Create a topographic map for engineering

Civil 3D: How to create topographic maps from survey data


Before you start, make sure you downloaded your .CSV file from the data collector in a location you can browse to in Windows.

Also, do a pre-validation check on your data by opening the file. You should have downloaded it in the format “Point #, Northing, Easting, Elevation, Description (PNEZD).

Make sure there are only numbers in the first column (any letters will result in an error when you download your point file).

Numbers Only in This Column! Point Descriptions (Should

only contain letters/numbers – no symbols)





Open Civil 3D Imperial, select New from the Application Menu (the big, blue

A at the top-left corner of the window), and choose _AutoCAD Civil 3D (Imperial) NCS.dwt template file.


Now, we are going to import our points. Go to the “Insert Tab” and select “Points from File” in the Import panel.

Select “Points from File”

Click the “+” sign to add file, browse to your saved .CSV


Under “Specify point file format”, scroll to the bottom until you locate “PNEZD”

The preview window should show your points organized in the same format as the .CSV that you uploaded

Click “Add Points to Point Group”, and follow instructions on the next page


Click “Add Points to Point Group

Then click this icon and when it asks for a group name in the pop-up dialogue, enter “Surface Points”

Click “OK” 6

If you cannot see your imported points, they were mostly likely imported to a location outside your viewport. Go to the bottom command line, type in “Zoom”, hit enter, then type “E” for Extents, hit enter. Your points should appear in the screen now.

Points with the description “TR” will automatically upload a tree shape symbol over the point.


Depending on your point style settings, your points may have imported with the descriptions, point numbers or elevations attached to them. If this is the case, your map might look like below.


If you want to toggle your point labels “On/Off”, or change the information shown next to each point, go to the “Prospector” tab in Toolspace on the left hand side.

Expand point groups

Right click on “_All Points” and select properties

Change point label style as desired or toggle to “none”

At the bottom, click “Apply” before you click “OK”


Even if you turn off other point labels, the tree labels may remain.

To change this, go the the “Settings” tab in toolspace, expand “Point Styles”, right Click on “Tree” and hit “Edit”

Go to “Display” tab, and toggle the light bulb next to “Label”, Hit “Apply” and “OK”


Next, we are going to create a surface. On the left hand of the screen, locate the Toolspace bar. Click on the “Prospector” tab.

Right click on “Surfaces”

Select “Create Surface…”


Change the following parameters in the pop-up menu

Rename “Existing Grade

Rename “Existing Ground”

Select “Contours 1’ and 5’ (Design)” from the drop down menu

When you select “OK”, your surface will be created


Now we need to define our “Existing Ground” surface with the points we imported, to do this, go to the “Prospector” tab in Toolspace.

Expand “Surfaces”, “Existing Grade” and “Definition”

Right Click “Point Groups” and select “Add”

Select “Surface Points”, this will define the “Existing Grade” surface with all points in the group we created. Click “Ok”


Now 1’ contour intervals should appear on your plan. Each of these represents one foot of elevation change!


To create the surface, Civil 3D connects the 3 dimensional points with lines. These lines form triangles which define a 3 sided plane, the combination of these 3 sided planes form your 3D surface. This is known as a Triangulated Irregular Network or TIN surface. See the pictures below to better understand this concept.

TIN – Plan View

Shaded Orthometric View


As we can see from our plan, there are a few control points that are outside our mapping boundary. We probably manually created these points in our data collector, then used them for survey control.

Control Points outside mapping area

We need to put a boundary on our Surface so that it only reflects our mapping area. To start, create a polyline around the focused surveying area. Go to Home, “Draw” and Polyline. Draw a polyline around the area where grade shots were taken.



Polyline created around mapping boundary is shown in white

Restrict your topo using the polyline by coming into “Surfaces” in the Prospector tab, expand your surface. Go to “Definition”, “Boundaries” and right click “Add”.


Name the Boundary, “Topo Boundary”, hit “OK” and then select your polyline

Your topo boundary should be trimmed at your polyline


Now we need to outline your sidewalks and draw other features in your map. First, turn on the point labels as described in Slide 9. Use the “Description Only” label style.


Now, to allow us to focus on our sidewalk shots only, lets hide the other points from the drawing for the moment.

Right click on “All points” and select “Edit Points…”

A point list will appear, select all sidewalk points and click “Select”


In your drawing, all SDWK points should be highlighted, right click on one of them and select “Isolate Selected Objects”

This will allow you to see only the SDWK points for the time being, you can always right click on your drawing and select “End Object Isolation” to redisplay all of you points in the project


Now that you have only SDWK points shown, use your field notes to help you remember the limits and direction of the sidewalk.


Before we start drawing, create a few layers in your drawing for sidewalk, building, lightpoles and other manmade features in your drawing. Make sidewalks and building bolder by modifying their line weights, use at least 0.3mm. If you don’t remember how to create layers – watch this video –


Now, lets draw in your sidewalk. Select “Sidewalk” as your current layer. Using the “Create Line by Point Object” function in the “Draw” panel, you can draw lines connecting points.

By highlighting the sidewalk points, a line will be drawn between points using this function


Here is a picture of our map with the newly added sidewalks, if you collected shots on lightpoles and valves, place circles or “blocks” at those locations.



