Organizing your Autocad work

From TOI-Pedia


One of the most important aspects of working with AutoCAD is the use of layers. Not only do Layers help to keep a clear overview of your drawing, but they are an important tool to make a correct drawing.

Layers are 'stacked' on top of each other. Each object is always placed in one of the layers in your drawing.

The Active Layer

The layer in which you're drawing (the active layer) is displayed in the upper left corner:


All objects you create are automatically added to the active layer. You can use the layer pulldown to change the active layer.

Layer 0

'Layer 0' is the standard layer; it's created by default in all autoCAD files. It's not recommended to use layer 0 for drawing objects.

Layer Manager

Layer properties manager icon.jpg Click on this icon to open the layers properties manager.

The following screen will appear:

Layer properties manager.jpg

Creating a new Layer

New layer icon.jpg Click on this icon to a new layer.

A new layer will appear:


It's recommended to give your layers a descriptive name, for instance 'facade'.

Layer settings

On off.jpg Turns the layer on or off

Freeze.jpg Freezes or toughs a layer

Lock.jpg Locks or unlocks a layer

Plot.jpg turns plot on or off. The layer will still be visible in AutoCAD but won't be printed.

It's recommended to use Freeze instead of On/Off if you want to hide a layer.

We can also change the color of the layer. This helps to distinguish layers, but can also be used to determine the line weight (and other properties). The latter is covered in the AutoCAD Page setup and Printing Basic tutorial.


By now you should be familiar with AutoCAD's main features. The next step will be making sure that your workflow and drawing setup is as efficient as possible.

In this chapter we'll teach you how to draw floor plans on top off each other. This might seem not be the most intuitive method of drawing at first, but it's recommended for a number of reasons:

  • If you need to changes something on each floor of your building, like the position of an elevator shaft, you can do this for each floor simultaneously by using a shared layer (or layers) for elements that are in a fixed position on each floor. If you hadn't drawn the floor plans on top off each other, you would have had to change the position of the elevator on each floor in different parts of your model space. Not only could this be tedious, it's also prone for errors.
  • You'll be certain that every floor is correctly aligned with the other floor. This greatly reduces the risk off mistakes when drawing things like vertical service shafts, elevator, pipes, façades, and so on.
  • Drawing floors on top off each other gives a clear overview off the changes per floor.


Many people tend to draw different floor plans next to each other:

Side by side.jpg

Although it gives you a nice overview of your plans, it's highly discouraged to setup your drawing in this way. There are several caveats:

  • Each floor has to be drawn from scratch
  • It's easy to make an error when aligning a vertical services shaft:

    Floor1 error.jpg Floor2 error.jpg

  • Even a small change in a drawing takes a lot off time, as each floor has to be adjusted individually:

    All floor move.jpg

  • It's hard to see which part of a floor plan is on top off another floor plan.

It's therefore highly recommended draw floor plans on top off (or over) each other.


Third floor ontop.jpg

This drawing contains the second and third floor off the faculty of architecture, but right now we're only seeing the third floor.

This is because the second floor as been drawing in different layers from the third floor, and those layers have been frozen right now (so they're not visible).

If we take a look at the layer properties manager will get a better understanding off the drawings setup:

Layer porperties manager ontop.jpg

In this case the layers can be subdivided into three groups:

  • Layers that start with an underscore (_)
  • Layers that start with a number
  • layers that don't start with any specific character

Layers that start with an underscore (_) like _draagconstructie: These layers contain the part off the drawing that is the same for each floor. In most buildings this will be the load bearing construction, installations like Elevators and vertical services shafts:

Always visible.jpg

Layers that start with a number, like 02_verdieping: These layers contain the part of the drawing that is unique for a specific floor:

Second Floor


Third Floor


And finally layers that don't start with a specific character: These layers can contain anything from notes to grid lines.



AutoCAD Layered Drawing ('over elkaar tekenen') is a step-by-step tutorial for drawing on top of each other (over elkaar tekenen in Dutch).


When your project gets more complex, because work is done by more than one person or it consists of a large number of drawings, working in one single DWG drawing may get inefficient.

You can link multiple files together to organize all drawings. It also allows you to defer 'responsibility' for certain parts to another person: each person will manage it's own files and all files are 'linked together'. These 'links' are called references.

AutoCAD Working with references is a step-by-step tutorial.

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