Manual Drafting Techniques

Manual drafting is both an art and a learned technique. To create an effective drawing, all necessary equipment must be gathered, proper drafting techniques must be applied and standard architectural drafting protocol must be followed.

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Necessary Equipment

For manual drafting, a drafting table is needed. If a drafting table is not available, a T-square can be used in combination with a wooden drafting board.

Prepare all the necessary equipment before beginning the drawing. Having a roll of vellum nearby is a good idea in case there is a need to start over or begin another drawing.

Gather an assortment of pencils with varying lead strengths. Make sure you have an architect’s scale on hand, as well as a triangle with a 90 degree angle and a small triangle for lettering. You also need drafting dots (or drafting tape), furniture or plumbing templates, a board brush, an erasing shield, a sharpener and a few good erasers.

Drawing Lines

Before beginning the drawing, use drafting dots to tape the corners of the paper to the table. When manually drafting floor plans, a straight edge is always used. When using a drafting table, the parallel bar is used to draw horizontal lines. When using a T-square, the “T” is placed securely against the right or left side of the drafting board to draw a straight line.

To draw vertical lines with a drafting table, place the bottom of the right triangle onto the top of the parallel bar. Use the vertical portion of the right triangle to draw straight, vertical lines. When using a T-square, simply place the “T” portion flat against the top of the drawing board and draw a vertical line.

When drawing vertical or horizontal lines, apply equal pressure as you pull the pencil from left to right or top to bottom. Slightly rotating the point of the pencil and leaning it in the direction you are going will create a line that is constant in strength and form. The pencil should never leave the paper until the line is completed and tracing over a line which has already been drawn is not recommended. Sprinkling a setting powder over pencil lines helps to hold the integrity of the lines. Never sweep the hand across the drawing to remove eraser residue; use a board brush instead.

Line Types and Line Weights

On floor plans, exterior walls are drawn with heavy, solid lines. Windows are also drawn with heavy lines but in a dash-dot-dash format. Interior walls have a slightly lighter line weight. Interior elements such as plumbing and kitchen cabinets are drawn with the lightest line weight. Elements such as upper kitchen cabinets and the refrigerator should be drawn as a dashed line. All lines should be shiny, sharp and never fuzzy.


An “F” pencil should be used for lettering. Vertical portions of letters and numbers should not be drawn freehand. Use a small right triangle to draw any straight portions of the letter. Curved portions, such as found in the numbers 3, 5 or 8, must be drawn freehand. It is useful to draw very light guidelines first, representing the desired height of the text. Doing this keeps the text neat and uniform.


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