How to Teach Yourself Computer Aided Drafting
By J.E. Myers
If you already know how to do drafting using pencils and engineer rules, and you now want to learn how to use Computer Aided Drafting (CAD) software programs, you may find this task to be easier than you expected. What CAD programs like AutoCAD and TurboCAD (among others) have accomplished is to eliminate a lot of the redrawing that occurs in hand-rendered drawings, but the fundamentals remain the same. If you know nothing about drafting, you can still teach yourself this skill with the help of many online tutorial programs.
Purchase a well known CAD software program, such as AutoCad or TurboCad. While these titles are not by any means inexpensive, they are supported by many excellent and free tutorial programs and websites. You will be able to find more free help and lessons on using these programs than you will other lesser-known or cheap CAD titles. If you are serious about learning CAD drafting, your investment in a great, full-featured program will be worth it. If you are hoping to find employment as a CAD artist in the future, it's most likely your employer will use these major programs.
Install the CAD program on your computer and open it. Most CAD titles feature trial or demonstration projects that will help you learn how to use the software. Tinker with the program and find out how intuitive you may be (or not) about using the CAD drawing tools. Open and close various screens and try out different tools on the toolbar. Becoming somewhat familiar with the tools and the vocabulary is helpful before moving to the next logical step.
Find good beginner level tutorial programs online. Many free tutorials available will help you understand how to move through popular CAD programs, such as AutoCAD and TurboCAD. All of these programs will assume, however, that you have some background in drafting. Paid tutorials are also available for reasonable prices.
Purchase an instructional book ("Teach Yourself---") on the topic from a local bookstore or online. Look for books that include active content, such as DVDs and examples you can work with. Purchase one of the various "For Dummies" titles on the subject of CAD that may help step you through harder subject matter in other "Teach Yoursef" books. The "For Dummies" series of books are really very good at teaching a subject from an extremely fundamental level if that is the kind of help you need.
Consider enrolling in an adult education, junior college or online university course on the subject of CAD. Fees and materials for some of these classes are usually very reasonable and within budgets. If you learn best with a "live" teacher in the room, or with real learning partners, this may be the fastest and most effective way to learn CAD, as opposed to self-instruction.
Investigate trading skills and services for CAD instructions from a local tutor. Place an ad in your local newspaper or Craigslist and offer to swap services for lessons on using CAD. Don't look for barter deals like this until you have some CAD vocabulary or understanding under your belt: a tutor should not have to "start from scratch" with you.
Work on your instruction daily in generous time segments of an hour or more per day. Most self-instruction is only effective through repetition and use. Like learning to play the piano, you won't learn the material or the techniques if you don't practice CAD daily.
- "The AutoCAD Bible"; Ellen Finklestein; 2009
- "Tech Drawing: Basic Concepts Drafting/CAD Video Package"; Delmar Learning; 1998
A writer and entrepreneur for over 40 years, J.E. Myers has a broad and eclectic range of expertise in personal computer maintenance and design, home improvement and design, and visual and performing arts. Myers is a self-taught computer expert and owned a computer sales and service company for five years. She currently serves as Director of Elections for McLean County, Illinois government.