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Tired of that monkey see ... monkey do ... typical CAD Training?
Derailed or out of steam with your self taught CAD Training?

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Here is our listing of typical train wreck issues while learning QCad on your own.
Written descriptions of cad functions are very difficult to write and also difficult to read. If you don't like to read, then you may want to consider the "Learn QCad" training course.

You can also find additional information about paper-size and tile printing at the following web page: www.drystacked.com/errata.html#paper

Drawing setup requirements to get started
    (this is the longest topic and has its own webpage)
Object Snap Modes
Object Snap User Issues
Scan Your Instruments
Importance of CommandLine Usage
Modify>Move-Copy Issues
Modify>Divide Issues

What are Properties & Attributes

Drawing setup requirements to get started
Before using any CAD system, it is important to understand the relationship between computer screen views, dimensions, scaling factors, text size, and printed output size. It is senseless to start making drawings if you can't print to the size and format desired.

This section will use QCad Professional v2.1.3.2 as the representative CAD program for demonstration purposes. Other CAD products will have similar issues and concerns. In this example setup, we are configuring for drawing DryStacked block house plans. This example will demonstrate all the complications of setting up your drawing for ease of use. For example, the house plan walls will snap to 1/2-block increments while using the snap-to-grid snap option.

1. Set up current drawing preferences:

During this topic we will use 11" x 17" paper (commonly referred to as "Tabloid" paper size) since that is the largest commonly available paper that typical extra wide printers can use. This size paper will work quite well for most block home designs. You can do test prints of the 11" x 17" drawings on 8-1/2" x 11" paper and use a magnifying glass for examining the test prints. We will also show the math for determining 8-1/2" x 11" paper printing scale, and 13" x 19" paper (commonly referred to as "Super A3/B").

First you must configure the current drawing preferences. Start QCad and click on <EDIT>CurrentDrawingPreferences>, and set the following variables. You must set your paper format to <Tabloid>, and check the <Landscape> radio button. Then set the Main Units to <Inch>, Length format to <Architectural>, Length precision to <1/8"> resolution). Now set both Grid values to 7.785 (both vertical and horizontal units). This is accomplished by selecting each drop-down listing and then typing over one of the default numbers with "7.875". The first 7 will disappear from the text box display as you type the last digit, but it still works just fine.

Ensure that the Grid check box <show grid> is checked. Now set the Dimensions <text height> and <arrow size> both to "8" for now. Later this can be changed to the value that you determine in step 5 below. Then save a file with these current drawing preferences. You may want to save this file with a generic template name, and then load this file later and save to the new drawing file name for each new drawing. This way you don't have to reconfigure these current drawing preferences for each new house plan drawing.

2. Drawing size and grid pattern values:

There are a few things to keep in mind while using QCad. The drawing screen can be zoomed in/out infinitely. So the drawing size on your screen has nothing to do with reality. The grid on your drawing screen represents a dynamic virtual reality, and this grid consists of two components. The array of dots are the grid snap dots (7.875"x7.875" as set earlier) and the line grid spacing represents the dynamic virtual drawing units, which was set earlier as <Inches>. At the bottom right of the drawing screen you will find two numbers. The left number is the grid dot spacing units, and the right number is the line grid spacing units. These are required because this grid spacing changes as you zoom in/out and these grid dots and grid lines automatically adjust spacing for easier viewing at that zoom level. As the spacing adjusts, these two numbers change value to accurately represent the current spacing units for the grid at a given zoom level.

3. Select paper size:

To start a drawing, it is important to consider the largest object to draw and the final paper size that you will use. Let's assume your house is 60' x 45' and the final printout will be on either 8-1/2"x11" paper (letter) or 11"x17" paper (Tabloid) in landscape orientation.

