CAD Tip 1026:  Make your drawing as legible as possible.

Drawings are essentially a form of communication.  A CAD professional should always be considerate of the person who will be reading his or her drawing, and make the drawing as legible as you can.  The less effort required to read the drawing, the better.

Legibility is a key component of drawing quality.

Remember that the reader of your drawing most likely does not know the drawing, or the project, as well as you, the CAD professional.  What may be easily legible to you may be confusing and difficult for the less-trained eye to sort out.

Making your drawings highly legible is one way to clearly and effectively differentiate yourself from the average CAD designer-drafter.  It adds an extra layer of care and quality to your work which will be noticed and appreciated by the people who matter.  Sooner or later this will increase your value in the CAD designer marketplace.

There are many ways to make your drawings more readable.  We will list several of the most important in this post.  Overall, the best approach is to make it a habit and a top priority to thoroughly check for legibility before calling a drawing finished.

Here are some general rules:

  1. Use line weights to clearly show what is most important and what is secondary.  A quick glance at a sheet should show what it’s mainly about.
  2. Orient all text on a sheet in the conventional way: both “level” and “rotated” text should read “right-side-up” as viewed from the bottom-right corner of the sheet.
  3. Avoid overlaid text.  Usually this occurs when a text object overlays linework, or another text object.  This is a common occurrence, but it makes the drawing harder to read and less professional-looking.  Come up with a name for the error–I call them “overstrikes”– and make a point of eliminating them from all drawings.
  4. Keep the text sizes and text styles consistent.  Don’t change the size of text just to make it fit easier.  Rearrange the drawing as necessary to have all text consistent.
  5. Establish a minimum text height and don’t go smaller.  This might be 3/32″ (2.4 mm).  Remember that the reader’s eyes may not be as young and sharp as yours.  Some offices use 1/8″ (3.2 mm), because that size is still fairly legible even when printed half-size.
  6. Space labels and tags in a consistent, visually pleasing way.  In some cases, this could be centered in the empty space between objects.  In other cases, this means justifying the block or tag to the left side and below the object it describes or relates to.  This takes time and care.
  7. Don’t let tags touch objects–unless they’re meant to.
  8. Do a final check of the drawing in hard-copy, printed form before sending to others.  This is the only way to see all of the issues.  An 11×17 printer is very helpful for check prints.
  9. Before you print to paper, check over the drawing in PDF format.  This is not as effective as a hard copy check print, but it is better than looking at the colored lines on the black background of your CAD work area screen.
  10. When using multiple, stacked dimension strings, establish a standard distance to maintain between the stacked dimension lines.
  11. If a drawing gets too crowded, consider splitting it into multiple views or sheets, or using a call-out to enlarge a highly detailed area such as a kitchen or a toilet.
  12. Locate the blocks containing keynotes, legends, etc. where they can be most easily read, generally to the right side of the sheet.
  13. In laying out a sheet, remember that the left side of the sheet is the binding side, and anything near the binding is harder to read in a printed and bound set, especially in a set with lots of sheets.  Favor the right side of the sheet over the left side.  A partially filled sheet should have the empty space on the left side, near the staples and binding.  The most important information should be near the right side of the sheet, probably near the bottom.
  14. Adopt a set of drawing standards.  If your office has a set of standards in place, look them over with your team and see if they are clear and up-to-date.  Will they lead to a consistent “look” for all of the drawings the office sends out?  Do they include standards to ensure legibility?
  15. Ensure that the standards are communicated to everyone and followed.  Task someone with responsibility for making sure that the standards are adhered to.
  16. Even if your office has a set of standards, develop your own personal set of standards, above and beyond the office standards.  Strive for excellence.

That’s a good list to get you started.  What would you add to this list?  I always enjoy getting your thoughts and suggestions.  Enter your comment below!

Keep on CADDing!   🙂