June 14, 2016

AutoCAD 2017: PDF Data Import by Choosing a File (Part 1)

AutoCAD 2017 is here and with it comes the ability to import geometry and text directly from a PDF. No longer will you have to draw over PDF lines to create the PDF line work in a drawing. Now, you can import a PDF directly into a drawing and the data will automatically be generated. There are, however, two methods: you can import an entire PDF by choosing the PDF from a file, or by choosing PDF data from a PDF Underlay. 

For this post, I will focus on importing data by choosing a PDF from a file, and discuss the various settings options. Please do watch out for my next post which will address importing PDF data from an Underlay.

To get started You can type PDFIMPORT to start the commandor you can find the "import PDF" command on the insert tab of the ribbon, as seen below.

Additionally, you can find the PDF import command under "Import" on the application menu, as seen below.
Press "Enter" to open the browser dialog box. Browse to the PDF you want to import and select it. Once you've selected the PDF, the following Import PDF dialogue box will pop up.
The Import dialog box options are straight forward for the most part, however, a few options warrant additional explanation.

Choosing the page to import

If you have a multi-page document, you can select an individual page from the full document to import. A preview area shows the pages. To select the page that you want to import, left click on the preview. The page highlighted is the one that will be imported. If you want to only view the page to be imported, you can select the single page preview button. 

Scaling, Inserting, Rotating

Scaling can be tricky as AutoCAD does not automatically scale the PDF geometry. In order to scale properly, you have to understand the size of the PDF and factor it into the import. There is a box in the Import PDF dialog box specifically for the scale. Additionally, you can choose to rotate the data upon importing.

If you do not choose the Specify Insertion Point on the screen options, the lower left corner of the PDF is inserted at (0,0) in the DWG. Since PDFs do not have world coordinate systems and scales as part of their information, you will need to insert the PDF by choosing the insertion point option, then move the data once the line work is imported. I recommend importing as a block to make moving and scaling easier. Once you have moved and scaled the block, you can explode it to access the individual geometry, text and images.

PDF Data to import

You must choose as least one of the three data import options in order to import: vector geometry, true type text, and/or raster images.

All lines, hatches, arcs, non-true type fonts and other geometric objects are considered vector geometry. Hatches are brought in as individual lines and not as an AutoCAD hatch pattern. The background shading is brought in as a solid hatch, when the solid fills option is selected. If the solid fills option is not selected, the shading within a hatch pattern will not be imported.

It’s worth noting that unless text is true type font, all text comes in as polylines and not text. This means you cannot edit the text using the AutoCAD text editor because it is considered geometry. Currently, there is no way to convert the polylines representing text to actual text.

"Raster images" refer to any images contained in the PDF. Images are imported and saved in a PDF image folder. You can find the PDF image folder in the options dialog box.

The PDF creation method determines how the data is imported. If the PDF was created from an AutoCAD file, the line work comes in as AutoCAD line work. However, if the PDF is an image or a free hand drawing, it comes in as an image and not as line work.


There are three factors that determine what layer objects will go in the drawing. Layer management is dependent on the layers that are in the PDF, which is dependent on how the PDF was created. If it was created from an AutoCAD file it has the layers from the drawing file. This is convenient because you can choose the Use PDF Layers option to create the same layers that were in the original AutoCAD drawing. This option will create the exact same layers, but add a PDF_ at the beginning of the layer name. A layer that was originally called chairs, will now be called "PDF_chairs."

If you choose to Create Object Layers during import AutoCAD will create new layers specific to PDF object types. The object types and their corresponding new AutoCAD layer names are in the table below.

Object Type
Objects included
New AutoCAD layer name
Lines, arcs, polygons, polylines etc.
Solid Fills
Fills created from hatch patters
PDF_Solid fills

Additionally, if you import multiple PDFs with this option selected, a number will be added to the layer to indicate which PDF the layer is from. For example, PDF1_Geometry, PDF2_Geometry, etc.

The last option for layer creation is Current Layer, which places all objects created on whatever layer is current.

Import options

When you import as a block, all objects (geometry, text and raster) are combined together as one object. When imported, the block will be on the current layer while the components within the block follow the layer management options you set in the layer section of the import box.

Join line and arc segments options join contiguous objects into a single polyline wherever possible.

Converting solid fills to hatches converts 2D solid objects to a hatch. Wipeout objects and wide polylines are included as fills. 2D solids that are inferred to be arrow heads will not be included. Solid fills are imported with a 50% transparency so that you can see objects below it.

Apply Lineweight properties will take the lineweights from the PDF.

Lastly, there is the infer linetypes from collinear dashes option. This will create dashed linetypes. Without checking that box, each dash will be imported as an individual line.

After you’ve hit "OK" and started the import process, it may take a few minutes to import the data, 
so be patient. A progress bar shows up at the bottom right of the screen to indicate how far along in the process the import is. 

In summary, the PDF Import command is an easy way to obtain geometry, true type text, and raster images from a PDF. Again, I definitely recommend importing a PDF as a block using the specify insertion point option and then rotating and moving the block to position where you need it. From there, you can explode the block to obtain access to the imported data. There are several layer management options for the imported data. There are also additional import options including joining arch and line segments, applying lineweights, inferring lines from collinear line segments and others.

To review this information in more depth, please watch my corresponding video AutoCAD 2017 PDF Data Import by Choosing a File (Part 1).

I encourage you to play around with this new exciting command and see what it can do for you.

For more information on AutoCAD, as well as training and consulting for the various products Ideate services, visit our website.

Kate Ming
AEC Application Specialist 
Kate is a California licensed civil engineer with a BS in Civil and Environmental Engineering from UC Berkeley. Prior to Ideate, she worked at a multinational company for four years doing general civil design on large infrastructure projects. She is versed in roadway, rail, utility design and site development. She also has experience with utility demand analysis and Low Impact Development plans. As a Civil 3D Autodesk Certified Professional Kate provides training and support for Civil 3D, AutoCAD, and InfraWorks.