How GIS Data Can Be Imported Into AutoCAD Civil 3D

For many years, CAD data and Geographic Information System (GIS) data have lived in different worlds.  As private and public organizations across the globe are working hard to geospatially locate everything on the planet, these two worlds are quickly merging. Even better, all this data is becoming more accessible to the public, and it’s free in many cases.

So What Kind of Data Is out There for Us CAD and Civil 3D Users?

Engineers, planners, architects and surveyors can use this GIS data from the preliminary stages to final design. Some examples of available GIS data include:

  • Parcels
  • PLSS data
  • Demographics
  • Survey points
  • Water boundaries
  • Hydrology
  • Floodplains
  • Road centerlines
  • Environmental data
  • Topo linework
  • Archaeological data
  • Wet and dry utilities
  • Municipal boundaries Aerial imagery
  • LiDAR data
  • DEMs
  • Shapefiles that originally came from CAD data

How Do I Bring GIS Data Into Civil 3D

Autodesk provides many tools to utilize GIS data and many of them are built into Civil 3D. Here are a few of the most commonly used Civil 3D tools:

Drawing Settings – Units and Zone

Prior to bringing in GIS data, you will need to properly set up your drawing. In the Toolspace/Settings Tab, right click on the Drawing name at the top and click on “Edit Drawing Settings.”

Drawing settings units and zones

In the Units and Zone Tab, set the coordinate system appropriately.

units and zone tab


This command can either be typed or found in the “Insert” ribbon tab. Map Import brings your GIS data into AutoCAD as AutoCAD objects, equipping you with the full editing capabilities of AutoCAD. Here are some of the various formats you can import:

Map import


Use the Map Image Insert command (MAPIINSERT) to bring in a variety of georeferenced raster image files. There are many great resources on GIS data websites for raster images that are geospatially accurate. When they are inserted properly using this command, they will drop right into place within the drawing. Here are the many different file types that can be brought in using this command:

Map iinsert


This is a command that will bring Bing Map aerial and road imagery directly into the drawing file. You’ll be able to clip out specific images, pan and zoom anywhere on the map, and use the power of the map server to automatically adjust the resolution, depending on your zoom scale. This is an invaluable tool to bring background imagery into your drawing file.




This command will open the AutoCAD Map 3D Task Pane, which will allow you to create, manage, display, and publish GIS data using Map 3D.

AutoCAD Map 3D Task Pane

It’s important to note that importing GIS data involves aligning coordinate systems, datums, grid-to-ground conversions, and different units of measurement. This involves making sure that the drawing is set up properly, the AutoCAD linework and Civil 3D object data is drawn in the correct location, and the incoming GIS data is properly projected. Stay tuned for more blogs and videos that will go into greater detail on these transformations and additional Civil 3D mapping tools.

Rob is a GIS specialist, civil designer, project manager, and CAD manager. He is uniquely skilled in CAD and GIS products, networking, security, database, cloud services, and computer technical support. Rob is a Certified Geographic Information Systems Professional. He understands a customer’s project from the initial conception to the final stages of approval, consistently meeting their needs, budgets and timelines. As a CAD manager, he helps customers achieve their goals of implementing reasonable solutions, more efficient methods, user-friendly standards and procedures, documentation and libraries, cloud storage solutions, and ways to use database objects to their full potential.