For 8-1/2" x 11" Paper (letter).
You need a drawing page border box that indicates relative paper size and may optionally have grid coordinates around the drawing border. QCad installation includes some example borders that are located at C:\Program Files\QCad\library\templates\en\ for a default installation of the English language version. You can load these templates and see how templates could look. This drawing page border could consume about ¾" of paper border. You also need space to add dimensions and notes around the house drawing. 1-1/2" space around the largest drawing element, which is the house, will work for most block house plans. For 8-1/2"x11" paper (letter), the remaining house drawing space height is 8-1/2" minus 1-1/2" minus 3/4" = 6.25". The remaining house drawing space width is 11" minus 1-1/2" minus 3/4" = 8.75".

The drawing scale that fits the 60' house length on the 8.75" of paper width drawing area (calculated above) equals 12" x 60 = 720", so the scale must be 8.75"/720" = 0.0121.

The drawing scale that fits the 45' house depth on the 6.25" of paper height area (calculated above) equals 12" x 45 = 540", so the scale must be 6.25"/540" = 0.011574.

This means that the 0.0121 scale would not fit the house width onto the available drawing height area, so the smaller scale number 0.011574 must be used for printing to 8-1/2" x 11" paper. But we are still not out of the woods.

Most drawings use a scale factor that is convenient for viewers to use a measuring device to check a particular dimension of the drawing that may not have a drawing dimension already placed. Examples are ¼" = 1' and the like. Let us see what this 0.011574 scale does to our inch system of drawing measurement. Twelve inches on this drawing would be reduced to 12" times 0.011574 = 0.13888 which is just over 0.125 which equals 1/8". Therefore 1/8" = 1' would have a slight error. To fix this, you must adjust the print scale factor for 1/8" = 12"; therefore the desired drawing scale is 1/8" divided by 12" = 0.010416667. So the final print scale factor that you should use for 8-1/2"x11" paper to achieve 1/8"=1'; would be 0.010416667, which would increase the drawing area on the printed page slightly as compared to the 0.011574 scale factor calculated with the house dimensions.

For 11" x 17" Paper (tabloid).
You need a drawing page border box that indicates relative paper size and may optionally have grid coordinates around the drawing border. QCad installation includes some example borders that are located at C:\Program Files\QCad\library\templates\en\ for a default installation of the English language version. You can load these templates and see how templates could look. This drawing page border could consume about ¾" of paper border. You also need space to add dimensions and notes around the house drawing. 1-1/2" space around the largest drawing element, which is the house, will work for most block house plans. For 11"x17" paper (tabloid), the remaining house drawing space height is 11" minus 1-1/2" minus 3/4" = 8.75". The remaining house drawing space width is 17" minus 1-1/2" minus 3/4" = 14.75".

The drawing scale that fits the 60' house length on the 14.75" of paper width drawing area (calculated above) equals 12" x 60 = 720", so the scale must be 14.75"/720" = 0.02048.

The drawing scale that fits the 45' house width on the 8.75" of paper height drawing area (calculated above) equals 12" x 45 = 540", so the scale must be 8.75"/540" = 0.01620.

This means that the 0.02 scale would not fit the house width onto the available drawing height area, so the smaller scale number 0.01620 must be used for printing to 11" x 17" paper.

Most drawings use a scale factor that is convenient for viewers to use a measuring device to check a particular dimension of the drawing that may not have a drawing dimension already placed. Examples are ¼" = 1' and the like. Let us see what this 0.01620 print scale factor does to our inch system of drawing measurement. Twelve inches on this drawing would be reduced to 12" times 0.01620 = 0.1944 which is just over 0.1875 which equals 3/16". Therefore 3/16" = 1' would have a slight error. If you use 1/4" = 1', this would seriously reduce the drawing paper area, so 3/16" = 1' is the best final print scale factor to keep the printed drawing as large as possible, yet allow accurate ruler measurement of various dimensions on the printed drawing. You will gain a little drawing area on the paper and the printed drawing will have an accurate scale. To fix this, you must adjust the print scale factor for 3/16" = 12"; therefore the desired drawing scale is 3/16" divided by 12" = 0.015625. So the final print scale factor that you should use for 11"x17" paper to achieve a 3/16"=1' printed scale; would be 0.015625. If you want a more acceptable drawing scale then you will have to use 1/4" = 1' and live with the smaller drawing area on the paper. In my opinion, the casual use of 3/16" scale measurement does not justify a reduction in drawing paper area. I would stick with a scale of 3/16"=1'.

