Developing a Wall Section in AutoCAD and Illustrator

This tutorial begins with a line drawing extracted from a 3D model of a masonry building. The tutorial shows how the line drawing can be developed in AutoCAD and Illustrator into a presentation-quality drawing.

Step 1. Open a line drawing of a wall section. (In this tutorial, the original line drawing was extracted from a Rhino model. To see this process, refer to the tutorial titled Rhino to AutoCAD Workflow: Cutting a Section.)

Initially, the line drawing is undifferentiated with respect to lineweight, material notations, dimensions, and hatch patterns:


Step 2. In AutoCAD, define several new layers corresponding to a categorization scheme. For example, different layers could correspond to different materials, or different layers could correspond to different lineweights.

Once you have defined the new layers, assign each of the objects (lines) in the drawing to one of the layers. The image below shows one possible categorization scheme, where the layers represent different materials (e. g., brick and stone):


Step 3. Add detail lines to the drawing. The image below shows one step in this process, where detail lines are added to represent horizontal joints between successive brick courses.


Step 4. Continue the process of adding detail lines. In the image below, detail lines are drawn to show “elements beyond” the cutting plane – specifically, lines representing the window jambs and lines representing the bottom edges of floor joists.


Step 5. Add hatch patterns to materials as appropriate:


Step 6. Save the AutoCAD drawing in 2007 .dwg format and open it in Illustrator. (This will preserve the layer assignments.) In Illustrator, assign lineweights as appropriate for scale:


Step 7. Add notes and dimensions as appropriate for scale. (Alternatively, notes and dimensions can be added in AutoCAD and imported to Illustrator with the other information.)



Rhino to AutoCAD Workflow: Cutting a Section

This workflow is designed to generate a line-drawn building section from a Rhino model for use in AutoCAD. It begins with a complete Rhino model and concludes with the AutoCAD drawing.

Step 1. Open the Rhino model:00.png


Step 2: Create a new layer. Give the layer a name like SECTION and a distinctive color. Make this new layer current.

Step 3: In the SECTION layer, draw a line as a guide for the section cut. This line represents the line along which the section will be cut:01.png

Step 4: Type SECTION [enter]. When prompted to Select objects for sections, type ALL [enter]:02.png

Step 5. When prompted to designate the Start of section, click on one endpoint of the guideline. When prompted to designate the End of section, move the mouse to the far side of the objects being cut. (Make sure ORTHO, F8, is turned on if you want to cut the section parallel with the relevant major axis.)03.png

Step 6. Because SECTION is a drawing command, it generates new geometry. As soon as the SECTION command is complete, the newly drawn geometry is automatically highlighted:04.png

Step 7. With the new geometry highlighted, choose File > Export Selected:05.png

Step 8. Save the exported geometry in the AutoCAD (.dwg) format:06.png

Step 9. Choose the 2004 Polylines option:07.png

Step 10. Start AutoCAD and open the drawing exported from Rhino:08.png

Step 11. If prompted with a warning dialog, choose Continue opening DWG file:09.png

Step 12. When the file is opened, it will appear in a “top down” view, so the section will appear like a single line:10.png

Step 13. Type 3DORBIT [enter] to orbit the model into a 3D view:11.png

Step 14. The geometry needs to be rotated to sit “flat” on the x-y plane. Type ROTATE3D:12.png

Step 15. When prompted to Select objects, type ALL [enter] to select all of the objects in the drawing:13.png

Step 16. In order to rotate the geometry in three-dimensional space, a rotational axis with two endpoints must be defined. Click on a point within the drawing to define the first endpoint of this axis:14.png

Step 17. With Ortho (F8) turned on, click on another point within the drawing to indicate the other endpoint of the rotational axis:15.png

Step 18. When prompted to Specify rotation angle, type either 90 [enter] or -90 [enter] depending on whether the geometry needs to rotate clockwise or counterclockwise around the axis. (To correct a mistaken rotation, the command can be undone or repeated with a rotation angle of 180.)16.png

Step 19. Type PLAN [enter]:18.png

Step 20. When prompted, click [enter] to accept the Current coordinate system (i. e., the World coordinate system):19.png

Step 21. It may be necessary to rotate the geometry again, but only in two-dimensional space. In the case shown here, the geometry needs to be rotated by 90 degrees. Type ROTATE [enter] and indicate the rotation angle:21.png

Step 22. The section drawing is ready. It may also be necessary to use the FLATTEN command to project all geometry to the x-y plane:





3DS Max Design: Importing and Linking Models.

