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Technical drawings – whether they be architectural plans, electrical schematics, GIS maps, fire safety plans, aerospace drawings, or any other such drawings – can often arrive in an array of different file formats.
Source formats could include raster images such as JPG, BMP, TIF, and even PDF files, which can uniquely contain both raster and vector imagery.
In some cases, these original drawings could even be in a physical format, such as a paper architectural floorplan.
Commonly, engineers, designers and draftspeople may need to edit these drawings in their CAD software. This CAD software could be AutoCAD, Vectorworks, ArchiCAD, Solidworks, CATIA or any other CAD application.
In order to edit these original drawings in their CAD software they must convert their file to a CAD file format i.e. DWG.
2. What is DWG file format?
The DWG file format is architectured by Autodesk – makers of AutoCAD. Although DWG is a proprietary file format, it is supported by much of the software in the CAD ecosystem including those not developed by Autodesk.
The name is taken from an abbreviation of ‘DraWinG’. It is considered to be very similar to the DXF format because most drawings saved in DWG format could exist in DXF format without any loss of data.
Along with DXF, DWG is the industry standard for 2D CAD drawings.
DWG do support 3D modelling data, however, the majority of use-cases for DWG files tend to be two-dimensional. This is likely due to the fact that most 3D modelling CAD applications utilize their own proprietary 3D file format due to the vast complexity of storing 3D model data.
3. Which file formats can be converted to DWG?
DWG is a vector image format, specifically designed for computer-aided design (CAD) applications. As such, any image format – whether they be raster or vector – could be converted to DWG, the key factor is the conversion software utilized for the conversion.
Raster images commonly converted to DWG include:
- Raster PDF
To convert one of the above image formats to DWG you must perform a raster-to-vector conversion, otherwise referred to as ‘vectorization’.
Vectorization converts the pixels in the raster images to mathematical equations representing the same imagery in vector format.
Vector images commonly converted to DWG include:
- Vector PDF
In order to convert one of the above vector formats to DWG, you must utilize a vector-to-vector conversion. This process is technically very different to a vectorization. Instead the conversion software will translate the elements in the source vector file to a format that is compatible with the DWG file specification.
4. Converting to DWG
In the sections below, we introduce converting different files to DWG.
4.1 Converting PDF files to DWG
PDF is short for Portable Document Format and is a widely used file format for engineering and manufacturing documents. It’s common that a PDF version is the only version a design team will have of a technical drawing. At Scan2CAD, many customers want to convert PDFs to DWG for the use in AutoCAD and other CAD packages, so it is a good solution for that.
PDF files are popular in the CAD industry because they can store both raster and vector elements, which remain consistent across devices and operating systems. Like converting other file formats, you can convert PDF files to DWG using manual tracing or automatic conversion (using the likes of object recognition). It varies in difficulty depending on whether the PDF is in vector or raster formatting. The former making it much easier especially if you have lots of files to convert.
You can learn more about PDF files and how Scan2CAD can help you by checking out our ultimate guide on converting PDF files to DWG.
4.2 Converting PDF to DWG with layers
Layers are used in CAD drawings to denote and separate whichever elements the draftsperson requires. The are extremely useful for the organization and presentation of many data points which can exist in a CAD drawing. For example, if a GIS engineer had a were working with a CAD contour map of a landscape, they may opt to have rivers on one layer and the lines representing roads on another.
Alternatively, an architect may be working with an architectural floorplan and they may wish to move all dimension blocks to a dedicated layer so that they could be shown or hidden at will.
Layers are therefore integral to typical CAD workflows yet layer data can commonly become lost when users convert PDF files to DWG.
Many PDF to DWG conversion applications do not translate the PDF layer data to a CAD format, instead, many will consolidate all of the drawing’s elements to a single layer.
At this point, the user could choose to manually relocate all of the drawing’s elements back to their original layers but this would be a truly painstaking process and near impossible for files which contain 100,000+ vectors.
Thankfully, CAD conversion software, Scan2CAD will preserve all of the layers in the original PDF file, converting them to the appropriate DWG layer structure. This means that the layers visible in your PDF would be visible in your CAD software, such as AutoCAD and any other DWG-supporting applications.
