• AutoCAD

Documentation in AutoCAD

Once your full-sized model is complete, switch to paper space and create detailed views to share with others. Annotate your drawings using text, multileaders, and dimensions. And when you’re ready, print your drawings using PLOT to paper or to PDF for sharing remotely.

After you finish creating a model at full size, you can switch to a paper space layout to create scaled views of the model, and to add notes, labels, and dimensions. You can also specify different linetypes and line widths for display in paper space.

Specifying the Paper Size of a Layout

The first thing that you should do when you access a layout tab (1) is right-click the tab (2) and rename it (3) to something more specific than Layout 1. Names that reference a specific ANSI or ISO size might be a good choice.

Next, open the Page Setup Manager (4) to change the paper size displayed in the layout tab. There are a lot of controls here, but you only need to change a few. The first is to specify the size of your sheet.

Note: You might be wondering why there are two entries in the list for every sheet size. This is because some printers and plotters do not recognize the drawing orientation setting.

Model Space and Paper Space

As you know, you create the geometry of your model in model space.

Originally, this was the only space available in AutoCAD. All notes, labels, dimensions, and the drawing border and title block were also created and scaled in model space. For some applications, this method is still entirely sufficient.

With the paper space feature, you can click a layout tab designed specifically for displaying multiple views, automatic scaling, and electronic or printing output.

For example, a layout tab is selected in the following illustration. There are currently two objects in paper space: a block reference for the title and drawing border, and a single layout viewport that displays a scaled view of model space.

By default, a single layout viewport object is initially included on each layout tab, but your organization might be using customized drawing template (DWT) files that include several predefined layouts, layout viewports, and title blocks.

Let's learn more about layout viewport objects.

Layout Viewports

A layout viewport is an object that's created on a layout tab to display a scaled view of model space. You can think of it as a closed-circuit TV monitor that displays part of model space. You can select a layout viewport as you would any other object. When you select it, several grips display that provide a way to adjust the size of the viewport, move the viewport, and specify the scale of the view that's contained in it.

Several editing commands such as Move, Erase, and Copy can be used on layout viewports. When you select a layout viewport, you can use the Properties palette to provide a complete list of options and settings.

Tip: When you're ready to create an electronic output or print a layout, you will want to hide the viewport borders. To accomplish this, create all viewport objects on a separate layer and then turn that layer off.

Switch between Model Space and Paper Space

When you're working on a layout tab, you can switch between paper space and model space without returning to the Model tab. Here's how. As shown in the illustration, you move your cursor and double-click either inside a layout viewport to access model space or you double-click outside the layout viewport to return to paper space. When you're in model space, the border of the layout viewport becomes thicker.

The primary reasons that you might want to access model space through the layout viewport is to pan the view or to make minor adjustments to the objects, especially those that display only in that viewport.

Tip: Instead of panning a view, simply select the viewport object from paper space, click one of the four size grips, and adjust the boundary.

Create a New Viewport

You can use the New option of the MVIEW (make view) command to create additional layout viewports in paper space. With several layout viewports, you can display different views of model space at the same scale or at different scales.

  1. From a layout tab, enter MVIEW in the Command window and choose the New option.
  2. A maximized view of model space displays temporarily and you can click two points as shown to define an area.
  3. Back in the layout, right-click to display a list of scales and click the one that you want to use.
  4. Click a location to place the new layout viewport containing the scaled view.

If you later need to set a different scale, select the layout viewport and click the triangular scale grip. This action displays a list of scales to choose from.

By default, scaled viewports are automatically locked to prevent accidental zooming or panning, which would change the scale or the clipping boundaries. You can lock and unlock a layout viewport by selecting it, right-clicking to display the shortcut menu, and choose Display Locked > On or Off.

Note: As required by drafting conventions, the dashes and spaces in a non-continuous linetype always appear at the same length regardless of the scale of the layout viewport. If you change the scale of the layout viewport, you will need to enter REGENALL to update the display immediately.

Trans-Spatial Annotation

After you create one or more scaled layout viewports on a layout tab, follow these steps to use the trans-spatial method of annotating your drawing:

  1. Move the layout viewport as needed, and adjust its edges using the size grips.
  2. Turn off the layer on which you created the layout viewport object. This hides the edges of the layout viewport.
  3. Create notes, labels, and dimensions directly in paper space. They automatically appear at the correct size.

  1. Print the drawing to paper or as a DWF or PDF file.

Four Methods for Scaling Views and Annotating Drawings (Optional)

There are four different methods in AutoCAD for scaling views, notes, labels, and dimensions. Each method has advantages depending on how the drawing will be used. Here's a brief summary of each of the methods:

  • The Original Method. You create geometry, annotate, and print from model space. Dimensions, notes, and labels must all be scaled in reverse. You set the dimension scale to the inverse of the plot scale. With this method, scaling requires a little math. For example, a commonly used imperial scale in architecture is 1/4" = 1'-0" which is 1:48 scale. If a note is to be printed 1/4" high, then it must be created 48 times as large, or 12" high in model space. The same scale factor also applies to dimensions, and an ARCH D drawing border at that scale is 144 feet long. When the drawing is printed as a D-size sheet, everything scales down to the correct size.

