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LibreCAD Tutorial for Beginners (4 Easy Steps)

by Sean TapscottJun 24, 2019

Do your ideas need drafting? Are your drafts lacking details? Learn the basics of creating multi-layered sketches in this super simple LibreCAD tutorial!

LibreCAD Tutorial for Beginners Introduction

Drawing lines in LibreCAD.
Drawing lines in LibreCAD. Source: wiki.librecad.org

In this LibreCAD tutorial, take the first steps towards becoming a CAD professional using a fully-featured open-source tool.  LibreCAD, a multi-platform CAD suite, excels at realizing complex drawings, and then communicating the ideas to others. Follow each step as we transform LibreCAD’s ability to create beautiful hatching into a simple lantern. 

In this tutorial, we’ll cover the basics of LibreCAD and create a 3D object in the process:

  1. How to set up the software
  2. How to navigate and configure the interface
  3. How to create a 2D sketch
  4. How to extrude a sketch into a 3D object

Let’s get started!

LibreCAD Tutorial for Beginners Step 1: Setting Up the Software

The installation window.
The installation window. Source: Sean Tapscott / All3DP

LibreCAD is developed in C++ 11 but can be compiled for any platform. Several pre-compiled versions also exist for Mac, Linux, and Windows. Setting up the software is easy:

  1. Download the latest stable version (2.1.3 for this tutorial) and execute the installation program.
  2. Click “Agree” to the GNU General Public License.
  3. Leave the Destination Folder as default, and click “Install”. 

LibreCAD Tutorial for Beginners Step 2: Navigating and Configuring the Interface

The main elements of the LibreCAD interface.
The main elements of the LibreCAD interface. Source: Sean Tapscott / All3DP

Toolbar Overview

Before working with LibreCAD, double-check that the left, right, and bottom toolbars are enabled in the Enable Toolbars section shown in the image.

On the left, you’ll find the Shape tools that we’ll primarily be using. In the top right, you’ll find the Layer List that’ll help you manage the different layers. Bottom right is where the command line window will help create precision shapes and provide occasional prompts. On the bottom toolbar, you’ll also find the Grid Snap options, which are invaluable when positioning shapes with the mouse.

Prepare Your Layers

The first steps in the platform should help you to become familiar with LibreCAD’s interface.

Let’s begin by creating a construction layer. Construction layers should be configured as a different line color and to not show up in technical drawings. On the Layer List toolbar, add a new layer, and configure it to be a construction layer.  Now we’ll lay out the dimensions of our print bed onto the construction layer, imagining it to be the XY plane.

With the construction layer selected, turn on “Snap to Grid” (third button, hover for tooltip) in the Grid Snap toolbar. Then, click the Line shape and select the rectangle option. The command line window will prompt for the coordinates of the first corner. For a 195-mm square bed, enter “0,0” and then “195,195”. (Alternatively, use the maximum dimensions of your printer’s bed.) Right-click or press Escape to exit the rectangle tool mode. 

Good CAD drawings have dimensions, so let’s add dimensions to our printer bed construction sketch. Select “Dimension”, then select the Aligned option. You’ll want to have “Snap to Grid” and “Snap to Endpoints” enabled. Follow the prompts in the command line window, and select appropriate line endpoints to create dimension lines on the bottom and right edges of the rectangle. 

Lastly, go back to the Layer List and create a new layer for the first real sketch. For this example, name it “Layer_Hatch1”.

LibreCAD Tutorial for Beginners Step 3: Creating a 2D Sketch

Hatching in progress...
Hatching in progress... Source: Sean Tapscott / All3DP

Programs like TinkerCAD, OpenSCAD, and Fusion 360 all have sketch features, but LibreCAD has some of the richest features, as their focus is just on 2D sketches. One of their most differentiating features is their ability to apply hatching patterns into a closed shape. When it comes to enabling creativity by discovering cool patterns – adding texture to a surface in TinkerCAD or creating a neat pattern for lofting 3D objects in Fusion 360 – LibreCAD’s hatching is pretty neat. 

Create a Hatching Container

Select the new Layer_Hatch1 layer and get ready to start sketching. Let’s start with a hexagon shape. After selecting “Polygon (Center, Corner)”, change the number of sides in the top toolbar to 6. Select the size you want using the grid lines or by entering coordinates into the command line.  

Configure the Hatch

To begin hatching, click the Hatching tool – hovering over the icons to find the right one – and select a line of the shape you want to hatch in. Then press Enter on the keyboard. In the window that appears, you can change the scaling and rotation angle of the sketch. For this example, choose “Escher”, and a rotation of 90 degrees for the hatch. After clicking “OK” to confirm the hatch, it will appear in the container. For the hatch to show up as part of the DXF hatch layer, click the Explode tool in the left toolbar, then select the hatch sketch, and finally, press Enter.  

LibreCAD Tutorial for Beginners Step 4: Extruding a Sketch into a 3D Object

Converting the hatch to a 3D object.
Converting the hatch to a 3D object. Source: Sean Tapscott / All3DP

If you’ve been saving your LibreCAD document, it’s already ready to be imported as a DXF into most 3D design programs. In Fusion 360, for example, you should create a plane for importing the sketch onto. Then, navigate to the Insert menu and select “Insert DXF”.

Create a couple more sketches and start extruding. In this example, we didn’t use all of the Eescher hatch profiles, but if you just want to find some quick inspiring patterns, it works great!

Conclusion

LibreCAD is a great tool for makers and engineers who need to quickly communicate an idea. For more complex objects, LibreCAD’s layer functionality can also help identify possible gaps in the design between parts, or serve as a great tool for creating technical drawings.

Looking for more information on LibreCAD? Check out the LibreCAD wiki.

Feature image source: Sean Tapscott / All3DP

License: The text of "LibreCAD Tutorial for Beginners (4 Easy Steps)" by All3DP is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.