Using Color: The Love-Hate Relationship in Drawings

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From model space to paper space to the physical print out of your drawings for mark up or mailing out, color most likely ends up somewhere on the page.  In production of the drawings, there seems to be a persistent cold war between drafters in organizations about how color is used.  My goal in this post is to take that head on and try to make sense of what works and what doesn’t work for the most efficient implementation of color.

We need it.  I get it, and for those of you who advocate this, I’m right there with you.  In the drafting and design stage (in model and drawing space), when you have a complicated drawing with multiple layers of information, it’s not hard to realize we need a solution to differentiate all the systems on a layout, and be able to see how one system is affecting another.  This is something I am in total agreement with to keep graphics vs. notes clean and neat.  That’s one group of people.  The opposing group of people wants everything drawn in Layer 0 in white.  Everything in WHITE.  Depending on the drawing and the level of information you need to convey, sure, maybe white is a time saver and the way to go.  For most, having your whole layout made in white is a very archaic and slow way to draft.

Why do these select people use all white in a large layout though?  The answer is because they don’t know how to use color in their model space and print in black.  Cold hard truth.

* As a forewarning, from this point forward, there will be a small rant. *

Let’s begin with the fact that AutoCAD is a tool.  A drafter should make the tool work for them and not adjust his or her drawing style for the application.  AutoCAD is fully capable of converting your colors in model space into a magnificent black and white drawing in the end when you hit the print button.  This is possible with PLOT STYLES.   Google it, it’s a thing you should know about.  You set your plot styles once and off you go into creating a drawing with a myriad of colors in an organized way that anyone (who isn’t colorblind) can work with.  You can make your dimensions as disgustingly yellow as you would like with plot styles, and the end result after plotting would be black as night, because ultimately, isn’t that what the boss wants to see and how the drawing should look going out to the client?  Am-I-right or am-I-right?  While you are taking a goofing off break, an extended lunch, a talking break, a social media break, a smoke break, whatever break, think about the fact that you could be setting up your plot styles in that 15 minutes.  In addition, you only need one drafter to make a plot styles file.  The file can be emailed to anyone else that uses AutoCAD in the office, and all they have to do is put the file under the right directory, and poof, that plot style is now an option in their AutoCAD print dialogue.  Do you really have an excuse not to draw in color when you need it?  No.  No more.  I have set this record straight on the internet for all the world to see, and if you’re not using plot styles in your layouts, you should take a moment to reconsider.

* End rant. *

What happens when you draw in color, but your plot styles are not set?  Most people’s worse fear and one of the most unprofessional things to see in a drawing is what happens.  Colored graphics everywhere, and Bob’s stupid yellow dimensions on the white background that you have to squint so hard to see that in one or two years time of this, you know you are either getting wrinkles, a Retinol treatment, or both.  (Disclaimer: I don’t personally know a drafter named Bob, no Bob’s were hurt in the production of this blog post.)  When the plotted document is in color or the PDF is in color, there is a huge issue when it comes to mark ups, because in the first place, the person who is doing the markups has to be looking at a bunch of different colors and pulling it all together as one document in order to determine where the errors are, which is probably not so effective because the reviewer could miss something.  Too much color can be distracting.  Secondly, if the PDF given to the reviewer is plainly printed in grayscale, Bob’s yellow dimensions are still going to be hard to see.  Same goes for people who are color blind and looking at drawings with color ink.  (To be clear: These principles should not apply if the color is for a rendered drawing or used in a part of the drawing that is less detrimental to understanding a concept or a direction for construction.)

The point of hiring a drafter is not to make other people’s jobs harder.  A drafter illustrates and diagrams information in the clearest and most efficient way possible for the company to determine what needs to be changed and what the next steps in a project will be.  I don’t care how long you have been drafting, 2 years or 20 years, sometimes people forget that this is the purpose of a drafter.  You can’t just do things the way you do them because that works for you and your schedule.  The challenge of dealing with the color issue is one that drafters must be open to addressing and fixing, or at least taking 15 minutes to try out some plot styles to attempt getting everyone on the same boat.  Most likely, it’s not something your boss is going to tell you to make, but it is something you can do to help out, and your boss may see that as valuable and an improvement to the design department’s work flow.  Try out implementation of color in the ways suggested here, and you may find out that, using AutoCAD as it was intended (a greatly modifiable tool), will greatly benefit you and your time.




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