Autocad / Civil 3d Tips

The ESRI plugin for Autocad / Civil 3D allows us to connect to Esri maps, services, and more.



1) Combine the transparent command ‘CAL with MME to get a point in the middle two selected locations


2) For 64-bit computers an optimal setting for virtual memory can be 2X your physical memory. If you have 8 GB of ram set your virtual memory to 16 GB

3) Turn off Dynamic Tessellation to help speed up Civil 3D


4) Values in the toolspace can be copied to the clipboard values

5) Export Civil 3d files to native Autocad formats using “ExportToAutocad” command

6) View corridors can be analyzed using the “Zone of Visual Influence” tool and some creativity


7) Assign aliases using the alias editor for AEC commands you use a lot. Assign them to your left hand to be more productive (maintaining one hand on your mouse at all times)

8) Civil 3D can be used for much more than just civil applications,  check out the commands “extrude”, “slice”, and “revolve”extrude

9) Explode parcels to extract the parcel polylines, useful for multiple applications

10) Explore the “mapclean” command, which can be used for a multitude of tasks such as weeding polylines or checking line workmapclean

11) Not only can viewports be split, but they can be joined as well. By splitting and joining viewports, we can configure them in virtually any format we want

12) The modify option to insert PI works with featurelines, polylines, parcels, and more modify.png

13) With “paste special” we can insert lines and text from an excel file

14)  To help clean up a surface’s boundary experiment with the the max triangle length option


15) XML files can be opened with notepad and can contain useful data

16) SYSVDLG command contains short descriptions of all variables in Civil 3d


17) To convert a volume surface to a tin surface, simply create an empty tin surface and paste in the volume surface

18) In the xref manager, the name of an xref can be changed. This allows us to xref the same drawing twice, giving us layer control over each xref

19) The daylight from a grading object can be offset to create a 3d polyline

20) Fields can be used to read object data, be formatted to display with various units and precision, and be updated dynamically.

21) Customizing CAD using Autolisp and applicable programming languages can simplify life and streamline workflow. If you have a task you’d like to see automated, feel free to give me a shout, I might be able to help.


22) Autolisp is a common language to customize Autodesk drafting and design applications.  Creating one is simple. Here’s an example:

(defun c:anycommandname ()

(setq anyvariablename 1)

(setq anothervariablename 1)

(setq total (+ anyvariablename anothervariablename))


That’s it. If this was loaded and we typed “!total” in the command line it would list “2” as the result.

23) Are you aware that for many cases you can modify a surface’s contours by drawing your own then adding it to the definitions? Simply add it as a “user contour” and it will adjust appropriately.

24) Civil 3d has a series of ‘transparent’ commands useful for a multitude of tasks. For example, ‘stae used with polylines or points allows user to locate a position in a profile based on selected locations in plan view.

25) Download this routine to move basic Civil 3D labels as shown in the video located here:

26) Autodesk developed a way to create a pipe catalogue with custom parts for use with Civil 3D using Inventor and Infraworks. It’s cumbersome and inefficient but essentially the steps are: Construct the part in Inventor (or in Autocad then import them into Inventor), assign parametric dimensions.  Use the plugin for Inventor to export for Infraworks (only available when Infraworks is installed).  In Infraworks, export the catalogue to use with Civil 3D.  The workflow is pretty painful and feels clunky (especially since Autocad already has a 3d-capable modeling system) but it’s there.  To go from Inventor to Infraworks watch the video here:  Inventor to Infraworks To go from Infraworks to Civil 3D catalogue a tutorial was provided by Civil 3d Plus that I’ve stored here: Infraworks to Civil 3D

27) Every once in a while I run into a pretty nasty bug with Civil 3D installations. Essentially, the pipe networks don’t work and it has to do with the msscript.ocx file.  Autodesks’ guide to fix it has it about 20% right.  In order to fix the bug, overwrite the files in the shared directory first, then register the 64bit version of the msscript.ocx file located in the syswow64 folder, not the 32.

3ds Max Tips

Design Doll software allows you to create a generically posed mesh quickly.  Makes it simple to block our character poses and begin design.


A site I subscribe to posted a generous list of links to download demo or free 3d models for 3ds Max.  Here they are below:

3ds max

1) A script crashing your session? Increase “heapSize” allocation to give scripts the ability to work with more memory


2) These scripts can help to clean up memory in 3ds Max “gc()”,”freescenebitmaps()”, and “clearUndoBuffer()”

3)  Debris maker by Aaron Dabelow is a quick way to add tons of debris to a scene: Click Here


4) Use the semicolon to repeat the last command

5) Create buttons with scripts to quickly apply modifiers used often

6) The cloth modifier can be used to simulate leaves, paper, and more

7) Objects can simulate animation using Trajectories


8) Utilize the display panel to globally control the display of objects and manage a scene more effectively


9) The preview for materials can be customized. Double-click the material to open the preview, then right-click over the preview and select options


10) The Track View located under Graph Editors can be an efficient tool for animating objects

11) A good way to work in real world dimensions is to set your grid at even and snap to it

12) Shapemerge can be used to cut shapes out of a mesh whether it’s text, a circle, or random spine

13) Extract edges to create a wireframe by selecting an editable poly and using the “create shape from selection” button in the command panel


14) Use statesets to present design iterations. Statesets store light, modifiers, viewport settings and more

15) The transform toolbox has great tools for controlling the pivot, and even a button to quickly reset xform

16) With layered cloth animations (such as coats over clothes, stacked sheets, curtains, etc), line up your quads and maintain a similar density in each mesh to insure better calculations for better animation results

17) It can be obvious to recognize when an image used default 3ds Max camera settings. Adjust them with real lens size and settings to get better results

18) Consider freezing CAD references, but remember to add “snap to frozen objects” in snap settings to take advantage of the file

19) You can establish the angle the sun will rise and set on your projects during summer and winter months using the Sunlight tool. You can use that information to create a north arrow unique to your project and analyze your site in more detail. northarrow

20) If you are producing a 360-degree video where the camera remains at a static position, to get the best results, render out a single image at high resolution and use quality video editing software to stretch out its time.

21) 3ds Max allows us to create custom quad menus. Additionally, while users are used to the typical menu, we can access more with various key combinations.  Hold Control + Alt and click the right mouse button to access render options.

22) An easy way to remove the character’s weapon in 3ds Max Interactive is to simply select it in the Asset browser, open the Unit Editor, and uncheck the “Visible” box.

23) Key to 3ds Max’s Vray plugin is to work with realistic values.  Part of that is insuring we choose the correct camera settings. The primary settings for visualization in the AEC industry that need to be considered are shutter speed, f-number, and ISO, all which are part of a real DSLR camera. Below is a chart demonstrating how Aperture (F-number), shutter speed, and ISO work to help make those determinations and get the best quality you can from renderings.


apertures of f-2.8 and f-16 by Mohylek