Note: Many AutoCAD drawings were created with this method, and many companies still use it. Once everything is set up, the method works well for 2D drawings with single views and inserted details.

  • The Layout Method. You create geometry and annotations in model space, and then print from the layout. Set the dimension scale to 0 and the dimensions will scale automatically.
  • The Annotative Method. You create geometry in model space, create annotative dimensions, notes, and labels, which use a special annotative style, in model space from the layout, and then you print from the layout. Annotative objects display only in layout viewports that share the same scale. The dimension scale is automatically set to 0 and all annotative objects scale automatically.
  • The Trans-Spatial Method. You create geometry in model space, create annotations in paper space on a layout with the dimension scale set to 1, and then you print from the layout. This is arguably the simplest, most direct method, which is why it is the method of choice for this guide.

Tip: Talk to other AutoCAD users in your discipline about these four methods and why they chose that method.

You create general notes using the MTEXT command (or enter MT in the Command window), which stands for multiline text. The multiline text tool is available on the Annotation panel.

After you start the MTEXT command, you are prompted to create a "text box" with two diagonal clicks.

The exact size of the text box is not that important. After you specify the text box, the In-Place Editor is displayed and you can easily change the length and width of the note before, during, or after typing the text.

All the usual controls are available in the In-Place Editor, including tabs, indents, and columns. Also notice that when you start the MTEXT command, the ribbon temporarily changes, displaying many options such as text styles, columns, spell checking, and so on.

  • To exit the text editor after you finish entering the text, click anywhere outside it.
  • To edit a note, simply double-click it to open the text editor.

Tip: You can use the Properties palette to control the text style used for one or more selected multiline text objects. For example, after selecting five notes that use different styles, click the Style column and choose a style from the list.

Create a Text Style

As with several other annotation features, multiline text provides a lot of settings. You can save these settings as a text style using the STYLE command, and then you can access the text styles you've saved by clicking the drop-down arrow on the Annotation panel. The current text style is displayed at the top of the drop-down list.

To create a new text style, click the Text Style control as shown.

When you create a new text style, you give it a name, and then choose a font and a font style. The order in which you click the buttons is shown below:

Tip: Save any new or changed text styles in your drawing template files. This will save you a lot of time by making them available in all new drawings.


Multileader objects are used to create text with leader lines such as general labels, reference labels, bubbles, and callouts.

Create a Multileader

To create a multileader, use the MLEADER command. Click the Multileader tool in the Annotation panel or enter MLD in the Command window. Follow the prompts and options in the Command window. Feel free to experiment.

After you create a multileader, select it and then modify it by clicking and moving its grips.

Grip menus appear when you hover over arrowhead and leader grips. From these menus, you can add leader segments or additional leaders.

You can edit the text in a multileader by double-clicking it.

Create a Multileader Style

You can create your own multileader styles from the drop-down list in the expanded Annotation panel, or by entering MLEADERSTYLE in the Command window.

For example, to create a "detail callout" style, start the MLEADERSTYLE command. In the Multileader Styles Manager, click New and choose a descriptive name for the new multileader style. Click the Content tab, choose Block, and then Detail Callout as shown.


Note: As with text styles, once you create one or more multileader styles, save them in your drawing template files.

Here is an example of several types of dimensions using an architectural dimension style with imperial units.

Linear Dimensions

You can create horizontal, vertical, aligned, and radial dimensions with the DIM command. The type of dimension depends on the object that you select and the direction that you drag the dimension line.

The following illustration demonstrates one method for using the DIM command. Once you start the command, select the line (1), and then click the location of the dimension line (2).

For the 8'-0" dimension below, you use another method. You start the DIM command, click two endpoints (1 and 2) and then the location of the dimension line (3). To line up the dimension lines point 3 was snapped to the endpoint of the previously created dimension line.

Tip: If points 1 and 2 are not on the same horizontal line, press Shift to force the dimension line to be horizontal. In addition, if the building or part being dimensioned is at an angle, enter DIMROTATED for that case.

Use the DIM command to create dimensions that are parallel to an object by dragging the dimension line at an angle rather than horizontally or vertically.

Tip: Because it is easy to accidentally snap to the wrong feature or to part of a dimension object, be sure to zoom in closely enough to avoid confusion.

Modify Dimensions

For simple adjustments to dimensions, nothing is faster than using grips.

In this example, you select the dimension to display its grips. Next, click the grip on the dimension text and drag it to a new location, or click one of the grips at the end of the dimension line and drag the dimension line.

Tip: If the changes are more complicated than this, it might be faster simply to delete and then recreate the dimension.

