Model Space and Paper Space


I’ve trained quite a few people in AutoCAD, and I’ve taken note of some of the common things that newcomers to the program have the most trouble with.  The biggest one:  The difference between Model and Paper spaces.

For those of us who have used CAD-type programs for any length of time, trying to remember that initial confusion at meeting the two is hard, kind of like trying to remember how awkward and challenging it was to ride a two-wheeled bike for the first time.  But never forget that – it’s such a basic part of the program it deserves a little extra time to be explained.

There are different levels of confusion that come out when a newcomer is first introduced to the concept:  Some have a problem understanding how viewports on paper space connect with the images on model space.  Others have a hard time understanding where to do their drafting – a lot of offices want certain things done on paper space.  Confusion about the two can lead to a lot of mistakes, and time wasted putting things to right.

My tack is to first explain to a newcomer that model space represents an almost infinite 3-dimensional space, and that all floorplans and models should be created there.  A rule of thumb is that if it’s an object – not text, or notes – and it’s going to be to scale, it goes on model space.  Then I explain that paper space represents the finished drawing that will be printed out, and the dimensions – 8.5” x 11”, 24”x36”, etc. – are true to a sheet of paper.  Viewports in AutoCAD I describe as being like windows down into the infinite drawing space of the model.

Depending on the office’s standards, I will then explain the things that do go onto paper space, and why.  Usually, it is just text and notes which are kept on paper space so that they can reflect a true height.  Some offices though like to also have small details that are not drawn or shown to scale placed on paper space as well, as it’s easier to judge how big they can be made when compared to the paper size.

Patience, repetition, and continuing to become more familiar with the program and the flow are key though.  However a person comes to understand it, whether through my analogies or ones they come up with on their own, it takes time with the program to get there.

I would be interested to know if anyone else has ever taught a new person, and how they handled the model/paper space explanation.  Please drop in a comment!



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