Architectural Tricks of the Trade

October 31, 2013 — 59 Comments

Architects have all sorts of mannerisms and processes in place that seem to transcend their time and place. These traditions are passed from one generation to the next and are worth sharing and keeping. The other day, as I was sitting in my 9 square feet of work space, I saw a younger associate folding a set of drawings to get filed away in the binder and they were doing it ALL WRONG! In moments like these, ideas for posts are born and so I took it upon myself to show these younger associates how to properly fold a drawing. Suddenly, the sky split open and a multitude of angels came forth singing praises of the architectural host.

Shouldn’t everyone get to experience something like that just for folding a drawing properly?

You might be thinking to yourself “why would I fold a drawing?” The reasons you would fold a drawing is when there are just a few of them and rolling them up isn’t an option. Some municipalities have rules for how they receive drawings, folded typically being the preferred format, sometimes it’s easier to ship folded drawings, and sometimes, it’s just easier to put them in your bag on the way to a meeting. We’ll get to the rolling a bit later …

How to Fold an Architectural Drawing step one

Here is a 30″ x 42″ architectural drawing. I have labeled the corners to help you keep track of how the sheet is being folded. The ‘F’ is for front and the ‘B’ is for back – pretty simple. This technique works on any large format sheet of paper.

How to Fold an Architectural Drawing step two

Fold the drawing in half so that the interior is folded towards the inside …

How to Fold an Architectural Drawing step three

Take the outside corners (1B and 3B) and fold them back to the right so that the right hand side of the title bar is exposed.

How to Fold an Architectural Drawing step four

Flip the drawings over and repeat the last step.

How to Fold an Architectural Drawing step five

Now fold the drawing in the middle so that the title bar is on the inside face of the fold. You should now have two main flaps …

How to Fold an Architectural Drawing step six

Rotate the folded drawing 90 degrees so that the seam is at the top and open edges are pointed towards the bottom. Take the bottom edge and fold it up to the top, exposing the upper right hand corner of the title block.

How to Fold an Architectural Drawing step seven

Rotate the drawing 90 degrees and repeat the last step. What you know have is a folded up drawing 1/16th the area it was previously with the sheet title information on the outside corner. No longer do you need to open the drawing up to see what sweet goodness lies inside

How to Fold an Architectural Drawing final product

This is the finished product … what was once 30″ x 42″ is now measures a compact and neatly folded 10.5″ x 7.5″ – drawing title on one side and the firm’s logo on the other side.

Sometimes it’s easier to simply show you how to fold this so I decided to step out from behind the keyboard and make a video on how to fold a D or E sized sheet of paper. By the way, this was done in one take. Before you think to yourself “Wow, that’s really impressive” just remember 2 things:

1) It’s just folding a piece of paper

2) Thank goodness this wasn’t shot in High-Def

be careful, there’s sound in this video – not of me talking (why would anybody want that?) but of Deadmau5, it is certainly music to fold by …


This leads us to our next little folding tip – more specifically for 11″ x 17″ paper – some people refer to them as “Tabloid” or “B” size sheets. Whatever … they need to be folded properly before they are put into the project binder, and this one is even easier than folding the “D” and “E” size sheets! (could you be any more excited?!?)

How to fold an architectural drawing 11 x 17 step one

Here it is – an unfolded 11″x17″ piece of paper … if your office is anything like mine, you have thousands of these laying about your space.

How to fold an architectural drawing 11 x 17 step two

Fold it in half …

How to fold an architectural drawing 11 x 17 step three

Fold the title block edge back … now you have a 8.5″ x 11″ sized piece of paper.

How to fold an architectural drawing 11 x 17 final product

This technique also leaves you with an exposed title block along the outside edge of the paper which means no unfolding is necessary to see the nougaty drawing center.


This next one is a quickie –

How to roll a set of architectrual drawings

When you roll up your drawings, roll them up so the drawing face is exposed. This does two things for you:

1) Allows you to see the full title block so you know the project name, the sheet, issue date information – everything …

2) When you unroll the drawings and place them on the table, they roll up towards the table rather than on themselves – no longer will you have to pin the corners down with weights to keep your drawings flat.


And my last tip for the day is this – it’s fairly self-explanatory:

architect's trace paper trick


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  • greyravenwolfe

    I found this online and I thoroughly enjoyed it! That being said, I do have a question that to this day still gets me:

    How in the heck do you straighten out blueprints? I don’t mean after a fold, etc, I mean in general, before binding them…. I have used edges to “slam” prints into, I’ve tried pinching the corners, lifting the pages to allow air inbetween them to maneuver them more easily, etc, and yet it never fails that I can’t get a set “straight” and when I wind up binding them, you can easily tell that some pages aren’t even, etc…. not exactly good for business!

