As architects and engineers, we are often using AutoCAD for drafting floor plans, sections, elevations, layouts, and product manufacturing drawings. If you’ve ever tried it out before, you’ll think that the software seems advanced if you don’t know what you’re doing. But I personally believe this is one of the easiest software to learn like SketchUp. Here is what I can say about it and how to get started with AutoCAD in a quick and easy way!

What is AutoCAD ?

AutoCAD is a well-known CAD computer software program used in engineering and architecture. You can create 2D and 3D drawings. It allows users to conceptualize, design, draft floor plans and layouts and is mainly used in the construction and manufacturing industry (as it provides rapid design calculation, simulations and technical accuracy).

AutoCAD is developed and maintained by Autodesk, which also offers other CAD and 3D modeling programs like Revit, 3ds Max, Fusion 360 etc. AutoCAD is a professional design software, so it is quite expensive. Luckily, students and educators get unlimited free access for up to a year. It also offers a 30-day free trial for everyone, which is more than enough time for playing around with it.

To download AutoCAD, you’ll first need to have an Autodesk account. There are versions for Windows and Mac, which slightly differ in terms of UI, but the installation processes are very similar.

Get started with AutoCAD
Get started with AutoCAD

Get started with AutoCAD

What are the Basics to know to get started with AutoCAD ?

After you have installed the software, begin to familiarize yourself with the user interface and then set up your workspace. Make sure you’re comfortable working with AutoCAD before learning the basics. Get acquainted with the interface as well as the tools. It will be easier if you are aware of where each tool is.
To start a new project in AutoCAD, open the software and click on “Start Drawing”. This is AutoCAD’s main working screen, where all 2D and 3D drawings takes place (the first one is the view we have when using Windows, and the second is in Mac). Basically, it’s composed of the following:

Get started with AutoCAD

Get started with AutoCAD

Get started with AutoCAD

Get started with AutoCAD

  1. Application Button: This is the button at the top-left corner of the AutoCAD window. It features the AutoCAD logo with an arrow (in Windows). Clicking this button opens a menu that allows you to manipulate the drawing or program. For instance, the menu lets you create a new drawing, open an existing one, save the current drawing, export, import, print, and publish, among other options. In mac, you can find all these in the File Menu.
  2. Ribbon Tab and Panel: contain various tools and commands arranged in tabs. Instead of using the ribbon panel, most people use the AutoCAD commands. If you prefer using the ribbon, create your panel with your most-used commands for easy and quick access.
  3. ViewCube, Orientation Tool: The View Cube, in the top-right corner, is set to the top view by default. If you hover your mouse over it, a little house symbol will appear. Click on it to enter the isometric view. Now you’ll see a 3D Cartesian coordinate system in the middle of your screen, with three axes, and the View Cube has changed position. You can click on its faces, edges, and corners to go to the desired view.
  4. Command-line Bar: This bar allows you to write any supported command on AutoCAD. See below for some of AutoCAD’s useful commands where the user can enter commands manually by typing them here. It also lists the order of required steps to execute any given command plus some extra tips.
  5. Application Status Bar: It contains so many buttons which help you to create a drawing very easily. You can easily turn ON or OFF these buttons just by clicking on them. Some buttons are hidden by default. You can also display more buttons on the status bar by clicking the Customization button at the bottom right corner and selecting the options from the menu. See below for more details.

Get started with AutoCAD – Things to know

  • Light and Dark Mode

You can change the color theme by clicking to the Application Menu, then Options, Display tab. In the top left of the page is the “Window Elements” section where you will find the drop down for the “Color theme”. There are two options in the dropdown: Light and Dark. (In Mac, click on AutoCAD, Preferences, Look & Feel, Themes).

I personally prefer to use the dark screen more. You can try both and choose the one that is better for you.

Get started with AutoCAD
  • Drawing Tools

Drawing tools are easy to remember. A tool’s name already describes what it is used for. For example, the line tool is used to draw a line, the circle tool to draw a circle, the rectangle tool to draw a rectangle.

  • Commands

There are more than a hundred AutoCAD commands. At first, it may seem a bit overwhelming. But if you learn commands, you can speed up your learning. I remember writing down each command in order to learn and not forget. In my opinion, operating AutoCAD with the Command line is one of the software’s key strengths. When you get used to using it, you can hide the Toolbars if you prefer.

Get started with AutoCAD
Get started with AutoCAD
  • Blocks

In some drawings, you’ll want to realize many objects, symbols, and standard parts that are repetitive. Of course, you can just copy them. But to be more productive, creating a block is the best.

Block is an essential factor while dealing with repetitive objects. It is reusable and allows you to update multiple same object at once in your drawing, which is so time-saving! You just have to double-click on one of them and make the change.

Get started with AutoCAD
  • Polyline Feature

When you draw an object using single lines, you won’t be able to select the whole object with a single click because the object is recognized as separated elements. Polylines combine elements to make a single object. By using it, you compress the file size, and you can even apply hatching in one shot. This is also a time-saving practical feature.

  • Spacebar

When you need to repeat a command you just used, press the Spacebar.

How to draw an object in AutoCAD ?

