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30 March 2016

Tips for using AUTOCAD CIVIL 3D to prepare engineering drawings

Chizhov, LarisaLike many designers today, I use Civil3D as the primary design tool for preparing engineering drawings. Computer Aided Design (CAD) makes drafting work much more flexible – drawings contain not only graphic information, but varied types of data that need to be well organized and easy to manage. I thought my fellow designers might benefit from a few simple CAD guidelines and tips that will help in successful project completion.

Another important point to consider – At my company we have a CAD manual that provides step-by-step help for users to create drawings following company standards. I highly recommend preparing such a standards document to keep everyone on the same page (or the same sheet).


AutoCAD designers often work on a project and prepare engineering drawings without visiting the site. Her or his knowledge of the project depends on regular communication with the project team.

It’s important to collect and document all the necessary input data, including the latest record and survey information, before starting a new project, and to keep the project team informed of any changes. It is also important to be aware of deadlines and ask for help if necessary.

Proper project setup

The engineering drawings set contains plans, details, profiles and cross sections. Every project is unique, and we follow a series of steps to make sure the project meets our company standards. Our goal is to complete every project in the most efficient way.

This can be done by using standard folder naming, drawing templates, and avoiding repetition of information.


Large, long term projects should have a root directory, where all background information such as topographic maps, property/cell limits, existing utilities locations and surveys should be saved and used as reference for site plans. This root directory should be regularly updated, confirmed to have the latest information – and an archive of outdated information too – if it was the basis for a previous design.

Some plan sheets, for example, gas collection and control systems and utilities plans, are complicated and contain a variety of data. One way to manage future information is to provide detailed layer names and manipulate them as needed. Instead of “Existing or Proposed-Gas-well,” layer names can contain the well ID, record date and surveyor name (i.e., V-LFG-AW-61R-AsBuilt-May 2_2015-ERI). This information may also be useful for GIS designers.

All plan sheets must be created to scale and should include items such as a north arrow, graphic scale, legend and notes.


During the life of a project, design elements may change several times. It may also be advantageous to use existing details from different projects that need to be modified to the current design. For these reasons, details should be drawn proportionally correctly; it is especially critical for construction drawings. At my company, we have a policy that each detail should be created in a separate file, drawn to scale, and then referenced into a sheet drawing.

Grading and surface creation

Here’s an example of a step I applied on a recent project:

Use all options when you add contour data to a surface. One of the issues on existing surfaces is “flat areas” where no contour data is displayed. The following image shows how this same surface looks before and after the proper options are turned on.

Select “Minimize flat areas” before options are turned on:

Here is the “Add Contour Data” dialog:

After all four options are applied:

Project completion

Communicate with the project team to ensure drafting plans are complete and ready for submission.

When the plan set is signed and sealed, create PDF and eTransmit archive files and store the files properly so they will be easy to find later.

CELEBRATE! YOU’RE DONE! – At least until the next project

My experience as a cartographer and designer began long before AutoCAD was used by most firms. During my college years, we prepared plans by hand using ink pens, so we had no room for mistakes. I remember our cartography teacher telling us that plans must be easy to read and understand. This meant we should never overlap any text callouts, dimension lines, or leaders as we created plans. I apply these simple rules in my job every day – but I have to admit that AutoCAD makes it much easier to do. Follow the tips I’ve given and it will work for you too!

Do you have any other tips or best practices to share on using CAD?

Larisa Chizhov has more than 17 years of experience as a survey technician and civil engineering CAD designer.

Categories: Environmental Planning & Compliance, Landfill Engineering and Design, Solid Waste
Posted By Larisa Chizhov at 11:30 AM  |  No Comments on Tips for using AUTOCAD CIVIL 3D to prepare engineering drawings

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