Working with Draftsman Graphical Tools in Altium NEXUS

Created: April 12, 2022 | Updated: May 19, 2022

Parent page: Streamlining Board Design Documentation with Draftsman

Draftsman provides a range of graphical element tools that can be used to place basic, free-form drawing elements in a document. The tools are accessed from the main Place menu, from the Graphical Tools drop-down menu () on the Drawing Annotations toolbar or the graphic tools drop down on the Active Bar.

Place a graphic element by clicking to position its first node/point and then again to place following nodes, therefore determining its size – such as the length for a line, the radius for a circle, the distance between opposite vertices for a rectangle or text box, or the dimensions of a placed image graphic. The nodes will snap to the nodes or guidelines of other objects, and optionally, the document snap grid if enabled.

► See the snapping options in the General section of the Document Options for graphical primitives snap settings.

Placed graphical elements can be moved by selecting and dragging, or when multiple elements are selected (Ctrl+Shift+Click, or by lassoing). Individual nodes can also be selected and moved. For more options, select a placed graphical element to enable its associated mode in the Draftsman Properties panel.

For more information on Draftsman graphical objects, and their associated settings in the Properties panel, refer to the collapsible sections below:

A Line is a graphic object that can be placed on a Draftsman document sheet. A Line object can be used to manually create custom graphics, as well as to create templates for items such as an information table, which contains specific data about the document itself.

A placed Line object.
A placed Line object.

To place a Line, select Place » Line or click the  button from the graphic tools drop-down of the Active Bar.

After launching the command, the cursor will change to a cross-hair and the editor will enter line placement mode. Placement is made by performing the following actions:

  1. Click to define the starting position of the line.
  2. Move the cursor to set the length and angle the line then click again to complete placement.
  3. Continue placing further lines, or right-click or press Esc to exit the placement mode.

The graphical method of editing allows a placed line object to be selected in the design space and moved or its start/end point locations changed.

When a Line object is selected, editing handles/nodes become available at its start and end points.

A selected Line.
A selected Line.

  • Click and drag the Line graphic to reposition it on the drawing document.
  • Click and drag a start or finish point node to alter the Line's position, angle or length.

The Line mode of the Properties panel
The Line mode of the Properties panel

Properties

  • Start Point (X/Y) – the X-axis and Y-axis values of the line's start point (the first point placed).
  • End Point (X/Y) – the X-axis and Y-axis values of the line's end point.
  • Line Style – displays and sets the line graphic's weight/style/color.
    • Line weight – the line thickness. Use the drop-down menu to choose from a range of line weight presets.
    • Line pattern – the pattern style applied to line. Use the drop-down menu to choose from a range of line style presets.
    • Line color () – click to open the line color selector drop-down, which includes options for preset colors, HEX/RGB color values, the graphic selection of color shades, and variable color opacity.

A Rectangle is a graphic object that can be placed on a Draftsman document sheet and optionally filled with a solid color or ANSI pattern.

A placed Rectangle, with ANSI fill
A placed Rectangle, with ANSI fill

To place a Rectangle, select Place » Rectangle or click the  button from the graphic tools drop-down of the Active Bar.

After launching the command, the cursor will change to a cross-hair and the editor will enter rectangle placement mode. Placement is made by performing the following sequence of actions:

  1. Click to anchor the first corner of the rectangle.
  2. Move the cursor to adjust the size of the rectangle then click again to complete placement.
  3. Continue placing further rectangles, or right-click or press Esc to exit placement mode.

The graphical method of editing allows a placed rectangle object to be selected in the design space and graphically edit its size, shape or location.

Select a Rectangle by clicking on one of its perimeter lines. Once selected, editing handles/nodes are available at each corner.

A selected Rectangle
A selected Rectangle

  • Click and drag a node to reposition it and alter the size of the rectangle.
  • Click and drag a rectangle perimeter line to reposition the rectangle in the sheet.

The Rectangle mode of the Properties panel
The Rectangle mode of the Properties panel

Location

  • (X/Y) – the X-axis and Y-axis values of the rectangle's reference location (bottom-left corner position).

Properties

  • Width – the width of the selected rectangle.
  • Height – the height of the selected rectangle.
  • Line Style – displays and sets the line weight/style/color.
    • Line Weight – the line thickness of the rectangle outline. Use the drop-down menu to choose from a range of line weight presets.
    • Line pattern – the pattern line style of the rectangle outline. Use the drop-down menu to choose from a range of line style presets.
    • Line color – click to open the color selector drop-down, which includes options for preset colors, HEX/RGB color values, the graphic selection of color shades, and variable color opacity.
  • Fill Style – displays and sets the rectangle fill pattern and color. Use the associated color buttons () to specify colors for the fill and/or hatch pattern, and the associated button to set the fill pattern attributes in the drop down options menu.
    • Pattern – the graphic pattern for the rectangle fill. Select Solid fill or an ANSI pattern from the drop-down menu. Select a no-fill preset or an opacity level of 0% to set the color as transparent.
    • Scale – the relative line spacing of the applied ANSI hatch pattern.
    • Rotation – the angle of the ANSI hatching lines, where the based value of 0 is equivalent to 45°.
    • Hatch Thickness – the line weight of the ANSI pattern lines.

