SOLIDWORKS How-To: Using the Smart Dimension Tool When Sketching Arcs & Circles

This helpful technical tip covers how to utilize the smart dimension tool while sketching arcs and circles. Find more options available to you when you want to create a dimension and don’t want the dimension location to be the center of the arc or circle. Use the circumference!

The full video transcript is also available in the YouTube video’s description and is transcripted below. If you are interested in learning more technical tips, view our SOLIDWORKS Tips and Tricks YouTube playlist.

Video Transcript

Hello and welcome to another GSC tech tip. Today we’re going to be talking about some options using the smart dimension tool when you’re sketching. There may be times when you want to create a dimension to an arc or to a circle, and you don’t want the dimension location to be the center of that arc or circle.

Options Available

Well, when you choose to dimension to the arc or circle, pick the circumference of the arc or circle. While SOLIDWORKS will automatically snap that to the center of that arc or circle, you will have options if you select this dimension and go-to leaders, you will see our conditions. The default is always going to be center.

Min & Max

So I always select the circumference of an arc or circle to dimension its location. Knowing it’s going to go to the center, and that’s what I want, and that’s what I get. But because I picked an arc instead of the point directly, I have options for min, or in my case max, so that the dimension goes from the line to the farthest point across that arc center on the arc. Min – we go to the theoretical insight if this was a full circle.

Center is the default, but min and max are options when you do dimension to an arc by picking its circumference. If you’re dimensioning the location of two arcs or two circles, then you’ll have our conditions for both sides. For example, picking the circumference of each of these circles, it gives me of course a dimension center to center that is again the default, but if I go to leaders.

I’ll see our conditions for both sides, so I can say I want min to min or max to max or min to center. Or center to max and basically mix and match to get different options as I wish. Something else to note is that after you’ve created this dimension if you select the dimension, little squares or handles will appear at the end of the extension lines.

You grab on that little handle, a little symbol comes up, looks like a dimension. That means you can actually grab that dimensional handle and drag it to another position, max or min condition on the circle. Like, so. Something else to note is that as you’re dimensioning if you know ahead of time, do you want to go to the min or max condition of an arc or circle?


Hold down what I call in SOLIDWORKS, the magic key, which is shift. I’ll hold the shift key down then select the circle toward the inside that I want to snap to. Then the same thing on the other circle. Shift-Select that to the inside. I got min and min based on where I selected.

These are some tips for using the dimension tool to create dimensions for circles and arcs. I hope you found these useful and we’ll see you next time.

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Meet the Author

John Setzer

John discovered his love of teaching early in life. He worked his way through college as a youth coach, umpire, and referee before earning his bachelor’s degree in Education. As Training Product Manager at GSC, he has been sharing his SOLIDWORKS wisdom with GSC customers ever since – over 20 years! As the only CSWE with a state certification in teaching, John is well-versed is teaching all types of learning styles.

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