How to Print Architectural & Engineering Plans Professionally

For engineers, architects, and all of the technicians and technologists that assist them in the production of plans for their clients, high-quality printed materials are a must either as standalone plans for builders and contractors or in printed reports. Even in an age where practically all work is done using AutoCAD or other drafting software applications, clients still expect large, detailed plans that can be used on job sites. How can you print these sorts of documents professionally without having access to a plotter at home or in your office? Here are a few tips:

Make Sure You’re Using the Correct Paper Type

Just about all architects and engineers in Australia use the ISO A series to prepare plans. For anyone that may be unfamiliar, the A series paper format has a logical sequence to know the size of any given paper. To wit, an A4 (letter-size paper) is 210x297mm (width x height). An A2 is almost exactly twice as large (think of two A4’s side by side) at 420x594mm. An A0 is 841x1189mm, or two A2’s side by side or four A4’s arranged in a rectangle. Odd-sized papers such as A1 and A3 are almost exactly halfway between the nearest two sizes. Depending on the type of plans being drawn and how it will be presented to the client, most engineers and architects either use A0 or A1 paper which is typically plotted out on large plotters. Some printers can print out A2 and just about every printer can print A4s, so knowing which size you need is important for determining whether or not you can print the plans in the office or if you need to go to a print shop.

Use the Correct Scaling for Your Drawings

Your plans on the AutoCAD drawing space don’t need scaling but should be as accurate as possible, but you certainly need to have your drawing set to a particular scale when it comes to the layout space as this enables contractors or engineers to use their scale to determine measurements on the plan itself once printed. CAD software today makes it relatively straightforward to set an exact scale and to adjust the drawing within a window frame, but it’s best to make sure that the scaling is correct before going to the print shop.

Image Quality and Detail

For smaller plans that can be printed on A4 or A2 paper, for example, there may sometimes be a desire to print out detailed raster images such as aerial photography or 3D renderings of a home or structure. The amount of detail that is shown on a final print isn’t always well-represented on your software application and some detail may be lost if using a printer with a low DPI resolution. Print shops tend to use high-DPI printing equipment but it is still important to verify that the desired level of detail looks good before actually printing. One tip on how to do this is to export the print to a PDF format, for example, as the PDF “printout” will likely look very accurate to what you will see when it is actually printed. Lastly, always look for a quality print shop that is willing to discuss details and answer enquiries you may have about printing out engineering or architectural plans. A good print shop certainly produces many such drawings and should be able to confidently answer your questions to your satisfaction.

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