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AutoCAD Essentials with Jeff Bartels is a multi-part series that takes a more modular approach to this massive program, used for everything from 2D and 3D CAD design, drafting, and modeling to architectural drawing and engineering projects. This first installment includes a lengthy tour of the interface, from understanding the concept of model space to customizing the AutoCAD preferences and working with dockable palettes. The second half of the course show how to manage your drawings, including getting the most from the mouse and many shortcuts, creating time-saving templates, and plotting from either model space or in a layout.
At some point in the design process, you'll need to create a hard copy of your drawing, and at first glance, printing from AutoCAD may seem a little more intimidating than printing from a program like Microsoft Word. This is because the geometry in a CAD file will measure true size, and will probably require some scaling to get it to fit on a sheet of paper. In this lesson, we're going to learn how to print an AutoCAD drawing from model space. On my screen, I have a drawing of a proposed parking lot layout. Let's assume that I just received this file via email from a client and I'd like to print the drawing on an eight-and-a- half-by-eleven inch sheet of paper.
To do that, I'm going to move up to the Quick Access Toolbar and I'll launch the Plot command. This brings up the Plot dialog box. From here, I will select my printer first. I can do that by opening this menu. And in the list, I can see all of the printers that are physically connected to my machine. Now, I guarantee your list looks different than mine; everybody's system is different. So, feel free to select any printer that will accommodate a letter-size sheet. I am going to grab the slider and drag it to the bottom. Down here, we can find the list of virtual printers that get installed with AutoCAD.
I am going to select DWF6E Plot as my printer. This allows me to print my file as a DWF. DWF stands for Design Web Format, and it's very similar to PDF file. Now that I've chosen my printer, I can come down and select a paper size. Fortunately, the NCA is perfect. Since I am using a virtual printer, I could open this menu and I could select from several other paper sizes. I'm going to keep this set to the default. I will then come down to Plot area. What do I want to print? I'll open the menu and I'll select Extents.
This way all of the geometry that displays in my drawing will show up on the sheet. I will then come down and choose Center the plot so it's in the middle of the paper. And for right now, I'm going to leave the plot scale set to Fit to paper. This will ensure that the drawing fits within the boundary of the page. Sometimes this is good enough just to create a hard copy of your drawing. Let's come down and click Preview. We'll see how things look. Now this looks pretty good, with the exception of our geometry is going to plot in color. In fact, it's going to print using the same colors that we see in model space.
I'm going to zoom in a little bit. The Pan and Zoom functionality work the exact same here as they do in model space. And it looks like this yellow is not going to work too well for my dimensions, so I'd like to correct this. To do that I will click the X to close the preview. I will then click the More Than button to get access to additional plot settings, and I'm going to come up to Plot Style table. I'll open this menu and I'll choose Monochrome. I will then choose Yes. Choosing this table means that no matter what color I see in model space, it's going to plot black, or monochrome.
Once again, I'll click Preview. As you can see, one of my layout preview thumb-ails has popped up, and it's now getting in my way. There we go. We'll zoom in. This looks much better. To finish my plot, I'm going to move up and close the preview and then I'll come down and click OK. Now, if you're printing your drawing to a physical printer it's probably already coming out. Since I'm printing mine to a file, I'm going to jump up to the desktop. Let me move my Plot dialog box over and I will save this drawing out here using the default name. And since I plotted my drawing to DWF, I can view the file by coming right down here to the icon that's speaking to me.
I can right-click on it, and choose View Plotted File. This opens Design Review, which acts very similar to the Acrobat Reader. From here, I can see a representation of my printed file. Let's close this. And I'd like to print this file one more time, except this time I'd like to print it to a measurable scale. The first thing I'll do is verify that this geometry was drawn at true size. So let's zoom in here a little bit. I'll find the dimension. Right here I can see that this parking stripe measures eighteen feet long.
I'm going to verify that by selecting the stripe and then I'll come over to the Properties tool, mine happens to be anchored to my interface. If yours is not displayed, you can always press Ctrl+1 to turn on the palette. I will then grab the slider, drag this down, and I can see that this line measures eighteen units long. So in this drawing, each unit must equal a foot. I am going to press Escape to deselect this object. And I can further confirm the units by going to application menu, and I will come down to Drawing Utilities, and I will come up to select Units.
From here we can also see that this drawing is configured for decimal feet. This is a typical unit setting that you'll find for drawings that you receive from a civil engineer or from a surveyor. If you received your drawing from an architect, this will most likely be set to Architectural and Inches. In every architectural drawing you find each unit in model space represents an inch. I'm going to set things back the way they were and I'll click OK. I will then double-click my mouse wheel to do a zoom extents, and to plot the drawing again, I'll move up and launch the Plot command. And rather than going through and toggling all of these settings again, I'm going open the Page Setup flyout and choose Previous plot and AutoCAD will restore all of the settings that we used before.
Now, in this case, I do not want to print this via Fit to paper. Before I uncheck this, notice right down here we can see that when it was Plot to fit, it was plotting such that one inch equals 23.95 units, or feet. We've identified that the units in this drawing are feet. So at Plot to fit, this guy essentially prints at one inch equals 24 feet. Let's uncheck Fit to paper and then I'll open this menu, and I'm going to choose a more reasonable scale, 1 to 30 in this case, or 1 inch equals 30 feet.
As a side note, if you were working with an architectural drawing, that's when you'd start using these scales down here at the bottom. Once again, we'll click Preview and see how things look. It looks perfect. To finish my plot, I'm going to use a shortcut. I will just right-click to bring up a menu and click Plot. And since I am saving my plot to a file, I'll keep the default name but I'll add "30 scale" to the end. And finally, to view my plot, I will right-click on the icon and choose View Plotted File and you can see an example of my finished plot.
If you have the equipment, try plotting this drawing to a scale using other paper sizes. When it comes right down to it, printing your geometry to fit is okay. If, however, you can print your drawings to a measurable scale, they are much more valuable as worksheets or as exhibits when taken to a meeting.
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