new guide every week

What are Architecural Symbols?

Enjoy your read!
Learn How to Read Any Architectural Drawing with Ease
Guy Holding a Tablet and Reading a floor plan

Architectural symbols are abbreviations that make architectural drawings easier to read and navigate. Architectural symbols can be a mark, letter, or character that represents an object, an idea, or a process. 

Why do we need to use architectural symbols and signs?

  • Architectural symbols simplify details which helps architects to create drawings faster.
  • Using architectural symbols makes architectural drawings easier and more concise for builders to understand.
  • Architectural symbols and reference markers are necessary for navigating the drawing set. 

This article will show you all the architectural symbols you need to know to read architectural drawings like floor plans, elevations, and sections. Whether you are an architecture student or beginning your career as an architect, you should save this article as a reference.

Now, we will start with the annotation symbols.

Annotations Symbols

Annotation symbols are different marks and symbols in architectural drawings to make it easy to: 

  • Read architectural drawings in more detail
  • Navigate the architectural drawings set
  • Prepare quantity schedules

North Arrow

The Architectural Symbol of North Arrow

The north arrow symbol shows how the building is oriented, which helps us make architectural decisions. For example:

What rooms should get the most sun? Where do we need to make openings to get natural ventilation? And so on

Door Tags

Architectural Symbols of door tags

A numbered circle or hexagon shows the door type. The door tags make it easier to prepare quantity and budget schedules for the doors in the project.

Window Tag

Window Tag Symbol

Like doors, the window tag is a numbered diamond that indicates the window type.

Interior Elevation

Interior Elevation Symbol

The interior elevation symbol shows the finishing materials for each room (walls, floors, ceilings, and skirting). Each number on the diamond shape stands for a different material.

Elevation Target

Elevation Target Symbol

We use an elevation target to show how high a specific point is above the zero level. We usually put it wherever the floor height changes, such as before the first rise of the stairs and on the landing.

Exterior Elevation Tag

Exterior Elevation Symbol

The exterior elevation tag shows where we are on the floor plan and in what direction we started drawing the elevation. It also indicates the elevation sheet number.

Building Section Tag

Building Section Tag

The building section symbol shows where we are on the floor plan and in what direction we started drawing the section. It also indicates the section sheet number.

Wall or Detail section

Detail Section Tag

The architectural symbols for the wall or detail section means that we made a vertical cut-through of a specific area to show it in more detail on another sheet. The detail section has more technical details, labels, and information. 

The number on the symbol tells you which sheet the detail section is on.

Enlarged Detail Reference (Callout)

Callout Symbol

The difference between a callout and a section detail is that a callout is a horizontal cut, like a floor plan, while a section detail is a vertical cut, like a section.

The callout standard architectural symbols zoom in on the selected part of the building (within the boundary box) to show it in more detail. 

Room Tag

Room Tag Symbol

The room tag architectural symbols give each room a name and a number. You can also add the area of the room to the tag.

Ceiling Height label

Ceiling Height Symbol

The ceiling height tag is similar to the elevation target, but instead of showing the floor plan height, it shows the ceiling height.

The ceiling height label is an oval with a number that shows the exact distance from the floor to the ceiling directly above.


Centerline Symbol

The centerline architectural symbols show the center of a symmetrical object, like a column, wall, or window. 

The centerline tag also indicates the center of a whole circle or an arch.

Drawing Label

Drawing Label Tag

The drawing label adds more information to your architectural drawings, such as the title, scale, and sheet number.

Scale Bar

Scale Bar Symbol

A scale bar is a line graph that represents the scale of a drawing visually.

Break Line

Break Line Tag

A floor plan is a horizontal cut at a certain height. (Typically 1 to 1.5 meters)

A cut line on a floor plan shows that this part of an object is above the horizontal cut line of the floor plan. 

For example, we use it on stairs to show that the following steps are above the floor plan cut line.

Revision Cloud and Number

Revision Cloud Symbol

A revision cloud is a cloud-like shape that is added to a part of a drawing to show that it has changed since the previous drawing version. The number displayed on the revision cloud indicates the number of revisions.


Door symbols show: 

  • The door’s type
  • The door’s width
  • The door’s location
  • In what direction does the door open

Doors symbol in a floor plan

Door Symbol in a floor plan

Door symbol in floor plans change based on the door type. The typical door symbol consists of two main parts:

  • Two parallel straight lines show how wide the door is.
  • The curved part shows what direction the door swings and gives a rough idea of the clearance area.

Symbols for elevation and section doors

Unlike floor plans, the symbol for a door is the same in an elevation and a section. It shows the exact shape of a door, unlike the floor plan symbol. As shown, we added dashed lines to show which way the door swings.


Window symbols indicate:

  • The window’s type
  • The window’s width
  • The window’s location

Window symbol in a floor plan

Window Symbol

Window symbols in floor plans change based on the window type. The typical window symbol consists of one primary part:

  • Three parallel lines demonstrate window width.

Windows symbol in Elevation and Section

The symbol for a window is different on an elevation and a section than on a floor plan. It shows the exact shape of the window type instead of a symbol. 

We also add dashed lines to show which way the window swings.


There are numerous types of walls. Each type of wall has different layers that go on top of each other in a particular order. We consider the brick as a layer, the plaster as another layer, and so on.

We draw walls as two parallel lines and fill them with black in floor plans, elevations, and sections. But in more technical architectural drawings, like a detail section or a callout, we go the extra mile and add more details by adding layers and hatches.

💡 Design Insight: A hatch is a pattern that indicates a material.


L shaped Stairs

Because a building’s stairs are the part with the most details in the floor plan, I wrote a separate article to explain them in more detail. Check it out. In this article, you’ll learn how to draw stairs, common mistakes, and what all the symbols for stairs mean. Check out this article

Picture of Bahaa Aydi

Bahaa Aydi

I'm Bahaa, a Licensed architect specialized in Interior design & Archviz • Sharing my design days with you to help you design better space