Surface Contours are Missing in AutoCAD Civil 3D (3 Possible Solutions!)

Your Civil 3d Surface Contours are not shown? Don’t worry, the missing surface contours problem can be due to several different reasons. Here, we will go through each possibility one by one.

Surface Contours are turned off

The first, and maybe the most obvious reason for missing contours, is that they’re turned off in the current Surface Style. To check if that is the case, follow the steps below.

  1. First open the Toolspace, under Prospector, extend the Surfaces tab so you can see your surface there.
  2. Then right-click on the surface name and select Edit Surface Style
  3. A window will pop up, go to the Display tab and check if the Visibility of the Major and Minor contours is turned On.
  4. Hit OK to close the window.

If the contours are on, and you still cannot see them on the screen, proceed to the second solution.

Surface or Contours’ Layer is turned Off (or Frozen)

The second reason for missing the Surface Contours is also quite an obvious one. More particularly, the layer could be turned off.
Here, however, you can find one small hurdle. You have to check, for both the Contours’ and the Surface object Layers. This is because the contours could have nested different layers.

First, let’s check the counters layer, go back to the Surface Style window, and under the Display tab, check what is the layer of the Major and Minor Contours. Then check if the said layer/layers are turned On (or frozen).

Then, if your terrain contours are still not shown, let’s check if the layer of the whole Surface Object is turned On/Off. To do that, go again to the Toolspace, under Surfaces, where you can find your surface. Right-click on it and choose Select, to select the surface object.

Now, as the surface is selected in the object Properties you can check what is the layer of the surface object. Then check if the said layer is turned On or Off.

AutoCAD Civil 3D Level of Detail

This is an option, that I personally found out about, fairly recently. It is supposed to hide some of the linework from the more complex drawings.
Unfortunately for me, it tends to hide out the surface Contours when the Terrain is more complex. This left me wondering, why the surface contours are missing from my Civil 3D drawing…

To turn it off, go to View Ribbon, and under Views drop down menu, click on Level of Detail.

I hope these suggestions helped you to bring back your missing contours.
If you know about other Civil 3D options that can mess with the Surface Contours, please let us know in the comments below.

If you want to learn more Civil 3D Tips & Tricks, check out our other AutoCAD Civil 3D posts!

How to Create Surface from Text in Civil3D (Also Assign Elevations to Text!)

Often times we receive exported files from other surveyors that we need to use in our drawings. At this time, it is great that AutoCAD Civil 3D gives us the opportunity to Create a Surface from Text Objects.
To illustrate better the task. We will look at an example where we have received a drawing with Anonymous Blocks instead of Cogo points or normal blocks. We will create a surface using those Blocks, more particularly the text that is hiding in them.

Move Text to Elevation

As previously said, we have been given a file with Anonymous Blocks. They are really hard to work with because every single one of them has a different block name. Lacks attributes and can’t be edited. We previously discussed How to Convert Anonymous Blocks *U### to Normal AutoCAD Blocks.

Today, however, we will isolate all the blocks and Explode them. We are not using them for Surface Creation because they lack Z coordinates.

After all the Anonymous Blocks are exploded the drawing is left with Text objects and some lines that represent the point location. Now if we select the Mtext containing the Elevation information we can see that there is no “Z” position filled in. Our first task would be to assign it to all text objects.

Don’t worry, we are not going to fill in all the elevations manually. We will use the Civil 3D Move Text to Elevation tool, to Automatically Assign Elevations to all Text objects! Please follow the steps below:
  1. Isolate all the Mtext objects that contain Text (in our example we will isolate using Quick Select to select all the red text, and hit Isolate Selected Objects) Check How to Quick Select objects by Color! (AutoCAD trick) for more detailed explanation.
  2. After we are left with only Text containing Elevations we go to the Modify Ribbon tab and under Ground Data select Surface.
  3. A new Ribbon tab will Appear called Surface. There under Surface Tools click on the Move to Surface drop-down menu and select Move Text to Surface.
  4. AutoCAD will prompt to Select Text Objects: Here we select our text that contains the Elevation and hit Enter.

At this point, our Mtext objects must have their Position Z property automatically filled in.

Create surface Using Text Objects.

The hard part is over. Now we just have to create a Surface using our Text objects. To do that follow the steps below:

  1. First, We create a TIN Surface the usual way – Home Ribbon tab > Surface drop-down menu > Create Surface > TIN Surface > Fill in the Name, Description, Style.
  2. Secondly, go to Toolspace > Surfaces > Your Surface (in the example Surface from Text) > Definition > Drawing objects > Add
  3. A window will pop up, Add Points From Drawing Objects. Under Object Type: from the drop-down menu choose Text.
  4. Select the Objects and hit Enter!

