How to Trace Using AutoCAD

By Ryan Crooks

Updated February 10, 2017

Reproduce hand drawings by tracing scanned images of them in AutoCAD.
i Michael Blann/Digital Vision/Getty Images

AutoCAD is a computer-aided design application that produces precise lines with varying line weights and styles. Although it was originally developed for drafting mechanical drawings, AutoCAD is excellent for illustration. You can trace drawings in the application by importing an image file of your drawing and using the line, arc and spline tools. A spline is a curvilinear line, and it is one of the most useful line tools when tracing an image.

Scan the image to be traced. Save the scanned file as a BMP, JPG, PNG or TIF. If your image is already a computer file, ensure the file is in one of the formats mentioned.

Open AutoCAD and select "New" in the "File" menu to create a new drawing.

Type "Imageattach" in the command line to import your image to be traced; browse to and select your image in the window that opens and click "OK." Adjust the "Insertion Point," "Scale" and "Rotation" settings or place a check in the "Specify On-screen" check boxes to adjust the location, size and angle of the image graphically. Click "OK," and use the mouse to adjust the location, size and angle of the imported image if you checked the "Specify On-screen" boxes.

Type "Line" in the command line to draw straight lines, "Arc" to draw circular arcs or "Spline" to draw continuous curves. Click your mouse over the image lines to trace them in the AutoCAD drawing. After each line is completed, press the "Enter" or "Return" key on your keyboard to exit the command and type one of the given commands to draw another line. If you make a mistake, select the line and press "Delete" on your keyboard to delete it.

Clean up overlapping lines by typing "Trim" in the command line and selecting the line segments you would like to remove. Press the "Enter" or "Return" key on your keyboard to complete the trim command.

Type "Properties" in the command line to open the "Properties Inspector" window. Select each of your lines and adjust the line weight by changing the line's "Lineweight" value in the "Property Inspector" window using the scroll selection button.

Place color in your tracing by typing "Hatch" in the command line, adjusting the "Type and Pattern" settings to select the color and pattern, and pressing the "Add: Pick Points" button. Click inside the regions where you would like to add color and press the "Enter" or "Return" key on your keyboard.

Select "Save As" in the "File" menu, specify the file name and location and then click "Save."

Type "Hide" or select and delete the imported image file to see your AutoCAD tracing.

Items you will need

  • Drawing or image to trace

  • Scanner