Moving from Pen and Pad to Pen and CAD

Digitising Concept Sketch Designs

Change… hard to do but necessary when the world around you changes and it’s challenging to move from what you know to something better and having to re-learn, but it doesn’t have to be.

Designs usually start with a pen and pad and a lot of erasing and design changes and variations, which is why the free flowing creativity of the pen is so beautiful. Even for companies with modern 3D CAD tools, many still start with a concept sketch and then have to redesign the sketch into CAD and capture the design intent because CAD is an engineering tool requiring parameters like dimensions & constraints and when you have to scrap the idea and start again, these parameters are painful, especially when the concept designer has no CAD experience. 

That’s where Sketchbook Designer comes in. It’s a hybrid paint and vector tool and with a Mouse or Digital Pen you can create stunning concept illustrations and have the freedom to explore ideas without being hampered by CAD. It’s part of Autodesk Product Design Suite.

Once the concept stage has been fully explored, you can then save the file as a DWG and the drawing lines are converted to vector lines which can be opened in AutoCAD or Inventor for the Engineering stage of Design and start defining dimensions, constraints, materials, solid bodies and mechanical movement.

Here’s a Quick Workflow I made of my smartphone using Sketchbook Designer – Inventor – Showcase:

SBD Workflow

Is it easy to use… Yes, as easy to use as a pan and pad, but, if you want to create the amazing artwork it is capable of, like anything, you’ll need to learn where the tools are and what they can do.

sketchbook curves export

 Going from Sketchbook Designer to AutoCAD, Inventor or Alias is pretty using using the export curves DWG command, however, one thing I’d like to see from Autodesk is more control on the amount of curves when exporting, and combining straight lines entities in CAD, when curves are made in Sketchbook, as there as bit of clean up to do.

On the positive, using project geometry in Inventor gets around any issues with curves and when a DWG from Sketchbook with fillets is imported into Inventor, Parametric modelling 101 is to do the fillets and chamfers last, so you ignore the sketch curves that are fillets because you create fillets features last.

For complex curves or organic shapes, Sketchbook Designer is a great tool as the design intent is kept when exporting into CAD and you can start creating dimensions  from the sketch.

Here are some benefits and features of Sketchbook Designer:

  • Sketch free-form curves on designs and import/export curve data (DWG™ files)
  • Auto tools to straighten, curve or morph lines
  • Library of brushes that can be used on both paint and vector layers
  • Vertical, horizontal & radial symmetry
  • Visual communication tool that can produce complex and intricate designs
  • Simultaneously manipulate paint and vector layer contents
  • Annotate designs with the text tool
  • Save common image formats including DXF, JPG, PNG, TIFF, BMP, and layered PSD
  • Full control of multiple layers, including layer blending, folders, and dynamic symmetry
  • Interactive fills and gradients give you full control to explore color schemes and shape definition
  • Dynamic transformation and warping tools
  • Ability to change line thickness, brush styles, shape, and color of vector curves at any time
  • Shape recognition and interactive smoothing while creating or editing any curve

You can download a 30-day trial of Sketchbook Designer here

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