That is it! our Surface is now ready!

Tip: Before creating the Surface from Text it would be good to check where the Text Object Grip point is. If it is away from the actual Point Placement, you should move it to correspond with it. Otherwise the surface will be displaced with that error.
In our example I had to move the point grip of all red Text Objects.

Hope you find this post useful! You can check our other post Point Elevations From Lines or our other Civil 3d tips and Tricks!

How to Add Custom Stations Along Alignment in Civil 3D.

Alignment objects

Alignment objects are one of the most important parts of Civil 3D drawing. They can represent road centerlines, pipe networks, etc. Creating and defining an alignment is one of the first things we have to do in order to create our roadway, railroad or site design. To create an alignment we usually use the Alignment Layout Tools. Those tools give us great control over the design, providing us with a possibility to use different types of spirals, straight lines, curves and complex combinations of them. We can even create an alignment from Polyline if we have some simple geometry. There is much more information about Alignment Objects in Autodesk’s official site, so I won’t type much about them now.

Alignment stations labels

Usually, when we have Alignments for Road Centerlines, for example, we use labels on them for general information like Station’s KM, Station Name or number, Geometry Station Name, Geometry Station KM, etc. Usually, those labels are located in incremental distances and/or at Alignment’s geometry points like Curve-Spiral point (CS) or Spiral-Tangent point (ST) etc. However, some times we want to have labels along custom places (specific KM or Specific place). For example, we have a road and we need a new bridge, we want to put labels on the bridge’s Abutment walls and piers (in the picture they are the Magenta lines). There are three different methods that we can use.

Adding new Major Station Label at one specific KM.

This is a good method if we want to add one or two labels. However, if there are many custom stations that we want to label, this first method will look kind of dull. How does it work:

  1. First, we have to know the exact Station where we want to place our label. In our example, it would be 0+147.00 (The first Abutment wall of the bridge)
  2. We open Edit Alignment Labels window by right-clicking over our alignment and choosing Edit Alignment Labels.. from the drop-down menu.
  3. Here we have to find the label set for our Major stations and ADD it one more time. In mine template, the style is “Station 100m
  4. After Adding it we have to set it’s increment to 1m (so we would have label every 1m). After that, we have to uncheck the two boxes before Start and End Station rows, and fill in the Exact Station for both of them. Then we hit OK.

Well, this is it we have our new label at station 0+147.00 as we wanted.

Note: This method my require changing the set up of your Major Station style or even creating an entirely new label style.

Note2: Only this method doesn’t require any setting up on profile’s bands because it uses already existing labels!

Adding Station Equations

The second method is a great solution to our problem! It requires a bit of set up, but after we’ve got our station equation labels ready we can add as many custom labels as we want in seconds!

  1. First, we have to create a label for Station Equations that will work for us (if we don’t already have one). This can be done by entering Alignment Labels window. Then selecting Station Equations Type and creating new. (in The example I already have a label set but we will go through the process again).
  2. After creating the label we have to set it up. So now in the Label Set Composer window, we set up our equation label.
  3. After having our Equation labels set up we just have to add some station equations. This can be done by right-clicking on our Alignment and going to Alignment properties.
  4. In Alignment properties window under the Station Control tab we can find Station Equations. We just have to click on the Small green plus icon “Add station equations“.

    Note: AutoCAD can give you a warning but don’t worry just hit OK.
  5. Now we just have to specify the Station where we want our labels by clicking on the screen.

Note: There is one problem that can occur since station equations are points along alignment where the stationing changes. After adding them as custom labels along with our alignment we have to be very careful not to change alignment’s geometry. Because if we did change it (the geometry before the equation) the equation station will remain the same. The stations after the equation will remain the same, but the stations before the equation will have the new stations.

We can easily correct that by copying Row Station Back’s value to Station Ahead. However, if we have a big project we can easily miss the error and then have some big problems!

