Putting Your CAD Details on Palettes

Standard CAD details have been an interesting topic among companies for many years.  Some companies have established vast and very organized detail libraries, and some companies have no standard detail library at all and simply grab details from previous projects.  Regardless of what method a company utilizes to file their details, quick and easy access to your details is very important.  The AutoCAD-based products incorporate palettes that provide a really nice way of accessing standard details very quickly and controlling the way they are placed into a drawing.

Using palettes to access standard details eliminates users from using the Insert command and then browsing to the desired detail.  This article will describe the basics of using palettes for organizing your details for easy access. 

The first step is to create a new palette to hold some of the details.

  • Right-click in the title bar area of the Tool Palette Set (the vertical side that says “TOOL PALETTES”), or pick the small properties icon at the top of the title bar.
  • Click on New Palette on the context-sensitive menu and a new palette will be added just above the active tool palette.  You will see a box containing the text “New Palette” that can be renamed to a meaningful name for the details that will be on the palette.

Now that you have an empty palette, it is time to start adding your details to it.

If you have your standard details organized into directory folders, it is very easy to add several detail drawings to the palette at the same time.

  • Open Windows Explorer and navigate to the folder that contains the desired detail drawing files.
  • Highlight the desired drawing files through any of the typical Windows selection methods.
  • While pressing the left mouse button, drag the highlighted files to the desired palette and release the mouse button.  All of the selected files will be added as separate tools on the palette.

After placing the detail on the palette, you can customize information for the detail for when it is added to a drawing via the palette tool.  Highlight the desired palette tool, right-click, and select Properties from the context-sensitive menu.  Since these are standard details and not simply blocks, some of the settings that you will likely change/control are:

  • Name (at the very top), since this defaults to the file name and may not be exactly what you want to see displayed next to the tool
  • Description (at the top), to give the tool a really good description that easily differentiates the detail from the other details
  • Scale = 1, since it is a detail drawn at a specific scale
  • Prompt for Rotation = No, so it will always be the same orientation as drawn in detail file
  • Explode = Yes, since you may want to modify it and do not want the entire detail left as a block
    • If you set Explode = No, you will want to also set the Layer on which it is to be inserted


Following the above steps, create as many palettes as necessary to effectively organize your details.

If you have multiple palettes for your details, then it is a good idea is to organize those detail palettes into a palette group.

  • Right-click in the title bar area (the vertical side that says “Tool Palettes”), or pick the small properties icon at the top of the title bar.  Select the Customize… option from the pop-up menu.
  • When the Customize dialog box appears, right mouse-click in the blank area on the right side under the Palette Groups heading.  Select New Group when it appears, and a new folder appears under Palette Groups, at which time it can be given any name.
  • Highlight a tool palette name from the left pane under the Tool Palettes heading.  While pressing the left mouse button, drag the tool palette into the right pane under the new Palette Group name and release the mouse button.
  • Continue to drag as many palettes as desired to the new palette group.

This process is also great for users to create their own palettes to give quick access to those details that they routinely use.  This process does not need to be done by the CAD Manager to be of benefit to a user.

The above process does not typically share the created palettes with other users.  Depending on the specific AutoCAD-based product that is in use, the palette creator will need to share their palettes with others with different processes.  Along with specifying tool palette paths in Options, AutoCAD users can export/import palettes, and AutoCAD Architecture and MEP users can use the Content Browser.  Sharing palettes with others is a different discussion for a different time.

Note that the above process works best when each detail is stored as a separate drawing file.


One thought on “Putting Your CAD Details on Palettes

  1. Pingback: Understanding the Autodesk Content Browser – Part 2 | Applying Technology to Architecture

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