AutoCAD wasn’t quite the first mechanical drawing program to separate drawings into layers, but it was one of the early adopters of this practice. Layers (and layering) are an incredibly powerful tool in AutoCAD (and in several other applications, like Photoshop and Illustrator).
Today, I am going to show you how to use layers to make your AutoCAD work flow easier to manage, easier to organize and more enjoyable!
First of all, the basic concept of layers is really simple. When you drag windows over each other in, well, Windows, you’re putting some windows “on top of” other windows. The same thing applies with AutoCAD, except that you have a lot more control over the layers, can make some of them transparent, and can move drawing elements from one layer to another.
One way to think of layers is as “a clear plastic sheet”. You can lift certain layers to view only other layers and specific materials. To manage layers we use the Layer Properties Manager button, which looks like a little icon of three sheets of paper stacked one atop the other.
Each layer has a color associated with it – this is the color the line segments will show when that object is selecte. You can also vary the line type, line weight and also lock, unlock or hide layers so that they’re out of the way. You can define if a layer is to be printed (you can make layers display that don’t print, or ones that print that don’t display.)
By default, AutoCAD puts your drawing elements on a layer called “0″, and sets this as the current layer (you can use the Layers palette to change which layer is “current”). You should immediately make a new layer, and assign it a name. When you’re doing a complex drawing, like say a set of building plans to build a boat, label each section and put them into separate layers. This allows you to turn layers on or off (make them visible or invisible) or even shuffle them, to see how things overlap or interact. This is an incredibly powerful tool…but it’s only as powerful as you make it.
Another trick you can do to make your layering experience more useful is that AutoCAD allows you to group layers together and make “sublayers”. If you’re doing drawings that have line segments and fills, consider putting the line segments on one layer and the fills on another. This allows you to select a sublayer, hit Ctrl A (select all) and change colors of the fills at once. Do this for all commonly grouped elements, and you’ll be able to adjust nearly anything in a blink of an eye. (Nothing in AutoCAD is as tedious as hand selecting a bunch of objects, tweaking them, finding you’ve missed one, and having to do it over, and over and over again.)
The third trick that layers let you do is to move objects between layers. This alone is a life saver. If you forget to assign something to a layer or choose the wrong layer it is a big help to be able to just move it to the desired layer.
Ok, that is the rundown on layers. I will be doing a video up on layers very soon so if there was anything you didn’t understand that should sort it out. Try searching for the video in the search bar.