CAD has completely replaced hand sketching?(solved)

A lot of students ask if CAD has completely replaced hand sketching, or drafting still surviving regarding the huge technology revolution we live in today.

In this article, we’re going to respond to these questions and know if drafting is dead or still has potential.

How many people use CAD today

According to Statista, the 3d design sector is predicted to grow by 20% for the next 10 years. In 2011 the cad number of users was about 20 million around the world during these 10 years the sector has decreased by 50%, which makes us approximate that the number of cad users today exceeds 30 million users.

As The global AutoCAD company said, the global users of AutoCAD service include AutoCAD, Revit, Maya, 3ds Max, Fusion 360, SketchBook, and more is 100 million.

if we make a comparison between 2D and 3D markets according to the statists data that we listed above we find that 3d market design is bigger 4 times than 2d design.

Today we can say that engineers aren’t using hand sketching and CAD has replaced it, except for some cases that we talk later about. CAD is faster and can save 100 hours of work.

CAD becomes an essential tool for engineering it helped the industry to make fast movement creating and sketching products in record times. It could be used almost anywhere, we will list the industries that use CAD and you might not expect to:

  • jewelry
  • cars
  • buildings
  • planes
  • rockets
  • cloths
  • interior design
  • bridges and so on

People are doing CAD but hand sketching is not for everyone

According to art, There are almost 2 million Americans who describe their primary occupation as artists. Representing 1.4 percent of the U.S. This reflects the drawing industry and how it is hard to compete in.

A lot of people say and promote the idea that drawing or sketching is for everyone. But the reality is not that much. 7% of artists say they live completely from arts which means only 140 000 US artists can live from the sketching domain.

The absolute truth is people are doing CAD because sketching manually is not for everyone. It can be learned but there is not a guaranteed method that makes students operate well in hand sketching like in CAD. this is why it has been replaced.

So why spend hours and lose money when something else in the market solves the problem better.

CAD comes to solve this problem by using digitalization and facilitating the process. Drawing or drafting with a hand is a time-costly and the operation can be full of mistakes.

While CAD can transform 2D to 3D designs and vice versa with high accuracy without mistakes.

Engineers or designers still use hand sketching as an initial prototype design to give them an initial idea of how the product would appear before going to the engineering phases. Most times, hand sketching doesn’t include delicate parts.

You can learn hand sketching

100% of students can learn hand sketching there is no doubt of that. but it will be a difference between students that depend on the talent. So it is not our subject.

Hand sketching needs some technics and methods. Even though that CAD has almost replaced hand sketching, this skill is still important for students or engineers to make faster prototypes ideas in a paper like this image below.

CAD has completely replaced hand sketching

hand sketching for prototypes designs is more powerful and effective than a cad. paper and pencil can easily and fastly illustrate the engineer or design idea. This phase doesn’t need to have accurate measurement is just for seeing what the product or a design looks like.

Learning hand drafting is possible and not hard like students think off. Once you learn to apply those 10 technics things become easy. So you will be astounded about what you could do.

So the 10 hand sketching technics that you should learn are:

  • sketching straight lines
  • triangles
  • squares
  • curves
  • elipses
  • cubes
  • circles
  • spheres
  • cylinders
  • pyramids

practicing those 10 models will allow you to enhance your sketching level and become a good paper designer you can watch this video below to see how to do that.

This method will allow you to have a good sketching level and add hand sketching to your portfolio as a CAD user.

Is free hand drawing drawings required in learning CAD

It is not required to be a good free-hand sketcher, But supplementary is still useful and could create some differences. Freehand drawing is like taking notes for 3d design the more you have a good freehand accuracy the more is good.

It is foundational to know how to draw as an engineer even if it is not recommended but it is useful for 4 following cases:

  • prototyping fast designs
  • sketching during meetings
  • show to clients
  • translate what is in mind of a client
  • prototyping fast designs: for engineers or designers who want to have a 5min idea about a project. They just want to know how the product or design will look. they don’t have to set parameters in cad and lose time in details.In this case, freehand drawings are useful to give an impression and complete image of a product.
  • using during meetings: for meetings, there is no argument that freehand design is an interesting and a good way to present the idea. Engineers and designers use their free-hand skills to show or even prove their ideas.
  • Show to clients: what happens if a client asks you a simple prototype design about a given product?. It is effective to draw a quick design idea on paper or take a long time using CAD for just showing the basic idea of design.
  • Translate what is in client mind : lets say that you are in metting with a specific client and he ask to design quickly a basic protoyp about something. It is very easy to brig pen an paper and start drawing than using a laptop.

Even if freehanding is not demanded but is a supplementary skill that adds value to an engineer or a designer.

Drafting is obsolete today

According to BLS Overall employment of drafters is projected to decline 2 percent from 2020 to 2030.

In 2020 around 200,000 employees are in this industry in the US, and each year 17.500 new job opportunities are offered. This number is too low compared to other sectors like software engineering.

Each year the drafting industry loses 3800 employees around the state. manufacturers and businesses see that CAD is more effective in design and replacing the job that draftsmen could do.

Drafting is declining due to the automatization

Drafting is declining due to automatization. Currently, manufacturing requires more accuracy and time efficiency. So a drafter could not compete against software like CAD. Thus, CAD reduces a lot of costs and increases the benefits.

Using cad is less complicated and has many instant features that could cost hours of work with drafting technics. Moreover, the simulation tools that cad has, allow engineers to visualize and prevent many design mistakes before test phases.

As a futuristic vision drafting jobs will keep decreasing more than 2% as we noticed above. Software is making things easier and more reliable.

Focusing solely on a draftsman career will not be a wise choice. It could be a good idea to start with, going into the manufacturing business. But looking for relevant careers worth is recommendable and gives a wider vision to know about what is going in the market.

Drafting can be useful for some cases

Drafting is still important in some technical jobs especially for operations that have secret manufacturing processes. so companies prefer to use their drafter employees than using contractors to make them drafts.

They don’t want to allow someone from outside to discover their secrets.

while many clients are still insisting to draw plants with their hands. The reason is they want to frame them and render plans. Also for students who love drafting is useful and helps to create a great carer in CAD design.

In other words, helps to have a better understanding of the basics of 3D and 2D design. Drafting will be a good introduction to CAD design.


According to what we notice in our article, hand sketching died science in 1990 when CAD was generalized for engineering users. For drafters, things become harder with each year.

It is not easy to say that every year 4000 drafting job opportunities disappear. So it is not a job or profession to count on the next 10 years. You could watch the timeline of hand sketching in this video below.


Yassin ajanif is a physics graduate and electromechanical engineer width more than 5 years in the field. My goal and my team are to share our experience to help you succeed in your career as a stem major. we talk about all tips, problems, and struggle STEM students face in their career and how to overcome them.