A Circle is a graphic object that can be placed on a Draftsman document sheet and optionally filled with a solid color or ANSI pattern.

A placed Circle, with optional ANSI fill
A placed Circle, with optional ANSI fill

To place a Circle, select Place » Circle or click the  button from the graphic tools drop-down of the Active Bar.

After launching the command, the cursor will change to a cross-hair and the editor will enter circle placement mode. Placement is made by performing the following actions:

  1. Click to define the center position of the circle.
  2. Move the cursor to adjust the radius of the circle then click again to complete placement.
  3. Continue placing further circles, or right-click or press Esc to exit the placement mode.

The graphical method of editing allows a placed circle object to be selected in the design space and graphically edit its radius or location.

Select a Circle by clicking on its outline. Once selected, editing handles/nodes are available at its center and perimeter.

A selected Circle
A selected Circle

  • Click and drag the Circle's center node to reposition it on the drawing document.
  • Click and drag a perimeter node to alter the Circle radius.
A Center Mark object can be attached to a Circle’s center point (radius origin) and then used as a binding point for Linear, Ordinate or Angular dimensions.

The Circle mode of the Properties panel.
The Circle mode of the Properties panel.

Location

  • (X/Y) – the X-axis and Y-axis values of the circle's center point.

Properties

  • Radius – the radius (center to perimeter distance) of the selected circle.
  • Line Style – displays and sets the outline weight/style/color.
    • Line Weight – the line thickness of the circle outline. Use the drop-down menu to choose from a range of line weight presets.
    • Line pattern – the pattern line style of the circle outline. Use the drop-down menu to choose from a range of line style presets.
    • Line color () – click to open the outline color selector drop-down, which includes options for preset colors, HEX/RGB color values, the graphic selection of color shades, and variable color opacity.
  • Fill Style – displays and sets the circle fill pattern and color. Use the associated pattern and fill buttons to specify colors for the fill and/or hatch pattern.
    •  -  click to open a drop-down to set the fill pattern attributes:
      • Pattern – the graphic pattern for the fill. Select Solid fill or an ANSI pattern from the drop-down menu. Select a no-fill preset or an opacity level of 0% to set the color as transparent.
      • Scale – the relative line spacing of the applied ANSI hatch pattern.
      • Rotation – the angle of the ANSI hatching lines, where a value of 0 is equivalent to 45°.
      • Hatch Thickness – the line weight of the ANSI pattern lines.

A Text box is a text container object that can be placed on a Draftsman document sheet and optionally filled with a solid color or ANSI pattern. The text string that will be displayed is entered through the Properties panel.

A placed Text object with the default text string and optional ANSI fill.
A placed Text object with the default text string and optional ANSI fill.

To place a Text box, select Place » Text or click the  button from the graphic tools drop-down of the Active Bar.

After launching the command, the cursor will change to a cross-hair and the editor will enter text box placement mode. Click in the design space to place the default text and its associated text box.

The graphical method of editing allows a placed text box object to be selected in the design space and graphically edit its size or location.

Select a text box by clicking on its constituent text or background fill. Once selected, editing handles/nodes are available at its perimeter.

A selected Text box object
A selected Text box object

  • Click and drag the object's text or background fill to reposition the box on the drawing document.
  • Click and drag a perimeter node to alter the size of the text box. The text lines will automatically wrap to remain contained by the box if the Clip Text to Bounds option is checked in the Properties panel.

The Text mode of the Properties panel.
The Text mode of the Properties panel.

Location

  • (X/Y) – the X-axis and Y-axis values of the Text box reference location (bottom-left corner position).
  • Rotation – the horizontal/vertical orientation of the Text box. Use the drop-down menu to select from the 90° sequence of rotation angles.

Properties

  • Width – the width of the selected Text box.
  • Height – the height of the selected Text box.
  • Clip Text To Bounds – when selected, the box text string will be automatically wrapped to remain constrained within the Text box perimeter.
  • Text – the target field for the text string that will appear in the displayed Text box. Select the associated  button to open Draftsman's Document Parameters dialog where any of the available parameters may be selected for inclusion in the Text box.
  • Font – sets the font used for the Text box string (the Text).
    • Use Document Font checkbox selected – the font used is that defined by the document options. See the Document Font entry in General section of the Properties panel when in Document Options mode.
    • Use Document Font not selected – use the drop-down menus to choose the desired font type and size and select the lower buttons to enable text attributes. The associated color button () opens the color selector where the font color can be specified by RGB or HEX value, by freeform selection, or from a range of presets. Note that the slider control sets the color Opacity level, where 0% represents full transparency.

