DraftSight 3D Modeling Part 1: Views and 3D Navigation

Article by Mike Walloch, CSWE updated June 9, 2023

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Working in 3D with DraftSight can take some getting used to for those only familiar with working in 2D. Users of parametric modeling applications like SOLIDWORKS, built from the ground up for 3D modeling, will also need to take a little time to familiarize themselves with the DraftSight 3D Modeling view and navigation commands. This guide will show you the tools you need to work in 3D space.

For more information about parametric vs non-parametric Boolean modeling, check out this blog >> Can You 3D Model in DraftSight?

The DraftSight 3D Modeling Workspace

DraftSight Premium, Enterprise Plus, and Mechanical include a ‘3D Modeling’ workspace in addition to the ‘Drafting and Annotation’ and ‘Classic’ workspaces available in all versions of DraftSight. This workspace includes many of the same tabs and tools available in the ‘Drafting and Annotation’ workspace, plus some extra tools useful when working in 3D.

DraftSight 3D Modeling’ workspace

Keep in mind that DraftSight uses the same environment regardless of what sort of work you’re doing, be it 2D or 3D. There is no switching between different environments with different toolsets available, like with SOLIDWORKS, CATIA, or the xApps. Any of the commands available in one workspace are also available in another.

A workspace provides a convenient way to pick commands without having to type them. It all goes through the command line one way or another, whether you use the keyboard, buttons, or dialog boxes. For the purposes of this guide, we’re looking at where to find commands on the 3D modeling ribbon menus.

It’s also worth noting that the Z-Axis and 3D space are always there in all versions of DraftSight, including the ‘2D only’ versions, Professional and Enterprise. They lack many of the modeling commands available in the ‘3D capable’ versions. But you could still do basic wireframe modeling, perhaps for a layout to make sure all components fit inside an enclosure.

Moving Out of the Top View

When working on a 2D drawing, you’re looking at the Top View. Another way to say that is you’re looking straight down the Z-axis at the XY plane. In this default orientation, it can be hard to tell if you’re looking at a drawing containing only 2D entities on the XY plane, or entities extending above or below it along the Z-axis.

view orientation

To change the view orientation, use the ‘Views’ flyout from the ‘View’ tab. You can choose a different 2D orientation, or one of four Isometric orientations like the ‘SW Isometric’ orientation shown below. Since we are no longer looking straight down the Z-axis, we can now see the circuit board is a single solid body rather than a collection of 2D lines, arcs, and circles.

DraftSight 3D modeling - change the view orientation

You could also use the VIEWS command to bring up a dialog box you can pick pre-defined views from. The -VIEWS command will give you the same options at the command line.

DraftSight views command

DraftSight views command window

Move the mouse while holding down the SHIFT key and the middle mouse button to freely rotate the model in space, rather than selecting a pre-set view. This way you can change the orientation to whatever you want quickly and easily.

move the model in space

The easiest way to zoom and pan is with the middle mouse button / scroll wheel. Scroll to zoom in and out, and pan the screen by moving the mouse while holding down the middle mouse button. This is a ‘transparent’ pan which won’t interrupt another command in progress.

Using the SHADEVIEW Command

Solid bodies can be visualized in several ways. All the images above are rendered using the 2D or 3D Wireframe methods. Other rendering options include Flat, Flat with Edges, Gouraud, and Gouraud with Edges. You can change the method either by typing SHADEVIEW and selecting an option at the command line, or by selecting an option from the flyout found in the ‘Render’ section of the ‘View’ tab.

DraftSight 3D modeling shadeview command 3dmodeling shadeview command

In case you were wondering, Gouraud shading is named for the French computer scientist Henri Gouraud, the creator of the method. He pronounces his last name something like “Gore-Oh.” He originally called the method Smooth shading, but Bui Tuong Phong coined the term Gouraud shading to distinguish it from his own creation, Phong shading. The name stuck.

Here are examples of the circuit board rendered with the Hidden, Flat, and Gouraud options respectively.

hidden options rendered flat rendered Gouraud options

Conclusion

Many DraftSight users don’t need to work in 3D at all, as there are plenty of use-cases for 2D drafting and design. But the Z-axis is always there and waiting for those who want to branch out into the 3D world. Navigating DraftSight 3D modeling is quick and easy. You’ll get the hang of it with just a little practice.

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Mike Walloch, CSWE

Mike Walloch is a Certified SOLIDWORKS Expert (CSWE) and works as a Process & Training Consultant at TriMech