How to: Change referenced file layer properties in master file

You might need to work with engineers from other engineering background. Architects will need to use your structure drawings as reference in their drawings. MEP engineers need architectural drawings as reference.

The problem is each engineer probably have their own standard. You might need to change layer properties for their drawings so it can fit your standard.

AutoCAD drawing

© antiksu –

So how you can do that? Do you have to create a copy of the drawing, make necessary changes before you can use it as reference? That would defeat the purpose of XREF, isn’t it?

You can change layer properties in master file

Before we start, let’s make a naming convention to avoid confusion.

We will call the file you where you attach external references as master file.

We will call the file that you attach to master file as referenced file.

Try to attach a file as XREF or external reference. You will see layer properties manager will list the layers from referenced file as well.

In (1) under XREF category you will see all referenced files name. When you select the file name it will only list the layers in that file.

By default layer properties manager will list all available layers. You should see the layers from referenced files too. It will show as FILE NAME | LAYER NAME (2).


You can change the properties here. Whatever you do here, will not change the original layer properties. Try to change color, line weight, freeze/thaw, etc.

Save the master file and try to open the referenced file. You should see it will not change the original file layer properties. The properties are specific for master file only.

Working with layer states and referenced files

Now, should you change the properties for every drawings you receive? If the structural engineers, architect and MEP engineers have their own standards it would be easier. You can work with layer states. So it would be one time setup.

Working in referenced file

To work with layer states you need to create it in referenced files. Not in master file. Open the referenced file and create layer states there.

If you are not familiar with layer states yet, read this layer states tutorial.

In this example I created a default layer state and the one that I will use in master file. Let’s say I want to hide annotations and change layer color so when I plot the drawing will be thinner. I create a new state and made necessary changes.


Exporting layer states

You can save this your layer state in external file. This will allow you to import it when you receive another file from the same engineer. So you don’t have to set layer state all over again.

Working in master file

Now let’s see how you can use the layer state you have defined in referenced file.

Open the master file. Make sure you have attached the referenced file.

Open layer properties manager. Now you can see the layer states on the list. Change to layer state you want, then close this dialog box.


If you don’t see the layer states, check if you have disabled ‘Don’t List layer states in Xrefs.

Layer state and template file

It would be great if you receive files and have the layer states ready for you to use, right? Layer states are file specific, so you need to save it in drawing file. Or import it as described above.

Try you can make the engineers who send you the files to set layer states first. You can tell them to import your layer states to their template. Next time you receive drawings from them, the drawings are ready to use.

Have fun working with layers in referenced files!

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