Linking from Revit. Linked Revit models are connected to their source file and will reflect updates made to that source. To import an existing Revit model into a 3DS scene:

  1. Choose Application menu > Import > Link Revit. (The Application menu is in the far upper-left corner of the screen.)
  2. Navigate to the Revit file, select it, and click Open.
  3. In the Manage Links dialog box, click on the Presets tab. Select the appropriate Preset (e. g., combine by material or category).
  4. Click on the Attach tab.
  5. To set the initial view (optional), click Revit View.
  6. Click Attach this file.
  7. In the Daylight System Creation dialog box, click Yes if you wish to adjust the parameters for the Daylight System. Otherwise, click No. (You can return to this option later by choosing Create > Lights > Daylight System.)
  8. Close the Manage Links dialog box. (You can return to the Manage Links dialog box at any time by choosing Application Menu > References > Manage Links.)

Linking from AutoCAD.

  1. Choose Application menu > Import > Link AutoCAD. (The Application menu is in the far upper-left corner of the screen.)
  2. Navigate to the AutoCAD file, select it, and click Open.
  3. In the Manage Links dialog box, click on the Presets tab. Select the appropriate Preset (e. g., DWG File Saved from AutoCAD).
  4. Click on the Attach tab.
  5. If you wish to import only selected layers, click the Select Layers to include button and make selections.
  6. Click Attach this file.
  7. Close the Manage Links dialog box. (You can return to the Manage Links dialog box at any time by choosing Application Menu > References > Manage Links.)

Importing a Generic .dwg file.

Use this procedure when importing a .dwg file created by any application other than AutoCAD. (You can also use this procedure with AutoCAD-created .dwg files if you wish to exclude the possibility of linking your model.)

  1. Choose Application menu > Import > Import. (The Application menu is in the far upper-left corner of the screen.)
  2. Navigate to the .dwg file, select it, and click Open.
  3. In the AutoCAD DWG/DXF Import Options dialog box, make any necessary changes to import options, or allow them to remain unchanged (default settings).
  4. Click OK.

Importing from Rhino or Sketchup. 3DS Max cannot direclty import models in Rhino (.3dm) or Sketchup (.skp) formats. However, if you save your model as a .dwg file, it can be imported using the procedure described above.

AutoCAD: Working in 3D Space.

Visualizing 3D Space.

Use the View > Views panel to choose between one of several preset orthographic and isometric views of AutoCAD’s simulated three-dimensional space.

Use the VPORTS command to configure multiple model space viewports within model space. This feature lets you view your work from several different directions simultaneously. (Also View > Model Viewports > Viewport Configuration.) [Note: model space viewports operate differently than paper space viewports. Model space viewports are easily configurable to allow simultaneous, dynamic views of a model under construction; Layout space viewports are better suited to a composition of fixed views on a page.]

Use the 3DORBIT command to control the projection by mouse. While in the 3DORBIT interface, right-click to change the projection from parallel to perspective.


Basic 3D operations.

The commands which you have learned in 2D work will also work in 3D. Some of the commands (ROTATE, MIRROR, OFFSET) make reference to the current x-y plane. To change the x-y plane, use the UCS command (discussed below). Tip: Be careful when you use the TRIM, FILLET, and EXTEND commands in 3D. These may not always work the way you expect them to, because of the confusion resulting from representing a 3D space on a 2D screen, and also because they don’t operate on three-dimensional solids.


Building a box.

The BOX command is used to build cubical volumes representing beams, walls, floors, sills, building masses, etc. To build a box:

  1. Type BOX at the Command prompt.
  2. At the prompt Specify corner of box or [CEnter] <0,0,0>, point-click or enter coordinates to specify a corner of the box.
  3. At the prompt Specify corner or [Cube/Length], point-click, enter coordinates, or select the C or L options to continue.
  4. At the prompt Specify height, point-click or enter a number to specify the height.

