Vectorworks Tips: Emphasizing Light Symbols and Information in Lightplots Part 2

A few weeks ago I promised to continue explaining how a Lighting Designer can override the default symbols and label legend formats to increase the emphasis of the fixtures and associated labels on a Vectorworks light plot.  Below is an example of 2 lights on a light plot. The LightPlotExcerptAugmenttedSymbolinstrument on the left features a bolder outline and larger labels and label containers.  the fixture on the right appears as it would if a designer were to use the default symbols available in the symbol library and the default containers (circle & octagon) and the default label size.   In the last post I explained how to edit the 2-D portion of the symbols to create the bolder outline. This has no effect upon the size of the lettering or the size of the containers.  In order to change these elements, you will need to edit the Label Legend



If you are working with a pre-existing file, your Vectorworks file may already have one or more Label Legends in existence.  If you are working with a new file, you will need to create one.  In order to edit an old legend or create a new one choose Spotlight/Label Legend/Label Legend Menu from the drop-down menu as shown above.  This will open new Label Legend Manager window.


If your file has Label Legends already defined, they will appear in this window.  If it does not, you can create a new Label Legend by selecting “Add”  This will open another window with the title “Add New Legend”


Fill out this form. Start by giving your new Legend a name (such as “New Legend”).  Select each attribute that you wish to display in your new legend.  Click in the column to the left  in the row that you wish to activate. The excerpt of the plot above uses the following attributes: Unit Number, Color, Dimmer, Channel, and Focus (scroll most of the way down the window to activate the Focus attribute)  Note that you can change the container type for each attribute.  do this by clicking on the container type description opposite the attribute that you wish to change. Each click toggles the container type to the next on the list: None, Circle, Rectangle, Octagon, Triangle and back to None, etc…  The default example above only uses containers for the Dimmer (circle) and for the Channel (octagon).  When you are satisfied that you have chosen all of the attributes that you desire (and you can come back  to edit any label LabelLeggendManagerAddMenuFilledOutlegend at a later point in time) continue by selecting the Lighting Instrument Layout Symbol.  If you have imported or otherwise used lighting instrument symbols in your plot before you open the label legend manager, Vectorworks will supply one of them.  Use the “Choose” button to select an alternate if more than one lighting instrument symbols are part of your plot.  Also check the box beside Non-Rotating.  This will cause the labels to always readLabelLegendMenuNewLegend from the bottom of the page.  The example above uses Non-Rotating text. Select OK to return to the earlier Label Legend Manager screen.  Now the Label Legend Manager screen should show the newly created legend. You can return to the previous screen by choosing “Edit Fields”.

Select the newly created legend  in the menu and click the Edit Layout buttons in order to chose where Vectorworks will display the information (Attributes) relating to each instrument using this legend. This will open yet another window showing a list of the attributes that you included in the previous “Edit Fields” screen displayed in a column along the left side.

Edit Layout Window

Edit Layout Window

To the right/center  is a plan view of the instrument that was selected in the “Edit Fields” screen.  Drag the attributes from the column at left and place them on the symbol where you want them to appear.  The text is in scale, so you get a pretty accurate idea of how the text will look on your plot.   Most of the text that will display on the plot will be one to three-digit

Edit Layout Screen with Attributes Moved

Edit Layout Screen with Attributes Moved

numbers instead of the  four to eleven-character words of the attributes.  Unfortunately, the containers do NOT show on this window, so placement of the dimmer and channel attributes can be a little hit-or-miss.

While this menu is opened, remember that one of the issues that needs to be corrected is the diminutive size of the text.  Select all of the text in this menu.  The object information Palate is still active and you should be able to learn from it what font is in use and what size and style and color that font is.  You can change all of these characteristics of the fonts for your labels in this screen.   The font used in these examples is “Tekton Bold.”  Yours may default to “Times”, “Ariel”, or some other font.