Dimension Styles

Dimension styles help establish and enforce drafting standards. There are many dimension variables that can be set with the DIMSTYLE command to control virtually every nuance of the appearance and behavior of dimensions. All these settings are stored in each dimension style.

The default dimension style is named either Standard (imperial) or ISO-25 (metric). It is assigned to all dimensions until you set another style as the current dimension style.

The current dimension style name, Hitchhiker in this case, is displayed in the drop-down list of the Annotation panel.

To open the Dimension Style Manager, click the indicated button. You can create dimension styles that match nearly any standard, but you will need to invest time to specify them completely. For this reason, you should save any dimension styles that you create in one or more drawing template files.


  • When you save a dimension style, choose a descriptive name.
  • If applicable, check with your CAD manager regarding existing dimension style standards and drawing template files.

Originally, people printed text from printers and plotted drawings from plotters. Now, you can do both with either. So this guide will also use the terms print and plot interchangeably as everyone else does.

The command to output a drawing is PLOT and you can access it from the Quick Access toolbar.

To control whether all of the options in the Plot dialog box are hidden or displayed, click the More Options button.

When all of the options are displayed, there are a lot of settings and options available for your use.

For convenience, you can save and restore collections of these settings by name. These are called page setups. With page setups you can store the settings that you need for different printers, printing in gray scales, creating a PDF file from your drawing, and so on.

Create a Page Setup

To open the Page Setup Manager, right-click on the Model tab or a layout tab and choose Page Setup Manager. The command is PAGESETUP.

Each layout tab in your drawing can have an associated page setup. This is convenient when you use more than one output device or format, or if you have several layouts with different sheet sizes in the same drawing.

To create a new page setup, click New and enter the name of the new page setup. The Page Setup dialog box that displays next looks like the Plot dialog box. Choose all the options and settings that you want to save.

When you are ready to plot, you simply specify the name of the page setup in the Plot dialog box, and all your plot settings will be restored. In the following illustration, the Plot dialog box is set to use the Hitchhiker page setup, which will output a DWF (Design Web Format) file rather than print to a plotter.

Tip: You can save page setups in your drawing template files, or you can import them from other drawing files.

Output to a PDF File

The following example shows you how to create a page setup for creating PDF files.

From the Printer/plotter drop-down list, choose AutoCAD PDF (General Documentation).pc3:

Next, choose the size and scale options that you want to use:

  • Paper Size. The orientation (portrait or landscape) is built into the choices in the drop-down list.
  • Plot Area. You can clip the area to be plotted with these options, but usually you plot everything.
  • Plot Offset. This setting changes based on your printer, plotter, or other output. Try centering the plot or adjusting the origin, but remember that printers and plotters have a built-in margin around the edges.
  • Plot Scale. Choose your plot scale from the drop-down list. A scale such as 1/4” = 1’-0” is meant for printing to scale from the Model tab. On a layout tab, you normally print at a 1:1 scale.

The plot style table provides information about processing colors. Colors that look good on your monitor might not be suitable for a PDF file or for printing. For example, you might want to create a drawing in color, but create monochrome output. Here is how you specify monochrome output:

Tip: Always double-check your settings with the Preview option.

The resulting Preview window includes a toolbar with several controls, including Plot and Close Preview Window.

After you are satisfied with your plot settings, save them to a page setup with a descriptive name such as "PDF-monochrome." Then, whenever you want to output to a PDF file, all that you need to do is click Print, choose the PDF-monochrome page setup, and click OK.

Recommendations for Sharing and Remote Access

  • If you want to share a static image of your drawing, you can export a PDF file from a drawing (PLOT command).
  • If you want to include additional data from your drawing, you can export a DWF (Design Web Format) file from a drawing (PLOT command).
  • If you want to share designs with clients and colleagues within or outside your organization without releasing your drawing files, you can use the Shared Views feature (SHAREDVIEWS command).
  • If you want to make a PDF of your design available on Autodesk Docs, you can use the Push to Autodesk Docs feature (PUSHTODOCSOPEN command).
  • If you want to share a copy of your drawing for viewing or editing on the AutoCAD web app, you can use the Share feature (SHARE command).
  • If you want to access a drawing from a different location or device, you can use the Save To AutoCAD Web & Mobile feature (SAVETOWEBMOBILE, OPENFROMWEBMOBILE commands).

Final Thoughts

Congratulations, you've learned the basics of AutoCAD with the minimum set of commands. From here, simply practice what you've learned, review the chapters as needed, and expand your collection of commands. For additional information, you can do the following:

  • Study the topic links to the Help system
  • Ask questions and receive tips on AutoCAD discussion forums (https://forums.autodesk.com)
  • From within AutoCAD, press F1 and on the Help Home page, click topics listed under Have You Tried . . .
  • Browse through blog posts on the Autodesk and AutoCAD-related websites (https://www.autodesk.com/blogs)
  • View videos from various AutoCAD learning websites
  • Get help from local support providers or experts right away if you encounter any difficulties

Best wishes from Autodesk for excellent productivity and success!