Blocks are “pre-drawn” objects in AutoCad. In Civil 3D, they have blocks for typical infrastructure items like valves and hydrants that you can insert in plan view to show the location of these items. If you took points on these items, you can insert a block over the point.

Go to the “Insert” tab, select insert block and scroll down to a block representing an item in your drawing. Select that block, then place it in your drawing by selecting the point representing that item. If it comes in really small, click “Undo”, reselect the block then hit “S” for scale before placing it. Select a scale that increases the size of your block to a reasonable size (start with 10, then adjust as needed).


After drawing, you may want to re-enter all of your points back into the drawing by ending the object isolation. Simply right click, select “Isolate Objects” and click “End Object Isolation”. All points should reappear in your drawing.

After isolating points, are surface may need to be “rebuilt” This is why the exclamation point is now highlighted near our surface. Right click on the surface and check “Rebuild – automatic”


Now, use the contour smoothing and label your major contours (1 every 5’) by following the instructions in the video below:


Now, we need to draw a six cornered building on our site, and determine the coordinates of all corners. Start by drawing a building on the site by using polyline or rectangle draw functions.


Now, determine a finished floor elevation for your building that averages the required cut and fill. To do this, pick an elevation for the finished floor that is equivalent to a contour line which passes through the approximate center of your building. In my example, I will make my finished floor 993.00. Label this finished floor using the “Text” function under the “Annotate Tab”

If your text is too small to see well, right click on it, select properties and increase the text height


Now, lets create 6 new survey points, one for each of our building corners. If your drawing is cluttered with points, turn labels off using instructions on slide 9.


Under the “Home” tab, in the “Create Ground Data” panel, hit “Points”. Select “Create Points – Miscellaneous”, and “Manual”


Now select your building corner, when asked to enter a description type “BLDG COR” and hit enter. When it asks for elevation, type in the finished floor elevation that you selected for your building (Ex. 993.00) and hit enter. You should now see a red “X” at the corner of your building! You just created a point! Repeat this process for all corners of the building.


When you are finished, you should have a point at all corners of your building. We will use the Northing, Easting and Elevations of these coordinate to stakeout our building in Lab 5.


Let’s create a point group for our Building Corners. Right click on “Point Groups” in the “Prospector” tab and click “New”

A dialogue will appear. Under the “Information” tab, name your new point group “Building Corners”. Follow instructions on next page.


Now switch to the “Include” tab, and select “With full descriptions matching”. Put in the point description for you building corners (it should be BLDG COR if you followed instructions. Hit “Apply” then switch the “Point List” tab. You should see your 6 building corner points.


In the “Point List” tab, you should be able to see the coordinates of all 6 building corners. Hit “OK” at the bottom.

Note: If you do not see your building corner points in the list, double check your point description. They need to match exactly what you typed in the “Include” tab.


Lastly, we are going to place your map on a title block, insert a north arrow, scale and a table of your building coordinate points. Start by downloading the 11×17” title block from BBLearn. Save it to somewhere you can easily navigate to on your computer. I would put it on the I-drive so you can access it from anywhere in the building.


Next, go to the “Layout 1” tab in the bottom left hand corner

Select “Layout 1” tab


Now select the “layout” tab at the top

Click “New” and “From Template”. Then browse to the 11”x17” page border that you just saved to you computer. Then Insert as Layout 1 or Layout 2


A new “Layout” tab should have appeared at the bottom. Select the layout


You should now be able to see the blank page border in the layout view. Start by inserting a rectangular viewport of model space. Click on “Rectangular” at the top of the screen.


Draw a rectangular viewport from the top left corner to the bottom right corner. Once you do this, you should be able to see your map in the Layout view.

Draw viewport from this corner to this corner.


Double click in the viewport window, then use your scroll wheel to center the map in the page border.


Once centered, double click outside of the viewport window. Then, hover over the viewport window and left click when it is highlighted. On the bottom right hand corner, you should be able to see the scale of the viewport. Select an appropriate scale that shows your entire map. The newly selected map scale is your drawing scale.


I used a 1”=20’ scale for my map. I left a little room to the right of the map for the point table I am going to create with the Building Corners. To enter that table. Click on the “Annotate” tab on the top, and select “Add Tables”, “Add Point Table”


This dialogue box should appear.

Click this icon to add your “Building Corner” point group. Keep other options the same and click “OK” at the bottom.


Add your point table to your drawing sheet in a location that does not overlap with your map.


Add a north arrow to your drawing sheet by clicking on the “Layout Tools” tab at the top. Select on of the north arrows. If it comes into your drawing small, you may have to use the scale function to make it larger. See this video to learn about “Scale”.


Now that we have a north arrow, lets change the information in our title block. Double click anywhere down in the title block, and it should pull up a dialogue box.


Update all of this information for your lab group. Pay close attention to the scale attributes. Make sure your final scale at the bottom turns out like it should. See example to the left.


Now, we are going to print PDFs of our map and border. While in layout view, click on the application menu in the top left (Blue A), select “Plot”. Select “Plot Single Sheet”.

Select “Ledger” as the size, click “Extents” as the plot area and check the “Fit to Paper” box. Hit “Apply to Layout” and “OK”


Print (2) 11”x17” PDFs of your layout sheet. Print one with all of your point labels turned on, and one with all of your point labels turned off. See page #9 of these instructions to review how to turn labels on an off.

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