How to Draw in Feet and Inches in AutoCAD

Many AutoCAD users in the United States need to be able to create drawings in feet and inches. By default, AutoCAD is configured to work in decimal units, which is most appropriate for mechanical design applications or for those creating metric drawings. Designers who work in other disciplines need to be able to reset the units to meet their requirements.

    In AutoCAD, from the “File” menu, choose “New” to start a new drawing. By default, the drawing will be configured to use decimal units.

    From the “Format” menu at the top of the screen, choose “Units.” You will note that there are many unit types to choose from, including fractional, engineering and architectural. Select architectural feet and inches, then choose “OK.”

    Move your mouse; you should see that the coordinates displayed on your cursor, or in the lower left corner of the screen, are measured in feet and inches. You should also see that you are working in a very small area that measures just a few inches from corner to corner.

    From the “Format” menu, choose “Limits.” Enter 0,0 to identify the lower left corner of your drawing area. Enter 80′,60′ to specify the upper right corner of your drawing area.

    From the “Zoom” menu, choose “Zoom All.” It will not look as if anything has changed, but if you move your mouse, you should see that you are now working in an area large enough to draw a small house.

Tips & Warnings

  • Change your limits from drawing to drawing to ensure you have a big enough area to draw in your design geometry at full scale (1:1).
    AutoCAD also has template files you can use to start new drawings, and some of them come preconfigured to work in feet and inches. They also come with borders and title blocks that you may not want.

    This set of steps will also work with AutoCAD LT, which costs far less than AutoCAD but has 90 percent of the same commands. AutoCAD and AutoCAD LT are both made by Autodesk.

  • Do not use AutoCAD like a drafting board, in which you scale design geometry down before you draw it. Draw all design geometry full scale in Model space, then click on the “Layout” tab and scale your view of your geometry in Paperspace. This allows you to plot your drawing at any scale and on any sheet size as required.

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