Related commands: SPHERE; CYLINDER; WEDGE


The UCS command.

Use the UCS command to temporarily change the coordinate system (i. e., the axes along which AutoCAD measures x, y, and z coordinates). UCS is especially useful for 3D work, as planes of reference often change if objects are modeled at different angles or at multiple heights.

The three-point option: To invoke this command, type UCS and then 3. Click on three points in space to define the new axes.

The align to object option: Use the hidden OB option within the UCS command to align the UCS to any visible object.

To return to the normal axes: type UCS and then W.

To generate a plan view with respect to the current coordinate system: type PLAN at the command prompt.


Rotating objects around a point.

Use the ROTATE command as in 2D space. [NOTE: the ROTATE command rotates selected objects around a base point on the x-y plane. To change the current x-y plane, use the UCS command. Or, to rotate selected objects around a line, use the ROTATE3D command.]


Rotating objects around an axis.

To rotate an object around an axis:

  1. Type ROTATE3D at the Command prompt.
  2. Select the objects you wish to rotate.
  3. At the prompt Specify first point on axis or define axis by [Object/Last/View/Xaxis/Yaxis/Zaxis/2points], click on a point on the intended base line (or use one of the other methods; see AutoCAD’s Help for additional information).


Creating a quick 3D drawing from existing 2D elevations.

  1. View an elevation drawing in three-dimensional space.
  2. Select the lines composing the elevation.
  3. Use the ROTATE3D command to rotate these lines about the “base line” or “ground plane” in the elevation drawing: rotate them by either 90 or -90 degrees (if you choose the wrong one, rotate them again by 180 degrees).


Use the EXTRUDE command to “push/pull” closed polylines (e. g. rectangles) into three-dimensional space to a given height. Tip: EXTRUDE won’t work on blocks or hatches. Tip: Use the PEDIT command to join independent lines and arcs into closed polylines. Use the PEDIT Multiple option, with a fuzz distance set to a number greater than 0, to join lines which don’t meet into a closed polyline.



Use SLICE to cut objects along a plane. This is somewhat analogous to the TRIM command in two dimensions.

Example use of the SLICE command:

  1. Construct a simple rectangular box (e. g. with the BOX command).
  2. Type SLICE at the Command prompt.
  3. Select the box.
  4. Click on three non-colinear points to define a slicing plane: for example, the midpoints of existing sides of the box, or the endpoints of temporary location lines.
  5. Click on a point on the side of the slicing plane corresponding to the portion of the object you wish to keep.



Joining 3D Objects.

The UNION command is used to join two or more 3D objects together in a single object. Together with COPY, it can be used as a three-dimensional equivalent to the EXTEND command: For example, copy a 9-inch-high cube from 0, 0, 0 to 0, 0, 3; UNION the two objects; the result is a new object, 12 inches high.


Cutting Plans and Sections.

The SECTION command generates a special kind of AutoCAD object called a region. Regions are similar to closed, filled polylines; they can be extruded into solids or exploded into lines. Type SECTION at the command prompt; the command operates similarly to SLICE, except that it doesn’t require you to designate a point on the “desired side” of the plane. Also, if you want to cut a section or plan at a specific point, it may help to draw a temporary object such as a box to facilitate defining a cutting plane (per step 4 in the procedure below).

  1. Set the current layer to receive newly drawn section information.
  2. Type SECTION at the Command prompt.
  3. Select the objects to cut. (For example, draw a window around the entire model.)
  4. Click on three non-colinear points to define a slicing plane in plan or section. (For example, points on the surface of a box.)
  5. The current layer receives new objects (regions). Turn off all other layers to see these new objects. The objects can be exploded (using the EXPLODE command) to turn them into simple lines.



AutoCAD: Plot Style Tables.

A plot style is a set of instructions telling AutoCAD how to print objects. Plot styles can override object settings: for example, a plot style might instruct AutoCAD to print all objects in a drawing using black ink, rather than object/layer colors. A plot style table is a set of plot styles. Plot style tables are assigned to layouts; each layout can have a different plot style table (or no plot style table at all, meaning that no special instructions are used to print the drawing).

