Learnin just six easy steps. Our AutoCAD Tutorial for beginners will guide you step by step to design your first objects.
In this AutoCAD tutorial, you are going to learn the basics of how to use AutoCAD and create your first objects. AutoCAD is a powerful tool to create 2D and 3D objects, like architectural floorplans and constructions or engineering projects. It also can generate files for 3D printing.
If you want to start this AutoCAD tutorial for beginners, you should be able to spare roughly two hours for it.
In this AutoCAD tutorial for beginners, you’ll learn how to get around in AutoCAD, how to sketch in 2D and 3D, prepare for 3D printing, and how to do a technical drawing in the software.
In the first step of this AutoCAD Tutorial, you will learn how to install the software. If you already own and installed the software, you can skip to Step 2.
AutoCAD is a Computer Aided Design software developed by AutoDesk Inc. It’s a very in-depth, professional software design suite which can generate sophisticated results. To use Autodesk’s software, you must create an account on their website.
The price is quite steep, as this software is made for 3D designer professionals. If you want to get into CAD in general, there are also some free alternatives, which are listed here.
But there is good news: You can get AutoCAD and all of AutoDesk’s products for three years if you are a student. To activate your student license, enter your educational email address for registration. If you aren’t lucky enough to be entitled to a student rebate, you still can activate a 30-days free trial for all Autodesk products.
After completing the registration process, you should download the AutoCAD installer. Run the downloaded file. This will download and open the Install wizard. If needed you can change the install directory, chose which components you want to or install or install AutoCAD right away. This will initiate the download of AutoCAD.
In the second step of this AutoCAD Tutorial, you will learn how to interact with the workspace.
When opening the software for this AutoCAD tutorial, click on “Start Drawing” to open a new file or project. By doing this, you opened the “DrawSpace.”
At first, you need to customize your Quick Action Toolbar and add “Workspace” by clicking on it. Change now the new Toolbar “Drafting and Annotation” to “3D Modelling”. This will allow the use of all the Sketch and 3D Tools you need to design your first sketch and 3D Object.
If you want to change units to the metric system you‘re used to, click on the big red A in the top left corner. This will open the AutoCAD menu. Select “Drawing Utilities” > “Units”. Change the Insertion Scale to Millimeters.
2.3.1 The Command Bar
At the bottom of the DrawSpace, you find the Command Bar (see image above). You can either enter the commands simply by typing them in the command bar. It will contextually show you the options you got for the given command. Highlighted letters are shortcuts to those options.
Typing the corresponding letter and pressing “Enter” will directly activate the desired option. It will also list the order of steps you’ll need to take to execute the command correctly and display tips.
2.3.2 Orientation in AutoCAD
In the top right-hand corner of your DrawSpace, you can see a compass. It is set to “Top view” right by default. Hover over it, and you will see a little house symbol appear. Click on it to enter isometric view. Now you will see a 3D Cartesian coordinate system in the middle of your DrawSpace with three axes. The x-axis is represented in red, Y-Axis in green and Z-Axis in blue.
Also, the compass got extended by a cube. You can click on the faces, edges, and corners of the cube to enter the desired view. To pan the DrawSpace click on the “Hand” symbol or move around by holding down the mouse wheel. If you want to orbit your DrawSpace, click on “Orbit” in the right-hand toolbar. Click and hold on the DrawSpace to rotate around the center of the coordinate system by moving your mouse. You can also do so by holding the “Shift” key and the mouse wheel. If you want to orbit around a certain point, select “Free Orbit” by clicking on the extend arrow.
To Pan the DrawSpace, click on the “Hand” symbol or move around by holding down the mouse wheel. With the “Zoom Extends” option you can fit all of your created objects and sketches into your field of view.
Right now, you do not have anything to rotate around so hop the next step of this AutoCAD tutorial to start sketching!
Before we drill down into three-dimensional objects, let‘s have a look at 2D sketches you can do in AutoCAD.
When sketching with AutoCAD, you can make use of its Snapping option. To enable Grid Snap, simply press F9 on your keyboard or click on enable “Snap to Drawing Grid” in the bottom right-hand corner. By opening Snap Settings, you can adjust the Drawing Grid as well as the accuracy of Grid Snap.
By pressing F3 or clicking on Object Snap, you can activate clipping to corners, lines, points, midpoints and many more. Edit the object snapping to your current drawing goals. If you have problems with entering coordinates or sketching, try turning snapping on or off and try not to use Grid and Object snap simultaneously. This tool is useful to draw sketches fast and to prevent holes in your sketch.
