Standard Layer Setups in AutoCAD

A consistent SOP for organizing the layers in your CAD files can help keep your work organized. Here, several pros show how they routinely manage layers. January 14, 2008

I would like to open the topic of layer standards for the woodworking trade. From reviewing the previous posts, I find some techs like a lot of layers and some a few (10). Has anyone's preferences changed with the later versions of AutoCAD (2006 and up)? Does anyone have a layer table for AutoCAD 2006 that they would like to share? Our design drawing comes down to us from architects with their own layer standards and we modify the rooms (mostly renovation) to what fits and works in the space. We then draw our kitchens and casework. I am trying to come up with a process for dealing with outside standards and also creating our own. We have just made the transition to AutoCAD from Cabinetvision for design, and drawing board and pencil for details.

Forum Responses
(CAD Forum)
From John Michael Hivatal, forum technical advisor:
I don’t think you will ever get everyone to agree on a layer format. If you ever had to deal with several different architects' drawings, you will fine they all are a little different. For a lot of AutoCAD operators, the full utilization and capabilities of using different layers escapes them, and others that understand the full concept develop their own layer scheme and plot style tables.

Layers and plotting go hand in hand. I draw millwork and use 10-12 layers and have my own .CTB file set up to print my layers out to where each different layer has a different line weight. When I draw in 3d, all bets are off and the sky’s the limit on the number of layers I use. I have also developed my own programs to help me with layers. See Quick Draw at I give my templates and .CTB file to my clients or anyone who wants it for free.

I have my own process for dealing with architect’s drawings. First thing is, if you don’t have express tools loaded, get them and install them. (Only works in AutoCAD’s full versions, not LT). There are a few layer tools that will make things like: layer isolate, layer un-isolate, layer off and layer on. When dealing with someone else’s drawing, I first insert my layers into their drawing and use layer isolate to isolate a particular layer, then change it to mine. Then when I’m finished, I purge the drawing of all their layers. There’s more to my process, but these are the basics. On a fairly complicated drawing it takes me about 10 minutes to fix their drawing depending on how they set up the drawing. If they use Xrefs or a lot of blocks, it might take longer.

From the original questioner:
We will typically get an architect's electronic drawings and then manipulate them from there to meet our needs. Is there a faster way to change their dimensions, notes, etc. aside from using dimension update and match properties? It seems to take forever doing it this way. We're using LT.

From John Michael Hivatal, forum technical advisor:

Unfortunately, LT is holding you back in this situation. The tools you need to make the process go quicker are in express tools and third party add-ons. LT does not support these tools as well as other things - that’s why it’s less expensive than the full blown version.

From contributor M:
Thanks. How do you do it in the full version? I have my licensed copy at home.

From John Michael Hivatal, forum technical advisor:
First of all, I don’t know the extent of your AutoCAD knowledge, so if I don’t explain something in full, you can more than likely get a good explanation from the AutoCAD help file. I encourage you to read the help file; it’s been a great help to me.

One problem that I have come across when using other people's drawings, especially architect’s drawings, is that they're not all created with the same type AutoCAD I use. Some architects use different types of AutoCAD or other programs that create entities that are not editable in regular AutoCAD. Theses are called proxy entities. In some cases you can download the live enablers from AutoCAD’s website for the entities that will enable you to perform some editing on theses entities, but you have to know what type of AutoCAD the original drawing was created in to get them. Also, if you go to the Tools menu and then options and go to the Systems tab, there is a check box to tell AutoCAD to check for live enablers - this works sometimes.

Sometimes when working with other people’s drawings, there will be invisible objects that will cause you problems and corrupt your drawing, so I have a procedure that I go through to help alleviate this potential problem, but first you have to be set up to deal with the procedure.

Step #1. Make sure you have “Express Tools” loaded, then make 4 custom buttons to quickly access the express tools utilities layiso, layuniso, layoff and layon. You will be using these buttons a lot. (If you don’t know how to make these buttons, read the help file).

Step #2. You should have a template that you use to start new drawings with. (If you don’t, you need to make one - this will be extremely useful in all facets of drawing.) Open the blank template like you're starting a new drawing and save a copy somewhere you can easily access it. I have mine in My Documents. Name the file “My Insert.dwg” (we will be using this later).

