The Miracle (and Reality) of Civil 3D Label Text Sizing

You’ve heard the rumors. And yes, they are true.


So you throw away that leroy chart you had thumbtacked to your cube wall. And you dive in to Civil 3D. And then… what the heck???

She said it would resize! Why is it so big? RETURN THIS SOFTWARE JUNK.

Hold on.

Autosize does not mean MIND READ.

In the old world, you thought about your plotted text height- maybe say, 0.08″. Then you did some mental math based on your drawing viewport scale, the angle of the sun and your lunch tab to come up with a textstyle height in model space that would plot for you. Change the scale of the drawing? Then you needed to reinsert all that text. Or maintain a duplicate.

When I worked in the metric world in large neighborhoods, we maintained two sets of text. Text that was readable on 1:1000 drawings, and text that was readable at 1:500. Back here on the east coast with small sites, we varied from 1″=10′ to 1″=500′ and text was always an issue.

So what does autosize mean then, Dana?

Here is a drawing with a 1″= 100′ viewport. Looks good from afar. (Remember, click on any image to see it larger)

A closer look at the structure label style reveals that this label style has been set up to have 0.08″ text. Which means, I should expect that REGARDLESS of my viewport scale.

So I come in closer in paperspace and measure my text. Yes- it does measure 0.08″. When I plot this sheet, I can measure with a ruler and get the same result.


So you don’t believe me? Let’s change the viewport scale to 1″=200′ and regenall.

Ok, so something looks weird. Why is my text suddenly HUGE. Dana is such a liar. This didn’t help me at all!

But what happened here is exactly what I expected based on my label style. I told it – PLOT AT 0.08″ NO MATTER WHAT.

So my drawing elements got smaller to reflect the change in viewport scale. But my text is still literally, 0.08″.

And I mean, as plotted. Literally. 0.08″.

So why do I keep saying this over and over?

We are so used to the mental math involved in setting text size in model space that we cannot fathom that something would always stay steady in size regardless of the viewport scale.

This applies to any and every viewport. So if I had two different viewports showing this same text, the text would size itself to be 0.08″ in each one of them, even if one was 1″=100′ and one was 1″=30′. Or any other iteration.

As you have noticed, perhaps the same text size is not appropriate for all viewport scales. In this case, I would probably want to have another label style with a smaller plotted text height, like 0.06 or 0.04.

So does this save you any effort?

Sure, as long as you want the same plotted text height. Civil 3D also makes it easier to generate multiple text labels that are different sizes and update dynamically.

So if I had a set of labels that was a 0.04″ and one that was 0.08″ and I had to change the pipe invert, both texts would be updated right away with the invert change. So even if I need double labeling, it isn’t double the work.


  1. Kevin Spear says:

    Now, if we could just get that GIS labelling aspect included.. You know, display the label @ L80 up to 100 scale and the use L40 up to 500 scale, etc. That would be civil 3d nirvana….

  2. John says:

    I just had to explain this to someone who thought it would do the mental math. Kevins’ idea would be great, but two styles that will update simultaneously is lightyears ahead of having two text layers of the same information that needs to be edited separately! I HATE REDUNDENCY IN A DRAWING SET!

  3. Beth Welch says:

    Personally I hate all of the “STYLES” in Civil 3d. I’m so upset they had to force us into this program, which 2/3 we do not use. GIVE ME BACK LAND DESKTOP!!!! I mean really, who has time to surf the web for hours looking to forums for other people’s advice? The Civil 3D learning curve is killing my productivity!!!