To create your first sketch, select Top View with the compass. Disable Grid Snap by pressing F9. Now type “line” and press Enter. This will enable the Line command.
With AutoCAD, you can simply type in the first letters of any command. The software will autocomplete or show any available commands. When you have entered the line command, it asks you to specify the first point. You can now either select a random point in your DrawSpace or enter the coordinates. Enter 0 for X-Coordinate, change to Y-Coordinate by pressing Tab, enter 0 as well and confirm your coordinates by pressing Enter. You have now selected the center of the coordinate system as Start.
Now move your mouse to the positive side of the X-Axis. You can now see how the coordinate input changed to Polar coordinates. Enter 25 for the length of the line by pressing Tab you can switch to the angular input. Try sketching a square for starting. When you have returned to the center, press Escape to end the line command.
To select objects, you can click on them. Unselect by holding down the “Shift” key and clicking again. Select multiple objects by left-clicking and moving from left to right. This will select all objects fully enclosed within the blue rectangle. When you drag from right to left, you will select all objects touched by the green rectangle. Click again to confirm the selection. Clicking and holding the left mouse button will enable the lasso, which lets you select a random shape.
Of course, AutoCAD offers simpler ways to draw a square or rectangle. Select your entire rectangle by marking it. Click on the far outside of your rectangle once. This will enable a rectangular selection. If you click and hold you can lasso around the entity, you want to select. Press the Delete Button on your keyboard or type “Delete” to remove the selected lines.
In the upper toolbar, you can find all the drawing tools. You can either type in the command or click on the tool you want to use in the next steps. Coordinates, values, and angles are separated by a dash so: X/Y/Angle°. You do not need to set ° to an angle when entering it in AutoCAD. When refering to a specific coordinate we will use the cartesian convention (X,Y,Z).
3.4.1 Drawing Basic Shapes and Edit Sketches
For this AutoCAD tutorial, type in “Rectangle” and press Enter to initiate the command. Start at the CenterPoint and end at (10,50).
Start a circle at (0,40) and confirm by pressing enter. Set the radius to 8. If you made a mistake, simply double-click on the sketch you want to edit. In the popped-up window edit the values.
Start a center ellipse at (0,30). Set the major radius parallel to the X-Axis to 70 and set the minor radius to 30 (see image below).
3.4.2 Draw a second circle with Object Snap enabled
Draw a second circle at (25,40). Turn on Object Snap with by pressing F3 and guide the radius of the circle parallel to the Y-Axis until you intersect with the ellipse. Click when you see a green Cross. You need the circle to intersect the ellipse. Draw a line starting at (10,55), you might want to turn off Object Snap, so the starting point will not get caught at the corner of the rectangle. When you have placed the starting point turn on Object Snap with the “Tangent” option enabled. Draw a line at a 65° angle until it snaps with the second circle. Start a second line at the top right corner of the rectangle. Enable “Nearest” in Object Snap option draw a line in a 130° angle, snapping to the first circle.
3.4.3 Drawing with the Spline Command for Beginners
Create a Spline starting at the center point. With the Spline tool, you can create a continuous curved sine connecting points. First, you enter the distance, followed by the angle. If you made a mistake type in “U” and press Enter to undo the last step. Enter the following polar coordinates: 20/30°, 5/300°, 5/55°, 10/30°, 5/320°. End with a 230° Angle on the Ellipse. Now type in a “T” to End Tangency and type in 190° for the angle and press Enter.
3.4.4 Trim Entities
Using the “Trim” command, you can remove extra lines up to an intersection. You can also switch within the Trim command to “Erase” by typing R. This will remove lines not which are not intersecting like the Delete command. Start the Trim command and press Enter to select the entire Sketch for trimming. Trim the overhanging lines like in the picture. If you removed a line by mistake type in “U” to Undo. Also, take a close look at any lines stuck in between small edges. Those will most likely trouble in the extrusion process which will make your sketch 3D. Confirm with Enter when you finished.
Next, select the line in the middle and the spare ellipse on the left and delete them. Finally, highlight the tiny ellipse line in the upper triangle and delete it as well.
3.4.5 Mirror a Sketch
When drawing symmetrical sketches, it comes in handy to simply draw one-half of the sketch and mirror it afterward. Type in “Mirror” or select Mirror in the Modify toolbar. Then mark the entire sketch and confirm with Enter. Select CenterPoint as the first point of mirror line and for the second point a positive coordinate along the Y-Axis. Click “No” on the question to remove source object.