Alignment

  • Horizontal – use the left, center and right buttons to set the horizontal text alignment and positioning within the Text box.
  • Vertical – use the top, middle and bottom buttons to set the vertical text alignment and positioning within the Text box.
  • Fill Style – displays and sets the Text box fill pattern and color. Use the associated color buttons () to specify colors for the fill and/or hatch pattern, and the associated button to set the fill pattern attributes in the drop-down options menu.
    • Pattern – the graphic pattern for the Text box fill. Select Solid fill or an ANSI pattern from the drop-down menu. Select a no-fill preset or an opacity level of 0% to set the color as transparent.
    • Scale – the relative line spacing of the applied ANSI hatch pattern.
    • Rotation – the angle of the ANSI hatching lines, where a value of 0 is equivalent to 45°.
    • Hatch Thickness – the line weight of the ANSI pattern lines.

A Graphic object is an image container that can be placed on a Draftsman document sheet and populated with a standard image file (*.png, *.jpg, *.bmp, etc.).

A placed Graphic container object with its loaded image.
A placed Graphic container object with its loaded image.

To place a Graphic object, select Place » Graphic or click the  button from the graphic tools drop-down of the Active Bar.

After launching the command, the cursor will change to a cross-hair and the editor will enter the Graphic container placement mode. Placement is made by performing the following sequence of actions:

  1. Click to anchor the first corner of the Graphic container.
  2. Move the cursor to adjust the size of the container then click again to complete placement.
  3. Select a suitable image from the file browser.
If the Maintain Aspect Ratio option is checked in the Properties panel (the default setting), move one of the Graphic box editing nodes to sync the box aspect ratio to that of the source image.

The graphical method of editing allows a placed graphic container object to be selected in the design space and graphically edit its size or location.

When a Graphic object is selected, editing handles/nodes are available at each corner.

A selected Graphic object is resized by dragging an editing node. If the aspect ratio is not locked, the image can be distorted to any shape.
A selected Graphic object is resized by dragging an editing node. If the aspect ratio is not locked, the image can be distorted to any shape.

  • Click and drag on any part of the graphic object to reposition it on the document.
  • Click and drag a node to alter the size of the graphic container – the displayed image will automatically resize to fit. If the Maintain Aspect Ratio option is unchecked in the Properties panel, the container size can be set to dimensions that do not match the image file aspect ratio.

The Graphic mode of the Properties panel.
The Graphic mode of the Properties panel.

Location

  • (X/Y) – the X-axis and Y-axis values of the Graphic container's reference location (bottom-left corner position).
  • Rotation – the rotation angle of the object, i.e. the displayed image.

Properties

  • Width – the width of the selected Graphic object.
  • Height – the height of the selected Graphic object.
  • Maintain Aspect Ratio – when checked, the X/Y dimensions of the Graphic container will scale in proportion to the aspect ratio of the source image. The source image will always fill the Graphic container.

An Arc is a graphic object that can be placed on a Draftsman document sheet and set to the desired arc angle, radius and line style. A Draftsman Arc can be placed using a center or three-point method.

Two placed Arcs; the one on the left is in edit mode.
Two placed Arcs; the one on the left is in edit mode.

To place an Arc, select Place » Arc (By Center) or Place » Arc (3 Points) or click the or  button from the graphic tools drop-down of the Active Bar.

After launching either command, the cursor changes to a cross-hair indicating Arc placement mode.

Arc by Center placement steps:

  1. Click to set the center point of the arc.
  2. Move the cursor to adjust the radius and starting point of the arc then click to confirm.
  3. Move the cursor to set the end point (and total angle) of the arc then click to confirm.
  4. Continue placing further arcs or right-click or press Esc to exit arc placement mode.

Arc in Three Points placement steps:

  1. Click to set the starting point of the arc (point #1).
  2. Move the cursor to set the end point of the arc then click to confirm (point #2).
  3. Move the cursor to set the radius of the arc then click to confirm (point #3).
  4. Continue placing further arcs or right-click or press Esc to exit arc placement mode.

This method of editing allows a placed Arc object to be selected in the design space; its location, radius and start/end points can then be changed graphically.

Select an Arc by clicking on its outline. Once selected, editing handles/nodes are available at its center, perimeter and start/end points.

Three ways in which Arc nodes may be manipulated.
Three ways in which Arc nodes may be manipulated.

  • Click and drag the arc's center node to reposition it on the drawing document.
  • Click and drag a start or end point node to alter the arc angle.
  • Click and drag the perimeter node to change the radius of the arc.