For 13" x 19" Paper (super A3/B).
You need a drawing page border box that indicates relative paper size and may optionally have grid coordinates around the drawing border. QCad installation includes some example borders that are located at C:\Program Files\QCad\library\templates\en\ for a default installation of the English language version. You can load these templates and see how templates could look. This drawing page border could consume about ¾" of paper border. You also need space to add dimensions and notes around the house drawing. 1-1/2" space around the largest drawing element, which is the house, will work for most block house plans. For 13"x19" paper (super A3/B), the remaining vertical house drawing space is 13" minus 1-1/2" minus 3/4" = 10.75". The remaining horizontal house drawing space is 19" minus 1-1/2" minus 3/4" = 16.75".

The drawing scale that fits the 60' house length on the 16.75" of paper width drawing area (calculated above) equals 12" x 60 = 720", so the scale must be 16.75"/720" = 0.02326.

The drawing scale that fits the 45' house width on the 10.75" of paper height drawing area (calculated above) equals 12" x 45 = 540", so the scale must be 10.75"/540" = 0.01990.

This means that the 0.02326 scale would not fit the house width onto the available drawing height area, so the smaller scale number 0.01990 must be used for printing to 13" x 19" paper.

Most drawings use a scale factor that is convenient for viewers to use a measuring device to check a particular dimension of the drawing that may not have a drawing dimension already placed. Examples are ¼" = 1' and the like. Let us see what this 0.01990 print scale factor does to our inch system of drawing measurement. 12-inches using this scale factor would result in 0.2388 inches. This is a little less than 0.25" so you could use ¼"=1' scale and loose a little drawing space. If you change the drawing scale to 3/16", then you would gain drawing space but make casual ruler measurement more difficult. In this project example, we will use the 3/16"=1' scale factor to gain more drawing area, so the scale factor should be 3/16" divided by 12"= 0.015625.

Drawing Page Border Size for 11"x17" Paper (tabloid).
Now we will determine the drawing page border box dimensions for 11"x17" paper (tabloid), see Figure xx. Most printers will not print on that last 1/4" paper border. It is also wise to use crop marks for commercial printer paper alignment. So it is a good idea to make drawing page border box crop marks the exact same size as the paper, and make the drawing page border box fit ¼" inside the paper edges. This way, your home printer will not print the crop marks and the actual drawing page border box will always be fully printed. The drawing page border box template must fit on the 10-1/2"x 16-1/2" paper space printable area. To calculate the height outside dimensions of the border box, (10-1/2")/scale = (10-1/2")/.015625 = 672" = 56'. The width outside dimension of the border box is (16-1/2")/.015625 = 1056" = 88'. So the drawing page border box needs to be 56' x 88' on the drawing. The drawing page border box crop marks would be 11"/0.015625 = 704" = 58'- 8" high by 17"/0.015625 = 1088" = 90'- 8" wide. If you use an imported template drawing page border box, rescale the imported template to the same dimensions calculated here.

You now have a physical constraint drawing frame box which shows the drawing limits to help keep your drawing entities on the printed page, and the printed page has a usable scale factor.

4. To print preview the drawing on your computer screen, just click on the right-hand <Printer Icon> which has a yellow squiggle on it. All you will likely see is a blank screen. This is because the scale of the print preview does not default to paper size scale. At first I thought that this is a bad thing, but now I understand that this is a good thing. The print preview screen is basically zoomed all the way in when you first open it, therefore the screen may appear blank. Presenting the print preview screen zoomed all the way in is not a good thing, but remembering the previously established print zoom factor is a good thing. Let me explain.

