Types of Interior Design Drafting Tools

Updated on May 14, 2019
lindacee profile image

Linda is a seasoned writer and home-decorating authority. She loves sharing design trends, decor ideas, and useful tips with her readers.

Why Hand Drafting?

With the advent of computer-aided design (CAD), why in the world would an interior designer need to be proficient in hand drafting? Simply put, hand drafting is considered the foundation of interior design theory. Students are required to learn this technique before their introduction to CAD software.

Types of Hand Drafting

There are three categories of drawings crucial to interior designers:

  1. Process drawings: Rough images and preliminary sketches
  2. Construction drawings: Drafted drawings, floor plans, elevations
  3. Presentation drawings: Formal sketches, three-dimensional views

Example of an interior design conceptual sketch.
Example of an interior design conceptual sketch. | Source

Within the category of hand-drafted drawings, there are two distinct types: technical sketches and mechanical drafting. An interior designer must have the ability to quickly create technical sketches during the preliminary and initial design phases to convey design ideas to others.

Presentation rendering of an open plan living space.
Presentation rendering of an open plan living space. | Source

A mechanical draft is the next step that moves a design idea from the development to implementation phase. It is a much more advanced and refined drawing style that takes the design project to the next level. Mechanical drawings are created only after a final design is agreed upon.

Mechanical drawing, or floorplan, of a residential kitchen.
Mechanical drawing, or floorplan, of a residential kitchen. | Source

Specialized Drafting Tools

While the basic pencil is required to create the actual drawing, interior designers need a number of other specialized drafting tools to help bring their designs to life.

  • Compass
  • Drafting boards and tables
  • T-square
  • Straight edge
  • Parallel ruler
  • Drafting machine
  • Computer-aided design software


A compass (a.k.a. pair of compasses) is a common drafting tool used to draw circles and arcs. The compass is a V-shaped device comprised of two rigid legs, one with a sharp end tip and the other that accommodates a pencil. The pointed tip is used to pivot on the drawing surface as the pencil leg marks a radius or arc. Adjust the radius by changing the angle of the hinge.

Vintage compass set.
Vintage compass set. | Source

Drafting Boards and Tables

When doing interior design drafting, it is necessary to have a proper work surface. A portable drafting board has a smooth, level surface to accommodate large sheets of paper for mechanical drawings. The sheets are secured to the surface to prevent shifting during work.

Drafting tables come in variety of designs, but always feature an angled work surface.
Drafting tables come in variety of designs, but always feature an angled work surface. | Source

This type of board can be used on most tables or countertops and is less expensive than a drafting table. Drafting tables typically have an adjustable top or legs to create an angled drawing surface. Many also feature a built-in straight edge.


A T-square is a necessity to interior designers. It consists of a longer blade and a shorter strip, known as the head. The blade is attached at a right angle to the head. They come in sizes that range from 15- to 72-inches long. T-squares can be used to draw straight lines and right angles.

A budding interior designer perhaps?
A budding interior designer perhaps? | Source

Straight Edge

A straight edge is just as the name implies. It is employed to draw straight horizontal lines. The straight blade attaches to the edge of the drafting board or table and can be moved up and down the board. The blade locks into position to create perfectly straight lines on flat or angled work surfaces.

Parallel Ruler

Interior designers often need to draw precise parallel lines. That can be a difficult task without a parallel ruler. This ruler has two straight blades attached at the ends by hinged arms, which is used to create parallel lines of varying distances from one another.

Parallel rulers are handy for drawing exact parallel lines for interior design mechanical renderings.
Parallel rulers are handy for drawing exact parallel lines for interior design mechanical renderings. | Source

Drafting Machine

The drafting machine combines several drafting tools in one. The unit can be purchased as a portable drafting board, or as part of a drafting table system. It features a built-in protractor and two scales (rulers). It moves on a track mechanism across the board surface. A drafting machine costs more than a basic drafting table or board, but saves time and improves the accuracy of mechanical and technical drawings.

Computer-Aided Design Software

Today, interior designers use Computer-Aided Drafting and Design (CADD) software to create technical and mechanical drawings. The most popular software is called AutoCAD. It creates 2D and 3D designs and can be used with either Windows and Mac operating systems.

3D AutoCAD image of an interior space.
3D AutoCAD image of an interior space. | Source

AutoCAD can save an interior designer valuable time when dealing with client changes and multiple design options. Drawings and documentation can be printed for presentations and saved by client and project.

Questions & Answers

  • how can I download AutoCAD software on my computer?

    I wouldn't try downloading "free" AutoCAD software. Your best bet is to purchase AutoCAD through Autodesk.

  • What is the use of compass for interior designers?

    A compass is used for drawing circles and arcs for interior designs. Some interior designers use both drawing manual tools and computer software programs.

© 2012 Linda Chechar

Start a Conversation!

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    • lindacee profile imageAUTHOR

      Linda Chechar 

      7 years ago from Arizona

      So happy you liked my Hub HouseBuyers, and found it to be helpful. Thanks for stopping by!

    • lindacee profile imageAUTHOR

      Linda Chechar 

      8 years ago from Arizona

      Om, I did have a software program when I owned a window coverings business and yes, it was pricey. Not something I would purchase for the fun of it, but it sure came in handy when designing for clients. Thanks for visiting and commenting!

    • Om Paramapoonya profile image

      Om Paramapoonya 

      8 years ago

      Nice job, Linda. Thanks for sharing this interesting info. It was fun to learn about these nifty tools. I would really love to have a design software program, but I bet it's probably pricey.

    • lindacee profile imageAUTHOR

      Linda Chechar 

      8 years ago from Arizona

      I'm a computer gal myself, CassyLu. My husband is good at doing drawings by hand. You're right, it is fun to compare the two! So glad you enjoyed this Hub. Thank you so much for the vote and share!

    • lindacee profile imageAUTHOR

      Linda Chechar 

      8 years ago from Arizona

      Ha! Leah, maybe that "subtle" hint will do the trick! ;) My hand drafting skills leave something to be desired -- I will have to stick with AutoCAD. I so envy people like you with hand drafting talent. Good luck with the living room project!

    • leahlefler profile image

      Leah Lefler 

      8 years ago from Western New York

      I really need to start drafting out our living room (probably by hand). Maybe if I get it drafted, my husband will start on the work, haha!

    • CassyLu1981 profile image


      8 years ago from Spring Lake, NC

      Love this hub! My husband and I just recently starting doing some interior design stuff on the computer and drawing by hand. It's a lot of fun to see what the other one comes up with. We don't have any of the fancy drafting tables or anything but it is a fun past time :) Voted up and shared!


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