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DUSP CDD Design Software Workshop


AutoCAD + Adobe Illustrator

This tutorial is aimed at beginners and intermediate level urban designers, with limited
or no prior experience with AutoCAD and Adobe Illustrator. Since both software
packages are commonly used in urban and architectural design practice, the tutorial
provides a brief overview of some basic functionality.

Sept, 2, 2009

© Andres Sevtsuk

Contact: asevtsuk@mit.edu

 

AutoCAD

In order to get you off at a head start, we’ve prepared a site plan (an actual site in
Somerville, MA), which we shall use as the base drawing. We shall modify this base
drawing by designing a new building footprint, modifying the landscaping and enhancing
the drawing with details like shadows, trees etc. We shall then bring the drawing over to
Adobe Illustrator for additional enhancements like setting line wights, adding color, etc.
However, before getting started on modifying the base drawing in either software, we
shall go over some basic functionality in AutoCAD and Illustrator.

AutoCAD basics

Open AutoCAD by:


Start Æ Programs Æ Autodesk Æ AutoCAD2008 Æ AutoCAD2008

1. Explore the interface:

1. Active Layer and its 
attributes (right): color, 
line type and line weight 

2. Model Drawing Area. You can adjust  3. On the top you typically see the toolbars. 
background color by right clickÆOptionsÆ  Right click at an empty toolbar area Æ ACAD 
Display pane: Colors  to see all the toolbar options. It is typical to 
hold ‘Layers’, ‘Properties’, and ‘Standard 
4. Cursor which also provides some info 
Annotation’ always open. You can add many 
about the current drawing object. (you 
others, and by dragging the toolbars off the 
can adjust the size by: right click in the 
top row, you can position them on either side 
drawing area Æ Options Æ crosshair size) 
of the screen or bottom. 
5. This is where AutoCAD returns information.  7. Buttons for OSNAP (snap to 
For ex, if you measure distance between 2  existing objects in the drawing is a 
points, this is where you read the answer.   major help), ORTO (lock new drawing 
to orthogonal directions only), 
6. Command Line: here you can type in 
OTRACK (helps drawing by extension 
AutoCAD commands instead of choosing them 
lines from existing objects) LWT 
with a mouse. Full list of commands is 
(displays layer line weights), 
available under: ToolsÆ Customize Æ Edit 
MODEL(switch between paper space 
Program Parameters 
and model space)etc.   

 

2.1. Selecting objects

There are three important things to know about selecting objects with a mouse.
1) If you draw a selection box from left to right (picking the first selection box corner
and then moving RIGHT for the second corner), then ONLY the object that fall
FULLY INSIDE the box will be selected.
2) If you draw a selection box from right to left (picking the first selection box corner
and then moving LEFT for the second corner), then all of the object that either fall
fully inside the box, or are INTERSECTED by the box will be selected.
3) Another useful way to select things is by using the FENCE selection. This allows
you to draw a selection fence much like a polyline, and all the objects that the
fence intersects along the way will be selected. To use this, first type ‘SELECT’
on the command line, press enter or the space bar, then type ‘FENCE’ or just ‘F’,
and draw the selection line. Press enter when done selecting. This is useful if you
have to choose items that are hard to capture with a selection box.

2.2. Layers

Objects can and should be often arranged on different layers. Open the layers menu
and see what layers are currently created. Layer ‘0’ is always there by default, you
cannot delete it. You can add new layers, and set properties for them, which will apply
to all the objects on these layers. When drawing, the objects you create will fall into the
‘current’ layer. To change the current layer, open the layers menu, select one, and
press ‘current’. Alternatively just choose an object of a certain layer in the drawing and
click the yellow ‘current layer’ icon next to the layers menu button.

Turning layers invisible, frozen or locking them is helpful in managing complex drawings
and creating clean AutoCAD files. Another useful quality is that when we export
drawings to Illustrator, then Illustrator can recognize AutoCAD layers and maintain the
organizations. We shall see how useful that is later.

