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AutoCAD Layers Deep Dive: Your Toolbox

orphaned utensilsImage courtesy of glasseyes view via Flickr –

If you have been following this series (and if you haven’t then we need to talk, its not too late, here’s the start) you’ve probably realized that there is a lot going on with layers… managing, naming, keeping to standard, working with… and we haven’t even looking at the Layers panel in the Ribbon yet!

AutoCAD Layers Panel Expanded

It looks innocent enough, not much different than any of the other panels around it, that is until you expand it and boom you are overwhelmed with icons, options, and many tools. I’m not going to go into each one as the AutoCAD Help does a great job of detailing each button. Don’t believe me? Hover over one of the icons and when the tooltip appears press F1 to show the help on that particular feature

AutoCAD Layer Unisolate Help

Working with Layer States

If you’ve been using AutoCAD for a while you’ll know that you can turn layers off or freeze them so that they do not appear in the drawing window, but do you know the difference between freeze and off?

AutoCAD Layer Panel Labeled

  • You can quickly turn on all layers and/or thaw all layers using Turn On Layers On (1) and Thaw All Layers (2) [Don’t get me started on using “unthaw”, just because it was added to the dictionary doesn’t make it right!]
  • Not sure which layers you want to make invisible? or do you have a bunch of layers you want to freeze? Use Layer Off (3) and Layer Freeze (4) to pick objects in the drawing area, the layer the object is on will be set to Off or Frozen. Remember that you can turn off the current layer but you cannot freeze it.
  • A quick way to set a layer as the active layer is to use Make Object Layer Current (5). Pick an object in the drawing area and the layer that object resides on becomes the current layer
  • Lock Layers or Unlock Layers by picking objects in the drawing window using Layer Lock (6) and Layer Unlock (6). Again great in that you don’t need to even know the name of the layers or need to scour your layer list to find them, just pick the objects in the window and AutoCAD locks or unlocks the layer the object is on.
  • Control the amount of fade using the slider (7) or disable the lock layer fading altogether (8)

Other Great Tools

AutoCAD Layer Panel Labeled Part 2

Want to quickly isolate certain layers? Why not use Layer Isolate (1)? Pick objects on the screen and those objects layers are kept, all other layers are either turned off or locked (and faded). Use the Settings of the command to toggle the behaviour between off and locked. When done with your work use Layer Unisolate (1) to restore the layer visibility (or locked state) back to their previous state


  • Similar to Zoom Previous in function, use Layer Previous (2) to quickly restore layers to their previous states. For example, freeze three layers and lock one, do some work in the drawing, click Layer Previous (2) to thaw the three layers and unlock the one.
  • With Change to Current Layer (3) you can window select objects in the drawing window and they are moved to the current (active layer)
  • Copy Objects to New Layer (4) is a bit misleading in name in that it doesn’t actually create a new layer, but what it does do is after selecting the objects to copy you are prompted to select the destination layer. The copied objects are then placed on the selected layer opposed to the layer of the originally selected objects.

Layer Walk (5) is a great exploration tool, to quickly see which layers your objects are on, to see how drawing is setup from a layer perspective, or to quickly check for standards violations

.AutoCAD Layer Walk

Layer Merge and Layer Delete

Finally, what do you do when you have more layers than what’s required? What do you do with those pesky layers that you cannot delete nor can you purge? You use Layer Merge (6) and Layer Delete (7) of course!

With Layer Merge (6) you select the layers that you no longer want or require and you select a destination layer. All the objects on the unwanted layers are moved to the destination layer and these layers are removed from the drawing. In the newer versions of AutoCAD the objects that will be adjusted are previewed prior to picking the destination layer so you can see what’s going to happen before it does happen.

Layer Delete (7) is very similar except that you just select layers, the layers you no longer want to be part of your drawing. These layers AND all the objects contained on these layers are deleted and removed from the drawing.

Here’s a great post by the best-of-the-best Lynn Allen describing how to delete stubborn layers

See These Tools in Action

Here’s a video in which I try to cover these tools in 4-minutes or less, but I fail! Too much to talk about and I love to talk!


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