I am following the ArcGis10.0 desktop help to bring cad data into ArcMap but I'm having trouble accessing the Autocad layers set up in the Autocad file. I am:

  1. using the add data to reference in the cad file - in the ArcMap layers 4 layers appear (points, polyline, polygon and multipatch).
  2. I select the polyline layer (as the drawing only contains polylines), right click and select 'convert cad feature layer'.
  3. This brings in the linework but all three layers in the Acad drawing are collapsed into 1 layer in ArcMap including layers which were off in Acad.

What I really want is to have my Acad layers available in Arcmap - I'm more familiar with Acad than ArcMap can you help?

  • You should be able to add the polylines from the drawing directly to ArcMap without having to make any sort of layer from them. Use ArcCatalog to browse the file and then preview the data there. Often CAD files are based on a local datum and not truly georeferenced but you should be able to see the contents - whether or not it aligns to your existing data is another mater entirely. Dec 4, 2014 at 4:05
  • Unfortunately, that is how ArcMap reads CAD files. It can't (to my knowledge) distinguish layers in the dwg and display them as separate layers in Arcmap. I use FME to convert dwg to shape, that'll give me < 4 shapefiles per dwg layer (one per feature type that contains data). FME aint free, but you can download a trial version.
    – Martin
    Dec 4, 2014 at 6:38
  • why don't you try give definition query for the polyline layer with the layernames and create featurelayers one by one.
    – Subin
    Dec 4, 2014 at 7:02
  • 1
    If I right click on the polyline layer and export it to a shapefile, I get the entire attribute table including the Layer field. Then I can apply definition queries, or use the split by attributes tool to get individual layers.
    – John
    Dec 4, 2014 at 13:37
  • 2
    Thanks for your answers - I'm now using ArcGISforAutocad in the Autocad file to make feature classes of each layer - when I pull the cad file into Arcmap I can select each feature class (layer), right click and convert CAD feature layer. The drawings are simple so this works fine for me!
    – N-particle
    Dec 5, 2014 at 12:03

1 Answer 1


First, when you bring your DWG into ArcMap, there is no need to convert it to another file type, unless you are trying to edit the linework. You can view the file and change the way it looks without doing any conversion.

(If you do need to edit it, right-click on the Polyline layer in the DWG and choose "Data" and "Export Data." You can then export it to a shapefile, so you will be able to edit the linework.)

Once you bring your DWG into ArcMap, you can change the symbology (ie. the way it looks and which layers are displayed.) The default symbology is by CAD unique entity values (Linetype, Color, LineWt.) If you click the "+" next to the Polyline you can see this. Here's an example from a DWG I'm using:

enter image description here

To change how it is displayed, right click on the Polyline layer and go into the Properties. Then choose the Symbology tab. Choose "Unique Values" under "Categories" and then choose "Layer" from the drop down box. At the bottom, you can choose "Add Values..." and pick the layers you want, or choose "Add All Values" and then remove the ones you don't want. Here's what the dialog box looks like: enter image description here

You can change the color of individual layers or make them "no color" so that they don't show. This still doesn't take away all of the problems of using DWGs in ArcMap, but I've found it a good enough work around for much of what I use them for.

If you find this doesn't meet your needs, I would recommend converting to a shapefile like I mention above, so you can do more editing of the data (including cleaning out any text box leaders, etc. that appear as polylines).

  • Thanks, I will try the shape file option also. Might be quicker :)
    – N-particle
    Dec 5, 2014 at 12:04
  • @N-particle Glad it's helpful! I've found the shapefile option is usually quicker in the long run, even though there's an extra step at the beginning. Once you've tried what I suggest here, if the answer solves your problem, you can mark it as answered. See site FAQs: gis.stackexchange.com/tour Dec 5, 2014 at 14:15

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