Improve Your CAD Drawings START TO FINISH tutorial template


30X40 Design Workshop


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Hey, Eric here with 30 by 40 Design Workshop, this week we'll be taking our messy hand sketches for our gallery house project and turning them into digital drawings. I'll show you how to do that without losing all the evocative qualities of the sketches, the things that make them so beautiful. So, if you've struggled this before and your CAD drawings aren't quite looking the way you want them to I have a few tips to help. I never start designing in CAD, in fact, I try to resist doing any work in CAD until the client and I have met together a few times and we've chosen a design to move forward with. Everything in the beginning, goes back and forth between the sketchbook, trace, and physical models. And, for me at least, this is faster, it allows me to test lots of ideas, and it just feels less fixed and more fluid. At a certain point though, some things are just easier to resolve and visualize in CAD and of course we need to start making it all real and figure out how we're actually going to construct the project. These realities will start to influence our design decisions and so it's time to ditch the sketchbook, at least for now. So, to get started you'll need a CAD program and there are many to choose from and although there are some free alternatives most are paid. Now, I happen to use AutoCAD LT, you might use Revit, you should use whatever tool suits you. Check the cards for a video where I discuss the software in more detail. Next, you'll need to gather up any digital documentation you have available: a site survey and building survey if you have an existing structure you're working with like we have here. I've already drafted the part of the existing structure that's going to remain for the gallery house project and I have the site plan from my surveyor. I'll also grab a scale and all the sketches, models, and documentation from the early design phase and that's it, we're ready to start drafting. So, let's start a new floor plan drawing using our template and bring in all our base plan information. Now, I always use a template when starting a new drawing because it has all my graphical conventions baked in, which means I can quickly replicate those standards with every new drawing. So, you can see here we have all the things we need in one file: dimension styles, notations, blocks, titles, all the line weights I like to use, my title block; everything's here for me to copy around and use to quickly match properties. Now, if you use AutoCAD and want to pick my template, check the cards in the description below for information on where you'll find that. The first round of floor plans I treat very much like a sketch, it's not important for me to know where every door or window opening is. I like to think in large moves: where do you enter, where do you bring light in, what's solid and what's void? This first CAD version is almost like Mies van der Rohe’s Barcelona pavilion - you're drawing walls, columns, floors, and a roof to define space. Treat it more like a graphic design challenge than a technical assembly manual. Alright now let's get into the tactical stuff. Bring the existing conditions information into the base file and from here start by blocking out the overall size and shape of the floor plan first, which is scaled right from the schematic sketches. Let's get a grid going here right off, that'll keep things tidy and this will also serve as a starting point for our structural order. Now, we can always break from the rigidity of the grid later but starting with one will give those points where we choose to diverge a lot more impact. I'll start by drawing the outside perimeter of the wall framing starting on the grid lines using just regular line segments and this is really as simple as it gets. You should be aware that every line you're drawing in CAD corresponds with a real-world building material, which of course has a certain thickness and relationship to other materials. Eventually, I'll convert each line segment into a polyline and I do this for two reasons: first, rather than a collection of hundreds of single lines a poly line is one object so it's just simpler. The other reason I like polylines is because you can change the thickness of them on the screen and this is one of the graphic tricks I use to emphasize parts of the drawing I want to call attention to. Polylines are kind of a shortcut to achieving the look I'm after. Now, there's plenty of other ways to do this this is just how I do it. Once the perimeter lines are converted to a polyline I then offset that to the inside of the building and the distance I use is just the thickness of the exterior wall assembly. So, let's just say this is a 2x6 wall, I'll offset the perimeter line to the inside by six inches, which represents a five-and-a-half-inch stud wall and a half inch interior wall finish. For the interior partitions, I usually begin by making them all six and a half inches wide a 2x6 wall with one half inch of finish on each side. For doors and windows I just copy around the blocks from my template and stretch them as necessary to fit the openings. Next are: floor planes, decks, and overlooks. And, of course, stairs both interior and exterior. For this project, retaining walls and exterior steps will be a part of the entry sequence and we need to make sure we're allowing proper room to accommodate access and the actual grade changes between parking and the finished floor level. Also at this stage, I like to draw any big blocks of cabinetry I want to use to divide space or to suggest use like: workspace in a kitchen, laundry areas, or closets in a bedroom. And finally, we can round it out with any basic furniture, fixtures, or equipment that's important. In the gallery house, there's a concert grand piano we want to accommodate in the living room, which is a really sizable instrument and of course the seating group needs to work with that too. We also want to begin showing things like showers and toilets. Now, these are all just diagrams really but they suggest to both our client and ourselves exactly how the spaces will be used and they help us to think about the proper clearances around these items. In the template file, you'll see what layers I put things on, there's a small example plan and elevation in there too to give you an idea how I assign things in my drawings. I like to keep it simple, and for the work I do, it's fine. For a larger office though, with multiple people working in the same file, you would definitely need more layers. For a schematic plan, this is probably as far as you have to take it and you shouldn't feel like you have to solve all the problems with this early plan. This will be one of many iterations. At this point, I'll change the thickness of the polylines making up all the walls to punch up the weight, then I'll finish by adding a toned solid hatch inside the walls on the hatch layer. So with a few simple changes, you can see we've taken this rather dull set of lines and made some big improvements. The real trick to achieving a drawing that reads well is to use all the tools you'd normally use when you're sketching and that means the full complement of line weights from the thick to thin. You want to build contrast in your drawing. See in this example how the outermost lines of the walls always get the heaviest line weight while the interior lines are all assigned a very fine line weight? It's this contrast between heavy and thin that makes your drawing legible. The closer you look, the more you see, and likewise as you move farther away, the details fade and all you see are the darker lines. This lends your drawing both precision and depth. In addition to line weight, you'll also vary the line types using dashed and dotted lines where appropriate - for hidden elements - and also, don't forget about shading. Now, I use shading on things like: cabinetry, stair runs, floor materials, and I add it to the exterior elevations to give them depth. And, the last element to get your graphics all tuned up are your notations. I like to use red because it signifies they're clearly of a separate order than all the line work but you can use whatever you'd like. Now, this is just the way I've chosen to do it, you should definitely experiment and develop your own style and you should look at the drawings of other pros you admire and try to emulate their style. The absolute worst thing you can do - the thing you want to avoid from a graphical standpoint - is to keep everything on the page the same value and the same line weight. As you settle on a plan layout and refine your drawings you'll continue adding in the real-world physical material information to your drawing. And, all of this information might seem like overkill until you understand that it's how these intersections of materials are handled, that distinguishes you the architect from someone merely smashing together building components. Everything is a design opportunity and how these assemblies meet will change how your design evolves and how it's perceived. CAD allows you to be very precise which is useful for laying out very technical relationships, but I can find it can sometimes be creatively limiting too because it forces you to focus almost too closely on solving for minute problems rather than pulling back and looking at the larger design issues. So, to fight against this I'll always plot my CAD drawings to sketch over and refine, and that's also a good point to check to make sure the drawing is communicating what you intended. It's this back-and-forth process that preserves the utility of CAD, but keeps it from imposing a really technical aesthetic on your work. We'll talk more about the evolution of the gallery house project in future videos, very excited to see it coming together and taking on a life of its own, that's a really good sign. Smash that like button below if this has helped you in any way. Keep striving to make your CAD drawings look better and we'll see you again next time. Cheers, my friends!