In Living Style?

No, I am not going to talk about Civil 3d object styles or James’ House of Styles.  I want to ask about the other styles – the base AutoCAD style – Named Plot Styles.  How many people are remaining in a pen-color-based (CTB) AutoCAD world?

Is anyone using STB’s and Civil 3d?

I know it may be difficult to switch to STB without an OOTB default template, but it really isn’t that difficult.  Are you interested in hearing how we did it?

In either case,  I would like to hear from both sides on this.  Comment below or drop me an email.


  1. We’ve switched to STB styles. granted not everything in Civil3D works correctly with named plotstyles. Take a label and put the curved ended box around it. Make the label and color and print it black and white. The end caps still try to print the color they are. We had to adjust the label colors to color 7 to get them to print correctly. It’s been like that since the beginning.

  2. Dustin Manning says:

    We are still using CTB’s at my firm. I am still developing our template so I would definitely like to know more about switching to STB. I like using CTB’s but I also acknowledge that there are pro’s and con’s to any change. What is the biggest pro for using STB’s instead of CTB’s?

  3. Eddy Ng says:

    We are using STB in Civil 3D. It works fine with us, there were a lot of set up has to be done in the template but we got it to work pretty well. We just have to think about plot style and line weight more unlike in CTB the color drives everything. I like STB ok. It’s just hard coming from CTB.

  4. Juan Soto says:

    Its not broken, Im not fixing it

  5. Allen Robberson says:

    We still use ctb. would love to see how to change it over.

  6. Craig Mutch says:

    We made the decision to change over to monochrome.stb for a new company standard a few years ago in LDT. We use monochrome.stb for Civil 3D as well. The biggest advantage for us is not sending our company ctb file out with every drawing.

  7. I did some work for a firm that had an existing .stb in place that they wanted to use. So I built their template based on the stb and I had a devil of a time. I started with their stb based template, dragged in some styles and I had all kinds of weird scaling issues and other stuff that I couldn’t figure out. We eventually got it working fine, but I’d love to hear of a way that involved fewer tears.

  8. Earl Kubaskie says:

    I’ve never used CTbs with Civil 3D, which makes the NCS templates ootb a pita.

    Perhaps the move away from color>lineweight mapping in NCS 4 will get the deskers to give us STB-based templates, but in the meantime I’d be glad to hear your conversion method.

  9. What do you mean by scaling issues, Dana?

  10. Charles Fisher says:

    Amen Juan!

    I am always looking for ways to improve the process, but I have yet to find a compelling reason to switch to STB.

  11. Main reason we went to STB was to simplify printing. Want a line to print Bold set the layer to BLACK-BOLD….you don’t have to teach new folks what your color-pen scheme is. We have 2 STB files one for full size drawings and one for small detail sheets. Pen styles are the same, one’s just half the pen width of the other. Set it all up in your template file and roll on.

  12. Mark Jung says:

    We are still useing CTB’s where I work. Been doing that for years… Like others have said, need a good reason to switch.

  13. Craig Jole says:

    We recently switched from “color mapped to BW” style ctb to straight out-of-the-box acad.ctb, with colors and lineweights set in the layer dialog box.
    If you need BLACK-BOLD, you just set the layer settings accordingly.
    Where needed, we use colors in MSpace and just set layer overrides in Layout per VPort. (Complete Layer overrides per MView has been on my personal wishlist for many years)
    Colors are colors, and White is black. (Weird concept, I know…)

    For deliverable sheets, it gives you sort of a WYSIWIG/ pseuo-Print Preview look in Layout, and is sort of a middle ground between ctb and stb, without having to convert all our dwg files, workflows, users, etc.
    Granted, it isn’t totally perfect, and it is still sort of weird to get used to for some users, but I really like it so far.

  14. Patrick Lau says:

    I haven’t used STB with Civil 3D, but I converted the company I used to work for over to STB and left a year later to come to where I work now where we use CTB. I miss the named plot styles, if for nothing else, having the ability to use any color I want at any time. I get sick of seeing the same colors everyday, and on top of that, our survey department uses way to much red and yellow. When I decided to switch it made sense to me that you set the lineweight for each layer and use the color for other purposes. This made plotting color maps much more simple, and the transition was more painless than I thought it would be. I setup our STB template so that the color of the layers matched the paint on the ground when you get a utility locate which was kind of neat.

