MiTek Tip: How To Make Your Life Easier With CAD Background Images In Sapphire

MiTek Tip: How To Make Your Life Easier With CAD Background Images In Sapphire

If you get CAD files from your customer and if you work on a large jobs – especially apartment buildings with multiple, repetitive units, you must have come across XREF files. They are ‘external reference’ files – thus XREF. Basically, a complex DWG drawing may be referencing to other files – such as typical units within apartment building. These are the XREF files – and they are like LEGO blocks. They can be opened separately and any change within them will result in changes in overall drawing. Oh, and also – they can be a pain if you want to use them as background images for truss design.

The problem is that you may not be able to insert a complex floor plan in MiTek Sapphire – because you really would be trying to insert main (parent) drawing and its many references. You would have to use AutoCAD and make the XREFs permanent part of the main drawing. You could do that by opening XREF manager in AutoCAD and by right clicking all XREFS, you would “Bind” them to main drawing.

Now, the original drawing that once was tiny becomes a large file, sometimes VERY large – with no references. Any changes to references will not produce changes in the main drawing any more. It may take a while to bind all XREFs to main drawing – and if you receive a new set of drawings, you would have to do this again. The other problem is that Layer settings in AutoCAD and layer settings in MiTek may be different. You could insert DWG file in MiTek but may end up with too many layers shown – producing an image that is hard or impossible to read.

If you have done this, you know what I am getting at…time consumption and frustration. Are you ready for the easy way?

Here is a slick and very simple way I have found to deal with any type of CAD file – with or without XREFs, with or without a large number of layers: use DWG/DXF file displayed in AutoCAD and print the desired screen image to DWF file. Take this DWF file and insert it in MiTek Sapphire.

First of all, you eliminate any problems with layers – what you see is what you print – and that is what you get. Also, the resulting (printed) DWF file is very small – a 10MB XREF-bound file can only be 100kb if printed to DWF. That is a fraction of the size! Your computer will love you! It won’t have to deal with large files.

OK, to print to DWF: go to File, Plot and you will get screen dialog similar to this:


Above, you will see the highlighted fields that you need to modify:

  1. Page setup – existing setup can be used (but if you print for      the first time, this can be ignored)
  2. Plot style – use this to print with no style (colors as shown      on your screen), monochrome or others as best fit your needs
  3. Printer/plotter – this must be set to DWF6 ePlot.pc3 (to      generate DWF file)


  1. Paper size – ARCH D is always a good choice
  2. What to plot – select ‘Display’ or ‘Window’ as needed
  3. Plot scale – select scale that best fits your needs – based on      size of the building
  4. Drawing orientation – landscape or portrait

Select “OK” and you will be asked to pick location for your DWF file. That is it! All done! Simply go to Sapphire and insert the image. NOTE: You will have to adjust the scale of inserted drawing – that is very important, in order to match!

This method can be used for any other types of DWG/DXF files that can be too large to work with in MiTek. It is typically a lot faster to print desired image to DWF than to hide or delete layers or objects from CAD file that would be otherwise inserted into Sapphire.

By using this neat little trick I have discovered, it has enabled me to become more efficient with my time. I hope it does for you also!

Martin Horak – Design Professional

Gould Design, Inc.