LT On-line: Lesson 19

30 Sep, 2001 By: Mark Middlebrook

Plotting: details and dénouement

Page 1: Plot dialog box

The previous three lessons covered AutoCAD LT plotting concepts and procedures, including plotting layouts, plotting to scale, and plot styles. In this fourth and final plotting lesson, I'll take you on a detailed tour of the Plot dialog box, introduce page setups, and summarize all four lessons with a Grand Unified Plot Procedure Integration (GUPPI).

The procedures described here work with AutoCAD LT 2002/2000i/2000, as well as with corresponding versions of AutoCAD. These procedures do not apply directly to LT 98 or AutoCAD Release 14, because plotting changed dramatically in AutoCAD and LT 2000.

And the plot goes on
In the three previous lessons, I touched on most of the important options in the Plot dialog box. However, it's worth taking a section-by-section, option-by-option tour of the dialog box. Along the way, you'll encounter some of the fine points that will make your plotting life easier.

Tip: Use the Plot dialog box's "quick help" to find out more about any part of the dialog box. Click the question mark next to the Close button in the dialog box's title bar. Then point to the part of the dialog box that's confusing you and click. If the pop-up help isn't enough, click the Help button at the bottom of the dialog box.

The Plot dialog box organizes the many plotting choices into four groups (fig. 1):

  • Choices that concern the device you're plotting to (Plot Device).
  • Choices that concern the paper you want to plot on and how to transfer the drawing onto that piece of paper (Plot Settings).
  • Two choices to preview a plot before you send it to the printer (Full Preview and Partial Preview).
  • Choices that let you save your other plot choices (Layout Name to save your choices as the default for the current layout, and Page Setup Name to save your choices to a specific name that you can retrieve later).
Figure 1. The Plot Device tab in the Plot dialog box.

In the following sections, I'll take you on a guided tour of three of these groups (I discuss the Full and Partial Preview options in the section "Preview one, two," in the second plotting lesson). I won't cover every obscure detail, but I'll point out what's important, steer you away from what's less important, and guide you over the bumpy spots.

The Plot Device tab
In Hollywood, a plot device is a way to move the story forward. In AutoCAD, a plot device is a way to move your drawing closer to its happy conclusion on paper, vellum, or mylar. The Plot Device tab choices are supposed to concern the device you're plotting to, but in fact they're a grab bag of things that didn't fit on the Plot Settings tab. When you click the Plot Device tab in the Plot dialog box, you see the following options (shown in fig. 1901):

  • Plotter Configuration: As I describe in the section "Configure it out," in the first plotting lesson, you use the Name list to select the Windows system printer or nonsystem driver configuration that you want to use for plotting.
  • Tip: Use the Properties button to change media (type of paper) and other properties that are unique to the currently selected plotter or printer. In particular, you can define custom paper sizes.
  • Plot Style Table (Pen Assignments): Choose a plot style table file (see the section "Plotting with style" in the third plotting lesson for details).
  • Plot stamp (AutoCAD and LT 2002 and 2000i only): Turn on and off and configure the contents of a text string that AutoCAD adds automatically to the corner of each plot. As the figure below shows, the plot stamp can include useful information such as the drawing file name and plot date and time.
Figure 2. Plot Stamp settings.

  • What To Plot: Specify whether to plot only the currently selected tab (Model or a paper space layout) or all drawing editor tabs. Also specify the number of copies.
  • Plot To File: If you need to plot to a file rather than directly to your plotter or network printer queue, turn on this option and specify the file name and folder (Location).
  • Tip: This option is especially useful when you want to generate plot files to send to a plotting service bureau. In addition, you can use this option with the ePlot feature to publish DWF files for a Web site or for a person who wants to view your drawings with Volo View.

The Plot Settings tab
When you click the Plot Settings tab in the Plot dialog box, you see the following options, as shown in the figure below:

Figure 3. The Plot Settings tab in the Plot dialog box.

