AutoCAD Import PDF to DWG – the Future is Now

Import PDF Into AutoCAD The Future is nowHave you ever wished you could import PDF from Adobe into an AutoCAD DWG File?

Thanks very much to Nick from Acuity training for this guest post showing us how.

If you would like to write a guest post for click here.

PDF to DWG – the Future is Now

As an AutoCAD User working working in the Architecture, Engineering and Design industry it is not uncommon to receive drawings in PDF format. It’s a format that is easily accessible and if drawings are being shared around, quickly exporting a PDF is probably the route you take. As an AutoCAD user you probably regularly export drawings to PDF.

But what happens if you want to edit the drawing or view it in its original DWG state? This presents a challenge, you might be in a situation where you can’t obtain access to the original DWG and the only solution is to work from the PDF you have and essentially redraw it (or have somebody else redraw it).

Thankfully Autodesk recognised this issue and added a new Import PDF feature to AutoCAD 2017. Unlike in the past when you imported a PDF the geometry within your PDF is now instantly DWG ready and not simply something to use as an underlay.

This is a victory for many AutoCAD users and could save tireless hours drawing over the top of imported PDFs as you may have had to do in the past.

In a straw poll at an Autodesk event in 2015 over 90% said they would use this feature if AutoCAD had it, but what many people may not have realised is that it has now been rolled out.

Finding the Import PDF Feature

To begin using the feature, select Import PDF from the Import section of the Insert ribbon tab in AutoCAD 2017:

AutoCAD Import PDF Command

If you’re loading the PDF for the first time hit the ↵ button on your keyboard or type F↵. This will have AutoCAD prompt you to select a PDF file to import:

AutoCAD Import PDF open dialog

Do so by navigating to the relevant location on your computer. In the example above, I have selected a PDF which I downloaded from an email attachment.

Using the Import PDF Dialogue

After you have navigated to the relevant location on your computer and clicked open you will be prompted with a number of useful settings within the Import PDF dialogue, including:

AutoCAD PDF Import options

  • Page to Import (A)

From the Import PDF dialogue, you can select which pages of the PDF you want to import, within the Page to Import section (A). Users can toggle between small or large thumbnails, depending on which is most effective.

  • Location (B)

In the example above, the PDF only includes one page and so the need to select pages to import is not needed. However, by observing the thumbnail within the Page to Import section, it can be observed that the orientation of the PDF is incorrect.

This is a common issue with PDFs often shared around at the wrong orientation. To save time adjusting the orientation later, change the Rotation setting within the Location section of the Import PDF dialogue (B) as required.

If you know that you will need to scale your drawing, and know the specific scale you would like to adjust your drawing by, this can also be entered within the Location section of the Import PDF dialogue (B), otherwise this is something you can do later.

  • PDF data to import (C)

Along with the ability to import geometric data such as lines, the import PDF feature also recognises TrueType™ text. To have it import textual information from the PDF, remember to tick the TrueType box within the PDF Data to Import section (C) of the Import PDF dialogue.

Here you will also find the option to import any raster images contained within your PDF. This might be useful when your PDF has been originally generated with a low DPI setting, as this tends to result in objects being replaced with a raster image.

  • Layers (D)

In terms of the Layers section (D) of the PDF Import Dialogue, you are probably going to want to choose between the “Use PDF layers” and “Create object layers”.

The Use PDF layers setting is useful if the PDF contains the original layer information, but sometimes this is lost when the PDF was exported from DWG. In which case you may want to use “Create object layers”, this places the various imported objects onto separate layers. Meaning geometry, text and solid fills are each placed on separate layers accordingly.

  • Import options (E)

It is important to remember that when a PDF is imported to AutoCAD it goes through a process of inference. This is where AutoCAD makes some best guesses at reconstructing locations, object types and associations. This is because when a PDF is generated minor adjustments are made.

For example, a straight horizontal line after being exported to PDF may not be exactly straight. When importing, AutoCAD has to decide is this line supposed to be exactly horizontal or should it be off by 0.5mm as it is in the PDF.

AutoCAD conducts various inferences that occur in the background as you import a PDF, though it also offers optional inferences settings. These are contained within the Import options section (E) of the PDF Import dialogue.

Among the optional inferences that I would highly recommend, which is not selected by default is the “Convert solid fills to hatches” inference setting. You will find this useful when it comes to tidying and editing your imported PDF within AutoCAD.

