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What’s the Difference Between Drawing and Drafting?

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Drafting and drawing are terms that often get confused with each other. Not only do they sound the same, they almost mean the same thing. There’s a really critical difference though, which makes it clear why they are both important terms, independent of one another, in the art world. 

The key difference between drawing and drafting is that drafting has to be technical in nature, while drawing doesn’t have to be technical. Drawing refers to making any type of artistic picture, while drafting refers to making technical drawings, such as those used for structures and buildings.

As you probably noticed, our definition of drafting included the word “drawing.” See, the confusion begins. Let’s dive into this more so that we can make sense of it.

What is Drafting?

Drafting is the process of making technical drawings. Yes, even though drawing and drafting are different, drawing is still an important part of drafting. Drafting always involves drawing, but drawing doesn’t always involve drafting. 

It’s similar to saying that all high school teachers are teachers, but not all teachers are high school teachers. High school teachers are a subset of the teacher population, which also includes elementary teachers, college teachers, preschool teachers, etc. 

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In the same way, drafting is a subset of drawing in the same way that abstract drawing, line drawing, contour drawing, and stippling are all subsets of the bigger drawing world. 

When you draft, you make a drawing that has specific technical qualities. For example, you might make a drawing of a building or a structure that is perfectly to scale and ready for an architect to bring to life.  

The technical nature of drafting makes it a complicated endeavor. It’s not something that’s easy to dabble in. There are complete professions around drafting and many are surprised by how much computer prowess it requires. What does it take to become a draftsman? Let’s find out.

How to Become a Draftsman

A draftsman, or drafting professional, is someone who turns ideas into technical drawings for engineers or architects to build upon.

To get started in the field, it’s suggested that someone gets an associate’s degree in Applied Science with a specialization drafting. The degree should include training in CAD softwares, technical drawing, and the like (source).

Drafting professionals are often associated with architects, but they can span a lot more fields than that. A draftsman can be a valuable part of many types of teams that require building structures and products that need to come to life.

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This means that drafting professionals can be key components of engineering teams and may even decide to specialize in certain engineering fields like civil, mechanical, or aeronautical (source).

As a kid, I always loved sketching houses, which means I’m drawn to the romantics of architecture, which I’ve learned isn’t romantic at all. But still, drafting in the architectural world is what many people are familiar with. Drafting reaches beyond architecture though and can be an important part of engineering fields.

As you can see, drafting is a bit more technical than people would assume from the outset. In fact, as a drafting professional, you’ll probably have more of a leg up if your background is in math and computer science as opposed to art.

Either way though, specific drafting training is important. Merging the worlds of art and technical design is no small feat. Getting necessary training in the programs you’ll be required to use in the working world is key.

What Software is Used for Drafting?

Before the advances in technology, drafters would meticulously complete their work by hand, which seems crazy to me. Nowadays, we have access to amazing platforms that can speed up the process. It still seems crazy to me, but at least technology can offer a powerful helping hand.

Mind you, this is not to say that drafting is easier now than it used to be. I would argue that the world has only gotten more complicated and that standards have only gotten higher.

Even with technological help, there’s still the tiny challenge of making sure that the finished product can translate to the real world and exist as a reliable structure. No big deal, right?

The software used for drafting is called CAD software, or computer-aided design and drafting (CADD) software. These programs are no joke. Autocad, which is one of the best in the business, will run you over $1,600 a year to use (source).

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What you get for that high price tag is a powerhouse of a design software that will turn your ideas into amazing 2D and 3D representations that are technically accurate.

Autocad has a free trial if you wanted to bop around the program and see what it can do. Or, like me, get confirmation that drafting is freakin’ hard. Yeah, I would definitely need a degree in it in order to be even a little bit competent at it. I think I’ll stick to drawing. 

There are also free CAD softwares that can do a pretty good job of helping you build 2D and 3D structures and objects. Even though you need formal training to become a draftsman, these programs can give you a way to have fun with CAD in your free time. If you love the challenge of merging art with science and math, CAD could be a great outlet for expanding your artistic abilities.

What is Drawing?

Drawing is the process of making a pictorial representation of something. Like, drawing a picture of your dog. As we talked about, there are a lot of subsets of drawing.

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Basically, whenever you make a picture, you are drawing in some way. Maybe it turns into an illustration, a diagram, a geometric shape, or a figure drawing. Or, maybe it turns into a technically accurate draft. 

We shouldn’t belabor the definition of drawing. Most of us have been drawing in some way since we were toddlers.

Understanding what constitutes drawing isn’t the problem. The problem is the confusion that happens when we start talking about drafts and drafting. We already talked about drafting, but let’s dive into more of the confusion which, in my opinion, is all about semantics.

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The Problem with the Word “Draft”

We make drafts of essays, novels, letters, emails, drawings, and more. In everyday life, we talk about drafts as “non-finalized” versions of whatever we’re working on. A draft is where we play around with ideas and make mistakes. Without drafts, we wouldn’t have a place to creatively explore what we’re working on. 

The problem is that the formal “drafting” profession is very far from the colloquial “draft” that we use on a daily basis. Drafting is all about technicality and precision, while making a draft in any other context is meant to be a sort of brain dump first attempt. 

What we have here is a semantics issue. I mean if we used the same word for rocket science as we did for baking cupcakes, we would be confused, right? I would, but I tend to get confused easily. 

Yes, the work that drafting professionals produce are still technically drafts as we would colloquially call them. They are creating the first renditions that will then be used in future iterations and, eventually, the final products.

The difference though is that many of us associate drafts with mess brain dumps and first attempts, as we just talked about. The drafts of drafting professionals are anything but that. Instead, they are carefully crafted, precise constructions.

So, yes, they are drafts, but they are not the drafts that many of us do on a daily basis as we try to work through a creative problem.

Honestly, I feel bad for all of the drafters out there whose work is being mistaken for messy first attempts when, in reality, it couldn’t be more precise and accurate.

Drafters use computer programs to craft buildings that can function in real life. They are the workhorses and support teams behind the amazing creations of architects and engineers. There’s nothing messy about that. 

I have a huge respect for what drafting professionals do and, like many people in the art world, they rarely get enough credit. What they do is incredibly complicated, imaginative, and purely awesome. If I could go back in time, it’s a profession I would sincerely consider, but don’t know I would have the chops to excel at. So, get out there and thank a draftsman. 

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