What is technical drawing and what are the advantages of using it?

What is Technical Drawing?

Technical Drawing is the art or skill of creating a plan as such that a person can visualize and follow how it needs to be carried out. This is also known as Draughting or Drafting and through this process. instead of writing and/or explaining the process of how something would be created or performed, the functions and features are explained with the help of a drawing. The person who creates these drawings are known as a draughtsman, draftsperson, or drafter and if the person is a professional, he or she is then known as a drafting technician.

Artistic vs. Technical Drawing – So what makes technical drawing different from any other type of drawing? Well the main difference is that artistic drawing is generally very subjective and open to interpretation. Where one person sees one thing, someone else might see something completely different or take different meaning from the same piece of art. On the other hand, technical drawing is absolutely clear in what it shows and/or represents and there is very little room for interpretation. Technical drawing generally follows very specific rules and guidelines in order to make its intent clear and avoid confusion.


Who uses Technical Drawing?

Technical Drawing is most commonly practiced by architects and engineers but is also used by teachers, interior designers, product designers, construction workers, plumbers, electricians, and pretty much anyone who builds or creates things. Even programmers and app designers may use their own brand of technical drawing.

Drafting vs. CAD Drafting

Drafting is technical drawing done manually with rulers, t-squares, stencils, triangles, large paper, a large work space, and much more. CAD Drafting is technical drawing done with computer software such as AutoCAD or CorelDRAW. CAD stands for Computer Aided Design.

Prior to 1979 all technical drawing was done manually or with the help of machines. In 1979 a small program was released called ‘Interact CAD’ AKA ‘MicroCAD’. Shortly after, in 1982, AutoCAD was released and has been the standard computer software for technical drawing alongside CorelDRAW (previously known as Corel DESIGNER) ever since.

So which is better? Manual or CAD? Well much to the annoyance of many old fashioned hand drafters, CAD wins out in most categories.

Ease of use/speed – CAD wins here. Despite CAD having a steeper learning curve than hand drafting, once you learn CAD it will be much faster and easier. When technical drawing by hand you have to draw (or trace) everything, every time. With CAD you can save and load existing objects or templates into new projects, but the best part is when you have to modify or correct an existing project design. Making corrections in CAD is fast, easy, and clean whereas making corrections or modifications on paper can be tricky and tedious.

Cost – This is a trickier subject. The startup costs for each can vary greatly depending on what features you need.

Technical drawing manually requires several things. You can buy a kit on amazon to get started for around $36 but if you want a nice setup (proper tools and pencils, a drafting table or board, and proper lighting) you can spend anywhere from $300 – $2000 or more.

CAD Drafting is the same in that it can cost anywhere from nothing to several thousand dollars. If you’re just starting out there are

free CAD programs out there for personal use to get your feet wet. The more useful programs can cost you between $97 and $1000. You will also need to buy a large printer that holds reams of paper for printing your designs unless you work for a company that has such a printer or you know someone who does. You will also need a computer but I’m assuming you have one of those. If not then that can cost anywhere from $100 to several thousand and while CAD will run on almost any computer you will notice a huge difference in the speed of the program depending on how good your processor is.

Security – CAD is generally going to be more secure assuming you do proper backups. You can also encrypt CAD files. With manual drafting you basically have a large piece of paper and it’s security will depend on how secure you can keep a piece of paper. If you have a large safe with guard dogs and an alarm then I would say you win, but if not then I’d go with CAD.

Accuracy – You can be pretty accurate with a pencil but you will never be as accurate as a computer. CAD wins.

It may seem a bit unfair that CAD wins every category but the truth is it’s just better in most areas. Many people I’ve spoken to say they still use manual technical drawing for the early stages of project and idea development. They say it’s easier to ‘feel’ the direction a project should take or to ‘feel’ an idea forming when they do it by hand. They say they just think better at the board. It’s still a very good idea to learn both manual drafting and CAD drafting as employers generally value that and having both skills will make it easier to move up in a company. Also, both skills play off of each other so by building one skill you are improving your ability in the other.


Learning Technical/CAD Drafting

There are many ways to learn technical drawing including everything from reading a few books or viewing video courses to getting a 2, 4, or 6 year degree. Which method you choose will depend on how complex your projects will be, how much time you’re willing to invest in this, and who you plan to work for. There are many levels of being a drafter mainly based on your education and experience but even entry level drafters generally make more than $40,000 per year. Here is a list of the different levels of a drafter and their average expected income:

  • Drafter I – $44,976
  • Drafter II – $53,454
  • Drafter III – $63,054
  • Drafter IV  – $77,538
  • CAD Drafter I – $44,183
  • CAD Drafter II – $55,105
  • CAD Drafter III – $58,478
  • Architectural Drafter I – $39,808
  • Architectural Drafter II – $50,752
  • Mechanical Drafter IV – $69,168

Source: http://www1.salary.com/CAD-Drafter-Salary.html


I have separated this category into Paid Software (Cheap), Paid Software (Expensive), and Free Software.  While the more expensive software will have more features, better ease of use, and better support this in no way means the cheaper software is bad or unusable.  While there will obviously be differences between a $50 program and an $800 one we recognize that you will probably want to get a taste for CAD Drafting without breaking the bank.

Paid Software (Cheap)


 Paid Software (Expensive)

Free Software

SketchUp Make


Sweet Home 3D




progeCAD Smart!


Conclusion – As you can see, Technical Drawing/Drafting/CAD Drafting can be a great career or even a great hobby and while it can take years to master this craft it doesn’t take very long to become proficient enough for basic projects. So what are you waiting for? Click one of the images above and get started!

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In spite of everything I shall rise again: I will take up my pencil, which I have forsaken in my great discouragement, and I will go on with my drawing. -Vincent Van Gogh


Photography is an immediate reaction, drawing is a meditation. – Henri Cartier-Bresson

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