Real Tools You Need for Architectural Drawings

Real Tools You Need for Architectural Drawings

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Architects are often stereotyped for their love of black clothing, the long hours or even the obsession with modelling materials. But no one actually talks about the tools of the trade. Yes, we all know about the Rotring pencils and the T-scale, but not every architecture student or architect uses them all or sticks to typical tools.

It’s common for those starting university to get overthrownby the equipment list and some people actually end up buying it all (trust mewe’re talking from experience). But whether or not these tools come into usedepend on each person and their way of working. In our article ‘StartingArchitecture at University’ we included a list of subject-related equipment youmight need. But this list wasn’t compulsory. We actually recommend holding offon buying too much until you actually start your first day.

Sure, it can seem daunting to not have the proper tools, butit isn’t a big deal. Most universities are equipped with student stores full ofa range of items and sometimes even bundle packs catered for each course. You needto think logically about what you will and won’t use. For example, a roll oftracing paper is a must. Even if you’re not into hand-drawing amazing anddetailed architectural masterpieces, a roll of tracing paper is perfect forworking out arrangements or sketching some rough plans.

An expensive set of mechanical pencils on the other hand,might not be the best use of your money. If you think carefully, wouldn’t yourather be spending on actual model making equipment like foamboards, MDF or generalprinting rather than a set of pencils that do the same job as any other ordinarypencils? Saving money at each turn is a good habit and you’ll understand whyvery soon. As you figure out your habits while working, you will automaticallyrealise the tools you use often.

To give you an example, someone who prefers computermodelling and occasional sketching might not need every single type of ruler orstencil. If it’s part of an exercise in university, then sure it’s something goodto have. But investing too much money will be pointless.

You might be asking yourself at this point, why do I need to know all this? We don’t want to misguide you into spending too much and we also want to let you know it’s okay to not be that person who buys and brings everything they own into university. It’s for your own good. We’re going to break down 5 tools we think any kind of architect needs. Whether you’re into computational drawings or prefer the old-school methods, these tools are important for any student.


We’ve sad this before and we’ll just say it again. If youdon’t have a sketchbook, not just as an architecture student but in any sort ofdesign degree, you’re losing organisational gold. A sketchbook can be the placeto go when you need to write down small pieces of important information or planout your building. A sketchbook often tells a person more about the projectthan the actual portfolio. This is because as well as containing all the keyinformation about your building, it shows the building blocks as well as anytrials and errors you made along the way. Keeping a sketchbook should become ahabit by the end of your first year. It might also be handy to keep one outsideof university for general ideas and to jot down inspiring places or ideas.

You don’t need to invest too much into a sketchbook. Usually,your local print shop will have a selection of sketchbooks that won’t cost youtoo much. Buy one for each project. If it doesn’t last you the whole year, youcan always get another one and stick them together to keep it in one place.

Tracing Paper

Like we said before, keeping a roll of tracing paper with you is essential. Have it with you during tutorials, after crits and basically any other time you’re doing work. It doesn’t need to be just for drawing plans and sections. You can plan out drawings or  sketch things out to see if it works. Just make sure not to lose them. Dedicate a folder where you can keep the important ones.

Making a habit of keeping tracing paper with you at all times is a good practice. When you enter the professional world, you will find yourself having to think on the spot and for that you need somewhere to let your ideas flow well. Every architect will tell you how important of a tool it is.

Decent set of pencils and pens

Again, investing in a really amazing (and expensive) set of pencils or fine-tip pens should only be necessary if you are into creating hand-drawn images. For normal use, a common set should be completely fine. You also need to make sure it’s easy for you to replace them if needed. After a few months you can gauge whether you need to buy more lead or eraser refills. Consider investing in an electrical eraser or kneaded eraser to save on time.

Another good idea is to keep a couple of highlighters or coloured markers. This can help with drawing diagrams and differentiating parts of your drawing if you are explaining things to someone else. Stick to light and easy colours, atleast 3 or 4 different ones should be enough. This way, you can have a key in your mind. For example, using a light blue marker to highlight circulation in your building or using a green marker to show any greenery or vegetation.

Computer Mouse

A computer mouse is a really great tool. Nowadays, everyoneowns a personal laptop. When you’re not working in university on the computers,you can work on your projects at home with ease. A computer mouse is a reallifesaver. If you can, get a wireless one by a well-known company rather thanthe cheaper alternatives because you want them to last and not fail you duringdeadlines.

For 3D modelling or editing, a computer mouse is precise andefficient. If you wanted to go a step further, you could also look intoinvesting in a graphics tablet for digital drawing and editing. It makesproducing perspective images and illustrations much easier.

USB or Hard drive

Nothing is more frustrating than losing your work or havingyour personal items stolen. To avoid this, make sure to keep a USB or harddrive handy. It can also be a good idea for storing model images so that itdoesn’t take up all of your computer’s space. Make a note to ‘back-up’ yourwork onto a USB or hard drive every week or every couple of days. This way, evenif you lose all your work and need to start over elsewhere, you have a basepoint and don’t need to start from scratch.

Don’t be cheap with this kind of technology. Investing in agood one, that has ample amount of storage can last you until after university.Ask family or friends who might have a better idea.

The Lightbook

A bonus item we love at the moment is the Lightbook. We’re sure you’ve seen a lightbox. Usually universities keep around a handful of these. It's what it says it is. Have you ever traced something off the computer screen and shown it off as your own drawing? A lightbox is really just that. You can easily trace plans and sections with ease and use as many layers as needed. This is a lifesaver for someone with detailed hand-drawn plans and buildings with a lot of repeated, similar levels.

The Lightbook is a collection of people and objects that you can trace to add to your drawings with ease. The best thing about it? The drawings are to scale! They’ve even got some fun well-known characters that you can sneak into your sections and elevations making your work look much neater. Plus, it saves you time on drawing out so many additional items that can take up a lot of time and stress you out during deadlines.

You can trace people on to tracing paper or your drawings directly. There are a couple of editions as well as a digital DWG version if you prefer computerised people. One thing we love about the Lightbook is that it's completely affordable for students and we would definitely recommend it.

Have a look at their website below.

If you wanted more ideas or alternatives, have a look at our 'How to Add People in Your Architectural Drawings' article. We provide you with other methods of making this small but important task easier.

That concludes our list of the real tools you need for architectural drawings (and other things). We hope you make wise decisions when investing in tools for architecture. Remember, to have amazing work, you don’t need expensive equipment at all. It all depends on your skills and talents which is something to continue working on.

Make sure to follow us on Instagram, we post new tips, tutorials and features on there daily.

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