Advanced manipulation of an Arc is available by pressing the Ctrl key while moving an editing node:

  • Click and drag a start or end point node to alter its location while retaining the arc angle.
  • Click and drag the perimeter node to alter the size of the arc while retaining its start and end points.

► Editing demonstration.

A Center Mark object can be attached to an Arc's radius origin and then used as a binding point for Linear, Ordinate or Angular dimensions.

The Arc mode of the Properties panel.
The Arc mode of the Properties panel.

Location

  • (X/Y) – the X-axis and Y-axis values of the Arc's center point, relative to the document origin.

Properties

  • Radius – the radius (center to perimeter distance) of the selected Arc.
  • Start Angle – the angle of the Arc start point relative to the arc center in the X-axis.
  • End Angle – the angle of the Arc end point relative to the arc center in the X-axis.

Styles

  • Line Style – displays the Arc's current outline weight/style/color.
    • Line Weight – the line thickness. Use the drop-down menu to choose from a range of line weight presets.
    • Line pattern – the pattern style applied to line. Use the drop-down menu to choose from a range of line style presets.
    • Line color () – click to open the line color selector drop-down, which includes options for preset colors, HEX/RGB color values, the graphic selection of color shades, and variable color opacity.

A Region is a closed shape object that can be placed on a Draftsman document sheet to indicate a specific area in a drawing. The Region object shape can include angle-based curved lines, and a solid color or ANSI pattern fill.

A placed Region shape with ANSI fill
A placed Region shape with ANSI fill

To place a Region, select Place » Region or click the button from the graphic tools drop-down of the Active Bar.

After launching the command, the cursor will change to a cross-hair and the editor will enter Region placement mode. Placement is made by performing the following sequence of actions:

  1. Click to place the first vertex of the Region shape.
  2. Move the cursor then click to place the second vertex of the Region shape.
  3. Continue to place further region vertices to complete the Region shape.
  4. After the final vertex is placed, right-click or press Esc to complete the Region shape back to the first-placed vertex.

Straight lines will be drawn between each vertex as they are placed, however, the Shift+Spacebar shortcut can be used to cycle through other line options such as a 90° corner, 45° corner, curved 90° corner, or curved 45° corner. Once an option is selected, use the Spacebar to toggle the direction of the corner.

► Region placement options demonstration.

This method of editing allows a placed Region object to be selected in the design space and graphically edit its size, shape or location.

Select a Region by clicking on its fill or outline. Once selected, editing handles/nodes are available at each of the shape's vertices:

A selected Region shape is edited by dragging line or vertex nodes.
A selected Region shape is edited by dragging line or vertex nodes.

  • Drag (click+hold+move) any part of the Region, but not a node, to reposition it on the document.
  • Drag a corner vertex node to move it to a new location and alter the Region shape.
  • Drag the center mark of a line to move that line in the perpendicular (maintaining its angle), to a new location.
  • Ctrl+drag a node to delete it from the shape or press Delete while dragging a node to delete it from the shape.
  • Ctrl+drag on a line, but not its center mark, to add a new node.

The Region mode of the Properties panel.
The Region mode of the Properties panel.

Styles

  • Line Style – displays and sets the Region outline weight/style/color.
    • Line Weight – the line thickness of the Region shape outline. Use the drop-down menu to choose from a range of line weight presets.
    • Line pattern – the pattern line style of the Region shape outline. Use the drop-down menu to choose from a range of line style presets.
    • Line color – click to open the color selector drop-down, which includes options for preset colors, HEX/RGB color values, the graphic selection of color shades, and variable color opacity.
  • Fill Style – displays and sets the region fill pattern and color. Use the associated color buttons () to specify colors for the fill and/or hatch pattern, and the associated button to set the fill pattern attributes in the drop down options menu.
    • Pattern – the graphic pattern for the region fill. Select Solid fill or an ANSI pattern from the drop-down menu. Select a no-fill preset or an opacity level of 0% to set the color as transparent.
    • Scale – the relative line spacing of the applied ANSI hatch pattern.
    • Rotation – the angle of the ANSI hatching lines, where a value of 0 is equivalent to 45°.
    • Hatch Thickness – the line weight of the ANSI pattern lines.

Outline Vertices

  • Vertex Table – this is a tabular list of each vertex (node) in the Region shape in their placed order including their (X/Y) locations and associated line arc angles. Each entry may be manually edited to update the rendered Region shape.

The Arc Angle entry will define the curve radius of the vertex connection line – from that node to the next. When edited, the resulting curve shape corresponds to the arc segment of an equivalent circle, through the specified angle. Enter a negative angle to invert the arc curve.

  • Add – click to duplicate the selected vertex entry, which will insert a new vertex (in the same location) into the Region shape.
  •  – click to remove the selected vertex from the Region shape.
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