Learn AutoCAD in just 4 easy steps! This AutoCAD Tutorial for Beginners will guide you step by step to design your first object.
In this AutoCAD tutorial, you are going to learn the basics on 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 1 hour for it.
In this AutoCAD tutorial for beginners, you’ll learn
Step 1: How to install the software
Step 2: How to get around in AutoCAD
Step 3:How to sketch in 2D
Step 4:How to model in 3D
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 are good news: You can get AutoCAD and all of AutoDesk’s products for 3 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 3-month free trial for all Autodesk products.
After completing to 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.
At the bottom of the DrawSpace, you find the Command Bar (see image above). You can either enter the commands simply by typing in the command bar. It will contextually show you the options you got in a 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.
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. 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!
In the third step of this AutoCAD Tutorial, you will learn the basics to do 2D sketches.
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 to not 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 selection. Clicking and holding the left mouse button will enable the lasso, which lets you select a in 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 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 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 like so: X/Y/Angle°. You do not need to set ° to an angle when entering it in AutoCAD.
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 0/47.5 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.
Draw a second circle at 25/47.5. 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. 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 in 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.
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.
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.
After Trimming and Erasing you should end up with this.
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 3D alignment of both circles.
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 world by using the UCS command and then typing in “w”. Switch to 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.
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 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.
If you want to change the visual effects when displaying 3D objects, you can do so by changing the visual style from 2D Wireframe to Shadesof Grey or whatever visual style you favor.
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.
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.
Start with the single sphere and cylinder again. Now type in “Intersect”, select both objects and confirm.
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 8 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 circle as base and confirm. Then type in “Twist”, followed by 180 or any angle you want to twist the structure. If you don’t want to twist the sweep you do not need to do that. Select the arc as Sweep Path.
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”.
This brings us to the end of our AutoCAD tutorial for beginners.
AutoCAD is a powerful CAD software, which is supposed 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. There are some plugins yet 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 3-month free trial.
If you have any questions regarding this AutoCAD tutorial for beginners, feel free to leave your comment.
License: The text of "AutoCAD Tutorial for Beginners 2018 (Just 4 Easy Steps)" by All3DP is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.