Try to be systematic in arranging drawing objects on layers. There are two common
ways to go about it- 1) if the drawing is shared by several people, then it can be useful
to separate different types of objects onto separate layers. For example have one layer
for trees, one for buildings, one for text, one for cars, one for pavements and so on. 2) If
you’re preparing a drawing for printing, then it is often useful to put objects whose lines
you want to print in different line widths, on separate layers, For ex. The objects that the
plan slices trough can be represented with thicker lines, objects that are in the
background with thinner lines, some less important objects in lighter colors etc.

3. Drawing with lines

2.1 Make sure the ‘Draw’ and ‘Modify’ toolbars are open. If not you can open them by
right-clicking in an empty toolbar areaÆACADÆ Draw, Modify. Move these toolbars to
somewhere in the top or side docking area.

 

3.1 Explore the ‘Draw’ toolbar:

Polyline  Rectangle  Hatch  Text 

Construction Line  Polygon 

Polyline (command shortcut ‘pl’): A Polyline is probably the most common drawing tool
in AutoCAD. A polyline is a set of line- or arc segments, held together in a continuous
chain. Multiple segments of a Polyline all form a single object together (as opposed to a
Line tool, where each segment is a separate object). Arc and Spline (command
shortcuts ‘a’ and ‘spl’):can be useful too for curves, but you can actually get all their
functionality with a Polyline instead as well.

Try drawing the following Polyline:

Choose the Polyline tool (or type ‘pl’ and press enter) Æ click the 5 first vertexes Æ after
the fifth vertex observe the command line. It offers the following options:
Specify next point or Arc/Close/Halfwidth/Length/Undo/Width]:

Notice that the Arc/Close/Halfwidth/Length/Undo/Width options have capital first


letters. These signal to you that you can just press one of the capital letters (e.g. “A”) to
tell AutoCAD that you would now like to continue with an Arc.
Press “A” Æ draw the next 2 Polyline points, now the Polyline continues with arcs.
Now note the command line options again (while drawing an arc into the polyline):
[Angle/CEnter/CLose/Direction/Halfwidth/Line/Radius/Second pt/Undo/Width]:

 

If you choose Line by pressing “L”, the following polyline segments turn into straight
lines again and stay like that unless you change them again.

ORTO: AutoCAD offers a convenient option for drawing exactly orthogonal lines. At the
very bottom of the screen, one of the buttons is called ORTO. If you press it down, then
the lines you draw will be constrained to orthogonal or 45 degree angles. The shortcut
for turning this on or off is ‘F8’. Try turning it on and off and drawing some polylines.

Undo: At any point while drawing a polyline with multiple vertexes, you can also go to
EditÆ Undo to delete the last vertex. This is very useful when you mess up some points
and want to redraw them. Instead of navigating to EditÆUndo with the mouse, you can
also just type “u”.

Close: At any time while drawing a polyline you can press “c” to close and finish the
polyline.

Specific Length: if you need to draw a polyline segment to a precise length, which is
often the case, then choose a starting point, move the mouse in the desired direction of
the next point, and type in the desired length for the Polyline segment on the command
line. Before you do that make sure you know what your drawing units are: FormatÆ
Units: insertion scale. In the following exercise the units are ‘inches’.

Distance: to verify how long some segment on an existing drawing is, type “di” for
distance on the command line, and then select a start and end point in the drawing.
Observe the result in the command line.

There are a few more very useful functions on the Drawing toolbar:

Construction Line (command shortcut ‘xl’): makes an infinitely long line that can be
helpful as a drawing axis or alignment boundary. Typically keep these on a separate
layer.
Polygon (command shortcut ‘pol’): makes an equilateral polygons with any desired
amount of sides. Try making a hexagon with 6 sides. Follow the directions AutoCAD
gives you on the Command Line when using the tool.
Rectangle (command shortcut ‘rec’): This allows you to make rectangle shaped
polylines of desired size. Whether click two corner points, or click the first and enter
numeric X and Y dimensions on the command line.
Hatch (command shortcut ‘h’): Enables you to create a hatch inside an area closed by
lines or polylines. Select hatch (or type ‘h’), pick a closed polyline, and press enter or
right click. You can set the hatch properties in the dialog box.
Text (command shortcut ‘t’): This allows you to enter texts at desired places, and set
the properties of the text object.

