Drafting Tools - All you need to have for Architecture

What drafting tools are essential for every architects?
Any type of job requires some sort of equipment or additional utensils that help get the task done.

And in some situations, doing your job is unimaginable without these practical instruments - such is the case with artists, engineers, designers, and of course architects.

Whether we are referring to material or digital tools - architects cannot do much without the necessary drafting essentials.

We are all familiar with the basics - pencils, rulers, erasers and paper. Sufficient for a simple draft, but not quite enough for a complex design. Therefore, architects need to be equipped with more drafting tools and materials in order to produce satisfactory results. However, which ones?

It’s easy to get lost in the sea of options, where there are hundreds of types, versions and sizes to go through.

Sit back and let us guide you through the everyday work routine of an architect.

Without further ado, these are the basic drafting tools every architect should have in their collection

What are drafting tools?

As we’d already mentioned before, drafting tools are supplies that make an architect’s life much easier. 

As you may have guessed, they are utilized to create a technical drawing, otherwise known as a drafting. In the field of architecture, we also refer to a technical drawing as a plan.

The goal of a technical drawing is to portray plans of a certain architectural structure in a clear and unambiguous way.

In today’s modern world, thanks to advanced technology, architects have the option of producing automated drafting through the implementation of computer-aided design.

However, many architects stick to the traditional method of sketching and drawing by hand, because it allows you to be much more creative.

This is where technical drafting tools come in. First and foremost, they are used to measure something, as well as to create various layouts of the drawings.

Moreover, they are employed in order to speed up and enhance the overall drafting process. Each and every drafting supply serves a different purpose and can be put into use in various ways.

After a technical drafting is complete, architects can go on ahead with slowly bringing the project come to life. 

What did architects use in the past as drafting tools?

Drafting Tools - Rulers

Interestingly enough, architects didn’t technically exist until modern times. Before that, their work was completed by artisans, carpenters and masons.

In fact, architecture and engineering were considered to be the same profession back in the day. The occupation was finally introduced following the development of technology and mathematics, as well as old-fashioned drafting tools.

For example, paper wasn’t introduced as a drafting material in Europe until the 1500s, as well as pencils one century later.

However, some other drafting tools had been used as early as in the ancient times. In fact, the first architectural drawing dates back to 2200 B.C.

For instance, wooden corner rulers were used by ancient Egyptians. Bronze compasses were firstly employed by the ancient Nuragic civilization of Sardinia. Other types of rulers, like scale and triangle, were wielded in ancient Greece.

Before pencils became the standard tool for any type of drawing, different types of styli and quills were quite popular. Similarly, before we were introduced to traditional drawing pens, so-called ruling pens were first developed in the 17th century.

What’s also interesting to mention is that numerous artists designed and created their own drafting tools, some of the most famous inventors being Leonardo da Vinci and Albrecht Dürer

In the 19th century, more and more drafting equipment began to be developed and invented.

Finally, in the 1990s, computer-aided design systems were introduced, a development that would change the architecture game forever.

Basic drafting tools and materials

In order to design the perfect plan, architects follow the standard basic procedure, all the while helping themselves to various drafting tools.

In this article, we will list some of the most essential drafting tools that can usually be found in an architect’s tool bag.

Drawing board

Before we start with the basic tools, let’s go into where architects even do their work.

No, it can’t be any type of table, but rather, a drawing board. The large surface of a drawing board gives the architect enough workspace to design and draw precisely and accurately.

Back in the day, the edges of paper would be glued to the board, and sometimes secured with drawing pins, to prevent the paper from moving.

Today, paper is more commonly fixed with self-adhesive tape. Drawing boards come in different sizes, and their height can also be modified.


Photo Credit: Wikiwand

A drafting instrument that is usually paired with a drawing board is a T-square.

Its name is derived from the similar appearance of the letter T.

They also come in different sizes, depending on the size of the drawing board.

To be more precise, a T-square is a straightedge, which is attached to the sides of the drawing board, allowing the architect to draw horizontal parallel lines flawlessly.

Architects can adjust it and slide it over the paper any way they want.


Measuring is one of the most important aspects of drafting. One wrong move, and the entire project could be ruined.

Normally made from polystyrene, rulers usually have two types of edges - straight ones which are lined with pencils, and grooved edges that are better used with technical pens.

There are also metal rulers, which are useful and last longer than standard plastic ones. 

Scale ruler

Scale ruler - Drafting Tools

Otherwise known as an architect’s scale, these types of rulers are specialized instruments that are frequently used in the drafting process.

Architects like to use scale rulers for designing floor plans and in some cases, they are used for multi-view orthographic projections.

What’s great about them is that they often have various units of length because the measurements of draftings are not the same as those in real life. In most cases, they are made of plastic, and before they were created from hardwood.

Set square and triangles

Drafting Tools - Square and Triangles

We are all familiar with these types of rulers, due to being first introduced to them in math class in primary school.

Transparent and usually made from plastic, we can usually find them in two forms - one type with 90-45-45 degree angles and the other with 30-60-90 degree angles.

It’s also possible to find adjustable triangles, the modernized version of triangles that have alleviated architects’ jobs to a great extent.


Drafting Tools - Protractor

Another familiar item from math class, a protractor can be quite useful for measuring angles which are measured in degrees.


They are also transparent and made from plastic. We also have the so-called bevel protractor, which is more advanced. It has one pivoted part, which can be adjusted, that is used for marking off angles.