Edit Layout Menu with Font Changed to 9

Edit Layout Menu with Font Changed to 9

Change the font to your preferred font for the Label Legend now.  This font size will probably be set at  6  points by default.  The size of individual font types varies somewhat, so depending upon the font you choose, you may need to adjust the following advice. Change the font size to  9. In my experience this approximates  the 1/4″ high lettering standard that those of us who began in this industry drafting by hand were taught to letter and trained to read.  You may  need to adjust the placement of the attribute labels taking into account their now-enlarged size. Don’t spend too much time on this.  You can come back at any time and rearrange fields and change fonts and font sizes.  Click “Exit Symbol” in the upper right corner of the menu to return to your drawing.  If you wish to return to the “Edit Fields” menu or otherwise return to the Label Legend Manager, you need to choose Spotlight/Label Legend/Label Legend menu again from the drop-down menu.


VWXTopMenuAssignLegendToInst Return to the plot ChooseLegendNewLegendSelectedand select an instrument.  Choose Spotlight/Label Legend/Assign Legend to Insts this time.  You will be presented with the “Chose Legend” window.  Select your desired legend.  In this example the only choice is our newly created “New Legend”.  Click OK to make the new assignment.  The screen should return to your light plot and you should see the results of your choice.  Any fields that have information already assigned to the instrument 50DegS4wNewLegend&9PointFontSelectedthat appear in the legend should appear printed on the plot in the locations that you set in the Edit Layout sub-menu of the Label Legend Manager.  If one or more fields seem to be missing, it is likely that there is no data assigned to that field.  In this event a small blue “handle” should represent the middle of the text, should there have been text data to display.

The image to the right illustrates an instrument with the “New Legend” assigned.  Note that when the instrument is selected, bounding boxes of amber surround the instrument, itself as well as all of the data and bounding boxes. This is a choice that is made in the Vectorworks/Preferences window, so if your Vectorworks is not set up this way, your results may vary. Note that even though no data shows immediately in front of the barrel, the blue “handle” represents where the missing data concerning gel color would display.

You probably also notice two additional things.  First, the “Containers” for the channel and the dimmer are not of sufficient size to contain the numbers.  And, second, the numbers in the bounding boxes are not centered in the bounding boxes.  This latter problem is caused by the font.  For whatever reason, the “Enview Bold” font used in this example displays uncentered to the top of the text box (defined by the amber outline).  The former problem stems from the fact that “Containers” are “Resource Symbols” of defined size.  They do not fluctuate in size based upon the size of the font.  Both issues can be corrected for by editing the “Containers” found in the Container Folder” in the Resource Browser.


ContainersFolderSelectedInBrowserWindowFind the Containers folder in the Resource Browser.  Drill into it by double-clicking on the Container folder icon.  This will open the folder and you should see all of the pre-defined containers (circle, rectangle, hexagon, triangle) that were available as containers in the Label Legend Manager. Select one of them (the circle for instance) and click on the little downward arrow to the right of the word “Resources” near the top of the menu. ContainersWithCircleSelected&DropDownEditMenu A drop down menu will let you choose to “Duplicate” that container shape.  Name the duplicate Circle-BOLD just as you did earlier when creating BOLD versions of the lighting symbols. Once you have generated the new symbol, choose that symbol and click on that down-arrow again, this time choosing “Edit”.

This will open up the Edit Symbol menu where you will have the option of editing the 2D or the 3D components of the symbol. Select 2D  Component and click  “Edit Symbol” to open the Edit Symbol window.  Insert text into the symbol using your preferred font style and size type a typical number into the symbol temporarily.  This will give you a base-line to judge how much to enlarge the symbol.  Center the text over the x/y cross-hairs .  Note, that in the example, using the Enview Bold font the text is off-center of the container just as we saw in the  instrument symbol with the “New Legend” assigned as it’s Label Legend.  If your text is set to solid background, it will also obscure or mostly obscure the circle symbol at this point.  With the text selected, set the attributes palate for the text to”None”.


