What’s in Your Profile?

As a Senior CAD Designer working in a civil group, I find myself creating several profiles during the design process of a project. Some profiles will include only existing and proposed grade, while others can be a little more complicated (i.e., pipe networks and drainage channels). All the profiles I create may be slightly different, but there is always one common request I receive. Is it possible to hatch the boundaries between areas of the profile to better visually represent what is happening on site? Recently I was asked if I could shade the cut and fill areas as well as the drainage channel of an existing profile.

In AutoCAD® Civil 3D®, hatch patterns can be applied to areas that are formed by two profile lines (boundaries). You can easily hatch those areas using the hatch creation profile tools found within the Profile View Properties dialog box as shown below in Figure 1.

Figure 1: Profile View Properties

Setting up the Profile

Let’s begin by using a typical alignment created on a site drawing, moving from west to east showing the line for the profile. Within our site drawing we have two surfaces: one for existing grades (EG) and the other for proposed grades (PG)—two surfaces created during the design of a civil project. We will use these two surfaces to create our profile lines as shown below in Figure 2. Notice how I have labeled the cut and fill areas as well as the drainage. I have highlighted the existing and proposed ground lines to show the boundaries that we will be using in this example. 

Figure 2: Example profile

These existing and proposed grades will define the cut and fill areas we will need to hatch for clarity. We are also going to add one more profile line, which will define the top of the drainage channel. With profile creation tools, we can create a line to represent the top of the channel.

Profile View Properties

When you first created your profile, you used the Profile View dialog box to define the characteristics of the profile. We are going to revisit that dialog box. Touch anywhere on the grid of your new profile to bring up the Profile View contextual ribbon. Select Profile View Properties (as shown below) and hit enter. You will now see the Profile View Properties dialog box.

Figure 3: Profile View Properties dialog revisited

Move over to the hatch tab to define the boundaries and add the patterns to our profile.

Next, we will create three separate areas to Hatch. The cut area (1), fill area (2), and the drainage channel (3) as shown in Figure 4.

Figure 4: Boundaries defined

Once you have selected the cut area (see Figure 1), Civil 3D will add it to the hatch selection window where you will need to define your upper and lower boundaries of the fill.

Select the existing grade (EG) profile for the upper boundary and the proposed grade (PG) for the lower boundary. This area represents the amount of cut we will have on site for that profile. For the fill the areas, the boundaries will be the opposite. Once you have your profile lines created you can select from the drop- down list as shown below in Figure 5.

Figure 5: Hatch areas

It’s All About Style

Like surface styles, you can add or change the profile shape style to define the pattern you prefer. You can use shape styles to affect the way data can be displayed within the profile and display hatch patterns and colors to the areas you have defined. In the same dialog box, select the Cut Material under the Shape Style section. Once you select that shape style, you will get a dialog box similar to the general style creation dialog boxes in Civil 3D and shown in Figure 6. You can edit or copy the current selection and make a new one. For this example we are going to copy the current selection and change the name of the style.

Figure 6: Pick Shape Style dialog

We will first add the information so we can retain that style for future use. It is always a good practice to add the name and a detailed description to the shape style. Move over to the Display tab, which is where we will define the hatch pattern to use for the cut area (1). Several things will be going on in this tab.  First, make sure you select profile under the view direction. Second, select the colors for your boundary and the fill.  Finally, at the bottom under component type, you see the pattern, angle, and scale. You can also use the display tab window to set up a new layer and color for your cut material pattern.

Figure 7: Display tab

Once you have the pattern you like, click OK, then go back to your drawing area and look at your profile. If the scale, color, and pattern need to be changed, simply go back into the style and change the properties of the shape style. When you are satisfied, save the style and reuse it over and over again for cut areas of your profiles.

Complete the Profile

Now we have to go back to our Profile View Properties dialog box and create two more fill patterns.  Using the same technique, add the fill area (2) and the drainage area (3). You will have to use the profile layout tools to create a top boundary for your drainage area. In our example, I called this area drainage channel and gave that profile the name Channel. Once you have done that, you have completed all the boundaries you need to continue modifying the styles. Figure 8 shows the two new boundaries with fill styles using a solid hatch pattern. We have created or modified three shape styles: drainage, fill material, and the cut material. 

Figure 8: Fill and Drainage boundaries

Continue to change the shape styles to your company standard. For this example we changed the fill material (2) to display a brown solid hatch pattern and the drainage channel (3) to display the blue pattern to represent water.

Figure 9: Completed profile


Profiles in Civil 3D are a big part of the design process. Having the ability to change these patterns and reproduce color for final prints or even PowerPoint slides can be an advantage to any civil designer. Your final profile should represent something similar to Figure 9.

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