Layout grids are a great way to organize your CAD sheets.

CAD Tip 1031

Using a well-designed layout grid, your sheets will look much more professional and orderly, and you can prepare the drawings much more quickly.  Last but not least, using a layout grid makes your drawing easier to read by your audience.

A layout grid is especially helpful when you’re combining several detail views with multiple scales on one sheet.

The basic concept is: Set up your layout grid and use it as a guide to arrange multiple views in a consistent, orderly arrangement.   See the example below.

Sheet using layout grid

An interior elevations sheet organized using a non-printing layout grid

One of the best features in AutoCAD, in my opinion, is paper space.  I like to place an xref of my title block, which usually includes a border around all four sides of the sheet, in paper space, with its insert point located at the 0,0,0 origin point.

Since my details will be drawn in model space, the layout grids work best for me in model space.

It can be a bit tricky to get the layout grid(s) in model space to align perfectly with the title block-border in paper space.  Here are the basic steps.

  1. Create a non-printing layout grid to fit perfectly inside of your title block and border.  See the example below.
  2. Turn the layout grid into either a block or an xref.  I prefer to make my layout grids into xrefs, but blocks work well too.
  3. Place one or more layout grids in model space, on the defpoints layer, with each grid scaled to match one of the scales of the views you want to include on a sheet.  See the image below.
  4. Draw the details using the cells of the layout grids for layout, sizing and alignment.
  5. Align the grids in paper space, using a separate viewport for each desired scale.  We’ll cover this in more depth later in this post.

The layout grids will go in model space, and the title block will go in paper space.  They should both be drawn with a clearly marked origin point (0,0,0) at  the lower left corner.

Layout grids should be drawn to align perfectly with the title block and border.  Here’s how to test the alignment.  Place an instance of the title block in model space at a scale of 1.0.  Then overlay an instance of the layout grid, also at a scale of 1.0, with the same insert point as the title block.  The grid should fit perfectly in the open space of the title block.  If it doesn’t, you need to adjust either the layout grid or the title block.

Use your AutoCAD scale table to size the layout grids appropriately for the scale of the detail. For example, set the layout grid block or xref to a scale of 12 to draw details at a scale of 1″ = 1′-0″.  See example below:

Create a separate layout grid for each scale of detail you intend to use on a sheet

Create a separate layout grid for each scale of detail you intend to use on a sheet

You may want to have more than one grid in your library to use for different types of sheets.  For example, a sheet of elevations may need a different layout grid than a sheet of details.

The layout grid should be on the defpoints layer, so that it doesn’t print.  It should have an outer rectangle matching the sheet size (such as 24″ x 36″), some empty space for the text part of the title block, space for keynotes and legends if desired, and a grid with several cells for placing the views.  You may want to add non-printing numbers in each cell to help number the views on each sheet.

Here is an example of a layout grid:

Example of a 5x4 layout grid drawn on defpoints layer

Example of a 5×4 layout grid drawn on defpoints layer

The above grid is five cells wide by four cells tall and is created for a 30″ x 42″ sheet.  If you use more than one sheet size in your work, you will need to create a different layout grid for each sheet size that you use.  For example, a 24″ x 36″ sheet would have a different layout grid from the one above, possibly with fewer cells.

I mark the origin point of the layout grid very clearly in the layout grid drawing.  See below:

Layout grid detail

Detail of lower left corner of layout grid

Once you have the layout grids set up in model space, how do you get each layout grid to align with the title block in paper space?  Here are the steps:

  1. Go to the paper space layout and make sure that the viewport pointing to the layout grid is set at the proper scale.
  2. Select the viewport to activate the grips.
  3. Click on the grip at the lower left of the viewport and stretch the viewport frame out far enough to see the 0,0,0 point.
  4. De-select and re-select the viewport and start the Move command.
  5. For the Move command base point, click on the 0,0,0 point of the layout grid, and this is crucial: do not activate the viewport—you are still in paper space!
  6. For the Move command destination point, click on the 0,0,0 point of the title block, or better yet, just type in 0,0,0 [ENTER].  When you’re typing in the 0,0,0 coordinates, be sure that the Dynamic Input feature is turned OFF, otherwise the Move command won’t work.

Since the layout grid is placed on the defpoints layer, it will not print.  However, if you want to have a visible grid printed on the sheet, I suggest drawing a printable grid in paper space, using the non-printing layout grid as a guide.  See the example below (intentionally blurred):

Detail sheet using layout grid

Example of a sheet using a printable grid (in green) drawn over a non-printing layout grid (in red)

Hope this helps.  Do you use a different system?  I’d love to hear from you.  Type any comments in the blank below.

Keep on CADDing!   🙂