AutoCAD can draw any types of objects as straight lines, circles, arcs, rectangles, curves etc.

If you remember the name of the command you want to use, you can simply type it. If you don’t remember it, you can find it in the Draw panel, which displays the commands for drawing.

Get started with AutoCAD

How to use the commands in AutoCAD ?

As mentioned above, we need to type a command to operate AutoCAD. The Command line is at the bottom of the AutoCAD window. That’s where you enter your command.

For example, for drawing a square, just type “square” into the Command line and that’s it. For some command like “circle“, it may ask you more information such as “specify the center point” or “specify the radius” etc.

Get started with AutoCAD

What are the different commands in AutoCAD ?

There are hundreds of commands in AutoCAD. You can find the whole list in the website of Autodesk. It would be hard to learn all of them at once, so I wrote here the ones that I use the most to give you an idea for getting started.

AA : AREA / Calculates the area and perimeter of objects or of defined areas.
AL : ALIGN / Aligns objects with other objects in 2D and 3D.
B : BLOCK / Creates a block definition from selected objects.
BO : BOUNDARY / Creates a region or a polyline from an enclosed area.
BR : BREAK / Breaks the selected object between two points.
C : CIRCLE / Creates a circle.
CO : COPY / Copies objects a specified distance in a specified direction.
DT : TEXT / Creates a single-line text object.
E : ERASE / Removes objects from a drawing.
EX : EXTEND / Extends objects to meet the edges of other objects.
F : FILLET / Rounds and fillets the edges of objects.
G : GROUP / Creates and manages saved sets of objects called groups.
H : HATCH / Fills an enclosed area with a hatch pattern, solid fill, or gradient fill.
J : JOIN / Joins similar objects to form a single, unbroken object.
L : LINE / Creates straight line segments.
M : MOVE / Moves objects a specified distance in a specified direction.
MI : MIRROR / Creates a mirrored copy of selected objects.
RO : ROTATE / Rotates objects around a base point.
TR : TRIM / Trims objects to meet the edges of other objects.
X : EXPLODE / Breaks a compound object into its component objects.

What is the status bar in AutoCAD ?

The status bar displays the cursor location, drawing tools, and tools that affect your drawing environment.

It provides quick access to some of the most commonly used drawing tools. You can toggle settings such as grid, snap, polar tracking, and object snap. You can also access additional settings for some of these tools by clicking.

Not all tools are displayed by default; you can choose what tools to display from the Customization menu, the right button on the status bar. The tools displayed on the status bar might change depending on the current workspace and whether the Model tab or a layout tab is currently displayed.

Get started with AutoCAD

How to erase an object in AutoCAD ?

You can basically delete any object simply by selecting it and pressing the Delete key, or entering the command ‘Erase’.

To erase several objects at a time, hold the Shift key to select your objects. Then you can erase them altogether. You can also deselect objects by holding the Shift key and clicking the objects you don’t need.Apart from using the Delete key, you can also use the Undo command. This takes you back to drawing the object that you wish to erase.

Get started with AutoCAD

How to get started with AutoCAD ? Can I learn by myself ? Is it easy to learn ?

Get started with AutoCAD

Anyone, especially design-oriented individuals, can learn this software really fast. It takes some days to work out the basics and learn the fundamentals. Speaking from personal experience, AutoCAD isn’t a tough program to learn. I usually learn best by doing so I just start even though it seems overwhelming. Each time I get stuck, I search on internet. Nowadays, you can find plenty of free videos/tutorials on the web. Just enjoy learning!

Is there alternative to AutoCAD ?

AutoCAD is a great software, yes but it is quite expensive especially if you are a student or a hobbyist on a lean budget, for this reason, you may want to know if there is any alternative.

FreeCAD is one of the best open-source alternatives to AutoCAD for 3D modeling, though it supports 2D as well. Plus, it’s designed for Windows, macOS, and Linux environments. It is free, it supports a lot of file types and it is easy to use.

SketchUp, also a free tool is an excellent pick for CAD professionals. This is a 3D-modeling program used in a wide range of applications from interior design; architectural, civil, and mechanical engineering; video game, and film design. Available as a freeware version, the tool works with several types of files, including DWG, DXF, OBJ, XSI, and more, plus can export HD animations and PDFs.

While the architecture design software is mainly known for its free version, there are premium plans available if you need more functionality, such as unlimited access to pre-built 3D models, unlimited cloud storage, etc. It is also really easy to learn and use and it is particularly good for creating 3d models.

Get started with AutoCAD
Get started with AutoCAD

Get started with AutoCAD

That’s all I can say about AutoCAD for now. Remember, it looks complicated until you start using it. Try to navigate through the software using the mouse. Familiarize yourself with the navigation tools. Start with any drawing or any sample file.

If you keep practicing AutoCAD, you will be able to master it. Do not restrict yourself to drawing some random lines; work on an actual project. If you do not have any projects, try finding some samples online. Get started with AutoCAD!

Let me know if you have any questions, I would be happy to answer. I share also a lot of projects and illustrations on my Instagram, and if you still have time, check out my other posts!

Get started with AutoCAD in a quick and easy way