Scale drawings: work with them in Visio

Microsoft Visio was never intended to replace computer-aided design (CAD) applications, but it has the ability to produce accurate floor plans and scale drawings. Most versions of Visio include shapes designed for drawing to scale, and Visio will scale them to the scale you are using.

Tip: It’s always a good idea to include the scale of the drawing on the actual page when using a scale drawing, so that other people viewing it will understand what was used to produce it.

Changing the magnification of ordinary objects makes them easier to edit and can be easily shared with colleagues. There is another advantage to this approach; By drawing objects at different scales, you can show more or less detail on a standard sheet of A4 paper. For technical work such as engineering drawings and architectural plans, accuracy is essential if the drawing is to be used as a basis for assembly or construction. Shapes in drawings like these need to be placed precisely and precisely to be used as a worthwhile planning tool.

Set a drawing scale

Although it seems obvious, if you are going to create a drawing to scale, you must first set the scale of the drawing. This is easy to do in Visio by choosing Page Setting from the Tail menu. In the dialog that opens, the drawing scale can be set from the drawing scale tab. There are several predefined scales to choose from, or you can create your own custom scale and use that instead. It is often useful to change the measurement units of the drawing at the same time; if you’re using metric units to plan your kitchen remodel, for example, you’ll probably want to choose millimeters at this stage, but if you’re planning to design a car park this would probably change to meters.

Tip: Units of measure include days and weeks; you can use these units for schedules like time lines where for example 3 cm represents a week etc.

Choose the right template

All versions of Visio ship with US units and metric unit templates. During the installation process, your computer’s configuration is verified and the appropriate templates are installed; if you use both in your work, you can install both and choose the right one when you want to start a new drawing.

Most of the templates suitable for creating a scale drawing are from the Maps and Floor Plans category, but the Parts and Assembly template from the Engineering category is also suitable. In Visio Professional there are templates to create a:

  • office design
  • Low level
  • Home Map
  • plant layout
  • Electrical and Telecommunications Plan
  • Plumbing and Piping Plan
  • Mirrored ceiling plan
  • climate map
  • Security and Access Plan
  • Site Map
  • space map
  • Drawing of parts and assembly.

When you start adding shapes from these templates to the drawing page, the shapes will resize to match the scale of the drawing. Other drawing aids, including grid lines and rulers, will snap to the current units to ensure shapes are placed accurately.

Dimensioning shapes

There are some very useful visual aids that help you place shapes on a scale drawing: dimension shapes. These shapes, specifically the Controller Dimension shape and the Room Measure shape, automatically measure the distances they span and display them based on drawing scale and units. Many more dimension shapes are available in the Building Core template and others; If you search for them in the search box at the top of the shapes window, you’ll find over 100 shapes that can be used to display measurements.

I personally use the controller dimension shape frequently when creating floor plans, as it serves two purposes. Dragging the shape onto the page and then attaching a controller dimension shape to it will display the dimensions of the shape, which is very useful. However, if you change the controller’s dimension text when it’s attached to the shape and then click the gray arrow, it will actually change the dimensions of the shape to the value you just entered – very clever and incredibly useful!

For additional free resources, tutorials, and videos on creating scale drawings in Visio, visit our website at

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