It often occurs that you need to change something on a polyline you’ve already drawn.
For instance, you need to move some of its vertexes, join the polyline with some other
polylines, give the line a certain width etc. This is what the Edit Polyline (command

 

shortcut: ’pedit’ or ’pe’) command is ideal for. Type ‘pedit’, choose a polyline and see
the editing options on the command line:
Enter an option [Close/Join/Width/Edit vertex/Fit/Spline/Decurve/Ltype
If you type ‘E’, then you go into edit vertex mode. This allows you to move around
existing vertexes and add new ones. You can move between vertexes by pressing “n”
for next, or “p” for previous. “C” is for close which allows you to close off existing
polylines.

Another way for modifying polyline, which is sometimes simpler, is to just select the
polyline, grab one of its vertexes with the mouse, and drag it to another location. If you
hold down Shift when selecting a vertex, then you can also select multiple vertexes for
modification.

Edit multiple polylines (command shortcut: ‘mpedit’): this allows you to choose a set
of polylines at once and edit them all together. After selecting the set of lines, arcs or
polylines, AutoCAD asks if you want to convert them into polylines, Reply yes ‘Y’ on the
command line and continue. See the options that are offered. This is, for instance, a
good way to join a series of lines together into one polyline.

Edit Text (command shortcut ‘ed’): This allows you to edit existing text objects.

3.2. Explore the “Modify” Toolbar

The next important toolbar is Modify, which allows you to transform existing objects.

From left to right


Erase (shortcut ‘e’): lets you choose and erase objects. You can use the same selection
box technique as explained above to erase several objects at once. You can also use
the fence ‘F’…
Copy (shortcut ‘cp’): Choose tool, select base point, and drag copies of it around
Mirror (shortcut ‘mi’): Creates a mirror copy of an object. Need to specify an axis.
Offset (shortcut ‘o’): Offsets an object border to a given distance. Works with all types
of objects (lines, circles, polylines, splines, etc)
Array (shortcut ‘ar’): creates either rectangular or circular array of objects. Specify base
point, and X, Y distances.
Move (shortcut ‘m’): Move objects, need to specify a base point.
Rotate (shortcut ‘ro’): Rotates objects, need to specify a base point. The tool also
allows you to create a copy when rotating, or rotating according to a reference.
Specify rotation angle or [Copy/Reference] <0>: In the latter case press ‘R’,
specify a base point, then a first axis point, and then the second axis point where you
want the first axis point to rotate.
Scale (shortcut ‘sc’): Scales objects. You need to specify a base point. You can either
drag the size with the mouse or enter a numeric value.

 

Stretch (shortcut ‘s’): Stretches selected vertexes of an object to where you want them.
Trim (shortcut ‘tr’): When two lines (objects) cross each other, you can cut off one with
the other. First select the cutting object, then press enter or right click, lastly select the
objects to be cut.
Extend (shortcut ‘ex’): Extends lines or polylines to a desired object. First select the
object to which you want the extension to reach, press enter or right click, then select
the object to extend.
Break at point: Makes a tiny gap at the chosen location in the object and thereby adds
two new vertexes.
Join (shortcut ‘j’): Joins two selected lines into one if they share a common vertex. If
you join lines to polylines, or arcs, then it is often simpler to just use Edit Polyline
(‘pedit’), which works for all of them.
Fillet (shortcut ‘f’): creates a round corner connection between two straight lines. You
can input a desired radius.
Explode (shortcut ‘x’): Explodes a polyline into individual segment objects.

