Notes on Rendering DXF Content

A collection of AutoCAD behaviors determined experimentally. There may be mistakes and misunderstandings of the inner workings of the algorithms. Not all edge cases may have been considered.


  • Most entities are colored contextually, based on the layer or block that they reside in.

  • Usually entity colors are stored as AutoCAD Color Indices (ACI) as an index into a lookup table. Different CAD applications may use different color palettes making consistent coloring difficult.

  • If a block insert is placed on layer ‘A’, and the block contains an entity on layer ‘B’ with BYLAYER color: the entity will be drawn with the color of layer ‘B’.

  • If a block insert is placed on layer ‘A’, and the block contains an entity on layer ‘0’ with BYLAYER color: the entity will be drawn with the color of layer ‘A’, it seems that layer ‘0’ is the only special case for this.

  • Ff an entity has BYBLOCK color set, and it exists outside a block: it will take on the layout default color which is white in the modelspace and black in the paperspace.

Layers and Draw Order

  • Layer names are case-insensitive, the document layer table keys are stored in lowercase, and in original style in all other use cases (e.g. entity.dxf.layer).

  • Layers do not play a role in entity draw order, only whether they appear at all based on the visibility of the layer.

  • It appears that Insert entities have a single element in terms of draw order

    • Entities inside a block can overlap each other and so have a draw order inside the block, but two Insert entities cannot interleave the contents of their blocks. One is completely drawn on top of the other.

  • For entities inside a block, the visibility of the layer that the block is inserted does not affect the visibility of the entity unless the entity was created on layer 0 in which case the reverse is true:

    • scenario: block created containing entity A (layer 0) and entity B (layer 1). The block is inserted into layer 2

    • entity B visible if and only if layer 1 is visible

    • entity A visible if and only if layer 2 is visible


  • The anchor of single line TEXT entities (and ATTRIB entities) is always the left-baseline regardless of what alignment parameters are stored in the DXF. Those are for re-adjusting the anchor when the text is edited.

  • Attrib entities can have formatting commands in them


  • The char_height in DXF corresponds to the cap-height of the font.

  • The default line spacing is 5/3 * cap-height between the previous baseline and the next baseline. The line_space_factor is a factor applied directly to this value, so a factor of 3/5 results in 0 space between lines, because each baseline is 1 * cap-height apart.

  • The middle (vertical) justification of MTEXT entities seems to be midpoint between the x-height of the first line to the baseline of the last line.

  • MTEXT word wrapping seems to only break on spaces, not underscores or dashes.

  • MTEXT word wrapping seems to treat multiple spaces between lines as if they were a single space.

  • Alignment seems to ignore extra spaces at the start or end of lines except for the first line, where spaces at the beginning of the string have an effect. Whitespace at the beginning of the text can trigger word wrapping, which creates a single blank line at the start

  • If a line ends with an explicit newline character and is shorter than the column width, only one newline is inserted.

  • If a line is a single word wider than the column width, it will not be broken but will instead spill outside the text box. Placing a space before this word will create an empty line and push the word onto the next line.


  • All POINT entities have the same style defined by the HEADER variable $PDMODE.

  • POINT entities can be drawn relative to the view scale or in absolute units.