You have two options now. If you have already set the print output scale factor for this drawing before, then you simply zoom out until the complete print preview page can be seen on the display. This also works for a previously saved file that you have just loaded, providing that a print sale factor was established before the last save of that file.

Your other option is to click the <Fit to Page> button on the <Options Toolbar> and then the viewing screen scale will auto scale and auto zoom to where the paper size fills the entire print preview screen. If you now click on the "zoom out" button one time, then you can also see the edges of the paper page print preview. This is all very confusing to a new QCad user and the help files do not address these issues.

This results in a print scale factor that QCad suspects may be what you need. When you clicked on the <Fit to Page> icon, QCad calculated the print scale factor based upon the outer most portions of your viewable drawing entities, and the paper size you set earlier. Viewable drawing entities, means that if you have some layers turned off (not visible), then those entities are not included in the automatic calculation of print preview scale and viewing screen size. You can keep the auto print scale calculated by the <Print Preview> <Fit to Page> buttons (not to scale any longer, 3/16"=1' no longer valid), or you can change it to your calculated value above which is 0.015625 (to retain your printed page scale factor of 3/16"=1').

QCad does remember the print preview zoom factor when you last exited the print preview mode. So each time you return to the print preview, you have to zoom out to see the entire print preview page at your desired print scale factor. The zoom out requirement is a little annoying, and it would be nice if future software revisions would also remember the print preview zoom factor in theACad.ini file..

If your print preview should find the viewed paper not in alignment with the drawing, just click the print preview options toolbar <center to page> button for automatic centering. If you don't want the drawing centered on the print preview page, just left mouse click and drag the page around the print preview viewing area as desired. Most programs move the printed object, but QCad moves the page which is a little different and confusing, but may have important advantages at the program level.

5. One more important consideration has to do with text height. You want to ensure that the text height is reasonable on the drawing when it is printed. Because printer scaling takes place, what you placed on the drawing is NOT what you print on the paper. Place some sample text with differing text heights on the drawing, and then print the drawing frame box. Then choose the appropriate text height. Typically a paper text height of 1/8" is used. For this 11" x 17" paper (tabloid) size, the screen text height should be (1/8" / .015625 = 8 "). Of course you can make your text height smaller or larger if desired.

6. Printer line thickness can become a serious issue if you don't understand what is going on. Many QCad default line widths are zero which means to use the smallest line the printer is capable of printing. If your printer is set to 600 or 1200 DPI resolution, then these small lines are nearly unreadable because they are too thin.

I would not recommend changing all these default line widths. Instead, just change the printer's smallest line width. If your printed lines are too thin, you can simply change the printer resolution. For example, my Brother HL-5250DN is capable of 1200, 600, or 300 dots per inch printing resolution. Setting the printer resolution to 300DPI makes the lines thick enough for comfortable viewing.

Another print issue is that color layer lines printed on a black ink printer become lighter and less visible. When you print preview, be sure to toggle on the <black & white> button on the print preview options toolbar, when using black printer ink. This button state is not remembered and must be pressed each time you open the print preview.

Remember that the printer paper size does not have to match the drawing paper size. For example, test prints can be made on 8-1/2" x 11" paper (letter) while the drawing size is set for 11"x17" paper. Just click on the <Shrink to Fit> button on the printer dialog box (this has nothing to do with QCad's <Fit to Page>) and the 11" x 17" drawing test print will be reduced to print on 8-1/2" x 11" (letter) paper.

I have found this printer <shrink to fit> does not work properly with my printer. You may also find that to be the case with your printer. If this is the case, you have to go back and change the drawing paper size to 8-1/2"x11" (letter) (Edit>CurrentDrawingPreferences>Paper), and then let the QCad<page preview> <fit to page> button auto calculate the print scale. Now you can just print with your printer using the no scaling option in your printer dialog box. This test (letter) size printout will not have the correct scale units. Don't forget to change the drawing page size back to normal when you are finished with test printing on (letter) paper.

"DryStacked Construction Handbook" explains how to build with dry stacked block and surface bonded cement.

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