Work Smart: Automation and Templates

Templates & Automation


Generally as an architect, technologist or student, we do the same things time and again. For example, we create a set of planning drawings, or we add colour to an elevation in photoshop, we produce an A1 presentation board.


Wherever possible, create templates to make these things quicker and easier. If you do something more than once, you should never start from scratch. You should always have a template ready to start from.


Some of the templates I use are listed below:


  • CAD
  • Photoshop
  • In Design
  • Word Document Styles
  • Drawing templates
  • Specification document


Creating templates seems like a bit of a pain – but taking a bit of time to get things set up correctly will pay dividends later. Lets take a look at some of my favourite templates in a bit more detail…






When you compare AutoCAD to BIM programs, it can seem pretty basic. You are faced with that lovely black screen, and you set off drawing you polylines, one PL command at a time…. A program like Revit or ArchiCAD, on the other hand, has a lot of stuff set up for you. Granted, it needs tweaking, and making your own – but BIM programs do make life easier once you get to grips with them.


Well, it doesn’t have to be like that. You can set up great AutoCAD templates that mean you can jump straight into your drawing process without worrying about setting up layers, plotting, basic standard elements etc.


My CAD template includes a full set of layers that I use regularly. My favourite and most used hatch styles so I can use the “MATCH PROPERTIES” command to quickly hatch objects. I have a set of useful cad blocks that are ready to drop into my drawings. Then I have my layout sheets all set up, page sizes, title blocks, etc. All the fonts and branding is already there so everything ties in. They can be duplicated as required, and the plotstyle is ready so all I need to do is type “PUBLISH” when I want to PDF all my drawings in one go – super quick, super simple.

All these little shortcuts mean you can jump straight into the good stuff (the drawing) without wasting time on setup.

If you want to check out my template you can visit the First In Architecture shop, I have two versions, a basic and a pro.



I also have a free basic layer template for anyone to download which you can find here:

Scroll down to the end of the above blog post and you will see the button to download the template.



We use photoshop all the time…But, how many times do you end up on Google looking for the same texture image?


A quick template set up is to get one of your old renders or coloured plans/elevations, and strip out all the unwanted content, leaving behind the useful textures and other entourage that you would regularly need in your visualisations. You can organise the layers in groups and either open this next to your working file (keeping the file size down) and copy across what you need as you need it, or you can work within the template file.


If you use layer masks you should have plenty of clean textures to bring across to your photoshop template.


Thinking about starting your own texture library? Head over to our sister site where you can download high res photo textures for free. We have a range of textures from concrete to timber to grass and landscaping. Download what you need to make a start on your own texture library.


I also have a selection of Photoshop Presentation Board Templates that you can use time and again for your projects, a massive time saver, and just makes things a little easier. You can see them here:

Architecture Presentation Board Templates 2


Let me know if you would like me to make some of these as InDesign files.



I use InDesign for my construction detailing books, so of course I have a good template set up for that. Many people like to use InDesign for presentation boards rather than Photoshop, I guess it is a personal choice. InDesign is better for organisation and layout, but photoshop offers more editing functionality… Go with what suits you best. But as always, if you have done something a couple of times, make a template out of it for speedier results next time.


Word Documents & Pages

Depending on how often you need to use a Word (or Pages on a Mac) document, will determine whether it is a good idea to set up some templates.


Whether you are writing reports, sending invoices, writing specifications – chances are it is worth setting up a couple of templates to suit your branding or style.


The biggest one is setting up styles which allow you to easily select formatting for your document. You can pre define your fonts, colours and sizes, so that when you are writing, formatting takes a second. So for example you can set up your headers, body text, bullet style and so on.


You can also save a document as a template, so when you come to start a new document, you can just grab your template and get started. Another good time save, worth sparing a few minutes to get everything set up.


This goes with specification documents too. Keep the general layout saved as a template, then it’s easy to fill in the gaps as you write out your document. It also saves you forgetting anything if the titles are already there.



Automation is another way to save time, be more efficient and maximise your productivity.


There are plenty of useful little short cuts and automations that you can use in your workflow that you may not have found just yet.


Some of the programs you can automate include:




Smart Mailboxes


I am a Mac user so some of these tips will relate to Mac and Apple products, but hopefully you can find an alternative option on a Windows or Android set up too.


Photoshop Automations


Did you know photoshop can do a lot of hard work for you with just one click of a button?!


You can use Photoshop actions to automate repetitive tasks for you. So if you need to resize or rename a whole load of images, photoshop can do that for you. Need to convert a group of images to black and white – photoshop can do that.


You essentially record yourself carrying out a set of tasks in photoshop, and photoshop will save that workflow and allow you to reuse it again and again. You can create your own set of actions or download ones that other people have made.


This video can explain it better than me:


You can use photoshop to batch process images and so much more – the video above looks at that too.



This is a Mac tool that is AMAZING! I think it is quite undiscovered, and people are really missing out on the benefits of the app.


Automator carries out tasks for you relating to images, pdfs, folders and files, calendar, contacts, mail, music – you name.


Some of my most commonly used are batch resizing of images. Converting jpgs to PDFs and visa versa. Copying and renaming files. Combine pdfs. I recently learnt that you can convert a text file to an audio file!


This website gives you some ideas of how to use Automator. If you are a mac user, take a look – it is such a useful tool!


So this about wraps up my template and automation post. How do you make your workflows more efficient? I would love to hear your time saving tips in the comments below.


Hope you find these tips useful! Until next time, work smart 😉


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1 Comment

  1. Back in drawing board days every practice had at least one drawer of ‘standard’ details. However the lesson we understood even back then was that no detail should ever be copied. Each and every detail needs improving, evolutionally, for each following project. The lesson that many BIM users forget is that it doesn’t matter how lacking a BIM object is missing in detail provided the information needed to incorporate into the construction is attached as attributes in an IFC friendly format. Unlike Revit LT which, at least used to, strip out of any Revit file!


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