Note2: This method requires setting up into profile band’s options to show our new stations there! You can learn how here: Setting up Custom Station Labels for Profile View in Civil 3D

Adding Sample lines

This is the preferred method by me because there is no danger of messing up the alignment’s stations. And in addition, we have sample lines which can be used for cross sections later on! So how to add custom labels in form of Sample Lines? The process is much like using station equations, we just have to go through these simple steps:

  1. First, we click on Sample Lines button which is located in Home tab Ribbon.
  2. Then Civil 3D will ask us to choose an Alignment.
  3. After choosing the Alignment we have to choose surfaces and corridors, for now, we just hit OK.
  4. A small window will pop up called Sample Line Tools. From it, we choose our Sample line Group and method of putting sample lines. In that case, we hit At a Station.
  5. Now we just have to choose where to put our sample lines by clicking along our Alignment. Civil will ask us for sample line width, but at that point, we don’t care about it so we just hit Enter.
  6. After placing our sample lines we have to set their labels up, much like setting Station Equation’s labels. Detailed information about setting labels can be found in post Setting up Alignment and Sample Line labels in Civil 3d

That’s it we have our custom Station labels along the Alignment!

Note: This method requires setting up into profile band’s options to show our new stations there! You can learn how here: Setting up Custom Station Labels for Profile View in Civil 3D

Create Polyline around the Outside of Multiple Objects!

As we discussed in the previous post related to Civil 3D – How to find Closest Distance Between 2 Objects? there are a lot of great drafting tools that can improve our work.

Create Outside boundary of Multiple objects

For today’s post, we are going to look at a tool that automatically creates Polyline around the Outside of Multiple Objects.

This can be really useful when we need to compute some overall areas. For example, if we have several parcels and we want to get the whole area they take. Or if we have some irregularly shaped objects and we want to compute their area – like river outline.


The tool’s command is LINEWORKSHRINKWRAP. Civil 3D will automatically auto-fill the command if we type in “Linewo” so don’t worry if you can’t remember the whole thing…  After starting the command we just have to select objects from which we want to create the outer polyline.

Note: This tool works with all AutoCAD objects like line, polyline, circle, etc. as well as with Civil 3d objects like corridors, surfaces, etc.


How to find Closest Distance Between 2 Objects?

AutoCAD Civil 3D is very useful and powerful software. Along with it’s great functionality related to road design, pipe design, vertical planing etc. it provides many small and very very useful drafting tools.

Today we are going to look at one of them it is called Minimum Distance Between Entities and as name suggests we are going to find the closest distance between two objects.

This usually isn’t hard job even if we don’t use this tool however it takes time and we all know the time is very expensive. For example we will look for the closest distance between our building outline and property line.

As you can see it is not so easy to find exactly which corner is the closest to the property line.

Where to find the tool?

The handy tool we are talking about is found in the Analyze tab at the ribbon, then we go to Inquiry panel’s dropdown list. Here we can see it – Minimum Distance Between Entities.

The command is MinDistBetweenEntities, it is long one but if AutoCAD will help us
writing it. We just have to write “Mind… and it will auto-suggest the command.

How to use it?

We just have to fallow these simple steps:

  1. We start the tool in one of the two ways we looked at
  2. Now Civil 3D will ask us to select the two objects. We select the objects and hit enter.
  3. Civil 3D will give us option to draw an line that connects the 2 closest points. Here we hit yes because we would like to place dimension there. And we are ready!


As we can see in this picture these were indeed the closest distances!



How to create Longitudinal Profile from Feature Line? Easy!

The Task!

So what do we want to do? We want to create a longitudinal profile (Profile view and profile) from Feature line which we can use as a surface profile without having surface. In the example, we will create a feature through the New River Road and we will use the map’s elevations as a base.

We, of course, can create a quick profile with 2 clicks, but our task would be to create real profile view which won’t be erased as soon as we close our AutoCAD Civil 3d ( quick profiles are temporary objects and will disappear from drawing when we close it).


First, we will need a feature line which has the geometry of our road and elevations at the contours. We will use Elevation points here and one very rough geometry.

Profile directly from the feature line

We just have to follow these 7 simple steps:

  1. Create our feature line geometry and assign elevations – we already did that.
  2. Create Quick profile from Feature line. To create Quick profile we just select our feature line, then right click
    and from the menu we choose Quick Profile.. Now we will have something like this:
    Note: As we learned before Quick profiles are temporary so we aren’t ready yet!
  3. Now we type in “LANDXMLOUT” in the command line and hit Enter. (Use LANDXMLOUT without the dash).
  4. A window will pop up (Export to LandXML) here we first have to uncheck everything (by clicking uncheck all button). Then we have to click on pick from drawing and select our profile. After selecting it we can just click on OK button and save our .xml file.
  5. After saving our .xml now we will import it back in. We type in command line “LANDXMLIN” (Again without dash).
  6. A new window will pop up here we just have to choose our .xml file and hit Open. A new window will pop up we just click OK here.
  7. We end up with new alignment with its own 3d definition. Now to create our surface profile we just have to create a new surface profile from our new alignment.

    Our profile from Feature line is ready!

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