Types of plot style tables.

Plot style tables are of two types: color-dependent and named. Color-dependent plot style tables instruct AutoCAD to assign plotting properties based solely on object color. For example, a color-dependent plot style table might instruct AutoCAD to assign every red object in a printout a given line width. Named plot style tables instruct AutoCAD to assign plotting properties to objects independent of their color.


Color-dependent plot style tables are primarily useful for one reason: they can be used to assign printed line weights on the basis of color. This is typically how professional offices set up plot style tables, because it is equivalent to the Pen Assignments feature in older versions of AutoCAD.


Named plot styles allow a greater degree of freedom than color-dependent plot style tables, in the sense that printing properties may be assigned separately from object color. Under this scheme, plot style is an object property, like color or lineweight.

Creating a plot style table.

To create a color-dependent plot style table:

  1. Choose [Application Menu] > Print > Manage Plot Styles.
  2. Double-click on the Add-A-Plot Style Table Wizard icon.
  3. In the introductory dialog box, click Next.
  4. In the “Begin” dialog box, select “Start from scratch” and click Next.
  5. In the “Pick Plot Style Table” dialog box, select “Color-Dependent Plot Style Table” and click Next.
  6. In the “File name” dialog box, enter a name for your plot style (for example, “Style-1”) and click Next.
  7. In the “Add Plot Style Table – Finish” dialog box, click “Finish”. (The next section discusses the detail of editing plot style tables.)

[Note: Plot style tables are stored on the local hard drive and are NOT retained together with your AutoCAD drawing, should you move to a different computer. If you wish to save a plot style table together with your drawing, choose [Application Menu] > Print > Manage Plot Styles; then hold down the Shift key as you drag-and-drop the desired table to an external drive. Invert this process on the second computer. (You are copying a .ctb file between two computers.)]


Editing a plot style table.

To edit a plot style table:

  1. Choose [Application Menu] > Print > Manage Plot Styles.
  2. Double-click on the name of the plot style table you wish to edit.
  3. In the Plot Style Table Editor, you can view information about your table in three separate tabs. To continue with our example, choose the Form View tab. This will display information about your table as a form.
  4. Specify the colors for which you wish to designate printing attributes. (To select every color in the list simultaneously, hold down the SHIFT key as you click on the first and last colors in the list.)
  5. Specify attributes. (For example, under Properties / Color, choose Black.)
  6. Click Save & Close.

Assigning a plot style table to a layout.

Assigning a plot style table to a layout forces AutoCAD to follow the instructions in the table. To assign a plot style table to a layout:

  1. Click on the layout tab to which you wish to assign a specific plot style table.
  2. Type PAGESETUP.
  3. Click Modify.
  4. Under Plot Style Table tab, choose the plot style table you wish to assign to the layout.
  5. Click on the Display plot styles check box.
  6. Click OK.

AutoCAD: The XREF command.

Use the XREF (eXternal Reference) command to reference one drawing into another. The referenced drawing is often called a base drawing or simply an XREF. The concept is essential when you’re organizing a large set of drawings consisting (for example) of floor plans, ceiling plans, sections, title borders, etc.


A typical application.

A typical application of the XREF command involves the creation of “plot sheets.” Plot sheets are AutoCAD drawings which contain an XREF’d base drawing, such as a floor plan, which is viewed through a layout space viewport. Plot sheets also usually contain an XREF of the architect’s title border.


Example use of the XREF command.

  1. Draw a floor plan using standard AutoCAD drawing commands. Save the drawing in an accessible location (e. g., a shared drive). Close the floor plan.
  2. In a second drawing, type XREF. Right-click in the empty area of the panel to reference (“Attach”) the floor plan drawing into the model space of the plot sheet.
  3. In the layout space of the plot sheet, create a scaled viewport through which you can see the floor plan. Use the viewport to manage layers.
  4. Use the XREF command to reference a copy of the architect’s title border into the layout space. (A title border is an AutoCAD drawing containing project-specific information.) Title borders typically contain space for sheet-specific information such as a sheet number and name.

