Are You Using Layouts Correctly?

When I ask people what the best feature of AutoCAD is, I get many responses. Some are obscure, some are pretty self-explanatory (UNDO, anyone?), but almost always the subject of layouts will come up.

Layouts allow us to produce finished sheets for plotting. It was designed by Autodesk to be a “window” into our drawing. As designed, you would insert your title block at a 1:1 scale, then create at least one viewport and scale those viewports to display your information (created in model space) on your sheet. This allows us to have multiple viewports on one sheet, showing drawing information at different scales, different viewpoints, and even shaded/displayed differently. For example, I could have a 2D plan view of a surface and on the same page show a 3D view of that drawing, as shown below:

Now, some people aren’t aware of how Layouts are supposed to be used. They tend to insert their title blocks to a scale and then create a viewport at 1:1. For example, a 50 scale drawing would have a drawing block inserted scaled up 50 times and a viewport at 1:1. This is not how the designers intended Layouts to be used.

Does this affect Civil 3D users? YES!!! Why? Because of Dynamic Labels.

Dynamic Labels in Civil 3D allow the label text to “resize” itself based on the viewport scale. For example:

My standard text style and size for general labels is RomanS at a height of (0.08)x(Drawing Scale). This is pretty standard, and is based on the old Leroy text heights. Remember those from the board drafting days? I can’t remember the name of that little tool, but it was a straight edge with circles for your lead to fit throught that let you sketch letter spacing lines based on the scale of your drawing and the text height required. Those were the (not so) good old days.

Now, in not-so-old days (pre-Civil 3D), we used to have to set up various text heights based on our drawing scale. For example, with my text style, I’d have a text height of 0.8 at a 1:10, 1.6 at 1:20, 2.4 at 1:30, 3.2 at 1:40, 4.0 at 1:50, and so on. If I had a layout that showed more than one viewport at different scales, I’d have to create text specific to each viewport with different heights. Ever seen a template with the following text styles: RomanS10 RomsnS20 Romans30 Romans40, etc… I have. People creating text styles for any possible scale – what a waste of time.

Back to the main topic. In Civil 3D, we don’t set up text styles quite like we did in LDT or AutoCAD. Now, we tell the program that we want our text to be printed at a specific height, regardless of viewport scale. For my purposes, I’d have all my label styles set up to a height of 0.08, correct? That way, no matter what my scale is (from 1:1 to 1:1,000,000), my text is going to be on the page at a height of 0.08.

To make this work correctly, we have to scale the viewport. If we put our viewport in at a acale of 1:1, we lose this incredible functionality. So, if you’re going to FULLY use the functionality of Civil 3D with layouts, you’re going to have to use the software as it was designed.

Have fun!


  1. this is interesting. i have never run into anyone that inserted their title block into a layout at scale. wow. i must remember to always check that out now.

  2. Kevin Spear says:

    Wait till you run across a someone who puts his title bock in model space, and is also scaled up 50 times, or whatever he’s trying to plot…. 🙂

  3. M. Rieben says:

    Ames Lettering Guide. Those were the days!

  4. steve wolfe says:

    It IS interesting. Until Civil3d we always used title blocks in layouts and plotted at the drawing scale. Dynamic text is radically changing (for the better I think) how we produce our drawings.

  5. perrito says:

    I can’t remember the name of that little tool, but it was a straight edge with circles for your lead to fit throught that let you sketch letter spacing lines based on the scale of your drawing and the text height required.

    Ames guide?

  6. DavidBTice says:

    I totally agree with Jason’s article about the proper use of layouts and I couldn’t help reading what Kevin said about putting the border in Model space. Last week I tried without success to use layout with the point tables because no matter what I tried to do something with the point table it always misbehaved or scaled out of whack. I found the only solution I could get the table to behave properly was to put the entire drawing in model space (including Border, site plan and table). Have anyone experienced this frustration?
    As for the old lettering days I used to draft with leroys on to mylars (pen and templates). 😉