Really Easy Rendering

Have you always wanted to add a bit of show to your Civil3D surfaces?  Well you can quite easily add some rendering to your models and project it up in 3D to impress those that don’t find TIN triangles beautiful. Lets see how after the jump…..

First we need some materials. Easy way to check is type in materials at the command line. The top of the dialog will show some pretty spheres with different colors and textures. Look around and see if you like them or want more. The NCS template that ships with Civil3D has a lot of these installed. If you want more you add them or edit the ones you may have.

The first thing I did was to add a thick grass to my global material. In the Materials palette I highlighted my grey global sphere at the top. Then under the Maps-Global heading I clicked the select image for the Diffuse map.


The browse took me to my materials that were preloaded. I selected the Sitework.Planting.Grass.Thick.jpg.


I then used the Create New Material icon to make some more materials the same way.


I created a gravel, grass and pavement materials.

So now I have these materials. What to do with them? Well you will have to excuse my inaccurate parking lot but I was playing with this just for the rendering. I just created a few feature lines and then made surfaces for each of those feature lines. I then created a grading around my parking lot to grade it back to surface. Three surfaces total, Existing, Gravel and Pavement.

vis5 vis6

I tend to use one of the best management practices for surfaces. That is create many surfaces for the different pieces of your design and use the paste surface command to create a composite surface reflecting the whole design. The problem with materials and surfaces is that you can only have one materials per surface. Now in corridors you can have different materials but here we are talking about just straight TIN surfaces and grading tools.

For rendering purposes we need to add materials to each of our different surfaces. In each surface properties under the surface style pull down you will find the Rendering Material pull down. Assign the material of your choosing to the surface. To keep it simple I assigned Gravel to Gravel, Pavement to Pavement and Grass to Existing (to make this accurate I need to find a red mud material).


After you have assigned your materials to your different surfaces then change the view to an isometric and change the visual style to Realistic.


To pretty it up even more I got some 3d trees over at (used to be able to find them at the online Autodesk site that was accessed through design center but that has changed a bit). I inserted the blocks and used the moveblockstosurface command to put them on the surface. And the result…..

vis11 vis10

Now you can do much more with other built in features that are in AutoCAD to produce better quality rendering and lighting but I was just amazed at how quick and easy this was to create a rendered site. Let me know if you have any more techniques for visualization.


  1. Leigh Bartlett says:

    Do these renderings get exported to Navisworks when you open the dwg in Navisworks? We are using Navisworks to view our designs in “walk around” 3D as it is a lot easier to navigate around than C3D

    • Christopher says:

      Leigh used the NWNAVIGATOR command in Civil 3D to get the benefits of Navisworks into Civil 3D. Navisworks needs to be installed in order for this command to work.

  2. Kevin Clark, P.E. says:

    It was pointed out to me that you can add multiple materials to a single surface using mask. Thanks Christopher.

  3. Kevin Clark, P.E. says:

    I don’t have much experience with Navisworks. I think you may have to plot the rendering to dwf.

  4. Daniel Morales says:

    As long as the drawing is saved with realistic visual style on it will display this way (including 3d blocks) when you open with Navisworks. 2009 Civil 3D does have a new steering wheel feature that works similar to the navigation tools in Navisworks.

  5. A note on using surface masks…
    Make sure when creating masks for rendering, you set the
    Mask type = “Inside”, and the Render Only = “yes”
    Also, make the Mid-Ordinate = 1 or less to keep your arcs smooth.

    If you set the mask to outside, you won’t be able to add multiple masks.

    This has worked well for me in the past using a FG surface that is a combination of EG and PG. Then the buildings and trees, etc…, are added seperately on top of this surface as Kevin mentioned.

  6. kev says:

    A note on using Navisworks. you dont need to leave your file in a realistic visual style but you do need to path your material search paths in your navisworks dwg/dxf/sat global options. Also make sure you have the correct civils 3d object enabler installed (avaliable from autodesk website or on civils 3d installation disc)