  15. James Maeding says:

    I like the power of detaching color from plot look, but I’m still not convinced its faster for the masses. My company does a decent variety of plans, so its not so easy to standardize everything. When I think about quality control, I still think color is very good at representing plot thinkness and screening.
    I guess I could swallow styles if there was a way to display things with color to represent the thinknesses.
    I’d do styles if I was the only user, its not that way though, even though I have tools to translate things for me on legacy projects. Its a tough call.

  16. Moving to stb in the next few months.

  17. Neil Wilson says:

    STB’s provide great flexibility but they can add complexity to drawing management. With CTB you just need to set layer colors and plot settings are covered simultaneaously. With STB’s you have to set up colors AND styles, in effect doubling the configuration process. Another drawback to STB’s is they require mapping to tables between drawings. If the style names in an STB are changed or a table s used that doesn’t match the drawings then all drawings must be re-mapped to the correct names. With CTB’s there is never a mismatch. Then there is the uneditable NORMAL style. It cannot be configured to plot in Black. Since it is the default style it can be a nuisance if a user overlooks a layer set to Normal (I’ve tried some custom tools to manipulate the Normal style but customizations bring other headaches). I’ve worked with both and while CTB’s are more limited they tend to be simpler to use once the users are familiar with them.

  18. joe wilkerson says:

    I work for a multi-discipline company, use of CTBs makes life much easier for everyone involved in plan production.

  19. CTB’s here.
    No compelling reason to change and the poor schmuck who would have to do it (namely me) doesn’t want the hassle.

  20. John Davis says:

    While I’ve worked with both and Lord knows I generally like “new ways” as they pertain to computer usage, there are a few “insurmountable issues”. (I recently worked to achieve “screening” of EG vs FG elevations in data bands with the .stb by creating seperate styles that share the same space…i.e. one is offset the negative height of the first and different layers specified.) 1.) The ability to look at the colors on-screen and know what it will plot like (think of the jerk who wasted time making all linework shades of pink and purple). 2.) Style issues that are more difficult to overcome than the data band issue I mentioned above. 3.) The general failure (not YOUR firm, right?) to embrace the Layer Styles Manager, which would both make .ctb enforcement easier AND let you have all your linework shades of pink and purple and still be able to plot linework dark and continuous in one discipline (eg. sewers) and light and dashed in another (eg. utility plans or erosion control).

    Did I go on too long again,


  21. Clem Kuns says:

    We are now standardized on .stb. Works pretty well. Sure is nice having the flexibility that was never available with .ctb! Of course C3D has a few quirks with .stb.

  22. mark hill says:

    We’ve been using STB for more than 7 years. The switch to Civil3D was not hard and we did it with 2007 (obviously not using some program features).
    We have four STB plotstyles , 1 (black) 2 (less black 85%) 3(about 70%) and 4(50%). I set up the template from scratch and really had no problem. Of course I did it primarily on my own time because I considered it a challenge, and got it all right with 2007 before entering into production when we made the switch. There were a few plotting issues that I fixed along the way, but nothing that stopped or slowed production, and there are a few issues(contour labels) that we just have to work around.
    The STB plotstyles make it easy for me as the engineer to redline plans. If aline is too light or too dark, I just have to write a number by the line, and get exactly what I want. The only real problems come when some one copies an old drawing to start a new project (ARRRRGGG).

  23. William Berry says:

    I try my dardnest to disagree with John Postlewait, but not in this case.


  24. Kevin Clark says:

    Still using ctb. Stb give me nightmares of my microstation days.

  25. I am not sure exactly what happened, but I think the starter stb template that I chose from the ootb choices had a units setting for architectural or something, and I missed it. The ootb ctb civil templates already have all that stuff set up, so I think I was just being dumb. Regardless, once I started dragging in styles from the ncs extended, pipes were too big, text all weird, etc. I had to go into each style and reset sizes, etc. Not sure what I did wrong. Moral of the story- there needs to be an ootb foundation stb template with some of that stuff started before people really buy into it.

