AutoCAD for Beginners: 5 Steps to Learning AutoCAD in 2021
AutoCAD is a complex piece of software. CAD beginners often struggle to understand the many commands and options available to them. It’s easy to feel intimidated by the many icons, tools, and menus, and it’s common for new users to feel discouraged or give up entirely.
But AutoCAD is an important software tool that’s worth learning. Keep in mind that nearly all technical industries use AutoCAD or another Autodesk software product that is compatible with AutoCAD. As a result, you will likely need to either share or receive files created in AutoCAD. And if you don’t understand the full range of AutoCAD tools, you will not be able to work as efficiently on your design projects. Design companies around the world use AutoCAD, and they look for designers who can use AutoCAD, too.
Many simplified CAD packages are available, and their biggest selling point is that they all are easier to use than AutoCAD. While it is tempting to learn a simpler CAD program instead of AutoCAD, there are two major downsides. First, most of these programs are not as well known as AutoCAD. Therefore, being skilled in a simpler CAD program will look less impressive on your CV—instead, companies will be wondering why you don’t know AutoCAD. Second, CAD users need to think carefully about what they want to achieve with CAD software. If you need CAD to create complex designs, you will eventually run into problems and reach the limits of what simpler CAD software can do. You may also find that some design tasks are hard to achieve using simplified CAD software. AutoCAD’s extensive library of commands and functions means that there is a quick way to accomplish almost any design task.
For most professional designers today, it makes sense to take the time to learn how to use the world’s leading CAD software package.
Once you have committed to learning AutoCAD, it’s important to choose a learning method that best suits you. Only then can you achieve the best results. Here are five tips to help you get started with learning AutoCAD.
1. Choose an instructor with recent industry experience
There are many academic AutoCAD courses available in local colleges and technical schools all over the world. While some of these courses are of good quality, many are taught by career instructors with no actual industry experience. Some instructors have not updated the skills they learned many years ago when AutoCAD was quite different from the modern versions available today. For example, if you review the course curriculum and see topics like setting up drawing limits and grids, this is a sign that the instructor is using outdated methods to teach AutoCAD. Professionals haven’t used such practices in the workplace for many years, so you should look elsewhere to learn the most modern versions of AutoCAD.
2. Find a course that gets you creating as quickly as possible
Many AutoCAD books and online courses tend to share a certain method of software training. These courses all follow the same workflow and begin by showing all of the settings and configuration tools available in AutoCAD. They then move on to commands and go through each command one by one. This can lead to very long courses or very large books that appear to be of good value at first but result in students losing interest.
You cannot learn something like AutoCAD by just learning each command individually. There are too many tools available to understand everything at once. A far better method is to learn the basics needed to get started on a small project and immediately practice what you learn. As you gradually learn additional tools and commands, you can then apply your knowledge to your project. This way, you will understand why a certain command is used rather than just how.
Look for a course that actually allows you to create something such as a long-term project rather than just learning each tool on a blank canvas.
3. Learn AutoCAD using a structured approach
It’s important that you learn AutoCAD in a progressive manner. Don’t be tempted to only learn the skills that you think you need to know. You might want to be able to produce photorealistic 3D renderings in AutoCAD, but without first learning the basic 2D techniques, you will soon find yourself stuck.
Unless you already have extensive 2D CAD experience, then it would be far better to start by learning the basics of AutoCAD. Even if you are experienced, it would be wise to take a beginners’ course and refresh your knowledge. Each new version of AutoCAD introduces new commands, and you’ll likely pick up some good new skills along the way.
YouTube has become a hugely informative resource, and it’s possible to learn many things at the “school of YouTube.” It can be especially useful if you just need to know how to do one very specific thing. However, if you are completely new to AutoCAD or indeed any CAD software, then YouTube can be a frustrating place to learn.
What a new user needs is a structured course that will start from the very beginning with a new installation of AutoCAD and gradually progress at a suitable pace. Trying to learn on YouTube can involve many wasted hours as you search for training for your specific level.
Too often on YouTube, you will find you are using a different version of AutoCAD than what’s in the video. Or your program settings may be completely different than the instructor’s settings. If you become stuck, there’s no way to get personalized help from the instructor. You might also find that your course of training may end abruptly, as the viewing figures never materialized or the instructor just got bored.
While this method is appealing because it is free, you may find that the hours wasted on it is not worth it. If you put a price on your time, you would be better off finding a structured course with the ability to ask questions that the instructor is likely to answer.
4. Take advantage of online learning
Online learning is growing in popularity, and for good reason. Online courses such as AutoCAD 2021 Complete Beginners Course are the best way to learn something like AutoCAD because they’re easy to use and allow you to learn on your own time and at your own pace. Signing up to one of the large online training hosts is an ideal way to learn and will give you the advantages of learning from YouTube, but with the benefit of also having a structured approach and an instructor to help you if needed.
While online courses may not be completely free, they are almost always much cheaper than attending an in-person class, and they still give you a relationship with the instructor. Many will also allow you to obtain a certificate of completion, which is a much better indication of competence to any potential employer or client than “I learned this on YouTube.”
5. Practice, practice, practice
You could take the best AutoCAD course and become an expert in the software, but if you don’t regularly practice, you will soon lose your skills. If you have chosen a course that gives you the opportunity to create a class project, then you will already have something that shows what you learned. Once you’re finished and out on your own, you should keep practicing.
Luckily, there is no shortage of things you can create with AutoCAD. Drawing your home is usually the next project that people do after a training course. This is an ideal project, as you can always take extra measurements, and the final drawing may even be useful later. But don’t stop there, as it’s always important to keep practicing.
If you enjoyed drawing your home and intend to use AutoCAD for architectural projects, then offer to sketch the homes of friends and family. Maybe someone you know is expanding or improving their home. A full set of professional drawings can be expensive, so most people would be delighted to let you create the illustrations for free or even for a small fee.
If you are not interested in architectural drawing, then have a look around your home. Chances are that there are many things that you could draw in AutoCAD. Just take a tape measure and practice. Make use of some of the more advanced tools available in AutoCAD, even if you don’t need them right now. Also, try to create these drawings using good CAD management practices and standards, as these are also skills that potential clients and employers value.
During this practice time, it’s important that you make use of as many of the tools available as possible while also taking the time to learn some new AutoCAD Commands.
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