans-spatial method of annotating your drawing:
- Click the layout tab. If you started the drawing with your own custom drawing template file, several tasks might already have been completed: the layout might already be set to D-size, and the title block might already have been inserted in the layout.
- By default, paper space is active, so double-click within the layout viewport to make model space active. Notice that the edge of the layout viewport becomes thicker as a result of switching to model space.
- Zoom out and center the model space view by panning. However the displayed view is still not set to the correct scale.
- Double-click outside the layout viewport to make paper space active again.
- Open the Properties palette and then click to select the edge of the layout viewport.
- In the Properties palette, specify a standard scale of 1/4" = 1'-0" from the drop-down list. This action scales your view of model space precisely to the D-size drawing. You also set the Display Locked property from No to Yes. This prevents any unintentional display changes to the view.
- Move the layout viewport as needed, and adjust its edges using grips.
- Create notes, labels, and dimensions directly in paper space. They automatically appear at the correct size.
- Turn off the layer on which you created the layout viewport object. This hides the edges of the layout viewport as shown below.
- Print the drawing to paper or as a DWF or PDF file.
Note: By default, the dashes and spaces in a non-continuous linetype appear at the same length regardless of the scale of the layout viewport.
Note: After you have finished dimensioning, you can use the EXPORTLAYOUT command to merge everything in model and paper space into the model space of a separate drawing file. This operation creates a drawing file that conforms to the original method of creating the model and all annotations in model space.