Understanding Architect’s Redline Drawings

Understanding Architect's Redline Drawings

What Are Redline Drawings?

Redline drawings are architectural drawings that have been printed, reviewed, and marked up with errors, changes, and revisions. The markups are typically done in red ink to make them easier to find, hence the name Redline Drawings.

As a set of construction drawings moves from a schematic design into the creation of construction drawings that a builder will use, printing out the drawings at 50% (usually on 11 x 17 sheets of paper) and full size (24 x 36 sheets or larger) is necessary to ensure quality control.

When drawing in CAD, the line weights (thicknesses of the line), shading, patterns, and other elements are usually color-coded. The thickness of a line shown on a computer is often very different from that of the reality of a printed line. There is also a level of translation between each printer. The gray shading on one printer will usually be very different than the gray shading on another printer. So, frequently printing PDF files on paper to do quality control makes excellent sense.

I personally print out as much as I need to, and sometimes that’s a lot. By printing so much, it actually allows me to work faster and be much more thorough, ensuring that a potential error is not made. The cost of the paper is always much cheaper and significantly more sustainable than dealing with a mistake on a construction site.

Everyone has different preferences, but when I work on a set of construction drawings, I love to mark up my own work on printed-out sets. It’s nice to back away from the computer screen and see the work on paper as it starts to move closer to what the contractor will need to build it. Some people use various kinds of software and draw all over PDF files in red. No matter how you do it, you’re still arriving at a drawing with markups in red.

“Picking Up Redlines…”

…Is a term used when someone marks up a set of drawings with all the errors, changes, and revisions in red ink. Then they explain all the changes that need to be made on the drawings to another person (who typically has a lower pay rate, let’s be honest), and that person will go into the drafting software to make all the changes.

Fixing redline drawings is a fantastic way for an architectural emerging professional to really tap into the knowledge, experience, and expertise of more senior-level members in the firm. Honestly, being the drafter for another, more experienced Architect was one of the most important parts of my education. A ton of learning takes place around design, how to put a building together.

Creating Construction Drawings Is An Art!

Putting together a clear, concise, and thorough set of construction documents for a contractor to build from is a skill and an art form. Anyone who does this work has their own systems, theories, and philosophies about how to put together a set of drawings.

The real power of working on fixing redline drawings is doing this job with many different people and tapping into the collective knowledge of the office. Everyone at the office has a different experience and a different area of expertise. A good attitude to have as an emerging professional is: “Know there is valuable knowledge you can learn from every single person at the office and being open to learning something from everyone.”

Don’t Get Lost!

While working on redline drawings, it’s really easy to forget the changes you have made as you move through the markups, especially if you do not complete all the redlines in one sitting. The best way to keep track of the work done is to use a highlighter and mark off each redline mark that has been picked up or completed. 

Redline Your Own Drawings Before Asking Someone Else 

There are two important concepts you need to understand if you are spending many hours drafting:

  1. The drawings will never be perfect. 
  2. There will always be more you can add.

When you are working on a drawing and putting a lot of thought and energy into it, you can become very blind to a blatantly obvious error. You just don’t see it because you have been staring at the same drawing for too long.

When I first started working in offices, I used to work really hard on drawings, print them, and then hand them right to my supervisor without reviewing them first. He would find the most obvious errors that I couldn’t see on the screen, but it was blatant once it was printed. For a long time, I felt really sheepish because my drawings had sloppy errors.

At some point, I got sick of this stupid concept being a distraction and making me repeatedly look like a fool.

So, I started to get very obsessive about making it a habit to always check my own drawings before I handed them to my boss for review.   Doing this showed that I took the time to review my own work and felt better about catching that spelling mistake before the boss did.

Every Boss will be appreciative of seeing your layer of redlines before they add theirs.

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Michael Riscica

Michael Riscica is a Licensed Architect, Founder and Head Coach of the ARE Boot Camp Coaching Program & Online Study Group.

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