Select the symbol and enlarge it using the Modify/Scale Objects menu.  Use your eye to judge how much to enlarge the circle.  In this EditSymbol2DComponentSelectedexample,  1.4 is the scale factor.  Don’t enlarge the symbol too much or it will take up too much space on your plot and become more prominent than the instrument symbol.  If your text appears off-center in the symbol even though the text box is centered as it appears above, move the symbol slightly to center it on the text.  Next, with the symbol selected, change the Line Thickness of the symbol from the default .05 to .25.  This may be too bold for your taste, so adjust the thickness to suit you aesthetic sensibilities.  Leave the circle solid.  This is important, since it will overlay the other data on the page and make it easiest to read the numbers.

.EditingCircleContainer78Enlarge1.4xCircleSelectedEditingCircleContainer78Enlarge1.4xMovedCircleSelectedEditingCircleContainerEnlargeMovedBOLDCircleSelected  Remember to delete the numbers that you typed in as the first stage of editing or they will appear in every instance of that symbol. Click “Exit Symbol” to return to the drawing.


Repeat the process for each container that you intend to use.

When you finally return to the drawing, you will notice that the containers have probably not changed size.  This is because the Label Legend is still using the original version of each container. LabelLegndManagerEditLayoutWhtBkgrnd4Focus&Color  You will have to revisit the Label Legend Manager in order to change the container for “Circuit” to the newly created “Circle-BIG” and the container for “Channel” to a newly created “Hexagon-BIG.   Click OK to return to the Label Legend Manager.

Next, select Edit Layout.  Select the Attributes “Focus” and “Color”.  Change the backgrounds of these Attributes from “None” to “Solid” and leave the color White.  Exit Symbol when finished.  This will return you to the drawing.  The instrument symbol might update with the new Label Legend.  If it does not, select the instrument and choose Spotlight/Refresh Instruments from the top drop-down menu. InstrumentWithNewLegendEnlargedContainers When the instrument does refresh you may notice that the enlarged containers and text is slightly overlapping.  Another visit to the Label Legend Manager (Spotlight/Label Legend Manager/Edit Layout) will allow you to nudge the Attribute names around until you get them to display the way you wish for them to.  This is a trial-by-error process and might require several attempts to arrange the Attribute fields to your liking.  InstrumentWithNewLegendBoleWhen the Label Legend that you have created is applied to an instrument symbol that is oriented in any other way than that which the symbol was oriented when the Label Legend was created, the legend will not display as intended.  This is illustrated when we apply the same legend to the second instrument from our original example.  Notice that even though the instrument is angled at about a 45° angle, the labels and containers remain oriented as if the instrument was oriented vertically.  Had we not selected “Non Rotating” earlier in the Label Legend/Edit Fields menu, they would have oriented in line with the angle of the instrument.  However the text would also be oriented at and angle.  When many instruments are at different angles on a plot, this can be extremely hard to read.  Before moving on, notice that the opaque background for the Focus and Color attributes are solid, obscuring the lines behind. This is the effect of making the Attributes Color and Focus have solid background during the last trip to the Label Legend/Edit Layout menu. This will be of value if the background is busy with lines from the setting.

InstrumentWithNewLegendBoldRearrangedCorrect the problem with disarranged Attribute fields by making Label Legends for each orientation of light that you are likely to place.  This can be time-consuming and could require quite a number of different iterations.  Another way that you can handle this is to create a few legends designed to accommodate the majority of the orientations that you are likely to encounter.  When the attribute fields do not display as you desire,   fine-tune the placement of the attribute fields by grabbing the handles on the fields in the selected instruments and moving them to a more satisfying placement.

The process of enhancing the symbols, Label Legends and Containers may seem like a lot of work.  However, the point of this exercise is to make the finished light plot easy to”read” and to allow someone needing to do so to locate the necessary information easily and quickly.   Furthermore, while the process may SEEM time-consuming, the execution of the steps from this and the previous blog should be the work of just a few minutes once you have worked with Vectorworks for a little while.

Meanwhile, that’s enough for now! Have fun!  But be safe!




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