  • Jesus J. Huerta

    This is a great post! I’ve been working at this Landscape Architecture firm for a little while and have never had to fold a sheet before, as weird as that sounds. I usually just roll the sheets and hand them over. The guys who go to city planning and handle all of the plan checks are the ones who fold them here at work. Thank you.

  • Tammy L Pate

    Dang right! This should be a PSA.

  • Nathan Woods

    This is a simply marvelous post. I find myself giving this kind of training periodically, I will certainly be bookmarking this tutorial for others!

  • mattwardman

    Folding an 8.75 sqft drawing in a 9 sqft workspace.

    Impressive – you must be very thin.

    • If you must label me, I prefer “pliable”

      • mattwardman


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  • Rick

    Looking at your infill lot with its deep cut…. you say one can see the typography… I’m guessing it’s topography. But I may be wrong.

    • I have no idea what you are referring to … this post is about folding paper, not topography

  • Brice

    Hey Bob, love the blog. I was wondering if you could do an article not on dating an architect but relationships as architects. I know a lot of architects choose to be in relationships with artists or other architects and others choose to go the opposite direction and use it as a break from their profession. What are your views on this?

    • wrong place for this sort of question but since I’m here…

      I don’t know of any architects who specifically choose to be in relationships with architects or artists, people tend to meet people, like those people, get married to those people and go about their business. More times than not, architects seem to spend a lot of time around other architects and that’s the reason for why there are so many coupled architects.

  • David

    Amazing these little things the same the world over. I never folded too many drawings before working in the UK for a while where the office I worked in and the norm was to fold drawings. Prior to that here in Oz there is a tendency to roll them more often the folding. I now do both. If the set of drawings is approaching the 100+ mark definitely rolling is the way to go. I think some of the difference between the countries was that much of what was sent from the Sydney offices was by courier and in London the norm in the office was to send by regular post.

  • Cam

    Ahhhhh such joy it brings to see someone still knows the right way to do this. First thing I learned to do on my very first “job” at an architectural firm

  • Mark Mc Swain

    Most “City” folding formats are based on whether the P&D/Engineering Office file cabinets are Letter versus Legal sized format.
    “Legal” format file cabinets allow a ‘six fold” rather than “eight fold” format. This can vex the neophyte, who will get caught up in folding dimension and use of a steel rule and the like–which is entirely unescessary.
    First, place the document face side down.
    Fold the two short ends together.
    This will present the copy up of one or the other half of the drawing.
    Bring the edge of the side facing up towards the crease of the fold, but bring it as an “S” shape. Done carefully, the thirds will sort themselves out; press in about a thumb’s worth of crease are either top or bottom of the page, whichever is most convenient. Then, match/even-up the other sise, and finsih the fold.
    Now, flip the entire thing over.
    You are now presented with a fait accompli–fold the other half to match the other side as two equal folds with the page below as a guide.
    Arrange the folded document so that the page number as title block are face down and make one fold across all the others. This should fit in a 9 x 14.5 envelope or similar legal-size file drawer. (For P&D Submittals, do not goret to include the CD of the PDFs of the drawings, and the Submitttal form ,and the filing fee check.)

  • Underdog Architecture Student

    What about the way to tear a straight piece off of a roll of trace?
    (I learned that from my boss a few weeks ago and it includes using the triangular scale)

    As a Canadian, I approve of the Deadmau5!
    It makes me productive drafting on AutoCAD in studio to be honest.

  • lavardera

    Nice, but 30×42, bleh! Ansi D – 22×34, folds similarly to 8.5×11 and fits in your project files, and file drawers. And if you format your title block right all the info is there on the front facing corner.

  • Nice! techno music, an architect, and a cardigan…all in the same video. Or are cardigans the one’s that have buttons? Great video and article Bob!

    • AlmostJane

      Right – cardigans have buttons. :>)

  • Bill Reeves

    We hold the same class for the young folks when they arrive at our office. For the more advanced, we take the D sized drawing and after it has been folded in quarters (and still 2 feet long) to then fold it in thirds using a french fold. One third back, one third to the front. It stacks well for mailing. It usually takes the newbies a few tries to get it all even. Drawing origami.

  • didn’t like that one – and at three minutes a page, that guy was either really slow or you’d need a drawing folding specialist in the office

    • Brett Wolfe

      drawing folding specialist = low paid intern who thinks he is on vacation.

  • awesome and educational – win win

    • Brett Wolfe

      the video shows the way they made us do it in germany… it’s even documented in their graphic standards book. i did it the way bob shows, and then i got the graphic standards book dropped in my lap and had to start all over.