3.3 Snapping objects

To ‘Osnap’ in AutoCAD (object snap) means to connect a vertex of the object you’re
drawing to some other object in a desired way. This allows you to do very precise
connections between lines. For example, you can set the starting point of one line
precisely at the end point of another, or as a matter of fact, any point on the other
object. If you want to use osnapping, then turn on OSNAP at the bottom of the screen,
or press F3.

If you hold down Shift, and right click on the drawing canvas, then the snap menu
appear. You can use this while you’re in the process of drawing an object to snap
precisely to a desired part of an object. Also at the bottom of this menu you see Osnap
Options. Here you can choose which osnap properties you want active all the time.
‘Nearest’ for example means that osnap snaps to on a reference object anywhere you
point, not necessarily a corner, or midpoint etc, but just on the object.

 

Exercise 1: Designing a site plan in AutoCAD

1. Download and open


http://web.mit.edu/asevtsuk/Public/CDD_design_sftware_workshop/plan.dwg

2. Explore the drawing; see what layers it has, by either opening the layer drop down
menu, or the Layer Properties Manager.

Layer Properties Manager  Layer Dropdown menu 
 Current Layer  

3. Create a new layer, called ‘My_siteplan’ in the Layer Properties Manager. Make this
the current layer, by selecting it, and then pressing the Set Current. Click OK.

New Layer 

Set Current 

4. In the middle of the drawing there is a red hatched area. This is the boundary where
you should design a new building footprint for the site plan. You should draw your plan
on the new ‘My_siteplan’ layer. Feel free to turn off the layer ‘site_boundary’ that has
the red area if it bothers you.

 

5. Draw any shape of a building footprint you think is appropriate for this site plan. As an
example I’ve providing one plan below, but you’re free to design any shape you like. Try
to make use of the polyline features, and end up with a single closed polyline.

6. Try to take advantage of construction lines and snapping in order to align your
building sensibly with the surrounding context. For instance, you can use the edge of
the opening towards Mystic Ave as a guideline for alignment, as shown below. Don’t
worry about the design too much, just do something quick so we can move on.
10 
 

When done with the building footprint, change the layer of the new footprint polyline
from ‘My_siteplan to the existing ‘site_bldng_outlines’. Make sure the the ‘LWT’ button
at the very bottom of the screen is turned on to display the correct line weights.

7. Add a shadow to the house. Having shadows on a plan is very useful for
understanding the third dimension – how high the buildings are- from a two-dimensional
plan drawing.

Follow the example of other buildings in the drawing and use the ‘shadows’ layer for
drawing the shadow. We shall assume that your building is 240 inches tall. If the sun
falls at a 45 degree vertical angle, then the length of the shadow must also be 240
inches. This is a typical assumption… The horizontal angle of the shadow should just
follow the same direction as all the other shadows.

To help you get that precise angle, I’ve drawn a shadow edge line that is 240 in long,
and placed it right next to the Mystic Ave text. Move or copy it to your building, placing
the line at all the vertexes on the shadow side of the building footprint you drew (as
shown below).

Finally, create a closed polyline (‘pl’) that ties together the end points of the shadow
lines on one side, and the building wall on the other, and fill it with a solid hatch (‘h’).
Then delete the shadow construction lines and make sure the new shadow is on the
‘shadow’ layer.

Send the gray shadow behind all the other lines by selecting the shadow line and hatch,
and then, on the top of the screen, going to ToolsÆ Display order Æ send to back.

8.Try to add four new parking spaces for the building. Use the layer ‘Roads’ for the
parking spaces. You may put them wherever you want near the building. See an
example on the previous drawing. Here you can make use of the copy (‘cp’), offset (’o’)
11 
 

or rotate (‘r’) tools to make the parking spaces as large as the others on the drawing.
You can also try using the trim (‘tr’) and extend (‘ex’) tools.

