New to AutoCAD 2017 – Importing PDF Files


This post will walk you through the new feature of being able to import PDF files into your drawing files. PDF files have been added to the Import File formats, and now you can import the geometry, TrueType text, and raster images from a PDF file or underlay them into your drawing as AutoCAD 2017 objects. Unlike in the past versions of AutoCAD, the new 2017 version is now capable of importing a PDF file directly into the drawing space.The PDF files themselves can be brought into your drawing one of two ways:

  1. PDF files can be attached to drawings as underlays, which can be used as a reference when collaborating on projects.
  2. PDF data can be imported as objects, in part or entirely, which can be used a reference and also modified.

If you import PDF data, you can choose to specify a page from a PDF file or you can convert all or part of an attached PDF underlay into AutoCAD objects.

Before you go through the steps of how to import a PDF into the AutoCAD, let’s go ahead and cover some useful info about the process first.

How does it work?

When a PDF file is generated, all supported objects are translated into paths, fills, raster images, markups, and TrueType text. In PDF, paths are composed of line segments and cubic Bézier curves, either connected or independent. However, when a PDF file is imported into AutoCAD, note the following points provided by Autodesk:

  • Raster images generate PNG format files, and they are saved in a folder specified by the PDFIMPORTIMAGEPATH system variable, which can be specified in the Options dialog box, Files tab. These images are attached to the drawing file.
  • Bézier curves are converted into circles and arcs if they are within a reasonable tolerance to those shapes. Otherwise, they are converted into 2D polylines.
  • Elliptical shapes can be converted into 2D polylines, splines, or ellipses depending on how they were stored in the PDF.
  • Optionally, each set of approximately collinear segments are combined into a polyline with a dashed linetype named PDF_Import.
  • Compound objects such as dimensions, leaders, patterned hatches, and tables result in separate objects as if these objects were exploded.
  • Fills are imported as 2D solids, or optionally as solid-filled hatches.
  • Patterned hatches are imported as many separate objects.
  • Solid-filled areas are converted into solid hatches and 2D solids. They are assigned a 50% transparency to make sure that any text within the areas is visible.
  • Text that used TrueType fonts is preserved, but text that originally used SHX fonts is imported as separate geometric objects.
  • Point objects are converted to zero-length polylines.
  • Markups are not imported.

Knowing the Limitations

Of course, just like with anything in life there are limitations as to what the software can do and handle. When you are exporting an AutoCAD 2017 DWG file out to a PDF, you know with some degree of certainty that both information and precision will be lost in the process. It is important that you are aware of these limitations going forward.

The data in DWG files are stored as double-precision floating-point numbers, while the data in PDF files are only single precision. This reduction rounds off coordinate values, and the loss of precision is most noticeable in the following cases:

  • Computed locations such as tangent points, the endpoints of arcs, and the endpoints of rotated lines
  • Data with a large dynamic range, from the largest to the smallest
  • Large coordinates in PDF files such as those found in maps.
  • PDF files that were generated with a low dpi (dots per inch) setting

Two Ways to Import a PDF

As stated in the beginning, you have two options when importing a PDF into AutoCAD.

1) PDF data can be imported as objects, in part or entirely, which can be used as a reference and also modified.

2) PDF files can be attached to drawings as underlays, which can then be used to import Specified Areas. For how to attach a PDF underlay follow the link.

If you import PDF data, you can choose to specify a page from a PDF file or you can convert all or part of an attached PDF underlay into AutoCAD objects.

Importing PDF data as objects

Now let’s go through how to import PDF data as objects and Specified Areas as well. Follow along with the steps below provided by Autodesk AutoCAD 2017.

  1. Click Insert tab > Import panel > Import.(import obj. icon) > Find
  2. In the Import File dialog box, in the Files of type box, select PDF Files (*.pdf).
  3. Find and select the PDF file that you want to import, or enter the name of the PDF file in the File Name box. Click Open.

    The Import PDF dialog box is displayed.

  4. If the PDF has multiple pages, choose the page to import by clicking a thumbnail image or by entering a page number.
  5. Choose any of the options and click OK.
  6. Specify the insertion point if prompted.

Import a Specified Area from a PDF Underlay

  1. Select the PDF underlay.
  2. Click PDF Underlay tab > Find
  3. At the prompt, click two diagonal points that define a rectangular crossing area, or use the Polygonal option to specify a polygonal crossing area.

    *A crossing area is similar to a crossing selection. The Settings option displays a dialog box in which you can choose what types of objects to import, how layers should be accommodated, whether the imported objects should be imported as a block, and several other options.

  4. Choose whether you want to keep, detach, or unload the attached PDF.

The specified area of the attached PDF is imported into the drawing as AutoCAD objects.


Time for you to try it out for yourself in AutoCAD 2017. If you have any questions or comments please leave them in the space provided below or if you have a specific questions about a drawing or file you are working on feel free to call or email the KETIV support team.


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