      • Germans … gotta love them.

        I didn’t know there was a German graphic standards book – same as the US version but in metric?

        • Brett Wolfe

          the one they made me use was called Neufert Architect’s Data

          • I’ve heard about that book but never seen it. I know the Rural Studio and $20k house folks seemed to reference it at times in their posts.

          • Neph

            Neufert’s is a standard text in Australia too. It’s got lots of ergonomic/spatial data illustrated with diagrams (eg how much space do you need to open a kitchen cabinet when kneeling). It’s all in metric (mm). Creepy sidebar: the original author did quite a lot of work for one A Speer from 1939 onwards.

  • Love it! Great tip, thanks. That music in the video really blows though.

    • it adds to the ridiculousness of watching someone fold paper. I also didn’t really need slo-mo either but since they all made it more amusing for me, that’s why they exist.

      • Cam

        Exactly, it added humour to the video =)

      • It’s not so ridiculous, it’s architectural origami.

  • Erik

    Thank you for scoring the edges with your scale at the end of the fold. I have now been validated for doing this all along. Also, watch out for pre-existing staples when creasing by hand. Been there, done that. It hurts. You now might want to re-visit the rubber-band shooting video. That music pumped me up 😉 Thanks Bob!

    • Got to keep the edges crisp and flat, the scale is the best way (I too have ripped my hand open before on a rogue staple…)

      That rubber band video makes me cringe just to think about it. There was ZERO production value. I probably should make a follow up rubber band shooting video – maybe with a “skills” portion to show my marksmanship and power.

      Who wouldn’t want to see that?!?

      • ed

        i use highlighters, much smoother and more sensuous

        • drawing folding and sensuous highlighters … never thought I would see those words in the same sentence.


  • Great post, but can you do that for DIN-A format, too? 😉

  • Ez

    Can you show us your hypnotic pen spinning trick next?

    • might not be a bad idea. Maybe I’ll do it and post that on instagram – it only takes a few seconds to show.

  • Todd Chambers

    Please explain the smashing the trace roll bit! That’s a new one to me, do you place your roll on the ground and stomp on it or what?

    • Exactly right. Of course, I’m large enough where I can simply step on it slightly and it flattens out.

  • Dave Cornett

    I’ve got a “Blackbelt” in Origami from the amount of drawing folding I did in the late 1980’s Think you’ve missed a trick though. If you’ve got lots to fold I used to do five sheets at a time to get the initial vertical lines in. In fact the old light sensitive paper for the plan copier used to come pre-folded.

    • We must be around the same age because I’m right there with you on all of this. If you’re folding a bunch of sheets, a crude fold of 5+ sheets at a time to get the creases in place and then go over the individuals with the scale. Very nice and crisp!

  • Mark Geiselman

    The first time I went to file drawings @ a local building department, back in the early 80s, I went with them rolled and practically had my head handed to me by the building inspector. “We only accept properly folded plans because we have to put them in files!” The issue was it was 15 copies of a 20 page 30×42 set. By the time they were folded there was a 3′ high stack on the counter.

    • folding 300 sheets this way would really be a drag. I think I would have folded them 5 at a time but even then – yikes!

  • rap31264 .

    Yep…that’s the way it’s done….I’ve done that so many times…LOL

  • Jeremiah Russell


  • Marcitect75

    Wow! I thought everyone knew the tricks of the trade. Good post. The YouTube video with the action music was a nice touch. Hilarious!

    • Thanks – I think that’s the 2nd or 3rd “movie” I’ve ever made so chalk it up as another process to be learned. We always need to be adding to skills to our tool bag, right?


  • Kerry Hogue

    hey Bob, that is exactly the way I was taught to fold drawings and roll plans. I guess it just seems that rocket science gets more complicated when you suddenly realize that those seem to be lost arts. I as well have had to demonstrate those advanced principles of architecture.
    Now a real lost art appears to be twirling the brush……

    • despite my approximate 10 years of handling a brush, I never learned to twirl it. I can, however, spin my pens around my thumb in a way that hypnotizes children and contractors

  • You are revealing our Jedi secrets. Do you think the world is ready for them?

  • Robert Moore

    Wow, one take, and no stunt artist.
    Thanks for rolling your drawings properly. When I was young I thought architects and engineers rolled them in different directions naturally. Later I learned that it was a learned trait, in other to aggravate each other.

    • Robert Moore

      I meant to say in “order to aggravate each other”. Darn auto speller.

      • since you are a long time contributor to the comment section, I would have fixed that typo for you FOR FREE!

        It’s just one example of how I try to go that extra mile for the people who humor my endeavors here on LoaA