  • Paper Size And Paper Units: Specify a paper size, based on the choices provided by the device you selected on the Plot Device tab. AutoCAD displays the Printable area, which is a bit smaller than the actual paper size because most plotters and printers can't plot all the way to the edge of the paper; they need a small margin.
  • Drawing Orientation: Specify whether AutoCAD should put the drawing on the paper in Portrait or Landscape orientation. Turn on Plot Upside-Down if you want to rotate the plot 180 degrees on the paper (a handy option to plot in the southern hemisphere, or to avoid the need to cock your head at an uncomfortable angle as you watch plots come out of the plotter).
  • Tip: If you're confused about whether Portrait or Landscape is the right choice, a quick detour through Full Preview will un-confuse you fast.
  • Plot Area: Specify the area of the drawing to plot. Your choices include Extents, Display, View, and Window, regardless of whether you're plotting a paper space layout or the model space tab. In addition, your first choice is Layout for a paper space layout tab, or Limits for the model space tab.
  • Extents means the rectangular area that contains all objects in the drawing. Display means the drawing as it's currently displayed in the drawing window (including any white space around the drawing objects). View means a named view, which you select from the drop-down list. (To create named views, click the View menu, then Named Views.) Window means a rectangular area that you specify by clicking the Window button.
  • Tip: Usually, you'll choose to plot Layout in paper space. For model space, the choice depends on whether the drawing was set up properly and what you want to plot. If you set limits properly, as I suggest in the "Set limits" section in lesson #1, then plot Limits in order to get the whole drawing area. If you're trying to plot a drawing in which the limits weren't set properly, try Extents instead. Use Window or View if you want to plot just a portion of model space.
  • Plot Scale: As I describe in the section "The 12-step plotting-to-scale program," in the second plotting lesson, select a plot scale from the drop-down list, or specify a Custom scale in the Inches (or millimeters) = Drawing Units text boxes.
  • Tip: When you plot a paper space layout onto the paper size for which the layout was created, 1:1 is the usual plot scale. Use smaller scales to do check plots on smaller sheets of paper (for example, 1:2 to create a half-size plot). Scaled To Fit is handy for squeezing a model space plot onto a piece of paper of any size. To plot model space at a specific scale, enter that scale in the Custom text boxes. Technical stuff: If you're plotting a paper space layout at a scale other than 1:1, you may want to turn on the Scale Lineweights option. For example, if you do a half-size check plot (plot scale = 1:2), turning on Scale Lineweights reduces the lineweights by 50 percent.
  • Plot Offset: A plot offset of X=0 and Y=0 positions the plot at the lower-left corner of the plottable area. Enter nonzero numbers or turn on the Center The Plot option if you want to move the plot from this default position on the paper.
  • Plot Options: The Plot Object Lineweights option and the Plot with Plot Styles option control whether AutoCAD uses the features that I describe in the "Plotting with style" and "Plotting through thick and thin" sections in the third plotting lesson.

It's a (page) setup!
Page setups specify the plotter, paper size, and other plot settings that you use to plot drawings. AutoCAD 2002 maintains separate page setups for model space and for each paper space model layout (that is, for each tab you see in the drawing area). AutoCAD 2002 remembers the last page setup settings you used to plot each tab, and lets you save page setups so you can reuse them. Page setups are stored with each drawing, but you can copy them from one drawing to another with the Psetupin command.

If your plotting needs are simple, you don't need to do anything special with page setups. Just make sure the Save Changes To Layout setting at the top of the Plot dialog box is left on, so any plotting changes you make are saved with the tab you're plotting.

If you want to get fancier, you can create named page setups in order to plot the same layout (or the model tab) in different ways, or to copy plot settings from one drawing to another. Use the Add button to create a named page setup from the current plot settings.

You can use the Pagesetup command to modify the current plot settings without plotting. Pagesetup opens the Page Setup dialog box, which is really just the Plot dialog box in disguise-it just omits the What To Plot and Plot To File areas on the Plot Device tab (see the figure below). Changes you make become the default plot settings for the current drawing tab.

