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A Simple Guide: 12 steps to Master AutoCAD

July 21, 2009 by Edwin Prakoso 41 Comments


Many people think that learning AutoCAD is difficult. Actually its not. Yes, there are many
things to learn. But AutoCAD is not difficult.
The key is you need to learn one step at a time. Learn to walk before you learn to run. You
need to understand the concept of each step, then you will be an AutoCAD guru.

This is not a tutorial, but what do you need to achieve before you can master AutoCAD.

1. Getting Started

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First, you have to be familiar with the interface. Of course.

AutoCAD Interface
AutoCAD interface now is easier for new users. I know many AutoCAD veterans hate ribbon
and other interface enhancements. But honestly new and occasional users say that they like
the new interface. Learn how you can access and activate drawing tools, modify tools, and
any other tools. If you already familiar with Windows application, then this wont take too
long. AutoCAD is an Windows compliant software, so should taste the same.

Navigate the drawing


Now try to open any drawing. If you dont have it, start with a sample file. I always teach this
first: navigation tools. Try to navigate through your drawing. Pan, zoom in, zoom out, and
then zoom extend. Get familiar with navigation tools. Then it will be easier for you later when
you start learn how to draw.

Now you can start to create a new drawing and try to draw.
The rule is: create a new drawing using appropriate template. If you draw with metric units,
dont use imperial templates!

2. Drawing Tools

After you get familiar to AutoCAD interface and its navigation tools, now its time for you to
learn how to use drawing tools. I know some instructors teach students how to use each
drawing tools. But if you dont get the concept, then you will forget it the next day. The next
week at best.

How AutoCAD tools work


Drawing tools are very easy to use. Most basic tools name describe what they do. Line tool
will draw a line, rectangle tool will draw rectangle. Easy, right? What you have to understand
is, every tool might have different way to be used. Its difficult to remember all of the steps in
each tool. Thats what command line is for (or you can use dynamic input).
Command line is just like a road sign, it will guide you so you dont get lost. Try to activate a
drawing tool, like a line.
Command: _line Specify first point:
Specify next point or [Undo]:

Specify next point or [Undo]:


Specify next point or [Close/Undo]:
After you activate the line tool, then AutoCAD will tell you what to do: specify first point.
Define your point by clicking in the drawing area, then it will ask you again: specify next
point. Just click any where in your drawing area, dont worry about the size or precise
coordinate yet.
Now lets try for circle:
Command: ARC Specify start point of arc or [Center]: C
Specify center point of arc:
Specify start point of arc:
Specify end point of arc or [Angle/chord Length]:
After I activate circle, AutoCAD will tell me to specify a start point, and give an option: I can
switch from specifying a start point to a center point. This time, I type the capital letter in the
option, C, to switch to specify center point. Then AutoCAD ask me for center point, start
point, then end point consecutively.
Follow command line, then you should be OK. Even for you who have used AutoCAD for
years, you should be watching command line sometimes. Especially when you use a new
version, try to find if there is any new option there.

3. Precise Input
After you get familiar with using drawing tool, then now you should get familiar with precise
input. Precision is one of the advantages of using CAD. And your drawing is useless if its
not precise.

At this time you will learn about global and relative coordinate, then snap tools. After
finishing this step, you will be able to draw precisely.
I will not discuss this further in this post, may be I will write more in separate post.

4. Modify Tools
Next step: modify tools. There are many modify tools. But same as drawing tools, its name
should describe what they do. Or at least they icon will describe more. And you can just let
your pointer above the icon, and let the help tool tip expand and explain more.

You can also try to activate the tool, then press F1. It will open help file with related topic.
Many Windows users dont realize this. They open then search the help file. And sometimes
cant find what they are looking for.
Same rule applies here: keep watching the command line!

5. Object Selection
After you playing with the modify tools, now you should learn about object selection. You will
need to select objects when you modify or manipulate them. Selecting one object is peace
of cake. But if you have a complex drawing then you should learn more tricks.
I have written about this before. When you get to this step, may be you want to read more
advanced object selection here.

