10 AutoCAD Tips For Beginners

published  8th March 2024   I STARTING OUT, 


With every software there are certain functions and shortcuts that can fundamentally improve your user experience.


These tips usually go beyond the standard tools and commands included in most tutorials. They are rarely discussed in forums and hardly ever included in the help function. But they can save you from some serious frustration.


Here are my Top10 for AutoCAD:

1. F9

If your cursor behaves weirdly, jumps to points it’s not supposed to or simply won’t select the object that you are trying to select, F9 might be the reason for it.


The function key F9 activates grid snap.


Most of the time users encountering this problem aren’t even aware they pressed F9 on their keyboard or activated it by  accidently clicking on the icon in the lower right hand corner of the interface.


The snapping appears even more random if you don’t have the grid displayed in your interface. 


So if you encounter these problems, simply press F9 on your keyboard and see what happens. Nine times out of ten that solves the problem.


If not, you might want to try de-activating the object snap by pressing F3, 3D object snap by pressing F4, the ortho snap by pressing F8, or polar tracking by clicking on the icon.

2.Turn off hatch preview

The hatch preview was introduced as a feature in some newer versions of AutoCAD. Unfortunately it causes performances issues and slows your computer down significantly.


The preview will usually appear when you activate the hatch command and move your cursor over closed borders.


If you want to switch it off, just type HPQUICKPREVIEW and press Enter. Then type OFF or 0 and press Enter to turn it off.

3. Save before using the hatch command on complex designs

Another tip related to the hatch command is to always save your work by pressing Cmd+S or Ctrl+S before starting the hatch command.


This is especially important if you are working with bigger and more complex drawings.


It’s not rare for AutoCAD to crash when trying to calculate hatches and all work that hasn’t been saved in your pre-set AutoSave time interval, might be lost.


Hatching will usually constitute a separate step in your digital drawing workflow. So it’s best to make it a habit to save before you start hatching. 

4. Use layers

This might sound trivial, but using different layers for different elements of your drawing will save you time and frustration in the long run. It’s best to develop this habit from the very beginning.


Put the stage plan on one layer and the set and details on another. Separate construction lines and dimensions so you can hide them easily, if you just want to see and evaluate your design.


Hatches belong on a separate layer, too.


By the way, there is a setting you can enable that automatically puts hatches on a separate layer for you:


  • Create a new layer, name it ‘hatch’ (or whatever you want the name to be)
  • double click on the layer to make it the current layer
  • type HPLAYER and Enter, then type ‘.’ and press Enter


Now, every hatch that you create using the hatch command will automatically be on this layer.

5. Use grey tones in addition to different line weights

Many new AutoCAD users are unhappy with the effect of line weights on the overall look of their drawing.


Especially if you are transitioning from hand draughting, it seems almost impossible to duplicate the different line weights in the digital drawing.


This is because most new AutoCAD users utilize only the line weight setting – or more correctly the line thickness – to express different levels of hierarchy in the drawing.


In a hand drawing, however, they would use line thickness, pencil grades (as in 2H, HB and B pencils) and pressure to achieve the desired effect.


A line drawn with a 2H pencil will always be lighter than the same line drawn with a 2B pencil, assuming the same pressure is applied. 


The best way to emulate this in a digital drawing is to use different grey tones in addition to the line thicknesses.


I recommend to use a maximum of 3 different grey tones in addition to black.


A consistent logic needs to be applied to the use of the different grey tones and line thicknesses. The lightest grey tone could be reserved for decorative details in a P&E or to show the texture of a stone wall, the middle grey for separating lines such as the mullions of a window and black for the outline of flattage. 

6. Use dimension styles

Set up separate dimension styles for different scales you are planning to use in the layout of your drawing (=paper space) and use them consistently.


This will spare you from having to adjust the font size and arrowheads on each dimension individually (which I still see some people do).


Learning and understanding dimension styles takes a moment but will save time and trouble in the long run.

7. Use your own file templates

Create an AutoCAD file template and use it for every new drawing.


The template should include the layer structure you like to use with the respective colour coding you are used to. Your customised dimension styles and the layout design for A4 to A0 (or ARCH sizes, whichever you use) should also be part of it.


You should further have one version of the template in feet and inches and one version in mm.


My own template also includes scale figures, scale bars, a north arrow (or compass rose) for location surveys and my custom hatches.


Every time you start a new drawing, open the template with the required units, save it under a new name and start drawing.  


No setting up layers, no copying of core elements from another drawing, no adjusting of dimension styles.


You’ll be up and running in seconds.


8. Start a block collection

There is a huge amount of AutoCAD blocks out there and most of them are free to download.


Blocks are specific elements drawn within AutoCAD and grouped in a block. Many people share their blocks online with other users. There are blocks for scale figures, furniture, trees, cars, fixings and much more.


When you are using blocks you downloaded from the internet, please make sure to check the scale or size, especially if you work with furniture blocks.


The next step would be to start your own block collection by giving the block or group of blocks a descriptive name and saving it in a folder on you computer.


It takes time to find the block you are looking for on the Internet and it would be wasteful to spend this time looking for it again the next time you want to use it.


I have a library of AutoCAD blocks for different purposes This way it only takes me a couple of minutes to find what I’m looking for. 

9. When stuck, look at the command line

If you are new to AutoCAD or in the process of learning a new command and you get stuck, look at the command line.


The command line will usually tell you what to do next and the options your have. Following the cues in the command line you can figure most things out by trial and error.


Don’t forget that almost every command or entry in AutoCAD needs to be confirmed by pressing either Enter or the space bar (=usually much faster).


This ‘confirm-method’ seems to be quite counter-intuitive to most people who are learning AutoCAD and I often see students get stuck because they simply forget to press enter.

10. Turn on dynamic input

This tip is related to the one above.


If you want to see the command line next to your cursor, just activate dynamic input by pressing the icon in the lower right hand corner.


The advantage of seeing the command line next to your cursor is that it’s usually the place you’re looking at anyway.

It will save you from having to looking back and forth from the part you are currently working on (drawing) and the command line at the bottom of your interface.


It might sound trivial, but this little change will make you faster and make drawing in AutoCAD easier on your eyes.

These are my Top10 tips to make life easier when drawing in AutoCAD. I hope they help you out some jumps in your own learning curve.

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