AutoCAD Civil 3D tips pls1

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    Andrew Harvey

    Have any tips on on how to quickly get up to speed with AutoCAD Civil 3D?

    I spent my school days working with Vectorworks, and the past couple of years using AutoCAD 2011 for Mac, but now have to use AutoCAD Civil 3D 2013 at my office. The transition hasn’t been a smooth one, and I was wondering if anyone had advice or could recommend some good tutorials.

    Also keen to acquire new lisps and learn more about Dynamic Blocks.


    Wyatt Thompson, PLA

    Civil 3D is a beast. I’ve used it for the last 18 months or so, and only really understand a portion of what the software will do. I was told when I started learning it that I would need to use it exclusively on about 3 projects before I would really grasp the workflow. I would say that’s accurate. The parts of the program that I’ve used 3 or more times, I can pretty confidently get around in. The parts that I’ve used less, well, not so much.

    We use a training tool called Pinnacle. It’s produced by Eagle Point, which used to make a competing software until a couple of years ago. It’s a paid service, but they offer step-by-step tutorials, videos, live help, etc. They may offer some content for free. There are also several books by AutoDesk or other vendors that go step-by-step through all the menus and options. I’ve personally found that process with Civil to be kind of tedious, even though I’ve used books to learn other software. There are forums and videos at sites such as CAD Tutor, Lynda, etc. Google search will bring up lots of good free resources to help you understand and solve specific issues. Civil 3D resellers also offer training. I’d say the quality of that training varies dramatically based on the company and the price point you’re willing to accept. I’d recommend Pinnacle, if your office is willing to invest in that style of training, as a good all around tool for learning C3D.

    The biggest thing to understand, which actually came relatively easy for me because of my experience with SketchUp, is that your goal is to make a model. In 2D CAD, your end goal was always to make drawings. In Civil, you build the model and the model produces the drawings. There’s a big difference, philosophically and in the way you have to approach the project. Some people where I work struggled with this idea.

    Are there others in your office who are proficient, or is your office just starting out? Do you have styles for everything already set up? If you want to use the software productively, that is really the first step. It takes a lot of time to think through style development, but it’s the key to automating drawing production. It will also keep you from beating your head against a wall when elements of the design don’t show up in your sheets the way you expect them to. What kind of work are you intending to use Civil for? I assume you work at a multi-disciplinary office. I’ve never heard of an all LA firm using Civil.

    Best of luck as you get started. Know that it’s going to be painful, but once you get through this start-up period, it’s really pretty cool what you can do with the tools.

    Trace One

    We’re going to Civil 3D also.  Thanks for post. NOT looking forward to it..


    Andrew Harvey

    Thank you both for your replies.

    I will take a look into Pinnacle.

    Our office is going through a transition period, and though most are quite comfortable with Civil 3D, proper setup and standardization is taking some time, and I am very new to it.

    It is an LA office, though we work pretty closely with Civil offices.

    Wyatt Thompson, PLA

    Trace, welcome to the future. I hope you gather from my post that though the transition is difficult, it gets better.

    Andrew, I’d like to hear about your experience coordinating with civil engineers. At my employer, we have not had a need to share files with other consultants, so our own in-house styles are all we have to manage. I am curious about what happens if you share files back and forth and how that affects your firms ability to setup and standardize, particularly if other firms have differing requirements or styles of their own.

    Andrew Harvey

    If Civil is leading the project, we work from their base files and reload as they send updates.

    We always attach survey and civil drawings as Xrefs, and if necessary adjust line weights &/or opacity of the Xrefs without ever modifying the original files. That said, some projects will have standards requirements that every office involved must follow.

    Now the only consistent problem I and others in my office have had, especially with Civil 3D 2013, is that Xreferenced base files sometimes lose their WCS origin. Whether this is a 2013 bug or drawings are sometimes not set up properly, I’ve yet to figure out. I do however know that switching from Layout to Model space in 2013 often screws up the UCS. Though this can be reset manually, it would be nice if AutoCAD resolved this issue.

    Andrew Garulay, RLA


    A different Andrew here, but I have worked a dozen years in a couple of different civil offices doing civil plans (despite the fact that I’m an LA). I’ve worked on civil plans on many landscape architect’s projects – some that won ASLA National Awards. Different offices handle things differently. Some like to xref, some do not. Some avoid sending CAD plans and only send pdf files. We typically try to keep our files “pure” by blocking in parts of the LAs plan or modifying layer names before adding them to our files. Usually, the LA is starting with our existing conditions so we get them back with redundant layer names that are often containing changed drafting for one reason or another.

    Xref is sometimes a nightmare because some people “fix” existing conditions to suit their needs and the drawings simply don’t line up. Usually these things have to be staked in the field and slight misalignments can be disasterous. You’d be surprised how much bad drafting happens in the biggest firms (blame it on interns).

    Usually, things go pretty smoothly by limiting what you bring in and leave out and managing layer names.

    Wyatt Thompson, PLA

    Andrew and Andrew, thanks for your replies. I’ve not had an issue with the WCS, but we still use 2012 so maybe that is a 2013 bug.

    I understand the workflow that you both described, and it isn’t much different from what I’d expect from offices using 2D CAD. I was trying to figure out if sharing Civil 3D files created any unique problems. Naming conventions for layers and styles are critical, and it would seem to me that unless everyone on the project team was using consistent templates and/or settings that sharing data would be very cumbersome. If you’re taking civil-survey drawings with C3D objects from other firms and xrefing them, don’t you lose all of the Civil functionality? If you’ve set up data references, then it’s possible to keep the object’s intelligence, but I still think style management would be a nightmare. 

    Andrew Harvey

    Thank you both for your input.

    Keeping things simple organized, and pure is indeed necessary.

    True, Xrefing doesn’t allow for Civil functionality. Just two or so persons in my office use Civil 3D to it’s fullest. The rest of us in the office, myself -the new guy- in particular, focus on 2D drafting, creating standardized layers and styles without modifying the base plans. It’s not a perfect system, but work flow is smooth with 2012.

    2013 is a different story, though there’s enough talk on Autodesk forums that I assume they are following the talk and trying to fix things.

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