An introduction to AutoCAD’s Plotting options

OK, so there’s a few system settings in AutoCAD that will affect the way your plots turn out. I want to mention them here.

You can find them in the ‘Options’ Dialog:

Go to Tools>Options


Right click over the command line and choose ‘Options’ from the short cut menu


Type ‘Options’ at the command line

Once you have the ‘Options’ Dialogue open, navigate your way to the ‘Plot and Publish’ tab.

You should see something like the screen shot below (Click for a larger Image).

AutoCAD Options Plot and Publish

1. Default plot settings for new drawings

This options sets your default printer. This allows you to set a different default printer to your standard windows printer. This could mean that standard windows documents get sent to the office A4 Printer, while Autocad documents go to your large format plotter.

You can use the ‘Add or configure Plotters’ button to create Autocad specific drivers for your Printers/Plotters or add plotter drivers to Autocad that aren’t available to your other windows programs (More on that another time).

2. Plot to file

If you use the ‘Plot to file’ option in the plotter dialog, this will be the default location for your PLT file. This will also be the default location for PDF’s, DWF’s or any other electronic ‘Print’ files, such as Jpegs.

3. Back ground processing options

This option enable background plotting and publishing. This means that you can continue working while your plot files spool.

You can turn on ‘Enable background plot when Plotting’ If you want, but I find it slows my machine down and makes it a bit buggy. I’m happy to wait the couple of seconds it takes to spool the plot file.

I don’t recommend that you turn on ‘Enable background plot when Publishing’.

There’s been some bugs with this that don’t seem to have cleared up. This means that you won’t be able to work whilst Autocad is creating the plot files and sending them to the plotter. You will see Autocad open and close each drawing file you have told it to plot. This may take some time if you are plotting a lot of drawings.

Don’t worry, it is still quicker than plotting each drawing one at at time, and it will give you a chance to make a coffee whilst your Boss thinks you are working hard (I won’t tell if you don’t)

4. Plot and publish log file

This section enables you to keep an automatic log of all the plotting you’ve done. Unless you charge per-plot I don’t see why you’d need this, so you can turn it off. If you want to have it on, I recommend that you set it to ‘Save one continuous log’ or you will end up with your project folders peppered with Plot Logs.

5. Automatic publish

This section allows you to have Autocad automatically create ‘electronic’ plots (e,g. PDF or DWF)  from you drawings whenever you change them. The plot will be created whenever you save or close the file that you are working on. Again, unless you have a specific reason as to why you would want this turned on, I recommend that you turn it off to prevent clutter.

6. General plot options

The important one here is ‘When changing Plot device’. I like to keep this set to ‘Keep the layout size if possible’. If you don’t chose this setting Autocad will automatically re-set your paper size to suit the printer you have chosen. This can be annoying if you’ve accidently picked the wrong printer or you wanted to plot an unusual size.

‘System printer spool alert’ will let you know if the printer didn’t receive your plot file correctly. It’s a good idea to leave this turned on.

OLE quality and OLE objects are important if you want to print Autocad files that contain files embedded from other programs, for example a PDF or JPG that you have copied and pasted in. I don’t do this often, so I don’t have any recommendations here…

‘Hide system Printers’ is an important one. Autocad will show it’s own plot drivers along side the drivers that Windows installed. The whole idea of using the Autocad plot drivers is to allow you to set up Autocad differently to windows. I should check this if I were you.

7. Specify plot offset relative to…

This option sets whether the plot offset in the dialog box is from the corner of the paper or the corner of the plot-able area. The plot-able area is liable to change when you change printers, so it’s not an intuitive guide. The corner of the paper however is always in the same place, so I recommend that you set it to this.

8. Plot stamp/Plot style table settings

Plot stamp settings allow you to place a time and date stamp in the corner of every plot you create. This sounds good, but as every plotter is different it can be a bit tricky to use if you are constantly plotting full size, then reduced, then PDF’s (aren’t we all!) Unless you always plot from the same plotter I recommend that you ignore this, there is other ways of doing this if you really need it.

Plot styles >>

The final button takes us to the ‘Plot style’ dialog… and that, my friend, is a whole other story…


There are more settings in the ‘Options‘ dialogue under the ‘Files‘ tab that may effect how your plotts turn out.  Read this article to find out more.

More AutoCAD Options that will effect your Plots

4 Responses to “An introduction to AutoCAD’s Plotting options

  • maral
    12 years ago

    i’ve used autocad for 5 years but today when i wanted to preview my file i pressed ctrl+p this error appeared on the command bar can u help me to fix the problem?thank you
    _plot Unknown command “PLOT”

  • Helen Christensen
    12 years ago

    I think your blog is really useful, and I have a question regarding plotting.
    I have used AutoCAD since 1998, but the changes in the last versions has taken some time get used to.
    One thing I cannot figure out is the “scale lineweigths” in the plotting dialog box. I installed 2010 on my computer, and I believe I had to change a system variable to make the “change lineweigth” work. My computer crashed, and when reinstalling programs, I decided to go with 2013, but now I cant remember what I did to make it work.
    As it is now, ticking off “scale linewigths” doesn’t have any effect on the outcome, lineweigths are the same. I have seen people using CTB to change the lineweights, but it is so much easier to be able to tick on and off the option in the dialog box. Will you please help me? Thank you.

    • Hi Helen,

      I think that you are chasing a red herring here…

      The ‘Scale line weights’option is used when you are creating reduced scale plots.

      If you don’t check ‘Scale Lineweights’, the 0.5mm line that you intended to plot at A0 will still plot at 0.5mm, even though you are now plotting on A3 paper! (my apologies if you use Imperial measurements – I hope you get my point!).

      If you do check ‘Scale line weights’, AutoCAD will automatically scale the line weights to suite the reduction scale that you are working to.

      If you are not doing a reduced scale plot ‘Scale lineweights’ will have no effect whatsoever.

      If you use the AutoCAD default ‘Monochrome’ .CTB file, you will find that the line weights are set by ‘layer’. So just set the layers up the way you want them to, and that is how AutoCAD will plot.

      If you have a company .CTB file – I guess that you need to talk to the person who created it and ask them how it works!

      If you want to view your line weights on screen, just toggle the ‘View line weights’ button in the system tray. If you want to see how your plot will look, with out having to do a plot preview – check out this tip:

      I hope that helps! Let me know how you get on :)