Scaling and Cleaning an Imported Drawing

Once you are happy with the configuration of the settings in the Import PDF dialogue, click the OK button:

AutoCAD Import PDF Options

The PDF data should have now been placed in the model space, and at this stage, you may have probably noticed that your drawing is not the correct size:

PDF File Imported into an AutoCAD DWG

To fix this issue, use the scale feature of AutoCAD to resize your drawing. In this case let’s assume that we know a particular door opening should measure exactly 900mm, but instead it measures 0.3383:

AutoCAD Imported PDF Detail

Begin by selecting all of the geometry imported by the PDF Import feature, next type Scale↵ or select Scale from the Modify section of the Home ribbon tab:

AutoCAD Imported PDF

At this stage, you will be prompted to specify a base point. Select one side of the door opening (or one end of a line if you are scaling based on the knowing length of a line):

AutoCAD Import PDf Command Line

The next prompt will require you to enter a scale factor unless you choose to scale based upon a reference. As we want to scale using a known reference i.e. a door opening that is known to be 900mm, type R (for reference) and hit ↵:

AutoCAD Command line imported PDF

When prompted to specify a reference length click on one of the endpoints of the reference line (i.e. one side of the door), you will then be prompted to specify the second point. Do this by selecting an endpoint at the other end of the line (i.e the other side of the door opening):

AutoCAD Imported PDF command line options

Complete the command by entering the known length of the reference line, which in this case is known to be 900mm:

AutoCAD PDF Import command line options

By completing this process, the imported geometry should have been scaled appropriately. In this case, the door opening now measures 900mm, and all of the other geometry has also been scaled accordingly:

AutoCAD Linework imported from an Adobe PDF

Now that your PDF has been imported and scaled to the right size you may want to check for anomalies and begin cleaning up any issues. Cycling through the various layers organised by object type may be a good place to start:

AutoCAD Layers from an Imported PDF


15 Responses to “AutoCAD Import PDF to DWG – the Future is Now

  • OK, so onto step two:
    1. I’ve done the import;
    2. I’ve rescaled it to a truly accurate fine point;
    3. I’ve set up my Layer Manager with a small collection of new layers, ready to move various elements of the pdf import to;
    4. Opened the Properties palette so I can grab selections and reassign layers, etc.;
    5. And, nothing. every key control won’t open up: layers, line types, line scale, color, all locked!
    What gives?
    *Are these all objects without properties?
    *If so, how do I imbue them with properties?
    *Do I have to trace them? Because COPY doesn’t work, it just duplicates the rigor mortis of the original?
    *Where is the value of this above that of a clean, accurately scaled erasable underlay?
    *Naturally this is 9 PM Saturday night on a deadline…,
    (Have been a recipient of your newsletter for a while)

    • Hi Don,

      It’s a little difficult to diagnose the issue without seeing your files and set up.

      I recoomend posting your problem on the Autodesk AutoCAD forum:

      Not only will you get a quicker reply, and the benefit of multiple people’s experience – but also the answer to your question will be available online to anyone else who’s haveing the same issue :)

      Please feel to return here and leave a link to your forum post, so that anyone arriving here from Google will be able to follow the link.

      I hope that helps?


  • I feel that converting formats should be easier than it is in all areas of not just CAD but computing. Or not have so many different formats in the first place

    • Hi Gervase,

      I guess that’s business for you :/ File formats have long been used to protect IP and ‘lock’ customers into using a single product.

      The fact we have as much interoperability as we do is a miracle!


  • Thank you for the tip, Paul! Will save a lot of work and time for my drafters!

  • This is an awesome tool and now that I know a little more about it I will use it more often. Thanks so much,

  • Michael Walkowski
    8 years ago

    A scanned image, which created the pdf, isn’t recognized as line work when importing. Is there a work around for this type of file? If the pdf was created directly from the drawing program, it’s an awesome tool in autocad!

  • Mike Van Helsland
    8 years ago

    I found out about this one shortly after loading 2017. I use it almost every day, what a time saver. As a custom sign fabricator we get about 90% of the schematic designs from designers in PDF form. With this I can pull in the PDF and viola! No re-drawing! Same thing when when working out signage for building exteriors, I can pull in the elevations from a PDF of the Construction Docs (with dimensions and everything) and roll from there.

  • Brian
    8 years ago

    Can it create line work from PDFs that were created via scanners, as opposed to PDFs made from print drivers?

    • Hi Brian,

      No just Vector based PDF. For Raster based PDF’s there is AutoCAD Raster design (Link in previous comment).

      Here’s a preview video on YouTube:


      • Brian
        8 years ago

        Hey Paul,
        Thanks so much. I had no idea. Very helpful post and link to handle raster images. Thumbs-up.