Congratulations! You have now sketched your first 2D draft with this AutoCAD Tutorial!
This is probably the most interesting part of this AutoCAD tutorial for beginners – we’re nearing 3D designing!
When working in 3D, you should remember, that drawing in AutoCAD is only possible on the XY-Plane. If you want to change the direction to draw or plot your 3D object, you must redefine the coordinate system.
Draw a random circle in your DrawSpace while being in Top view. Now enter Front view and type “UCS”. This will allow you to set a new coordinate system.
Type in “V” to set your current view as the new coordinate system. Draw a second circle concentric with the first one. Now rotate the model by holding Shift and the mouse wheel, and you will see the circles in planes perpendicular to each other.
4.1.1. Predefined 3D Objects
You can build predefined 3D Objects with AutoCAD like Cubes, Cylinders, Balls or Pyramids on the current plane you are drawing on or onto an objects face, edge or corner. Set you coordinate system back to the world by using the UCS command and then typing in “w.” Switch to the isometric view and type in “Cylinder.” Draw the base of the cylinder as you like and click when it has the desired radius. Now extrude the cylinder by moving your mouse upwards. You can enter a value for the height as well. Confirm by pressing enter. You can draw other basic shapes just as easy.
4.1.2 Extrude Feature in AutoCAD
You can also extrude your sketches with the Extrude feature. Draw a Polygon and set the number of edges to 8. Then chose CenterPoint as the center, and choose between Circumscribed or Inscribed within a circle. Finish the Polygon and type in “Extrude.” Select the Polygon as a base. Type in “Mode” followed by “Solid” to create a solid 3D Object. Then set the height of the object. You can change the height by double-clicking the object.
4.1.3 Chamfer and Fillet Feature
Edges and corners can be smoothed or chamfered easily. Switch to the Solid tab and click on Fillet Edge. You can now select all the top edges of the polygon. To lower the effort selecting all the edges manually, type in “Loop”. Then click on one top edge. Click next to flip through the possible edge connections. When all the top edges are highlighted click accept and type “Radius” to define the size of the Fillet. You can try out different values and preview the fillet. Click or type in radius again to change it. Press enter two times to accept the previewed fillet.
Now turn the polygon around and select with the arrow under the fillet feature the chamfer feature. Type in “Loop” again and select one bottom edge of the polygon. Click Next until the lower rim of the polygon is highlighted, followed by Accept. Now click on Distance and type in the first length of the chamfer. Confirm by pressing enter and type in the second length. Once again you can see a preview and hit enter two times to confirm.
4.1.4 Change Visuals of 3D Objects in AutoCAD
If you want to change the visual effects when displaying 3D objects, you can do so by typing in VISUALSTYLES. You can change the visual style from 2D Wireframe to Shades of Grey or whatever style you favor.
4.2.1 Merge Objects
Build a sphere with the same radius right on top of a cylinder.
Now type in “Union” and select the sphere and the cylinder. Confirm with Enter. When you hover over both shapes you will see that they have become one solid object.
4.2.2 Subtract Objects
Repeat build a cylinder and sphere or use Undo to the point before you merged both objects. Now type in “Subtract.” At first, you need to select the object which to subtract from. Select the cylinder and confirm. Now select the sphere as the object to subtract and confirm.
4.2.3 Intersect Objects
Start with a single sphere and cylinder again. Now type in “Intersect,” select both objects and confirm.
4.3.1 Sweep Feature
The Sweep Feature comes in handy when designing complex curved structures. By twisting it, you can add a nice detail to your design. To do a Sweep in AutoCAD, you will need to sketch to the base geometry of your sweep first. Draw a polygon on the CenterPoint with eight edges. Then set the UCS to Front view and draw an Arc from the CenterPoint. This will be the Sweep Path. It must not cross nor can it be too close to itself. Now type in “Sweep,” select the arcas base and confirm. Then type in “Mode”, followed by “solid” and subsequently “Twist”. Decide on the angle that you want to twist the structure. For this example, the angle used was 180°. If you don’t want to twist the sweep you do not need to do that. Select the arc as Sweep Path.
4.3.2 Loft Feature
Draw a circle on the CenterPoint with a radius of 100. Switch to Front view and set the CenterPoint of an 8-edged polygon on (0,0,50). Switch back to Top view and finish the polygon circumscribed by a radius of 100. Start “Loft” Command and select the circle and then the polygon. Type in “Mode” and select Solid. Press Enter and click on “Cross Sections only.”
