AutoCAD Plot Styles and Lineweights Q & A
Plot styles are often a subject of confusion for AutoCAD users. In the real world of CAD in the workplace, each company usually has their own individual company standards, which makes it difficult to know what is the right way, or the best way, to set these up.
In this post we answer some FAQs regarding plot styles. Keep in mind that “Print” and “Plot” mean the same thing in AutoCAD, and that printing can be done to a PDF file, as well as to a sheet of paper. The principles below apply to either PDF creation, or paper printing.
Q: What is a plot style?
A: A plot style is a color and lineweight table, saved in special file in AutoCAD, that tells the printer/plotter how to take the object colors in a CAD drawing (red, yellow, cyan, etc.) and convert them into various lineweights in the printed drawing.
Q: Why do I need to use a plot style?
A: You need the plot style table to control the lineweights in your printed drawing. Carefully controlled line weights can make the difference between a crude, hard-to-read drawing, and a professional-looking work of CAD art.
Q: What if I don’t want to select a plot style when I print?
A: All plots are done using a plot style table. If you don’t choose one, AutoCAD uses a default plot style file named acad.ctb, which gives all colors the same lineweight, and prints them using the object colors that you see on the screen. This is usually not optimal.
Q: How do I choose the plot style I want?
A: In either the Plot dialog box, or the Page Setup Manager dialog box, the Plot style table selector is in the top right corner.
Q: I don’t have a plot style table. How do I create one?
A: You can create one by choosing “New…” from the pull-down list of plot style tables. Type in the name of the new plot style. Then edit the new file using the Plot Style Table editor. You get to the editor by clicking on the button marked with a red arrow in the box above. Click on the Editor button and you will see a box like this:
You can click on the tab at the top to switch to Table view, as shown below:
In either Form View or Table View, click on a color and set it up, then go to the next color. I usually go to Form View and start with Color 1 (red) and set the color to print black, then pick a lineweight for that color. Then I move to the next color on the list, yellow, and repeat. Then on down the list.
Q: Do I have to set up lineweights for all 255 colors?
A: No, usually all you need for black and white printing are colors 1 through 9. Color 8 is usually set up to print in a medium gray tone, usually at 30% to 50% screened, with the color set to black.
Q: What lineweights should I assign to the colors?
A: That’s up to you, the designer, unless you’re working with a company that requires that you follow their standards. Typically, an established company has created a company-standard plot style table, which is saved in a CTB file such as XYZCOMPANY.ctb. The CTB file is saved in a hidden AutoCAD support folder. I’ve worked with multiple companies, and they each have different company standards.
Q: I want to set up my own Plot Style Table. Where do I start?
A: Choose a plot style table name, then set up a range of line weights, typically ranging from about 0.07 mm to 1.0 mm. This varies depending on the type of work the company does. You could make Color 1 (red) the thinnest line and color 7 (white) the thickest. I have worked with companies who use this simple arrangement. Other companies set the brightest colors on the screen, such as color 2 (yellow) and color 4 (cyan), to print in medium or bolder line weights.
Q: What plot style table do you use for your work?
A: I thought you’d never ask. Here is a printout of the plot style table that I currently use:
In my plot style table, colors 10 through 249 print using the actual object colors, not black. The color setting for these colors is “Use object color.” If I want to make a color site plan with black linework of various weights and several areas of solid color hatching, I put the linework on colors 1 through 9, and the color hatching on colors 10 through 249.
As you can see, colors 250 through 255 are set to print black, with screening of 10% through 80%, so the appearance of the gray colors on screen approximately matches the printed gray tones.
Q: My lineweights are shown in inches. How do I change them to millimeters?
A: The radio button to change the line weight widths from inches to millimeters is behind the button “Edit lineweights…” in the Plot Style Table Editor dialog box.
Q: Once I set up my plot style on my computer, will it show up in the plot style list in all my drawings?
A: Yes. If you are working with a team, each member of the team will need the CTB file loaded on their computer.
Q: Can the plot style table file be shared by team members on a network server?
A: Yes, we’ll cover sharing and loading the CTB file in another post.
Hope this helps. If you have any questions or comments, please forward them to me in the box below.
