Layers in AutoCAD: How Easy Life Has Gotten!

Ok, so you may or may not have heard of AutoCAD Layers before but if you haven't I guarantee your AutoCAD life is about to get easier. AutoCAD layers are an incredibly powerful tool in AutoCAD.  In this article I am going to show you exactly how to use layers to make your AutoCAD work flow easier to manage, easier to organize and more enjoyable!

First of all, the basic concept of layers is really simple.  When you drag windows over each other in, well, Windows, you're putting some windows "on top of" other windows.  The same thing applies with AutoCAD, except that you have a lot more control over the layers. You can make some of them transparent and can move drawing elements from one layer to another.

A good way to think of layers is to think of them as clear plastic sheet. Imagine drawing on all sheets and being able to remove or lift sheets to reveal only the detail beneath. However, this is only the start of what layers can do, there are things that layers can do that you'd never think of doing with a plastic sheet! 

Layers are managed with the Layer Properties Manager button, which looks like a little icon of three sheets of paper stacked one atop the other. Each layer has a color associated with it – this is the color the line segments will show when that object is selected. You can also vary the line type, the weight of the line and lock, unlock or hide layers so that they're out of the way.  You can define if a layer is to be printed (you can make layers display that don't print, or ones that print that don't display.  This is the first place to check if something didn't print properly!)

OK, here's the first difference:  By default, AutoCAD puts your drawing elements on a layer called "0", and sets this as the current layer (you can use the Layers palette to change which layer is "current").  You should immediately make a new layer, and assign it a name.  When you're doing a complex drawing, like say a set of building plans to build a boat, label each section and put them into separate layers.  This allows you to turn layers on or off (make them visible or invisible) or even shuffle them, to see how things overlap or interact.  This is an incredibly powerful tool…but it's only as powerful as you make it out to be.

Here's a second trick you can do to make your layering experience more useful:  AutoCAD allows you to group layers together and make "sublayers".  If you're doing drawings that have line segments and fills, consider putting the line segments on one layer and the fills on another.  This allows you to select a sublayer, hit Ctrl A (select all) and change colors of the fills at once.  Do this for all commonly grouped elements, and you'll be able to adjust nearly anything in a blink of an eye.  (Nothing in AutoCAD is as tedious as hand selecting a bunch of objects, tweaking them, finding you've missed one, and having to do it over, and over and over again.)

The third and final trick that layers let you do is to move objects between layers.  (I can remember the days when this wasn't possible.  Life was very much unfun back then.)  This is extremely helpful when you add objects to the wrong layer or just want to assign entirely different properties to a group of objects.

So, as you can see from the great time saving features layers can provide, why wouldn't you use it?

Hope this helped you get a grasp on layers. For those of you who are more visual there are two videos below showing you exactly how to use autocad layers.

For more tutorials you can head over to my autocad tutorial hubs or my video tutorials. Other than that, happy AutoCADding.

Video Tutorials on Using AutoCAD Layers

AutoCAD Video Tutorial - How to use Layers Part 1

AutoCAD Video Tutorial - How to use Layers Part 2

Autodesk/AutoCAD News

AutoCAD Tutorial News