I'm having trouble with CAD drawings not projecting correctly within ArcMap 10.2. I am working in NAD 1983 State Plane Illinois East FIPS 1201 (US Feet) and want my CAD drawing to be located in the city of Chicago near my other layers.

Below are the three scenarios I've tried.

1.) I've opened ArcMap, added an existing shapefile whose coordinate system is NAD_1983_StatePlane_Illinois_East_FIPS_1201_Feet. I checked my Data Frame propeties, and it is also this coordinate system. I saved my map, closed it and opened ArcCatalog. In ArcCatalog, I tried to "define projection" for my CAD drawing. I set this to NAD_1983_StatePlane_Illinois_East_FIPS_1201_Feet. However, when I import this layer into ArcMap, it is floating in Missouri. I right clicked, opened the properties and it reads "Projected Coordinate System: NAD_1983_StatePlane_Illinois_East_FIPS_1201_Feet"

2.) In AutoCAD Map 3d, I open the CAD drawing. I chose "Map Setup">"Coordinate System">"Assign". I then navigated to USA, Illinois and chose "IL83-EF" with the decription "NAD 83 Illinois State Plane, East Zone, US Foot". I save this and add the CAD file to my ArcMap document. It is also floating in Missouri but reading "Projected Coordinate System: NAD_1983_StatePlane_Illinois_East_FIPS_1201_Feet".

3.) I had a technical call with ESRI, and the support tech advised me to do the following. In ArcMap, I add the CAD drawing (with no coordinate system applied) to the map, execute the "CAD to Geodatabase" Conversion tool. Within this dialogue box, the tech asked me to clikc on the "Spatial Reference" tab at the bottom. I chose this, and was then instructed to search for "Ohio" and choose the north state plane zone. This function adds a point, polyline, polygon and annotation layer to my GDB. However, if I right click and choose "Zoom to Layer", I am again brought to Missouri. However, there is no layer visible.

I am wondering if anyone has experience with CAD files not projecting correctly? Is this normal, and will I just have to use the "shift" in the Georeference toolbar? I am also very curious to know if th

  • 2
    Were your CAD files originally created using that State Plane projection as the reference system? Where I work, we have had numerous issues with CAD drawings being created in 0,0 space with no reference to the real world, and it's a pain to get them in the right place. In contrast, I have also received drawings from Civil 3D that landed exactly where they were supposed to in ArcMap. Not sure how those drawings were set up, but if I set the data frame correctly, they dropped right in.
    – Baltok
    Commented Nov 12, 2015 at 22:18
  • 1
    Try the Illinois state plane zone again, but with units of meters, rather than feet. Or possibly NAD 1983 (geographic coordinate system). Data that's actually using either of these would show up southwest if defined as Illinois East (US feet). If this doesn't work, please post the extents of the CAD data (new ArcMap, no coordinate system set).
    – mkennedy
    Commented Nov 12, 2015 at 23:45
  • Thank you. Yes, I checked with our CAD specialist and I believe the drawings are at a 0,0 origin. I, myself don't know CAD and unfortunately, our CAD specialist doesn't have experience with setting coordinates in CAD. Could this be the issue? I have a feeling it may be, because even when I set a coordinate system within Map 3D and import it to GIS, the map floats and is way out of scale compared to other shapefiles and the basemap. The drawing is about the size of the city of Chicago, when really the drawing is of a university campus and should only be a few block long and a few blocks wide. I Commented Nov 13, 2015 at 20:41

1 Answer 1


Did you check to make sure that the CAD drawing wasn't made using a local coordinate system? Where the surveyor from the field uses 0,0 as the origin for a point on the site drawing from the field perhaps?

Also, with the Cad to geo database conversion you should be able to use georeferencing to match it up manually. Should be pretty good after you match three points from your cad drawing to your arcmap features.

  • I agree. Sounds like you have a drawing that was either created with no coordinate system or a (0,0) origin. Your best bet may be if you can contact the engineer who created the drawings and find out from them what, if any, system they used. If you cannot reach out to the creator, georeferencing may be your only option, as Shaun mentioned.
    – MaryBeth
    Commented Nov 13, 2015 at 4:19

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.