AutoCAD Tutorial #1 - Learning the Basics
As a beginner to AutoCAD there's one thing that you have to realize, you're not going to know everything about AutoCAD....EVER! I myself know people that have been working with AutoCAD since the first release and they're still learning more and more things about it everyday. AutoCAD is an extremely powerful tool that should not be used lightly. If you are a beginner have patience, this is not a user friendly, learn on your own kind of program. One of the best and economical ways to learn is to do exactly what you're doing while you're reading this, read tutorials and follow along. You will find that some of the most knowledgeable AutoCAD operators don't mind giving up some of their time to help others learn AutoCAD, and this is why free online tutorials are some of the best in the business. The tutorials that you will read in books and see in the pricey DVD videos goes deeper than most people need to go when first starting out. The nitty gritty thing you will learn yourself as you're working with AutoCAD, it's the basics that you have to first pick up. Having said that we will move onto the first topic of this "Learning The Basics" tutorial.
Basics of the Drawing Area
Let's assume that you're starting to draw a house plan (since my background is in architectural design). What is the first thing that you have to consider when you begin?....How big is the house going to be? No no...not that. It is, how am I going to draw this house? Well the first thing that any AutoCAD user should know is that anything that you draw, DRAW IT AT A SCALE OF 1:1. In AutoCAD there's no reason not to. You don't have to worry about the constraints of any paper that you're drawing on or what the calculations are to get the length of the wall, you just draw it. If a wall is 10'-0" long then draw it 10'-0" don't worry about it! Some of you are saying, "how do I draw a wall?", Good question! To start drawing you have to have an understanding of the user interface that AutoCAD works with. Let's think of your drawing area as a infinitely sized piece of graph paper. Ok, now if you were to draw a vertical line splitting that graph paper in half and then a horizontal line splitting the graph paper in half the other way then you're one step closer to understanding the user interface of AutoCAD. You have just discovers the UCS. Have a look at the image below...
As you can see in the middle of this image there is an arrow pointing to the right with an "X" in front of it and an arrow pointing up with a "Y" in front of it. This is like the graphs that you used to have to draw in math class. Where the vertical line and the horizontal line meet is the co-ordinates "0,0" or your "origin". If you've forgotten how the coordinate system work I've pointed it out in the above image. As you can see when you're to the left of the Y-axis and above the X-axis your X coordinate is positive and you Y coordinate is positive. You can figure out the rest by the image.
Units and Basic Setup
The first thing that you have to do is make sure that you're working with the right units. Type in "units" in the command line and it will spawn the Drawing Units dialog box. For the purpose of this tutorial set the "Type" to "Architectural" and the "Precision" to "1/8"" and then click "Ok". The only other thing that I would suggest doing so that you don't run into any problems during your drawing session is adjusting the drawing limits. To do this type "limits" into the command prompt and hit enter. AutoCAD will prompt you for a coordinate for the lower left corner, this specifies how far down to the left the user will draw. This coordinate is usually in "AREA 'C'" in the image above. I'm an extreme kind of individual, so I use "-1000000,-1000000". Once you enter these lower left coordinates AutoCAD will prompt you for the upper right corner. Go through the same steps but this time you will be entering a coordinates in "AREA 'B'". Again, being as extreme as I am I use "1000000,1000000". Now remember when you're entering these commands that the space bar acts the same as the enter key, so try to avoid using it unless you are using it as the enter key.
How to Draw
There are 2 different way that you can input commands to AutoCAD. The first way is by way of the toolbars and icons. The second is by way of keyboard entry. I'm going to teach you the latter for the main reason that it's faster. Now you're going to learn all about how to draw that wall that we were discussing earlier. Now the first command that you're going to learn is the Line command. To initiate this command type in "L" (don't include the quotation marks). AutoCAD will first ask the user for a start point, you can select anywhere in the drawing area by pressing the left mouse button. Once you select the first point AutoCAD will then prompt you for the next point. There are a couple of ways to enter the second point, first you can do it the same way as you did the first, a left click of the mouse button. The second way is by "dragging" the line in a specific direction and typing in the distance that you want the line to go. The last way is by typing in the distance and the direction. The proper way to input this is "@distance<angle". So if, for example, you wanted the line to be 3' long on a 45 degree angle you would type in "@3'<45". These are not the only ways to input the next point, but for the purpose of this tutorial you don't need to know the rest, they are actually the less commonly used forms. Once you have selected the second point AutoCAD will then prompt you to select another point. If you are done with the line command you can simply press enter. One of the functions that you can use to make life easier if you're going to be drawing only vertical and horizontal lines (no angles) then you can turn the "orthomode" on. This constrains the line points to either be placed in the direction of the X and Y axis. You can turn "orthomode" on by pressing "F8". You can see if it is on if you look at the bottom of your AutoCAD screen in the middle you will see something similar to the image below...
If "ortho" appears to be "pushed in" like "polar" is then "orthomode" is turned on. If "ortho" isn't "pushed in" like the above image shows then "orthomode" is off.
Now that you have this new found knowledge let's try a small exercise.
Start the line command and draw a line that is 3'-0" to the right. If you can't see the line that you just drew (if it is too small) you can zoom into it by using your mouse scroll wheel and rolling it away from you (towards the screen). Or if you don't have a mouse wheel zoom into it by first exiting the line command (press enter) and then typing in "z" in the command line and press "enter". This starts the zoom command, there a a few different options in the zoom command, for the purposes of this tutorial just type in "e". This stands for "extents", which is the extents of your drawing. You should now have something that looks like this...
The red line is the 3'-0" line that you just drew.
That you have that first line drawn let's draw another part to that line. If you ended the line command don't worry here's how to start your next line at the end of that line. Type in "L" to start the line command again and instead of picking a point right away type in "end" and press "enter". Now take your cross hairs and place them near the end of the first line that you just drew. AutoCAD will generate a yellow box around the endpoint of the first line that you drew. It should look like this...
Press the left mouse button to select the endpoint of the line. Now draw a line 7'-0" straight up (while drawing these lines try the different ways of inputting the information as described above. Before moving onto step 3 you should have something like this...
Now you have 2 lines and I'm sure that you're starting the get the hang of this. Next draw a third line 3'-0" long to the left of the line that you just drew. You should have something like this...
Now you're going to start the line command and then use the endpoint feature, as described in Step #2, to end the line. We are going to draw this last line to close this 3'-0"x7'-0" rectangle. When you are ready to close the rectangle you should see the yellow box around then end point again like this...
Now just simply click the left mouse button to select that endpoint and then end the line command. The final product should look like this...
That's it for this tutorial. You have learned hoe to successfully draw a line, zoom extents, use the endpoint function and numerous other functions. Our next tutorial will continue with this 3'-0"x7'-0" rectangle.
If you have any questions about this tutorial please feel free to email me and I will answer any questions that you may have. If you found this tutorial useful let us know, show your support and join our CAD Corner Forum where you can get more and more information for experience AutoCAD users.
By Allan and Mike