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Drawing overlay/xref

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I am an ex archicad user and I now use autocad. I loved archicads trace overlay feature in which you could overlay one viewport on top of another to aid in drawing. This is helpful when drawing elevations/sections from plans. Autocad also has the xref feature, in which a similar workflow is attainable. I am interested in purchasing vectorworks and I’m wondering if there is a similar tool/workflow available in this software. Thanks!

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I have also used Archicad and I think VW is more flexible. Maybe it's good idea to understand design layers and viewports 


Design Layers

In general each building story has it own layer. You can also split a story in multiple layers, for example a layer for the floor and one for the walls. Or you can duplicate layers for making design studies. In the Design Layer Tab of the navigation palette you can turn layers on or off. It is also possible to display a layer in halftone/grayscale (third option from the visibility tab). That will make all the lines grey and hide the fill. You can move the layer order to show it on top. With the Saved View Tab it is possible to save the layer state. For example I made a saved view with all the layers of each story (3). This way I can easily switch. The saved view tab can also be used to save visibility of classes (2) and zoom with rotation (1). 



In dutch but you will get the point


It is a little more work to setup the first time. I know that in Archicad you can 'page up' 'page down'. To easily move between story's. VW don't have that, but as you can see the Saved View Tab can help you with that. 


Viewports on Design Layer

Another nice feature of Archicad is the possibility to move the underlayer position. That can also be done in VW! When creating viewports it is possible to place them on a sheet or place them on de design layer. This gives a lot of flexibility! For example I made a 2d section of a already demolished house plot. By using viewports I made multiple copies on a new layer so I can make multiple sketches without having to make a lot of layers. Changes to the original section automatically translates in the viewports.




External drawings

External drawings like DWG can also be linked or imported inside VW. Importing gives you editable lines. Most of the time I only want to trace a external drawing. Thats why I always use linking to keep the file size small. The DWG is placed as a viewport on the design layer. You can edit the classes of that view to control the visibility of your 'dwg layers'. The lines are snappable so you can easily trace it.



Edited by MarcelP102
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Awesome, thank you very much Marcel! It seems I’ll be able to do exactly what I need to do! 

On a side note, is there anyway to draw custom hatches similar to archicad? I’ve seen the VW hatch creation palette in which you can specify line segments, spacing, angles etc…..however I haven’t been able to find a tutorial in which you can graphically create a fill….is there some equivalent?

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18 hours ago, Nick Darin Architect said:

In Archicad you can draw any type of patterns with lines/polylines/circles/etc and copy/paste it into the hatch dialogue. It will then tile whatever you draw. Does the VW tile pattern tool allow you to draw the custom pattern or does it just tile a jpeg?

yes. It does.Any vector graphic can be placed inside a Vectorworks tile.

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Tiles are much easier to generate than Hatches but Hatches have the advantage of being able to be applied to 3D objects - in the form of Surface Hatches assigned to Textures - as well as 2D objects. Tiles can only be applied to 2D objects.


20 hours ago, Nick Darin Architect said:

In Archicad you can draw any type of patterns with lines/polylines/circles/etc and copy/paste it into the hatch dialogue.


I believe the German version of VW has a hatch generator of this type it's a shame it's not widely available. See:



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