Figure 4. The Page Setup dialog box: Plot in disguise.

The easiest way to run Pagesetup is to right-click a paper space layout or model space tab and choose Page Setup from the cursor menu that appears. Tip: The Page Setup dialog box, unlike the Plot dialog box, lets you save plot settings changes without plotting and without having to create a page setup name.

The Grand Unified Plot Procedure Integration
Physicists have-or would like to have-their Grand Unified Theory (GUT). We lowly CADicists will have to make do with a Grand Unified Plot Procedure Integration (GUPPI). But it takes guts just to get through the GUPPI! The following steps summarize all the material in these four plotting lessons chapter. Refer to the individual sections throughout the lessons for more details about each step:

  1. Open the drawing in AutoCAD.
  2. Click the tab that you want to plot - the Model tab or the desired paper space layout tab.
  3. Open the Plot dialog box by clicking the Plot button on the Standard toolbar.
  4. In the Plotter Configuration area on the Plot Device tab, select a device that's capable of plotting on the paper size that you need.
  5. If you want to use plot styles, select a plot style table name from the Name list in the Plot Style Table (Pen Assignments) area on the Plot Device tab. Otherwise, choose None.
  6. In the Paper Size And Paper Units area on the Plot Settings tab, select the appropriate paper size.
  7. In the Plot Area area, choose the area that you want to plot. Layout is the usual choice when plotting paper space. Limits, Extents, or Window are common choices when plotting model space.
  8. In the Drawing Orientation area, choose either Portrait or Landscape.
  9. In the Plot Scale area, choose the appropriate setting from the plot Scale list. When plotting paper space, 1:1 is the official, approved choice. Determine the appropriate model space plot scale using the guidelines in the "Scaling: to fit or not to fit?" section, in the second plotting lesson. If you're confused, try Scaled To Fit.
  10. View a partial preview and then a full preview.
  11. If the plot previews turned up any problems, adjust the Plot Settings and repeat the previews until the plot looks right.
  12. Click OK to create the plot.

When in doubt, send it out
Whether you plot to scale or not, with different lineweights or not, in color or not, you should consider using a service bureau for some of your plotting. In-house plotting on your office's output devices is great for small check plots on faster laser or inkjet printers. Large format plotting, on the other hand, can be slow and time-consuming. If you need to plot lots of drawings, you may find yourself spending an afternoon loading paper, replenishing ink cartridges, and trimming sheets - longer if you run into problems.

Good plotting service bureaus have big, fast, expensive plotters that you can only dream about owning. Also, they're responsible for babysitting those fancy devices, feeding them, and fixing them. As a bonus, service bureaus can make blueline prints from your plots, if you need to distribute hard-copy sets to other people.

The only downside is that you need to coordinate with a service bureau to make sure it gets what it needs from you and can deliver the kinds of plots you need. Some service bureaus plot directly from your DWG files, while others ask you to make PLT (plot) files. Some service bureaus specialize in color plotting, while others are more comfortable with monochrome plotting and making blueline copies.

When you 're choosing a service bureau, look for one that traditionally has served drafters, architects, and engineers. These service bureaus tend to be more knowledgeable about AutoCAD, and they should have more plotting expertise than the desktop publishing, printing, and copying shops.

Whomever you choose, do some test plots well before the day when that important set of drawings is due. Talk to the plotting people and get a copy of their plotting instructions. Have the service bureau create some plots of a couple of your typical drawings and make sure they look the way you want them to.

If you do lots of plotting with a service bureau, look into whether you can charge it to your clients as an expense (just like bluelines or copying).

Plotting: details and dénouement
  Page 1: Plot dialog box
  Page 2: Plot Settings and page setup
  Page 3: Grand Unified Plot Procedure Integration

About the Author: Mark Middlebrook

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