How to Draw Network Diagrams

A network diagram is a way to illustrate the relationships among components. When drawing a network diagram, you'll need three things: symbols representing those components, connecting lines, and a way to clearly label them.

SmartDraw gives you all three. It includes a large library of symbols representing servers, computers, routers and more. Labels are simple to add. It also allows you to easily and intuitively draw your network diagram.

This short video provides a quick overview of how to draw a network diagram with SmartDraw.

Sign up for SmartDraw free

Start Now

Getting Started

To start drawing, open a Network Diagram template from the Template Browser.

This template will open with a set of relevant symbols and controls. If you don't see the component you need, you can search for it.

Network templates

Finding the Correct Device

Any network diagram template opens with a few libraries of commonly used symbols docked next to in the SmartPanel.

You can find additional devices and symbols in SmartDraw using the Search Symbols command at the top of the SmartPanel.

Clicking on Search Symbols, will open the Symbols tab with a search field. Type in the name of the device you're looking for.

Once the search is completed, the results will be organized by the libraries they're contained in. You can click on the three dots next to the library's name to either add just the symbols that match your search or the entire library.

You can also pin all the symbols found with your query using the star icon next to the search field.

This panel works like the SmartPanel and you can drag-and-drop symbols straight from this view or you can dock some of your search results for quicker access later.

Search for more network design symbols and components

Adding a Device to Your Drawing

Once a library is open, you can click on any device and stamp it or drag and drop it to the drawing area.

If you use the Add Right, Add Below keys on the SmartPanel, your devices will be automatically connected. This means they will be evenly spaced in a straight line and you can remove and move devices and the rest of your drawing will automatically adjust.

This may be useful for diagramming bus or linear topologies, but in most cases you'll want your network devices connected freeform so let's cover that scenario first.

Adding network symbols

Connecting Devices

Once you have added a few network devices to your drawing, you can draw connecting lines between them to represent cables or protocols.

Click one of the line tools in the Toolbar and release. Now your cursor looks like a pencil. Touch the pencil to the edge of one device and click down with the mouse. Drag the pencil to the edge of another device, and release it when the cursor turns into an Anchor Symbol.

Once connected, the devices stay connected, even if they are moved or resized.

To detach a line from an object it is linked to, click on the line, then pull the end knob away from the object.

Connecting symbols

Connection Points

When you link to a device, black dots called Connection Points appear on its edges. These points show the places where the device can be linked to a line or to another device. You can adjust the positions of these connection points by selecting the symbol and clicking on "Connection Points" in the Design tab.

In the dialog that pops up you'll see your current Connection Points appear around the preview of the device. Click on a connection point and drag it to the desired position. By moving the connection points you can control where lines will link to this particular device. For example, you can show a cable linked to a specific port by connecting a line to a connection point that you have positioned on top of the port.

Connection points

Adding a Text Label to a Device

SmartDraw objects can automatically have text labels associated with them. To put a text label on a device in your drawing, double-click on the device in your drawing and simply type the label. By default, the text label will automatically go below the object.

To change the location of the text label relative to the object, open the Edit Symbol dialog box again from the library window. You can set whether your text appears below, above, or inside the object. When you choose to place text inside the object, you can set the text entry area by adjusting the four margin lines as shown below.

You can now type device names, details, descriptions inside the object for a professional look. The text label stays with the device when you move it. To edit it, simply double click on the text.

Type your device name for your network diagram

Using Segmented Lines

Connecting all your devices with simple, straight lines can be tedious and can lead to a diagram that is rigid and difficult to revise. Segmented lines connect shapes using dynamic segments that move and adjust themselves as you reposition objects in your drawing.

To draw a segmented line between two devices, select the segmented line tool from the menu under the Line Shape tool and drag the pencil cursor from the edge of one shape to the edge of another shape until you see the anchor symbol.

The segmented line attaches itself perpendicularly to both objects, and it flows between them using the fewest possible number of segments and 90-degree turns. If you move one of the objects, the segmented line adjusts itself to remain attached and perpendicular at all times.

You can adjust the length and spacing of segments by moving the square adjustment handles located on each segment.

Shape connector

Using Arcs and Curved Lines

You can also use arcs or curved lines to connect your shapes. If you are using an arc, you can adjust the arc's degree of curvature with the special selection handle at its center.

Curved lines are segmented lines with rounded corners. They follow the same rules as segmented lines.

Curved lines

Using Automatic Connectors to Draw Bus Topologies

SmartDraw's automatic connector allows you to connect several computers in evenly spaced patterns. The automatic connector is great for drawing bus or linear topologies, but it may be even more useful for star networks, to automatically connect dozens of workstations to a central hub or switch without drawing all the individual connecting lines.

To use an automatic connector in your network diagram, use the "Add Right", "Add Left" buttons in the Network Diagram template's SmartPanel on the left.

Using Automatic Connectors

Adding Devices to an Automatic Connector Line

To attach a device to your connector, just drag and drop the device onto the connector line. When the shape draws near the connector, the connector will "grab" it and show you the outline of the shape at the link point where it would attach if you released it. Simply release the mouse to let the device attach to the connector at that point.

As you add more shapes, the connector keeps expanding to accommodate the new objects.

Add shapes to an automatic connector
A shape inserted between others

Removing a Device from a Network Tree

Moving a device away from the connector disconnects it, and the remaining devices draw together to fill the space.

When no devices are linked to a connector, it appears as either a vertical or horizontal line. Its configuration will not be apparent until two or more devices are linked to it.

If you select the automatic connector line and hit delete, every shape attached to the line will also be deleted.

Deleting a device

Rearranging Devices Connected to a Network Tree

To change the order of the devices, you can drag a device from one link point to another.

Rearranging devices

Creating a Custom Library of Symbols

If you imported a symbol from somewhere else or drew your own, you can create your own custom library of images.

To create a library in SmartDraw, click on the the More tab in the SmartPanel, and select "Add New Custom Library."

Next, name the library.

The new library will be immediately docked next to your drawing.

Add a custom library

To add a device to your new library, drag the device onto the library window until you see the add library cursor, then release the device with the mouse.

Before your device is added to the library, you'll have the opportunity to give it a name and set how it will be change colors when added to a diagram.

Name the new symbol added

The new device symbol will appear as a button in your library window.

Custom network library

Importing Visio Stencils

In addition to creating one off custom symbols and custom libraries, you can also import any existing symbols you may have stored as Visio stencils.

To import Visio stencils, click on the the More tab in the SmartPanel, and select "Import Visio Stencils."

You'll be able to browse for a Visio stencil file on your desktop.

Import Visio Stencil

Select the file or files you want to import and click "Import Selected Files."

Choose Visio Stencils to import

Once the import is complete, SmartDraw will automatically create libraries that match the imported file names and dock them next to your drawing.

You can now add your new symbols to your drawing using drag-and-drop or the "Add" buttons on the SmartPanel.

Imported Visio Stencil Library
By continuing to use the website, you consent to the use of cookies.   Read More