    I always liked the idea of ME running my pentable instead of my pentable running ME. When I worked at Stantec in Edmonton, we used colors that made sense. Such as, green for storm, red for sanitary, blue for water. The colors on screen matched our pentel sign pen markups and made sense if plotted in color. When I moved to another company, they used the ootb acad ctb and everything wound up red or yellow. Nothing was logical. It was maddening.

  26. Neil Wilson says:

    One more issue that is worth mentioning with regard to STB’s is that if a user applies a plot style override to cad elements you won’t have a visual clue by color. Also if the style that was applied in the override is no longer valid due to a mismatch with the table you will have to slueth out all the broken overrides and remap them. While I try to discourage the use of overrides there are times when it is just easier to apply an override to a few entities rather than set up a new layer for them, particularly in Paper Space where the entities will not be utilized in XREF’s.

  27. Olivia Drake says:

    I use ctb – and plot everything exactly as it appears on screen. Red w/ heavy lineweight plots heavy red. (yes, we plot almost everything in color or it wouldn’t work too well). That way, we can use blue for water etc. like Dana said. No questions at all as to how it’s going to plot.

  28. rick nichols says:

    I can’t stand a color dependent set up. As a designer, I like to have the freedom to choose whatever color I want to use for layers without worrying about how they look when they plot. On the other hand, I find the UI for stb files to be way more difficult than the ctb files. So this is what I do…..

    I first assign my lineweights per layer in layer manager, and I use whatever color I want to use.

    I also use a ctb file that has all standard index colors set to black. If I want a layer to have color I just choos a true color with a set rgb number.

    This way, even though I get the better interface of the ctb file I am also no longer color dependent.

    Am I the only person out there using the layers to set my lineweights?

    This recently has become a little bit of a problem because I want to start using some of the out of the box styles that come with the NCS templates. These style seem to be all color dependent. So now I am not sure if I want to use them or not. What is everyone’s thought?


  29. Rick – You are correct in that the default NCS Templates are all setup to be color dependent. With NCS 4.0 coming soon, they appear to do away with color dependency. Some Civil 3d stlyes are heavily dependant on the layer settings to apply a plot sytle. Some drag state labels in earlier releases always plotted in color regardless. [There are a few but I can’t find my notes to what those styles were..]

  30. rick nichols says:

    So is it safe to say that I shouldn’t even bother trying to use the NCS templates that are shipped with C3D? Another burning question I have now is, why isn’t other people using the lineweight column in layer manager to set up their plotted lineweights? Isn’t this far easier than ctb files or stb files? Or, am I missing something?

  31. There is lots of good info in those templates. It could be converted to Named Plot Styles.

    Why aren’t their more converts? Momentum. Why reinvent the wheel when the current one works, and works well.

    The NCS Standards to date recommends color. If v4.0 does convert, there will be more movement I think.

  32. Tommie Richardson says:

    Rick. We have a CTB just like the one you described. I’ve been using it for many releases now and have only changed the % shading of the grays (8, 9, 250-254) when we got a new OCE plotter that didn’t plot as dark as the HP1050 that we previously used. The company is considering moving to STB format, but if there are issues within styles, we’ll probably stay with object lineweights vs color to lineweight.

  33. rick nichols says:

    Hi Tommie,

    So is it just me or is the CTB file you and I use the very best of both worlds? I am failing to see why object lineweights bylayer is not the standard for everyone. It really makes the ctb vs. stb a nonissue.

    I can use any color on the screen I want. I can use the lineweight button to see see the lineweights on the screen. I can assign any color I want to a layer and still have it plot that color. Plus a simple properties override gives me the power to have a few unique items on the same layer plot with a different lineweight.

    What am I missing here? Where are the disadvantages?

    On top of all this, it seems to me that NCS would be all over this method as well. Doesn’t it seem easier to assign a NCS lineweight to an existing NCS layer rather than the current method?

  34. dave lissau says:

    I’m an STB fan but have a split situations between stb’s and ctb’s. It’s the old “for 20 years I have used ctb’s” argument. I like the individual control per drawing file to make things look how they need to look for what either of my engineers want. I’m a technician working where I work to put together their designs. Just like the leroy pens I used 20 years ago, if I was told thicker, thinner, or lighter I did it. If you mess with the mother ctb table, you mess with hundreds of drawing files pointing to it.