Now for the procedure... Note: this procedure is based on an architect's drawing that has multiple layers and the architect has put various objects on different layers. Some people draw in layer 0 and just change the color - this type of drawing is more time consuming to deal with, but the procedure is almost the same.

1. Open the architect's drawing and Save as “ _copy.dwg” (we do this in case something goes wrong and we need to start over).

2. Type “XREF” in the command window to see if there are any Xref’s attached. If there are, things just got more interesting. Now you have to determine if you want to insert the xref or if it has everything you need to close this drawing and open it up to work from. This is a decision that can only be made by you because every situation is a little different. But for this explanation, let’s say there are no xrefs.

3. Click on various objects to see if groups of objects have been turned to blocks. If so, explode them. If there are regular blocks of items like sinks or stoves, leave them alone - we’ll deal with them later.

4. Use your layon button to turn on every layer so you can see what you’re dealing with, just in case they had some thing turned off. Also cheek the layer drop down list for frozen layer and turn them on.

5. Use your layiso button to isolate stuff that is not important to your needs and then delete them. After deleting use the layon button to turn everything back on.

6. Change layers to layer 0 and use the purge command and purge all. This will get rid of all unnecessary layers, text styles, and dimension styles.

7. Type “insert” on the command line and use the browse button to navigate to the place where you saved the “insert drawing” we made in Step #2 above. Insert the drawing. Since there was nothing in the drawing this will only bring over the layers, text styles and dimension styles of the insert drawing and insert them into this drawing. Now we have access to our stuff.

8. Now using the layiso button start isolating objects on their layers, then window them, and using the layer drop down list, select your layer, then use layuniso to see what you have done.

9. If you want to use their dimensions and you're lucky enough that they're on their own layer, you can use layiso to isolate all dimensions then window all of them and change layers then window them again and select your dimension style from the dimension style drop down list. If they're on the same layer as something else, you will have to use the properties dialog box and “Quick Select” to select only dimensions, then in the properties box, change all selected dimensions to your layer. The same thing goes for text.

10. Now using the purge command, purge all.

11. Now open a new blank drawing for your real project and copy from the old drawing and paste into the new drawing and save it like you normally save your jobs. We do this to make sure we are not bringing anything over that might corrupt our drawing down the road.

All of this seems like a lot to do, but it goes fairly quick. Once you know the steps, it’s really just a few click of the button. I’m certain that there will be situations that will be different and require special steps, but this is just to get you going down the right path. If everything is on one layer and just the color has been changed, you will have to get good at using the “Quick Select” on the properties dialog box.

I hope this helps. And of course I have developed programs to help me in these steps.

From contributor P:
I'll post ours. I've delved and been intrigued by this for sometime and I've kept refining it for some time. This is what I have learned from other people and come up with on my own.


defpoints; ACAD DEFAULT

The A is so our dimensions will always come up first in line. Architects use a dash after the "a" (a-wall) so ours will even precede theirs.

This is strictly for 2-d drafting shop drawings. I agree about the need for many more layers if you work in 3-d. We do not use AutoCAD for 3-d. Occasionally we use Sketchup to work out some detail. Typically we move from Acad to Cabinetvision.

From John Michael Hivatal, forum technical advisor:
My layers:



Not to say this is the ultimate setup, but I have used it for years and know it by heart. I always convert any other layers to mine so I have control over how they print. I use a ctb file to plot with. The numbers at the end of the name gives an indication of the line weight - the larger the number, the heavier the line. All dimension layers print the same weight.

I draw most things in Draw-10, walls in Draw-15. When I want something to print darker I choose a higher number, and opposite for lighter objects. I also have a program that quickly changes layers and changes selected objects layers. When I type 10 and enter my layer changes to Draw-10 if objects are selected only the objects layers are changed - my current layer stays the same.

From contributor M:
Thank you so much for taking the time to do that! I will have to start practicing.

From contributor S:
I constantly use layer isolate. So, I use as many layers as I need. I try to keep the names simple: drawers, base, backs, shelves, splashes, holes, face frames, etc. That way, when I need to modify an object like drawers, I isolate and stretch only drawers, and all the drawers, in the whole drawing.