GIS workflow – Export Feature Lines to Shape Files

February 15, 2023 Simmie Graves

Civil 3D feature lines are awesome!  They are more powerful than 3D polylines and allow for curves in design delineations.

If you need to share project design feature lines such as Roads, drainage swales, water features, etc… as shape files, here’s how you do it.

Many consultants use ESRI ArcGIS for their analysis and mapping generation.  Civil 3D has the capabilities to perform import and export GIS data.

Usually our team members using ESRI products, they request our data in the form of Shape files (.shp).

Civil 3D includes SHP Import/Export Utilities as an addon that can be downloaded from your subscription site:

  1. First, confirm the SHP Import/Export Utilities is installed.  You will find it in the Toolbox tab.


  1. Start a new C3D drawing and immediately setup your drawing in the correct coordinate space consistent with the project data coordinate system.  Save your drawing.
  2. Import your GIS data into the drawing. The data might be a surface such as a DEM or a survey drawing of existing site features or Aerial Imagery from BING Maps.  In this example, the map is captured from the Geolocation function in C3D.
  3. A few feature lines have been defined and saved in a site.  Graphical user interface, applicationDescription automatically generated
  4. Defined Feature Lines can be exported to Shape files: Go to the Toolbox tab in the Toolspace Graphical user interface, text, applicationDescription automatically generatedRight click on the Export Feature Lines to SHP and Execute. Graphical user interface, applicationDescription automatically generated
  5. Select the feature lines to be exported.  You will need to select each one individually.  The command does not automatically grab all entities from the site. You will provide the file name and path to where the shape files will be saved.  You also have options to select attribute data for the feature lines.


Graphical user interfaceDescription automatically generated 

  1. The final step is to package all of the Shape Files into a .zip package.  ESRI ArcGIS online requires a zip file with all of the shape files. Graphical user interface, applicationDescription automatically generated
  2. Now the .zip file can be used to add into an ArcGIS map.  Launch your ArcGIS Map on line browser and add layer from file:MapDescription automatically generated Graphical user interface, text, application, emailDescription automatically generated 

Graphical user interface, applicationDescription automatically generated


  1. After import of the shape files, ArcGIS map will display the vector linework over a basemap.

MapDescription automatically generated


                   The GIS technician will be able to format and utilize your Civil 3D feature lines.

About the Author

Simmie Graves

Infrastructure Applications Expert<br><br>Simmie has diverse experience in Civil Engineering design and Survey Mapping support since 1979. He has been involved in key projects from Civil Site, Subdivision, Rail Transit, Airports, Highway, Utility Infrastructure, and Utility Scale Solar Farm site layouts. His start with a small surveying firm as a drafter in Oakland, CA provided a good base for transitioning and becoming a designer / engineering technician utilizing Computer Aided Design software. He quickly learned proprietary computer engineering systems such as Wang – Holguin, Vango and MS Dos based AutoCAD which transitioned from SoftDesk to Land Development Desktop to Civil 3D. <br><br> Simmie has a solutions-based focus that has served his clients very well. The vast majority of projects he has been involved in have been permitted and built.

More Content by Simmie Graves
Previous Article
Civil 3D: Going with the Flow (Pipe Slopes vs Invert Values)
Civil 3D: Going with the Flow (Pipe Slopes vs Invert Values)

How to to correct Flow and Invert values using Pipe Flow Direction options.

Next Article
GIS workflow - LIDAR Point Cloud to Civil 3D surface
GIS workflow - LIDAR Point Cloud to Civil 3D surface

Create a Digital Terrain Model from a LIDAR point cloud.


Get Tips Delivered.

Subscribe to Email Updates.

First Name
Last Name
Thank you!
Error - something went wrong!