You can use noun-verb or verb-noun selection to modify objects. But (I think) the default is
verb-noun selection, contrary to Windows default: noun-verb selection.

6. Annotation and Styles


Ok, now you can draw, you can modify your drawings. Next step: creating annotation and
understand using styles.
What is annotation? Everything in your drawing thats not categorized as geometry. It can be
text, hatches, dimensions, tables, etc. Using annotation tools should be easy, after
what youve been through from step 1-5.

The problem in this step might be setting up the annotation styles and scales. Styles are
used to define how your annotation will look like. There are a lot of option in styles, but what
usually confusing is options related to the scale. What size I should create my text, so I can
read it clearly when its plotted? What size are my dimension arrows should be set?
Thanks to Autodesk, now you can set this quite easily using annotation scale.
If you work in a company that has establish a drawing standard, you might not need to set
styles any more. Simply use a template that already has all the styles, then use it.

7. Drawing Management

After learning AutoCAD from step 1-6, you should already be able to draw with AutoCAD.
Now you need to learn to be more productive. Remember, drawing with AutoCAD is not just
about how fast you can finish the drawing. But your drawing is also need to be easy to be
modify. Not only by you, but also by your team member. You need to manage your drawing
and objects inside it.

In this step you will learn about layers, layout, and may be sheet sets if you want to go
further.
If you want to learn AutoCAD Sheet Set, you may want to purchase our Sheet Set e-book
here.

8. Reusable Content
If you see an AutoCAD drawing, many objects are repetitive. You can see symbols,
standard parts, common objects and many more.Yes you can copy it multiple times, but we
want to be more productive.
Block is very important to help you working with repetitive object. Not only its reusable, but
block definition allows you to mass update your drawing.

If you want to go further, block also allows you to add attributes as block ID. And block
allows you to report any blocks properties. You can create schedule easily. Or report
multiple points coordinate.
If you want to learn about block from very basic to advanced, you may want to review our ebook here: AutoCAD block best practices.

9. Manage your Standard


Every body have standard in their drawing, even you dont realize it. It is a good practice to
have them compiled in your templates. Further more, to maintain your standard, you can
use cad standard. You can also have your reusable content to manage your drawings
standard.
Having standard will be easier for you and every body who is working with you. And you will
become more productive after implementing your standard.

10. Design Collaboration


You will work with the others for sure. You might be have to work with your partners in your
company. Its a waste of time if they have to wait until you finish, close your file, then they
continue your drawings. Or worse, they copy your file, and work separately with you. Its
difficult to track changes if you do this.

You can work simultaneously with your partners if you divide your design in to separates
files, then use reference or underlay. Because they are separate files, each of them can be
opened by different person. Separating file will also keep your files simple, avoiding you
from the killing fatal error message. More complex your file, more chances it will get
corrupted.
Learn about XREF. And may be you want to implement centralize database with Autodesk
Vault.

11. Develop Your Own Workflow


I saw AOTC (Autodesk Official Training Course) a few years ago. When I was still working in
ATC. I think its too general. But what can you expect? AutoCAD is a general CAD
application. If your instructor have architecture background, he/she might teach you to draw
with his/her workflow. It might not be suitable for you who work in different industry. A good
Autodesk Official Training Guide (AOTG thats what they call it now) sample is AutoCAD
2011 No Experience Required by Donnie Gladfelther.
After using AutoCAD for a while, you will be able to develop your own workflow. It will suit
you, and you will become more productive. Dont stuck with what your instructor teach you,
and obviously dont stuck with what I say.

12. Keep Practicing


Practice makes perfect. You will get better with a lot of practice. AutoCAD master are they
who use it intensively. I think no body will disagree with this. Try to actually drawing a
project. Dont just drawing lines with no meaning.

If you dont have a project yet, find a sample then draw it. You will find problem when you
actually use it.
Become an AutoCAD master is not only about knowing everything in AutoCAD. You need to
use the right tool for your workflow. If there are anything else you want to add, please do.
You can write in comment and I will add them here. You will be credited.