Creating reference planes in SOLIDWORKS

By Lynette Proch on

When we create in SOLIDWORKS, sometimes we need to use planes that are not immediately available from our model. They can be at different angles, or offset from a surface, or maybe we need a tangent plane. That’s where the Reference Plane feature comes in.

The Reference Planes command is located in the Feature tab, under the Reference Geometry section.


This feature lets us create multiple types of planes depending on the types of references we select. The number of references (up to 3 different choices) and types of selections you make (surfaces, edges, or points) will change the type of plane that SOLIDWORKS creates.

Let’s talk about how to create a few of these options here:


Reference needed: 1 flat surface

Flat surface

If you select one flat face as a reference, you can create an offset plane. Just type in the distance you need and you will have a plane parallel to the face you have chosen whatever distance you tell SOLIDWORKS away.


Reference needed: 1 flat surface and 1 edge

Flat surface and one edge

To create a plane that is at an angle, you need to make 2 selections, one is a flat surface and the other is an edge. These reference points will create a plane that intersects the edge, and is angled from the flat surface.


Reference needed: 3 Points

3 Point Reference

A Coincident plane is used by selecting 3 points on your model. Whatever points you chose, SOLIDWORKS will create a plane that intersects all 3. This is one of the few types of planes that requires you to use all 3 of the reference point choices in the feature tree to fully define the plan.

Mid Plane

References needed: 2 planes

2 Plane reference

This is one of the most common types of reference planes. Select two surfaces to create a mid plane. Something interesting about this type of plane is that the surfaces you select don’t have to be symmetrical for this to work.

When you are new to SOLIDWORKS, creating reference planes can be intimidating if you don’t know what types of references to select. There are other types of reference planes that you can create as well, like a tangent plane to a cylindrical surface or a plane that is parallel to your screen. If creating planes is something you find yourself struggling with, our SOLIDWORKS Essentials training class goes even more into detail about exactly how to create these types of planes and more. You’ll also learn tips and tricks on how to create these planes even faster.