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Working with Layers in AutoCAD | The Ultimate Guide for All - 101 Architech Projects & Blogs

Working with Layers in AutoCAD | The Ultimate Guide for All

Notice | Disclaimer

  • Your UI (User Interface) might slightly differ from the one shown in this tutorial depending on the AutoCAD version being used.
  • Therefore it is highly advised to follow the global process as one whole knowledgeable entity (as it is) for educational purposes only.
  • Actually, the AutoCAD © version used in this course is the 2013 edition.
  • The site is not responsible for any data loss or harm of any kind, resulting from a bad usage of the commands and tools listed in this post. Therefore the information contained in this article is as it is, and is not to be modified under any condition.

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Working with Layers in AutoCAD © | The Complete Guide

Working with Layers

What are Layers and Why are They so Important in Managing your Work?

This is the third and last course from the series Learning the basics of AutoCAD 2D, where we are discussing the most powerful tools featured in this program.

We did learn so far about using the Blocks and creating the Dimensions styles, and how to benefit from their big advantages in order to enhance our drafting experience all the way.

But still, we have to master the Layer Manager (LA) command and how to use it to improve our architectural drawings.

The Concept of Layers

Let us first illustrate a simple approach to describe the concept of layers; Layers are unreal surfaces or transparent plans that are created within a CAD drawing. They are used to arrange objects as overlapped groups, change the visibility, control AutoCAD objects, and much more.

We can think of layers as having multiple sheets of transparent paper, representing each layer contained in the drawing, placed over each other that allow us to work on each floor individually.

Objects in AutoCAD are different entities created within layers defined with properties and acting as their Identity (ID). As examples of such properties-characteristics, we can list the following and not only limited to colors, linetypes, or names but even for other essential referral types of properties that indicate directly the nature of the objects, identifying them with useful information.

For instance, a rectangle drawn on a layer named E-panel will clearly tell us its correspondence to an electrical panel board, and so on...

  • Tip- By enabling the Quick Properties (Ctrl+Shift+P) you will have a quick properties review by hovering (not selecting) your pointing device over the required object. Likewise, selecting the object will show a customizable table of the most used properties to display or edit.
  • Likely, you can use the List (LI) command for listing a full detailed report of the compounds of objects including their succeeding coordinates and vertices.

The figure below shows clearly the concept; a group of layers with the following given names Cabinets, Fixtures, Electrical, Doors, and Floor plan. Each one of those layers contains groups of objects with different properties. In the next section, we will be discussing in more detail how we can manage this concept to gain many benefits from it in our work.

Layers Conception in AutoCAD, Photo by

The Essential Layers’ Features

The main target of creating as many layers in a drawing is to facilitate the work organization, right? And it is worth it! What’s more bothering than falling on a drawing where all its objects are created within a single layer? A real nightmare to deal with!

We can assign, for example, the green color to identify all the electrical wires featured in the drawing. In addition to the color, we can also assign a line type (dashed or other…) and lines’ thickness for the printed output or simply for better visualization and work organization. In other terms, when you create layers, each one has its own associated properties that are unique to that layer.

Good to note anyway, that the pen assignment is also defined by the layers; i.e. we can assign the various lines’ thickness individually to each layer depending on its type (thin or thick). For example, a layer named wall-section or simply A-Walls is not hard to find its relevant category which is thick for all section-lines types.

Finally, the .ctb format file is stored within your AutoCAD locked folder and contains your customized and saved pen assignment files that you can use later on every drawing having the same layers' properties.

Another practical characteristic of the layers is that they can be locked or unlocked depending on the drawing status; locked objects mean that they cannot be modified accidentally while they are still visible.

As previously mentioned, layers can be totally off and out of service by turning them off. To do so, just click the lamp icon if it is still on.

Likely, the freezing property will improve performance in very large drawings and will make the objects totally invisible even if they are hidden in a 3D drawing or zoomed to the extent.

The Isolate Layer feature is here to make only the selected layers visible and turn all the others off within a single click instead of picking each layer in the list. This is useful when dealing with large files with a lot of layers that disturb the easy visualization of the drawing, especially with a 3D modeling type.

It goes without saying that this is the greatest feature ever of the layers: In fact, while working on a file that includes a large number of objects, the drawing performance became at its limits. In such a case, it is very useful and smart to put on hold some temporary and not currently in use groups of objects, by freezing or turning off their corresponding layers.

Back to the features, a specific layer can either be plotted or not depending on its plot state (ON/OFF).

In addition, new objects from layers created within newly formed viewports in the 3D model layout can also be turned off using the New VP Freeze icon, to prevent accidental modification to the drawing.

Last and optionally, a description can be provided as well, individually to each layer in the manager window for more indicational specifications.


Anyway, it is always useful to note that there is no limit to the number of layers that can be created within a single drawing which is very helpful in large-scale projects.

Some Special Layers with Super-Features

Next, we will be listing some of the super-layers with special and unique features:

  • Layer 0. As explained in a previous post of this series, layer zero has the capability to transform the blocks drawn with it into the current layer at the time of its insertion.
  • Defpoints. It is a special layer as well because it prevents the objects created with it from being plotted even if they are shown on your display screen. Therefore, be aware of creating objects with this unique layer because they will be missed on your hard copies!
  • Xrefs Layers. When inserting a drawing as an external reference (x-ref) onto another drawing, all its related layers will be shown with the file name displayed first, followed by a vertical bar symbol that separates the filename inserted as an x-ref from the layer name. As you should know, the x-ref inserted file cannot be edited without the permission of an Admin.

The Layer Manager (LA) is a powerful feature of the AutoCAD© software because it allows you to change object properties globally which saves you a significant amount of time. In addition, it allows you to have better control and manipulation of your drawing objects.

Last Thought: Save Your Standards

One word left to say: it is critically important to maintain a company-wide layer standard such as labeling each layer with a relevant and significant term that saves the time consumed in identifying the different element types of a drawing...

With a layer standard, the drawing organization will be more logical, consistent, compatible, and maintainable over time and across departments.

Layer standards are essential for teamwork projects.

If you create a standard set of layers and save them in a drawing template file, those layers will be available when you start a new drawing, and you can start working immediately.


Layers organize your drawing, enabling you to temporarily suppress the display of unneeded graphical data. You can also assign default properties such as color and line type to each layer.

References in this article:

1-, The Autodesk© Official online help
2- AutoCAD© 2002 Complete, Sybex Publications
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