Keep on CADDing! 🙂
Great post Mark!
There’s only one thing I would add – keep it simple! I’ve outlined a simple method of setting up line weighs here http://cadso.co/1ba7Y23
Keep up the good work 🙂
I have been using plot styles for line weights and colors, but I have xref files to work as a background, and sometimes those don’t change as they should or print as they should even with the plot styles. Any suggestions?
Lisa, Thanks for the question. When I bring in an xref and want to change its colors, first I change the colors of all of the xref layers in the current drawing. If some objects are not showing correctly, I go to the xref and find any objects that have colors NOT set to “By Layer” and I change them to “By Layer.” That should fix everything except possibly the blocks. If blocks are causing color problems, I have to decide if it’s worth the trouble to go into the block editor and change all objects in the block to Layer 0 and Color By Layer. Hope this helps! Mark
MY SANITARY LINE LOOKS DIFFERENT FROM ONE VEIWPORT TO THE OTHER AND THE LINETYPE SCALE IS THE SAME IN EACH TAB?
Saved my ass!
What is your proper scale of your lineweight? is it 1:100m?
Can I get one line type to print out at different line weights based on the scale of the view port that it is being printed out? Let’s say that I have a line that is to be 1 mm thick when printed out in 1/2″ = 1′-0″ scale and now I want to print out the same area of the drawing (in a different view) at different scale 1/4″ = 1′-0″ but I want the line weight to be 0.5 mm. Is there a setting that I can use that will automatically scale the line weight based on the scale that I will be printing out in?
Rocky, What you describe can be done in Revit, but I know of no a way to do it in AutoCAD. The Annotation feature may be something to look into, particularly the ANNOAUTOSCALE setting. Another approach: If you print the different scale drawings on different sheets, you can set up alternative CTB files, each with customized lineweights for a particular scale. For example, when I print a drawing to paper, I use one of two CTB files I’ve set up, depending on whether it is being printed at full size or “reduced to fit.” I have a “Fullsize” CTB file for printing at full size (say 24″x36″), and a “Reduced” CTB file with thinner lineweights for printing a large-format drawing reduced to fit on an 11×17 sheet. That keeps the lines from appearing too heavy on the 11×17 sheet. Readers, any ideas?
Mark, your answer to Rocky was, exactly, what I needed. Even the sheet sizes 🙂 Your tutorial here is great. I have been an Architect and construction professional for 30 years and have never been good with line weights on Autocad, on my own machine. Thanks for the help.
Hi, In the past I’ve been able to print with multiple lines in the same place and the thickest line would take precedence. I’m now working with ACAD on a Mac (not my idea) and am having to change drawing order to get line weights to print as I’d like. For example, if I draw a hatch polyline and leave it on top then it obscures all heavier lines below because of the drawing order. Can I get ACAD to plot the thickest line regardless of drawing order?
Glenn, Thanks for the question. You didn’t say why you want to have multiple lines in the same place, so I’ll start by suggesting that you find a way to avoid that altogether. In my experience it’s asking for trouble in AutoCAD to have stacked lines. If you must have stacked lines, can you freeze the layer or layers that you don’t want to print, and only have the “good” layer thawed? The Selection Cycling tool can help you analyze the stacked layer situation. The OVERKILL tool can be used to remove unwanted stacked lines. Hope this helps! Mark
Hi Glenn, if you go to plot and select a printer name (click on properties) Under plotter configuration select device and document settings (tab). Go to Graphics/Merge Control and select Lines merge. Save the changes and that should fix your line weights (the thickest line will take precedence now). Have in mind that will only fix the problem using the same printer, if you select a different printer name you will have to change the properties again.
If I set value of lineweight to the Layer properties will Autocad takes the definitions from there or from the CTB file?
With Xref- I would like to have clarification, as it indeed doesn’t follow the CTB assigned to the drawing
i have a drawing with size 620 X 360m i used two layer with line weight 0.40 and 0.20 but when i am priting this on A1 PAPER WITH SCALE 1:950 THESE LINE BECOM VERY THICK AND LOOK VERY DIRTY ONREADABLE.PLEASE ADVICE.