At the end, make sure all the new parking space lines are on the ‘Roads’ layer, or
change them to the ‘Roads’ layer if they are not (by activating them with a selection, and
then choosing the ‘Roads’ layer from the dropdown). Another way to change object
layers is to use the ‘match properties tool’ (shortcut ‘ma’). This allows you to pick an
object that is already on the ‘roads’ layer, and transfer the same properties to another
object.

Match properties tool.

9. Next, try placing some trees around the house by copying (shortcut ’cp’) the trees
from the surrounding area. You can try the scale tool (‘sc’) to resize the trees. Make
sure the trees remain on the ‘trees’ layer.

10. When done, save the drawing with a new name on the Desktop.
12 
 

Adobe Illustrator
Open Adobe Illustrator from StartÆ program Files Æ Adobe Æ Adobe Illustrator CS4
(not CS3, which will not automatically recognize AutoCAD layers).

In Illustrator open the site plan drawing you saved from AutoCAD. When the dxf/dwg
Dialog Box opens, choose ‘original size’ for the Artwork Scale. This keeps the drawing
in the same unit measurements as it was in AutoCAD.

The drawing should appear rather large, so we need to zoom out to see it all. You can
zoom in or our in Illustrator with holding down the Ctrl key and pressing – or +
respectively. You can also use the zoom tool from the toolbar on the right (Holding
down Alt while using the zoom tool enables to zoom out rather than in). You should see
something like the image below.

1. Let’s first study the interface of Adobe Illustrator.

4. Basic properties of currently 
selected  drawing objects: colors, 
2. Menus for object properties
size, font etc. 

1. Tools that cover most of 
Illustrator capabilities.  Layers 

6. Artboard                      
(Current print page size) 

3. Object fill color and 
object line color 

5. Drawing Area 
13 
 

2. Tools : The Illustrator tools allow you to create new or manipulate existing drawing
objects. Let’s look at a few essentials one by one:

Selection tool (V), select the whole object including its sub‐objects 

Direct selection tool (A), selects the sub‐objects or parts of a larger object (e.g. vertexes, sides etc) 

Pen tool (P), draws paths (similar to AutoCAD polylines) by clicking individual points. If you click a point and hold 
down the mouse, you can create curvatures for each point. A path has two colors‐ the fill and the line color 
Type  tool (T), creates text, vertical text, curved text along a line etc. If the tool icon has a little black corner on 
the right, then it contains more sub‐options. 
Line  tool (\), creates text, vertical text, curved text along a line etc. If the tool icon has a little black corner on 
the right, then it contains more sub‐options. 
Rectangle  tool (M), creates rectangles, rounded corner rectangles, circles, ellipses, polygons etc. 

Eraser (Shift E) & Scissors (C) allows you to slice through existing objects and split them in parts (like Trim in AutoCAD). 

Rotate (R) & Reflect (O) rotate or mirror existing objects.

Scale (S) rescale existing objects.

Free Transform (E) allows you to do several transformation with one tool‐ rotate, stretch. 

Gradient tool (G) allows you to fill objects with gradient colors. 

Eyedropper tool (I) allows you to copy properties of one object onto others (like ‘match properties’ in AutoCAD). 

Artboard tool (Shift+O) allows you to set the size of the Artboard (paper if you print) 

Hand tool (H) allows you to push around the drawing to navigate. You can simply hold down the space key and drag 
the mouse while in the process of using some other tool. 

Zoom tool (Z) allows you to zoom in and out (hold ‘Alt’ for zooming out). 

Reverse line and fill colors 
14 
 

2. Menus for object properties:

Stroke Menu, allows you to set line widths and styles. 

Transperancy Menu, allows you to control the transparency of the 

Layers Menu, all the controls for manipulating layers . 

