Getting Started with Template Files

There are lots of techniques to work efficiently in Vectorworks software.

Without a doubt, one of the most effective efficiency tactics — maybe you’ve seen us mention this before — is setting up template files.

Creating a template file allows you to reuse the same starting point with every new project. The upside is that you’ll have classes, layers, title blocks, document settings, and more already in place so you don’t have to go through the process again. Many firms have several template files saved for different project types, such as residential or public projects.

Here’s an overview of how to set up a template file.

  1. Start with a completed project and delete objects until all that’s left is what you need for future projects, or open the Vectorworks Landmark default template to fine tune it
  2. If neither of those is a viable option, start with a new, blank file.
  3. Set up the file with the desired elements (which we’ll cover throughout this blog post)
  4. Select the Save as Template command from the File menu
  5. Enter a name for the template and place it in the appropriate Templates folder. Templates are in .sta format
  6. Click Save
  7. To use the template, select File > New, then select Use document template
  8. Select your new template from the list

Creating a Template File: Document Settings

Here are three important document settings to make sure you’ve addressed in your template file.

  1. Units
  2. Preferences drop shadows on/off
  3. Georeferencing

Via File > Document Settings, you can set the preferred units for the project, whether that be metric or imperial.

You can also set unit preferences for length, area, volume, and angles and select their desired precision for increased accuracy. Length also has a rounding style option which can be set as fractional or decimal.


Naturally, document preferences should be set for what works best for you. So take some time to think about the different settings in the preferences dialog box.

preferences menu

For instance, how would you like to represent plant shadows in your drawings? You can adjust the shadows offset, angle, color, and even opacity.

When you’re working with plants and massing models early in the project, shadows are a great way to convey height in a presentation plan view.

Tip: try changing the fill color to black and using a 50% opacity. This will make shadows appear grey, but you’ll still be able to see what’s behind them.

Inaccurately mapping your drawing onto the earth's surface may result in skewed imagery.

There are many different Coordinate Reference Systems (CRS) that exist. Which is the most accurate depends on where your project site is located. For example, the UK uses the same CRS across the country, while in the US each state tends to have its own CRS; some even contain multiple CRSs, like California, which has six. You wouldn’t want to use a Maryland state plane for a project in California, for example.

You can set the necessary CRS in a template file if you’re planning on using georeferencing in the future.

If you’re collaborating with civil engineers who use Civil 3D, upon importing the file into Vectorworks, Vectorworks can read and implement the CRS embedded in the DWG file.

This webinar dives deeper into establishing accurate georeferencing.

Creating a Template File: Design Layers, Classes, & Sheet Layers

Creating layers and classes each time you’re ready to design takes time away from being creative. And since design layers, sheet layers, and classes are crucial for your file organization in Vectorworks, it’s important to set them up in a template file in such a way that they work best for you.

Ultimately, there’s no single correct way to set these things up — what ends up being correct is the setup that makes sense to your practice and allows you to work efficiently.

Still, there are some basic tips to follow to make sure your template file is organized well. After these tips, it’s encouraged that you explore additional organization methods to find your sweet spot.

Tip: Design layers are the “where,” classes are the “what,” and sheet layers are for documentation and presentations.
Using Built-In Templates

You can benefit a ton from starting your template file with one of the preformatted template files that comes with Vectorworks. You can find these by selecting File > New then using the Use document template dropdown menu. 

Screenshot 2023-02-16 at 9.57.46 AM

example layers

Keeping in mind that design layers constitute the “where,” here’s how the standard Landmark template file’s layers look.

It can be helpful to think about layers as sheets of trace paper, specific to landscape element groups like planting, hardscape surfaces, and structures. You draw groupings of elements on each sheet of trace paper, then stack them. Design layers work the same way, except you can stack them preemptively and modify their visibilities as needed. Because design layers are stackable, you won’t need to send objects to the front or back — trees, for examples, will always appear on top of the hardscape because of their stacking order. 

Tip: Try setting aside one design layer to be your drawing board. This layer is akin to a whiteboard where all you’re trying to do is brainstorm. It’s better to brainstorm this way than to clutter the design layers that are part of the project deliverables.  
Exploring Design Options

Layers are also extraordinarily useful for exploring design options. Instead of duplicating objects and placing them side by side like you would in other programs, you can use design layers to toggle into the concepts you’re exploring. The example below shows two separate furniture options placed in different layers.

site furniture 1

site furniture 2

That’s a simple use of this method. It’s not hard to imagine how useful setting up layers to explore design options like this can be, especially when working with clients.


It’s helpful to view classes in Vectorworks as your method for controlling graphical attributes, reporting, and general data management.

Regarding graphical control, think of activating a class like you’re choosing between which of your pencils and markers you’re going to use. Common graphics you’ll want to control with classes are fills, pen style, and line thickness.

For reporting and data management, it’s helpful to separate objects by their “what” — site furniture, plants, hardscapes, etc. — so you can easily pull categorized data into reports.

In a project in Vectorworks Landmark, the software will automatically create classes for you if you insert an object from the Resource Manager. If you insert a plant symbol, for example, Vectorworks will give you a few classes for the components of that plant symbol such as color fill, interior linework, and outline. Adding more plants to the file in this way places them in the same class. You can control visibility of the 2D components of every plant symbol, such as color or interior linework. 

plant classes

Sheet Layers

At this point, it should be no surprise that setting up your sheet layers in addition to everything mentioned in this article will help save you time in the long run. Below you can see the sheet layers that are included in the Vectorworks Landmark template. 

sheet layers

These sheets should cover a lot of what you’ll want to document or present. Definitely consider the need for additional sheets, though. Perhaps you want to show enlarged plans or irrigation plans, for example.

It’s reasonable to remove sheets if you find you don’t use them often. If your firm doesn’t handle exterior lighting, for example, it makes sense to remove that sheet.


If you’re looking for more information on setting up files, this presentation is for you — “Stripped: Vectorworks at Its Most Minimalistic” shows a Vectorworks file completely customized to one designer’s needs.


Topics: Landscapes


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