Surfaces and Visual Styles – a Primer

Good Monday morning, readers! Today, I’m going to write about a small problem that seems very difficult to fix, but is fairly simple.

Have you ever had reason to look at a surface in 3D? I’d guess that the answer is in the affirmative. The problem is those annoying triangles that always show up in 3D view. Well, there are times when I don’t want to see those triangles. I can’t turn them off in the style display or my whole surface is turned off in 3D view. So the question that bugged me was baffling…could this be done? Again, you’ll find an answer of “yes” – and following the link will show you how to accomplish this.

To give a nice visual representation of the problem, I’ve included an illustration below – notice the nice red surface and all the triangle faces? I don’t want to see those, so what do I do?

These triangles are a component of Visual Styles. Remember the options for the SHADEMODE command in Pre-2007 releases of AutoCAD? We had 2d Wireframe, 3D Wireframe, 3D Hidden, Gouraud, etc. Well, those options are a bit different in AutoCAD 2007 and 2008, with the introduction of Visual Styles. We still have 2d Wireframe, 3D wireframe, and 3D hidden, but we also have these two new ones called conceptual and realistic. Conceptual gives us a rather cartoonish look, and it fairly useless to me. It’s illustrated below:

As you can see, unless we’re designing sets for Saturday morning televisions, this surface doesn’t tell us much. The first style that I displayed above was the realistic style – to give it a bit more “oomph” we can apply a render material to our surface and have it displayed just a bit more realistically, as shown below:

Looking better, isn’t it? I’ve got it shown with a thick grass render style, and can almost envision James playing golf in the above image. But I’m almost sure his ball will be deflected by one of those darn TIN lines, so how do I get rid of them? Is it possible for the above image to look more like the one below?

Well, since I’m showing it, it must be, so let’s figure out how!

If you go to the View menu and scroll down to the Visual Styles flyout, you’ll see a selection for Visual Styles Manager. If you select that, you will notice a new tool palette with your visual styles on it, along with all their settings, as shown below:

Most of these settings are fairly unimportant to you, but there are a few important ones. But before you go messing around in areas that you don’t belong (as my grandmother used to say), please remember the cardinal rule of Civil 3D customization: NEVER edit this data without first backing it up. Otherwise, you may end up changing settings and not remembering how to get them back. So, instead of working on one of the OOTB styles, I’m going to make a copy of an existing visual style. And, since the Realistic visual style is the closest to the one that I want to end up with, I’m going to copy it. How do you copy? Simply right-click on the style and select Copy, as shown below:

Once you copy it, it behaves quite like Windows Explorer does – it doesn’t immediately show up because you have to right click in an empty spot and paste the copy in. Also, you will want to right click on the new one and select Edit Name and Description to give it a meaningful name. Now, we edit the style to make it get rid of the triangles. To do this, we must look through the settings and determine what it is that’s displaying the triangles – it’s the edges. If you go down to Edge Mode, pick in the box that says “Isolines” and change that to “None.” There – it’s just that simple!

Now you can right click on the style and select “Apply to Current Viewport” to see the effects – a nicely rendered surface with no triangles displayed.

Now, to work on getting my corridor nicely rendered….Dana is the goddess of this type of stuff, but I like to try to learn it on my own before I bug her, especially with her hands full as they are these days!

One comment

  1. Jason,

    thanks for keeping the site fresh.