Concept: Objects in the Screen Plane and in the Layer Plane

Vectorworks products provide robust 2D functionality with a variety of tools and commands for those who draft in Top/Plan. For those who design in 3D instead of, or in addition to, 2D, the Vectorworks program provides a true modeling environment.

Planar Modes of 2D Objects: Screen Plane and Layer Plane

2D objects can be created as either screen plane objects or layer plane (planar) objects, depending on the selected planes mode. 3D objects are, of course, always planar.

    The screen plane is coincident to the computer screen, and perpendicular to the designer’s view direction. 2D objects drawn in the screen plane appear to “float” in 3D views since they remain planar with the screen.

    Planar objects, however, exist relative to 3D space. A planar object is drawn in a 3D plane—either the layer plane or a 3D working plane—and it maintains its geometric relationship to the 3D model when in 3D views.


Normally, objects should be created as planar objects, and this is the default. In 3D views, planar objects display with their graphic attributes on the layer plane, and become part of the 3D model.

2D objects can be created and edited on any plane and in any view; editing occurs within the “planar context” of the object’s plane. When performing operations on multiple selected planar objects in a 3D view, the objects must be co-planar.

Double-click a planar object to set the working plane to the plane on which the object was created.

The Split tool, as well as the Modify > Rotate > Rotate, Rotate Left 90º, and Rotate Right 90º, Flip Horizontal, and Flip Vertical commands, operate within the screen plane only.

Certain objects do function as screen plane objects. For example, all elements on sheet layers are, by definition, on the screen plane. Objects created as crop objects for viewports are automatically placed on the screen plane. In addition, when creating special hybrid symbols, the 2D component of the symbol should be created in the screen plane, so that the symbol has a representation when viewed in Top/Plan.

Selecting an Object’s Active Plane

The Active Planes list located on the View bar sets the currently active plane, and determines whether 2D objects are created as planar or screen plane objects. The available planes depend on the drawing view, current tool, presence of named working planes, and plane mode options.

    To create planar objects, select Layer Plane from the Active Planes list.

    To create screen plane objects, select Screen Plane.

    To create planar objects on the automatic working plane, select Automatic as described in Concept: The Automatic Working Plane.

The selected planar mode remains in effect until the next time it is changed.


An existing selected 2D object drawn in screen plane mode can be switched to layer (planar), and vice versa.The Active Planes list on the Shape tab of the Object Info palette switches the planar property of selected existing 2D objects.


Depending on your workflow and Document preference settings, the available options on the Active Planes list can be restricted, to never show the layer plane or never show the screen plane.

Push/Pull Mode of Planar Tools

In a 3D view, and when the screen plane is not the active plane, planar objects such as circles, rectangles, rounded rectangles, ovals, arcs, polylines, and polygons can be extruded immediately after creation when the Push/Pull mode on the Tool bar is enabled for the tool. The mode’s toggle status applies to all these planar tools; if the mode is enabled for one of the tools, it is enabled for all of them. This instantly and easily allows 3D objects to be created from planar objects, by moving the cursor or entering a distance in the data bar.


When the automatic working plane mode is enabled and the Push/Pull mode is in use over an object that supports solid operations, press and hold the Option key (Mac) or Alt key (Windows) and pull “out” to create a solid addition or push “in” to create a solid subtraction.

The Push/Pull mode of planar objects operates directly after creation of the object. If the object is deselected, it can be extruded later with the Push/Pull tool; see Direct Modeling with the Push/Pull Tool. In some cases, the Push/Pull mode may need to be toggled off, such as when creating several planar objects one after another.


Concept: The Automatic Working Plane

Document Preferences: Plane Mode Tab

Basic Drawing Objects

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