Scale Drawings – Working With Them in Visio


Microsoft Visio was never meant to replace computer-aided design (CAD) applications, but it does have the capability of producing precise floor plans and scale drawings. Most versions of Visio include shapes designed for scale drawings, and Visio will adjust them to the scale you are using.

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

Changing the magnification of ordinary objects makes them easier to edit, and they can easily be shared with colleagues. There is another advantage in 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 going to be used as the basis for assembly or construction. The shapes on drawings like these must be placed both precisely and accurately for them to be used as a worthwhile planning tool.

Setting a drawing scale

Although it seems like stating the obvious, if you are going to create a scaled drawing you must first set of the drawing scale. This is easy to do in Visio by choosing Page Setup from the File menu. In the dialogue box 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 units of measurement of the drawing at the same time – if you’re using metric units to plan kitchen makeover, for example, you would probably want to choose millimetres at this stage, but if you were planning to lay out a car park this would probably change to metres.

Tip: the units of measurement include days and weeks – you can use these units for schedules such as timelines where for example 3 cm represents one week etc.

Choosing the right template

All versions of Visio are shipped with both US units and metric units templates. During the installation process your computer settings are checked and the appropriate templates installed – if you use both in your work, they can both be installed and the appropriate one chosen when you want to start a new drawing.

Most of the templates suitable for creating a scaled drawing belong to 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 for creating a:

  • Office Layout
  • Floor Plan
  • Home Plan
  • Plant Layout
  • Electrical and Telecoms Plan
  • Plumbing and Piping Plan
  • Reflected Ceiling Plan
  • HVAC Plan
  • Security and Access Plan
  • Site Plan
  • Space Plan
  • Parts and Assembly drawing.

When you begin to add shapes from these stencils to the drawing page, the shapes will resize to match the scale of the drawing. Other drawing aids, including the grid lines and rulers will adjust to the current units to ensure that shapes are positioned precisely.

Dimensioning shapes

There are some very useful visual aids that help in placing shapes on a scaled drawing – the dimensioning shapes. These shapes – specifically the Controller Dimension shape and the Room Measure shape – automatically measure the distances they span and display them based on the units and drawing scale. There are many more dimensioning shapes available from the Building Core stencil and others – searching for them in the search box at the top of the shapes window will find over 100 shapes that can be used for displaying measurements.

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

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

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