Washington University in St. Louis

GIS: Geographic Information Systems

Converting Map Layers to CAD Format in ArcMap 10

Students regularly contact us regarding access to CAD format files. Most of the data we store on the network and much that is available over the web is formatted for the ESRI ArcGIS program. Data sets that you are able to view in ArcMap can also be exported into CAD format and this tutorial will show you how to accomplish this task. More information on integrating ArcGIS and AutoCAD can be found at ESRI's CAD Integration Resource Center.

Note: often times CAD data is not in a real world coordinate system. If you would like to match GIS data to existing CAD data, there may be additional steps required once all data layers are in CAD format.

The first step is to find and load the data layers of interest into an ArcMap document (.mxd). Use ArcMap to preview the datasets and to focus the map window on your area of interest.

Most CAD applications deal with relatively small spatial areas and therefore limiting the size of the source data files will make storing and transferring those files much simpler. Once you define your area of interest, the second step is to limit the extent of any layers that you intend to convert as follows.

Reduce Layer Extent

In ArcMap Table of Contents, right-click on the layer you wish to convert.

Select "Data", then "Export Data".


In the Export Data window, use the down arrow to limit the export to "All Features in View Extent" and specify a location for the output. Click OK.


When it's done exporting, a subsequent window will ask if you want to add the layer to your map document, select "Yes".

After you have reduced the layers you wish to convert into more manageable sizes, use the "Export to CAD" tool to create a CAD format file.

Export map layers to CAD format

Make sure the ArcToolbox is displayed. If not, click on the red toolbox icon.

Browse to the "Conversion Tools", "To CAD" toolbox and open the "Export to CAD" tool (this tool can also be opened by right clicking on the layer - Data - Export to CAD ).


Select each export layer using the black down arrow to access the layers in your project. As each layer is added, it will appear in the target list. Enter a filename for the output and click OK.


A status window will open when the process finishes.