4.3.3 Revolve Feature in AutoCAD
The Revolve Feature is an uncomplicated way to design shafts or objects with line symmetry. Start by sketching the object you want to revolve. Start a line at the CenterPoint and follow the Y-Axis to a length of 50. Then finish the sketch like in the picture. Select everything except the center line and confirm. Now select one endpoint of the center line and then the other. This will define the rotation axis. You can also type in Y, as the Y-Axis is the rotation axis in this sketch. Set the Angle to 270° and confirm. Only if you do a 360° rotation, the object will be solid.
If you want to 3D print or share your creations with other people, you probably want to create or edit a mesh file like .stl. However, AutoCAD is not the ideal CAD software for this matter. It can export to .stl, but it sadly can not open .stl or .obj files. There are however ways to bypass this problem.
As stated, AutoCAD cannot import Mesh-Files, but it can work with the standardized ISO format STEP .step and Autodesk’s interchange format .dxf. To generate these file types you can use other AutoCAD software like Inventor or free software like FreeCAD. You can also use a quick way and upload the .stl to a converter provided by CAD-Forum and generate a .dxf file.
Open .dxf files in AutoCAD by first creating a new Drawing. Then click on the AutoCAD logo > Open > Drawing and select .dxf as file type in the file browser. When the model is imported, you can change the visual style by typing VISUALSTYLES.
Luckily exporting .stl files is possible with AutoCAD. To do so click on the AutoCAD logo > Export > Other File Formats and select .stl as the file type in the file browser.
If you want to create a technical drawing of a model you created, AutoCAD is a great software to work with. At first, you will need a template sheet for the technical drawing. You can find templates on the AutoCAD website for free. Download the Manufacturing Metric template. Open the object you want to create a technical drawing from. Then right-click on the + in the bottom left corner and open the downloaded template. You can insert your name, project or other information into the title block in the bottom right of the sheet by double-clicking it.
Once you are in the drawing sheet template tab, click on Base > From Model Space.
Click to place the first view (which is the front view) in the middle of your sheet. Once you have clicked, you can select orientation to switch to a different view. If the model is too large or small, click on Scale and select a scaling factor. Click on Move to position the object. Left-Click at the desired position to accept. You can now continue to place other views by dragging the mouse horizontally or vertically. Left-Click to confirm each position. If you move the object to a 45° angle, you can place the isometric view. Try to place enough views of the object so most or all of the features can be seen. If you select one view, you can move it with the blue square and size it with the blue triangle.
When placing dimensions, you have to follow three basic rules:
To start annotating switch to the Annotation tab. Select the Dimension command. This is a smart command which adapts to the feature you want to annotate. Now select the first line or two dots you want to describe. You will then see the length or radius, and you can move the annotation into position. Position the annotation, so it does not intercept with other lines, numbers or is too close to the object itself.
If you want to dimension circles or holes, you will have to place a center mark first. Click on Center Mark in the annotation tab and select a circle. Now use the Dimension Command to annotate the circle. You can switch between Radius and Diameter by typing R or D on your keyboard.
To place a detail view of your drawing click on Layout > Detail > Circular. First, select the parent view you want to specify followed by clicking in the middle of the detail to set a center point. Then draw a circle enclosing the detail. Place the detailed view at a free spot.
If you want to look inside a drawing, you can use Layout > Section View. Select the view you want to create a section from followed by selecting two points for the section line. Confirm by pressing enter and place the section view at a free spot. You can also change the size and line style afterward.
This brings us to the end of our AutoCAD tutorial for beginners.
AutoCAD is a powerful CAD software, which is intended to be used for architectural design and mechanical engineering. It has one of the best toolboxes and features to support 2D drawings. When it comes to 3D design, it is still impressive, especially when rendering 3D objects in a realistic way.
However, there are easier to use 3D programs. One major disadvantage of AutoCAD is the missing support of mesh files. You cannot import or export .stl or .obj when working with AutoCAD without going through some workarounds. Even though there are some plugins, they only support binary mesh files. Still, AutoDesk offers another 3D software called Inventor, which is great for creating or editing 3D models. You can access it with your student license or use it with your 1-month free trial.
If you have any questions regarding this AutoCAD tutorial for beginners, feel free to leave your comment.
License: The text of "2020 AutoCAD Tutorial: 6 Easy Steps for Beginners" by All3DP is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.
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