Note: Plot sheets can be composed to show multiple XREFs at multiple scales.


Overlay or Attach?

Every XREF is classified either as being attached or overlaid. Attached XREFs will “nest” into successive XREFs: You can XREF a drawing containing another overlaid XREF. Overlaid XREFs do not nest: if, in a new drawing, you attach an XREF containing an overlaid XREF, the overlaid XREF won’t appear in the new drawing. In the XREF dialog box, double-click on the word Attach (or Overlay) next to the XREF drawing name to change its status.


Common base point.

If you create a series of drawings such as floor plans, elevations, and sections, describing a single building, consider drawing each drawing such that the point (0, 0, 0) represents the same point in space in each drawing. This allows easy cross-checking of (for example) plans to sections by XREFing one into the other at (0, 0). Such cross-checking also works between floor plans – allowing easy verification of whether, for example, elevators, mechanical shafts, and exterior walls align between drawings.


Multiple users.

By default, AutoCAD will prevent other people on a network from opening a drawing if that drawing is XREFerenced into your drawing. If you wish to disable this feature, and allow other users to edit the XREFs, type OP; click on the Open and Save tab; under External References, set Demand Load to “Enabled with copy.”


Binding XREFs.

To “break the link” between an XREF and its host drawing, and to permanently insert the XREF within the host: in the XREF Manager dialog box, highlight an XREF and click Bind. Choosing Insert is equivalent to using the Insert command to copy an external .dwg file into the host drawing. Choosing Bind inserts the XREF into special new layers, intentionally keeping the XREF layers separate from the host drawing layers.

AutoCAD: Layouts and Viewports.

Each AutoCAD drawing contains at least one layout space. A layout space differs fundamentally from the (singular) model space, in that every layout space has edges corresponding to a specific paper size.

Model space and layout space.

Each AutoCAD drawing contains only one model space; however, a model space is practically infinite in extent (no edges). Drawings are usually created in model space, and layout space (also called paper space) is used to format views of those drawings on paper.

Initial activation.

When a layout space is initially activated (the first time the corresponding Layout tab is clicked), AutoCAD displays a default page size with a single viewport (see below). Type PAGESETUP to bring up the Page Setup dialog box, prompting you to define a printer and paper size. Each layout space in a drawing may be formatted for a unique printer and/or a unique paper size.


When a layout space is initially activated, AutoCAD automatically creates a viewport. So-called paper space viewports are analogous to windows or holes in a piece of paper through which a drawing can be viewed at a particular scale. Using viewports, multiple views of a single drawing, or of multiple drawings, may be formatted on a single layout (i. e.  a piece of paper). Each viewport may be configured with its own settings for scale and layer visibility.

Basic viewport operations.

To delete an existing viewport: type PS [enter], then type E [enter], select the viewport (click on its edge), [enter].

To make a new viewport: type PS [enter], then type MV [enter], then click on two points (a corner and an opposite corner) to define a rectangle.

To resize an existing viewport: type PS [enter], then click on the existing viewport, and drag its corners to new locations.

To copy an existing viewport: type PS [enter], then type COPY [enter], click on the existing viewport, [enter], and indicate base and displacement points.

To move an existing viewport: type PS [enter], then type MOVE [enter], click on the existing viewport, [enter], and indicate base and displacement points.

To make the frame around a viewport disappear: type PS [enter], then click on the boundary of the viewport, and use the layer pulldown palette to assign the viewport to a new layer. Turn this layer off, or freeze the layer.


Viewports and scale.

By definition, when a model space drawing is viewed through a paper space viewport, the drawing is seen at scale. The ratio between the actual size of the drawing and its printed size is called the scale factor.


Changing viewport scale. To change the apparent size (i. e. the scale) of a drawing within a viewport: type PS [enter], then click on the edge of the viewport, then click on “Standard Scale” and select a scale from the list.

OR… Type MS [enter], click inside the viewport, type Z [enter] (for ZOOM), and then type 1/nXP (where n equals the desired scale factor, such as 1/96 for 1/8” = 1’-0”).