MicroStation - Using Custom Line Styles

MicroStation’s Line Styles enable quite sophisticated graphics to be drawn by simply selecting the Line Style and drawing a line. Most people have used the ‘batten’ Line Style to draw insulation. They can be of great benefit, however care must be taken to ensure that Line Styles used to portray building components of a set dimension are not unintentionally scaled.

Whilst using Line Styles is easy, creating them is quite long winded as the Line Style Editing tools are 1990’s vintage. This document just covers their use. For some guidance on creating Line Styles please refer to MicroStation - Creating Custom Line Styles.



The display and printing of the Standard Line Styles 0-7 is independent from the scale of the drawing on screen or on paper. The styles are predefined for display on screen. Their size when printed is defined in the printer drivers and is fixed in mm. Their size will be constant on screen and on paper.

Other line styles are stored in resource files and can be edited or added to. All line styles other than 0-7 are scale dependent and will vary in size when viewed and printed.


Each file has an active Line Style Scale set in Model properties. Generally this should be set and left as 1, the default, unless previously changed. This is particularly important where production information is concerned as the most frequent use of line styles other than the standard 0-7 styles is for insulation. If the file’s active Line Style Scale is changed the actual drawn size of the insulation will change:

The default Line Style Scale can also be set to use annotation scale, in which case every line style in the model will be scaled up/down as the Annotation Scale changes. This is likely to be useful for graphic line styles, but for any that represent building elements, e.g. insulation, will wreck the drawing.


As well as the Line Style Scale at the file level, each line can be placed with its own active Line Style Scale. The size that the resulting line is displayed at will be the product of the file and line scale settings. Obviously if both are 1, then the line style will display at its original size. The insulation style again is the obvious example of this.


Occasionally it can be a useful trick to change the Line Style Scale for an entire level. This only works where scaling all the Line Styles on a level gives the correct appearance. This is not recommended general practice but can be useful when troubleshooting.

Open Level Manager, right-click on the level concerned, pick Properties > Styles, tick the options and apply the style settings ByLevel or Override as required.


The simplest example is an Insulation 100mm line style, drawn to be 100mm thick when the Active Line Scale is set to 1. (Unless the Active Line Scale has been previously set to another value in the active file it will be 1 by default.)


If the file’s active Line Style Scale is set to 2, the insulation will be displayed (drawn) as 200mm thick.

If the file’s active Line Style Scale is not 1, examine the file to establish why the Line Style Scale is not set to 1 and if possible change it back to 1. However any potential effects of changing the Line Style Scale need to be assessed. If the active Line Style Scale cannot be changed then the appropriate Scale factor will need to be applied when placing elements.

The optimum way to approach Line Style Scale in nearly all cases is to work with the file’s active Line Style Scale set to 1 and vary the active Line Style Scale when each line is placed to scale the graphics to the required size.

To change the active Line Style Scale either use the Modify Line Style Attributes tool, a key-in or the Line Styles setting dialog.

The Modify Line Style Attributes tool contains a range of modification tools; refer to MicroStation Help for the details of each tool.

Key-ins can be quite convenient as recently used key-ins are listed in the dialog

To change the scale key-in ‘Linestyle set scale n’ where n is the required scale, e.g. Linestyle set scale 0.5 for a 50mm batten line.

Key-in ‘Linestyle set scale off’ to revert to the default line scale as drawn (i.e. 1).

There is also the Line Styles setting dialog, go to the Element menu > Line Styles > Custom.

Note Line Styles pre-date V8i’s Annotation Scale features so Line Styles cannot be scaled automatically.

Tick the Scale factor box and enter the appropriate value.

The line style scales for various thicknesses of insulation using the Isisst 100mm batten Line Style are shown below:

In the example below the active file’s Line Style Scale has been set at 0.5 so the thickness of each line of insulation is halved (this is just a copy of the file shown above).

This also applies to referencing. For the line styles to appear as drawn when referenced the active Line Style Scale of each file must be the same.

Here the two files above are referenced into a file with an active Line Style Scale of 1.

The upper reference is correct because its active Line Style Scale matches the active file.

The lines in the lower file were displayed correctly when drawn, but are double their correct size when referenced because its active Line Style Scale is half that of the active file (the dimensions show the size the insulation should be displayed at). This demonstrates that it is important to keep the Line Style Scale consistent throughout a project.

Where designs are referenced into a sheet file at different scales, the ‘Scale Line Styles by Reference Scale’ toggle needs to be used to display the line styles at the scale used in the reference:

For this to apply correctly the appropriate setting for Global Line Style Scale needs to be made in the reference attachment, setting the lower reference in the example above to Reference:

Corrects the problem:


Creating line dashed line styles is fairly straightforward. However the real power of Line Styles is when they are used to create strings of symbols (it is even possible to create 3D Line Styles), for example these fire compartment lines:

One style can be created then copied to produce variations, the same dash but with different text.

Here the same point symbol, a 1mm circle, is used at different spacing without any underlying dashes.

Rotation is Relative so the squares align with the element being drawn. The effect of Rotation Absolute is shown on the right.

If Line Styles are project specific the project Configuration File may need to be altered to include your library.

Line Styles can be stored in .dgnlib files but cannot be edited in them. There has to be an .rsc file for creation and editing of line styles. 


Out of the box MicroStation includes the line styles contained in lstyles.rsc and acadlsty.rsc.

The styles contained in lstyles.rsc are drawn to US sizes and are generally not that useful. Those in acadlsty.rsc can be useful when working with DWG.

These line styles can be excluded by configuration to be replaced by company Line Styles.

If this is done it may be necessary to copy font.rsc and internat.rsc to the company workspace if access to old style MicroStation fonts is needed.

Line Styles and DWG

This is a topic worthy of its own piece, but for the moment it is useful to know that the value of the DGN file setting 'Global Line Style Scale' is translated to DWG's LTSCALE.

Typically this is set to 1, so line styles that appear correctly in a DGN model should appear in a DWG model space at the correct size.

The point of mentioning this is so you know that DWG export is controlling the LTSCALE of the output file so you can tell any DWG recipients where to start from if they are unhappy with the appearance of elements in their files.