I'm working with a CAD drawing (DWG), and I've exported the polyline layer into a file geodatabase. When I add the exported polyline layer to ArcMap, and try to import the symbology from the original CAD file it doesn't do anything.

Is this some type of limitation with CAD files?

I've tried saving the CAD polyline symbology out as a layer file and importing it, and I've also tried importing it directly from the CAD polyline layer in the ArcMap TOC.

It seems like this should work because when I attempt to import the symbology it matches the Linetype, Color, and LineWt fields that the symbology is based on.


2 Answers 2


I actually figured this out while I was typing my question. I decided to still submit the question, and supply an answer just in case it helps someone else.

You need to go into the Layer Properties, and Symbology tab of the CAD layer and change it from CAD unique entity values to Unique values, many fields.

This keeps the symbology the same, and then you can save a layer file, or import the symbology directly.

Seems a bit strange, in my opinion, you should be able to import the symbology with either one selected as long as the field values are matched. But there's probably something I don't know, or it's a minor bug.

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  • PERFECT... so simple but effective. cheers mate
    – AussieALF
    Commented Mar 31, 2016 at 4:42

Here's why it works that way: the CAD Renderer is not just a mapping of field names into our familiar ArcGIS multi-field symbol editor. The CAD Renderer (used by default when you drag/drop a DWG onto the ArcMap canvas) also invokes FME's DWG-file interpreter (or data interop extension, if you prefer.) The last stage of that interpreter is the color-theming. The CAD layer attributes appear in the symbol editor to make saving templates easy, but has more behind it than just theming.

When you exported the CAD file into a GDb, you created GIS data, no longer needing the CAD-based data interop and CAD file renderer. So you had to use the multi-value theming options and manually select the same exact field names that the CAD renderer used.

You probably can import the theming from a Gdb layer onto the CAD Rendered layer, but not visa-versa because the CAD renderer is tied exclusively to CAD layers.

You figured out how to make it work; I just added the 'why.'


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