This is definitely a tool you should have in your architecture kit.


Drafting Tools - Compass

This drafting tool is used to draw circles and arches, as well as to gauge distances on maps.

It’s very crucial to possess this drafting instrument, in both fields of geometry and technical drawing.

They usually come with different extension accessories, with which you can draw larger circles and curves.

There are also different types of compasses, for example beam compasses, scribe-compasses and other variants.


Drafting Tools - Template

These various types of drafting tools make the initial design process much easier.

Drafting templates combine common symbols, geometrical shapes and text, which accelerate the overall drafting process, since the architect doesn’t need to draw the same symbols again and again.

Of course, there are various types of templates on the market.

French Curve 

If there isn’t a template or a compass within your reach, you can always use a French curve.


This drafting tool is normally made from plastic, metal or wood, and apart from technical drawing, it’s also commonly used in sewing and fashion design.

Architects can also opt for flat splines, which are flexible and adjustable curves.


Drafting Tools Pencils

Architects are picky about their pencils like artists with their paint brushes. It makes sense, since they are very important in the sketching process.

Whether we are talking about wood encased pencils or mechanical pencils, they come in million versions and types.

Their hardness and thickness vary from HB to 2H.


Graphite pencils provide architects with options with different hardness, with which they can manipulate the dark and light in the form of shade and shadow.

Lining pens and technical pens

Drafting Tools - Technical Pen

For definite darker lines, architects opt for liners or technical pens, since the final versions of the drafting are drawn with ink.

Today, we have a plethora of options when it comes to pens, as they vary according to width. They usually contain a refillable ink reservoir or a replaceable ink cartridge.

Drafting machine 

This architectural innovation was invented by Charles H. Little in 1901.

A drafting machine is a drafting tool that is attached to a drawing board.

It consists of a pair of scales and an articulated protractor head. It provides you with the easiest way to draw parallel lines on the paper.

This architectural innovation was invented by Charles H. Little in 1901.

A drafting machine is a drafting tool that is attached to a drawing board.

It consists of a pair of scales and an articulated protractor head. It provides you with the easiest way to draw parallel lines on the paper.


Drafting Tools - Eraser

Just like pencils and pens play an important role in the sketching process of drafting, erasers are also a game changer.

There truly are hundreds of options to consider, so choose wisely. On the other hand, you can always purchase an electric eraser - they will help you get rid of mistakes much easier.

Eraser shield 

Another useful trinket, an eraser shield is one drafting tool that could make all the difference in your projects.

It’s a thin sheet of steel that has differently-shaped holes and patterns, allowing you to erase the thinnest lines and details, without touching other symbols or marks that are close-by.


Drafting Tools - Sharpener

Apart from erasers and pencils, a prepared architect should also have a good pencil sharpener, one that won’t damage the pencils.

If you happen to be a bit lazy, you can always get yourself an electric pencil sharpener, it will do the trick twice as fast.

Cutting mat 

Cutting mats are “self-healing,” which means that you can reuse it over and over again.

Once you start using this drafting tool, you will soon learn that you can’t do your work without it. They come in different sizes with grid patterns that allow you to cut straight lines.

Paper trimmer 

This useful item isn’t only intended for architects, but for anyone who works with paper, since it’s a great replacement for scissors.

What’s great about this tool is that you can adjust it to different sizes of the paper. It will definitely make your life easier, so go on ahead and add it to your collection of architectural drafting tools.

Drafting materials

In addition to drafting tools, here are some drafting materials you should be equipped with. 

Drafting paper

Drafting Tools - Drafting paper

Drafting paper is smooth silk-like paper that is most commonly convenient in the sketching process, and it’s employed with felt tip pens and pencils.

 When you get it wet, it becomes wrinkled. It’s definitely a valuable piece of an architectural drafting collection, and if you don’t have it yet, you will see how much you need it.

Tracing paper

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Tracing paper is not the same as drafting paper, this drafting material has low opacity, meaning it’s almost transparent, so that light can pass through it.

It’s used in a way that a picture or an image can be traced onto the paper. It was firstly intended for engineers and architects, but today it serves a bundle of purposes.

Tracing tube

Drafting Tools - Tracing tube

This drafting material is transparent plastic film, usually made from polyester, that is intended for photocopying.

It can be 0.05, 0.07 and 0.10 mm thick, and it's used for lining with pencils and drawing pens. 

Drafting tape

Drafting Tools - Drafting tape

Another useful drafting material, drafting tape, or artist’s tape, can be used in various ways.

It doesn’t leave behind adhesive residue and it can be removed in an easy way. It’s also very popular for drawing and painting.

Computer aided design

CAD - Drafting Tools

Of course, the demand for many of these drafting tools and materials has been diminished since the introduction of computer aided design or CAD.

This type of software has made architects’ jobs much easier, since it enhances the quality and speeds up the process of designing.

Architects use it to design two-dimensional graphics, like curves and figures, and three-dimensional space for surfaces and solids. 

One of those programs that is currently a must in architecture industry is Rhino and Grasshopper. Here at How to Rhino, we help architects to learn how to use it for architecture, so if you're interested, make sure to check our FREE training below.


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About the Author

Dušan Cvetković is a professional architect from Serbia with international experience in the industry. Collaborated with numerous clients all around the world in the field of architecture design, 3D modeling and software education. He's been teaching Rhinoceros3D to thousands of architects through How to Rhino community and various social media channels.