importing sketches in solidworksIt’s all great fun to chill with your friends and model up some of that 3D junk with your own sketches, but sometimes you need to take some of their really crappy sketches, toss their lazy buttss a cold beverage and import them to SolidWorks.

Let’s just assume, that you’re starting with an AutoCAD drawing created by a heroine addict… that is not your friend, but just a guy they hired to draw stuff. The joy of getting a small bit of this data into SolidWorks to start a 3D model from will only be evident after you’ve done so.

Let’s take a look at 7 ways to get out of Acad and into some 3D action quick.

  1. Delete everything you don’t need
    Better yet, select only what you do need. I’m talking about picking each line. It’s tedious, but doing this will only select one line, instead of a box selection that will select lines upon lines. You don’t need that headache. Copy it to a new DWG file and save it for later.Additionally, I’ll put everything on one layer if I’ll be using this for sketches in a part.
  2. Import to part
    When you select File, Open…, choose DWG from the filetypes and open your DWG file, you’ll have the option to Import to a drawing or Part. I’ll use Import to drawing when I need to make Blocks or when importing schematics to show on drawings. I’ll check the Add Constraints checkbox. This add relations, like horizontal, vertical, tangent, etc. to all the sketch lines. Obviously, Import to Part brings your sketch into a part file. It puts it on the first plane by default. I usually use this part as a go-between. I’ll quickly box select all the lines and bring them into a new part or assembly and paste onto the plane I need it on.
  3. Clean up your sketch
    If you’re working with closed sketches (contours/loops) it’s possible not all the lines are touching. You can use Tools, Repair Sketch to close these gaps. If you’re trying to create a boss or cut extrusion and it’s turning it into a thin feature, try using Tools, Sketch Tool, Check Feature For… and see what issues come up. Most likely you have a line on top of another line or three endpoints meeting together.
  4. Fully Define Sketch
    If you forgot to check the Add Constraints box when you imported the sketches or want to add dimensions, you can go to Tools, Dimensions, Fully define sketch. This will give you the option of what type of relations and/or dimensions to add to the sketch. I will, at the very least, add all relations.
  5. Add some reference lines or points
    As you get ready to actually use the sketches you’ve been fiddling with up till now, you may want to add some reference lines or points to help locate certain features or tie-down loose ends. I’d suggest constructions lines to define center and set symmetry.
  6. Move that sucka
    Of all the tools in your sketch tool arsenal, the Move and Rotate commands are among the most useful. They’ve gotten a lot more useful in recent versions too. If you work in sketches a lot, I’d but these on your Shortcut Bar (‘S’ by default). These two tools alone will make working with sketches a whole lot easier.
  7. Use Contours
    It use to be that you would have to turn some of your sketch lines into construction geometry to extrude a solid. That’s still the case, if you try a normal extrude. However, when you select to create a boss/base or cut extrusion, there’s an option at the bottom of the Property Manager to select a contour or rather an area. If you select contours, you can keep everything as solid lines and select multiple areas to extrude or cut.
  8. selecting and extruding contours in SolidWorks

Do you work with sketches a lot? I actually wish I didn’t have to, but sometimes it’s necessary and sometimes it actually saves some time up front in the design. What do you use to ease the pain?


Josh is founder and editor at, founder at Aimsift Inc., and co-founder of EvD Media. He is involved in engineering, design, visualization, the technology making it happen, and the content developed around it. He is a SolidWorks Certified Professional and excels at falling awkwardly.