Common AutoCAD Plotting Problems and Solutions

By Bill Fane

No matter how many times you study the AutoCAD documentation, you occasionally run into plotting problems. You’re especially likely to encounter problems when trying to plot other people’s drawings, because you don’t always know what plotting conventions they had in mind. A plotting convention isn’t a place where spies meet; it’s a standardized approach to plotting issues.

If a drawing contains object property overrides instead of ByLayer, you’ll have plotting problems. For example, you want to plot an architectural drawing to show the client the general room layout. You don’t want to confuse them with all the dimensions, so you freeze the Dimension layer. Oops, only half of the dimensions go away, but so do several walls, a couple of windows, and the toilet.

Here are some common plotting problems (in italic) and solutions.

Nothing comes out of the plotter (system printer driver). Check the following:

Verify that the printer is plugged in and turned on, that it has paper (and the paper isn’t jammed) and plenty of toner or ink, and that it’s connected to the computer.

If the drawing is a large one, it may take a long time to rasterize.

Check whether you can print to the device from other Windows applications. If not, it’s not an AutoCAD problem.

Try the Windows Print Troubleshooter (although it usually ends up suggesting that you ask a friend):

  • Windows Vista and Windows 7: Choose Start –> Help and Support, type printing troubleshooting in the Search box, press Enter, and then click Troubleshoot Printer Problems or Open the Printer Troubleshooter.
  • Windows 8: Hold down the Windows key and press W. In the Search field, type printing and then choose Find and Fix Printing Problems.
  • Windows 10: Tap Cortina, and then enter fix printing in the Search My Stuff field. Choose Find and Fix Printing Problems, and then follow the prompts of the wizard.

HP provides its Print and Scan Doctor utility for finding problems troubling its printers and scanners. The software is available free.

Nothing comes out of the plotter (non-system printer driver). Choose Plotter Manager on the Plot panel of the Ribbon’s Output tab, double-click the plotter configuration, and check the settings.

Objects don’t plot the way they appear onscreen. Check for a plot style table with weird settings, or try plotting without a plot style table.

Objects appear ghosted or with washed-out colors. In the plot style table, set Color to Black for all colors.

Scaled to Fit doesn’t work correctly in paper space. Change the What to Plot drop-down list from Layout to Extents.

The Windows system driver that you downloaded doesn’t have the correct paper sizes. In the Plot dialog box’s Printer/Plotter area, click the Properties button to display the Plotter Configuration Editor dialog box, click the Custom Properties button (near the bottom), and then click the More Sizes button to specify the standard and custom paper sizes.

Something else is wrong. Check the plot log: Click the Plot/Publish Details Report Available icon near the right end of the status bar and look for error messages.