How to Set Scale for an Accurate Design Plan

Note: This article describes scale and measurement workflows for Concepts 4 (including Concepts: Classroom Edition). If you have updated to Concepts 5, please read this tutorial.

When my landscape tutorial for Concepts was released, the feedback I received was, “You skipped the part where you set scale. Please walk through this segment in detail.”

I didn’t want to overwhelm the main point of that article, but it’s true, scale is inseparable from the design process. Scale is what connects a design to the real world. Knowing scale helps you gauge material needs and costs, and keeps you from making expensive mistakes.

Here is an in-depth guide to help you set scale in Concepts for accurate design plans.

I will be using the landscape plat from the previous article, but any aerial photo, sketch or screenshot of a plan will work. You can use this method for interior, architectural, industrial or any type of design. Go ahead and take out yours, or use this one for practice.

Note: There are many popular ratios which you will find on the Concepts scale menu, but this method is foolproof for any project where you have one real measurement on hand, and whichever type you choose, the steps you go through to set scale will be the same.

1. To set scale in your project, you need one accurate measurement of your real space.

My plot map already has dimensions entered. My key measurement was this 14 foot segment right here. It poked out just right and was a good reference for the patio. Any of these numbers, small or big, would work.

Take out your tape measure and measure one of your own dimensions for your project, and jot it onto your design. (If your plan is already digital, you can do this after importing.)

2. Import your photo or design into Concepts.

Mine was a photo I took of my plan, but you can import from any of these areas. (PDF is on its way.)

Turn your rotate button off when you place it, or it will twist with your fingers.

Write in your measurement if you haven’t already.

3. Lower the opacity of the image so you can see your overlay easily.

With your image selected, look at the top of the secondary toolbar. It will have a button that looks like this:

Touch the button and drag your finger downward. The Opacity slider will appear. Set it to 50% or whatever feels right for you.

Now it’s much easier to sketch over. You can see both the plan and your pen strokes.

4. Go to the Settings menu. Touch the gear at the bottom of the main toolbar.

You’ll get a screen that looks like this.

5. Go to Units. Depending on what units your plan is measured with, choose the appropriate metric. My plan is measured in Feet & Inches.

Note: This sets every tool on this drawing to that unit, including brushes. Do not be overwhelmed by this, you can custom set any tool and its unit with a tap-and-hold. The advantage of this setting is that when you go into Precision Mode, your lines and shapes will all display with the proper unit. No confusing “points” or “pixels” or anything.

6. Go to Paper Size & Scale.

The first row (W x H) is your Paper Size. The second row is Scale, our focus for today. Touch the first box on the left side of the ratio. This half of the ratio is the iPad measurement — what your drawing measures at shrunk onto the iPad screen. Since I am using Feet & Inches, I want it set to inches. 1 inch, exactly.

The second half of the ratio is your real-life measurement. Since my actual measurement is 14 feet along the length of the house wall, I’m going to enter in 14 feet. You can enter whatever your measurement is.

We’ve just set the Concepts ruler to display 1 inch per 14 feet (or whatever you entered). I’ll show you the ruler in just a second. Exit Settings.

7. Touch the Precision Mode button on the main toolbar.

8. Touch the Shape Guide in the secondary toolbar. The default setting is Arc, but if you touch the arc, a bunch of options will appear. Touch the Line option.

This Line guide is your ruler. Any of the shape guides will respond to your units and scale (try it out) but the Line guide is an easy measurement tool — nice and straight.

You can see it has two circles or touch points along the line and a crosshair in the middle. These are for movement and measurement. Use two fingers anywhere on screen to move the Line guide. Use the crosshair to move your line without growing or shrinking it. You can extend one end of the Line guide by using just one of the touch points.

You also see the measurement metric in the middle. This refers to the distance between the two touch points. Pinch or expand your fingers and it will respond to your gestures, increasing or decreasing the measurement accordingly.

Don’t be overwhelmed by the decimal places. That’s so you can be veeerry precise. To custom set your line segment, tap-and-hold the measurement. Enter in 14 ft. (Or your measurement).

Exit the screen and you will see something magical happen to your line. (Well, just mathematical.) The line changed from whatever long decimal you had to exactly 14 ft.

9. Tap the measurement. Tap the 14 ft metric quickly, and it will become a sticker on your screen.

This is selectable and changeable exactly like the lines you draw. Deselect the Line guide (by touching it) and you can see it better. Remember this trick for later, when you’re busy measuring everything. You want your measurements to stick.

10. Match your measurement to your plan.

You’ll see that the 14 foot sticker is not the same as the 14 foot wall on your plan.

To match your ruler to your plan, select the original image. To do this, tap-and-hold the screen and select the image icon that appears.

Now that it’s selected, you can grow, shrink, rotate or even change its opacity again — whatever you like. Go ahead and match your real-life measurement on the plan with your measurement sticker. Set the plan in place with a tap on the screen.

That’s it! Your scale is set to your plan.

Notice that if you zoom in or out on your screen, both your plan and your measurements will grow or shrink together, but your ruler will continue to measure to your set scale. You don’t have to worry about mucking up your measurements because the zoom and rulers are connected.

Go ahead and add measurements to any wall you like. It will be exactly according to scale — perfect for finding dimensions, calculating square footage, and estimating material costs for completion of your design.


ON EXPORTS

When you are ready to export or print your design, note that these measurement tags will only appear on your export if:

1) You have Precision Mode active, and 2) you have “Paper and Grid” selected as your background on the Export screen.


A QUICK RECAP

1. Have an accurate measurement.

2. Import your design.

3. Set your units and scale in Settings, 1 : Your Measurement.

4. Enter Your Measurement on the Line guide, and tap to make it stick.

5. Sync your measurement with your drawing.


AND AN ALTERNATE METHOD, BECAUSE WHAT IS CONCEPTS IF NOT THE ULTIMATE CONTROL MACHINE?

Instead of entering your Scale in the Settings menu, you can sync the Line guide with your measurement first. Then look at the HUD menu in the upper right corner of the screen. You’ll see a Scale 1:1 option. Touch that and the custom scale screen will appear. Enter in your scale and it will be set to your line length. For more on this method, visit our FAQ.


That’s everything! If you have questions, please ask in the comments or send an email to concepts@tophatch.com. Good luck with your designs!

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By Erica Christensen — writer |illustrator | designer at TopHatch.