3. Selecting objects

Generally you can just use the Selection and Direct selection tools. However, if you
need to select a whole set of objects with similar properties (e.g. all that have the same
color, or belong to the same layer etc) then you can select one single object, and then
go to ‘Select Æ Same’ or ‘Select Æ Object’ menus. For example, select Æ same Æ ‘fill
and stroke’ will select all the objects in the drawing that have the same line color, line
width, and fill color as the reference object. Select Æ objectÆ’All on same layers’ will
select all the objects that belong to the same layer as the reference object.
15 
 

Exercise 2: Enhance an AutoCAD drawing in Adobe Illustrator

1. First, let’s set the drawing units to inches. Go to Edit Æ PreferencesÆ Units &
Display Performance. Under ‘General’ use the dropdown menu and choose ‘inches’.
Click OK. Now the drawing units, page size and other general measurements are
displayed in inches.

2. Now set the Artboard size to A1. A1 is a rather common size for printing out plans. It
measures 23.4 × 33.1 inches. Select the Artboard Tool, and in the properties on the top
of the screen set W (Width): 33.1 and H(Height): to 23.4 inches. That should resize the
Artboard into an A1 size, as shown below. To deselect everything, choose the Selection
Tool and click in an empty area on the drawing.

3. Rescale the whole drawing to fit inside the A1 Artboard. Go to Select Æ All (or press
Ctrl+A). When all objects appear selected, pick the Selection Tool, grab the tiny white
rectangle in the upper left corner of the entire selected object collection, and drag to
rescale the objects. Press down ‘Shift’ and ‘Alt’ at the same time for the scale to work
uniformly on all sides. Try to scale down the drawing so it all fits neatly inside the
Artboard. You can use the Direct Selection tool to move the corner point of the drawing
precisely to the corner point of the Artboard. You will end up with your drawing inside
the Artboard.
16 
 

4. Now with the drawing scale in place, we shall set the line and fill properties for some
layers. Layer 0 just contains the drawing border and we can turn it off by clicking on the
eye icon in the layer list next to Layer 0. The ‘Text’ layer does not require line widths
since it only contains text objects that do not have border lines. Let’s do the ‘trees’ first.

4.1 Select one tree in the drawing. Then go to SelectÆObjectÆ All on same layers.
This should select all the objects on the “trees” layer in the drawing.

4.2 When all trees are selected, open the Stroke menu on the left. Open the drop-down
list next to Weight, and choose 0.25 points. This makes all tree outlines 0.25 points
wide.

4.3 Now, keeping all the trees selected, let’s pick a fill color and an outline color for the
trees (at the bottom of the tools on the left). Try picking a black outline and some green
infill. You can also select individual trees and provide them slightly different shades of
greens to create some variety.

4.4 Finally, with all the trees still selected, let’s give this layer a transparency. If you
happen to lose the selection at some point, just repeat step 4.2. Then open the
Transparency menu on the left, and type “50” inside the Opacity box. This sets all trees
semitransparent.

4.5 Now let’s fix the shadows. Repeat step 4.2 with some shadow object. Under the
Stroke menu, type “0” for the Weights, so that shadows will have no edge outlines.
17 
 

Then, with all shadows still selected, change the shadow fill color to light gray. Finally in
the Layers menu on the right, make sure the shadow layer is at the bottom of the stack.
Unlike AutoCAD, the order of layers in the Layer menu has great importance in Adobe
Illustrator – layers that are above others in the stack, are also displayed above others in
the drawing. We want the shadows to be the bottom layer.

You can also see in the layer stack that you can lock or hide layers much like in
autoCAD to make the drawing process easier. If you have a long stack of layers, one
trick you can use is to hold down the Alt key and then selecting a layer. This will turn all
other layers except the one selected, on or off.

4.6 Lets now make the building outlines thicker. You should generally consider
accentuating the most important information in the drawing with thicker lines. Since this
is a site plan and we’ve designed new building footprints, we’ll accentuate them. Repeat
step 4.2 with building outlines give them a Stroke weight “3”, and an outline color black.
No infill color is needed.

4.7 Change the stroke Weight of all objects of the ‘Roads’ layer to 0.25 and outline color
to dark gray (do not add any infill color, else…see what happens). Also change all the
text objects to black. The end result should resemble the following:

This drawing can now be printed or saved as a PDF. It is the size of an A1 page.