4.3 Converting JPG to DWG
JPG (or JPEG) is a well-known raster file formats. They have a 24-bit color depth, and use lossy compression, which means that they are typically small in memory size. A small memory size is good for storage. However, because of this lossy compression, when they are edited the quality of the file degrades, so JPGs are not best used for architectural or engineering drawings and images that have sharp, defined edges.
If you have a JPG that you want to convert to DWG, then you are best using software like Scan2CAD, which has thresholding and cleaning tools. Thresholding eliminates issues created with grey scale JPGs whereas the cleaning functionality is used to clean up the likes of speckles or holes, commonly found in poor quality JPGs.
There are many issues with JPGs, and converting them to DWG can be tricky, but check out our guide on how to achieve the best JPG to DWG conversion results.
4.4 Converting PNG to DWG
PNG (which formally stands for Portable Network Graphics, and informally PNG not Gif) stores image information in small squares of color called pixels. Unlike JPG, which loses quality during editing, a PNG file supports lossless data compression, and therefore does not lose quality when it is edited.
As a PNG image is made up of pixels instead of vector shapes, editing involves ‘painting over’ the original image, so editing affects the entire image. In contrast, when you are editing a vector image you can edit single elements (like a text block) that won’t affect the whole image when it is saved. For this reason, converting PNG to DWG is invaluable for working in CAD.
PNG files are easy to create and share. They usually come in the form of a screenshot of an old drawing, which is why you see their use in CAD. But for effective use in CAD, they need to be converted to DWG. As you will see in our ultimate guide to converting PNG to DWG, to make the conversion as effective as possible you need to:
- Choose the right image quality
- Reduce the number of colors in the PNG
- Clean up the image before you convert
4.5 Converting SVG to DWG
SVG – an acronym of ‘scalable vector graphics’ – is a file type most commonly used in graphic design. It is not common that CAD draftspeople would opt to export their drawing to SVG because it cannot contain the data associated with the vectors. Even simple elements like lines are not saved as true CAD line objects in SVG format.
The SVG file format is fantastic as a simple vessel for storing and displaying vector graphics such as graphic art and logos. The file type is also a common standard for printing houses, they require a fully vector format – for example SVG or vector PDF – to ensure the print is scalable to any physical size required.
Even though the SVG format is not designed (or indeed suitable) for CAD purposes, draftspeople can sometimes have the requirement to convert an SVG to DWG in order to edit the graphics contained in the SVG in their CAD software.
Both SVGs and DWGs are vector files. This type of vector-to-vector file conversion is much different to the raster-to-vector file conversion (e.g. converting a JPG to DWG) yet the conversion is by no means simplistic.
As we discuss in our article, there are online services which offer to instantly convert SVG files to DWG. Yet, the online services are typically problematic.
Typical problems with converting SVG files to DWG include:
- Inaccurate conversion of the vector graphics to a suitable CAD object
- The creation of DWG files which are not supported by Autodesk applications
- The requirement to upload your files to a potentially insecure third-party service.
To convert SVG files to DWG an engineer or designer should utilize CAD conversion software which is specifically designed for this use-case. This is because simply converting vectors in an SVG to DWG would not create very useful data. Instead the conversion software will need to create the data in CAD object data.
4.6 Converting TIFF to DWG
When scanning a drawing for optimal raster to vector conversions, we recommend saving your image as a TIFF file. It is a great format for high-quality graphics and supports over ****16 million colors (although we advise that you should opt to use as few colors as possible, ideally monochrome). Like PNG files, TIFF files make use of lossless compression, and therefore can be edited or compressed without any loss in quality – ensuring that the detail of the image is maintained.
Due to the high quality of TIFF images the file size can be large however. They are also not easy to edit and like other rasters suffer resolution dependency. For these reasons, it is much better to convert your TIFF images to DWG. Not only will this make it easy to edit the file but you can also take elements from the image, and re-use them in an entirely new one, which is key for CAD designers and engineers.
4.7 Converting DXF to DWG
In many scenarios a designer or engineer may prefer DXF over DWG when exporting their CAD drawings. This is because DXF is the most cross-compatible format of the two.
The DXF file name is taken from ‘Drawing eXchange Format’, it was developed by Autodesk (also developers of the DWG format) to be easily readable by any CAD/CAM and CNC application.
Unlike DXF, Autodesk did not intend for DWG to be easily decoded. DWG is a proprietary file format which Autodesk has – in the past – fought to protect, opting for a closed ecosystem of applications supporting this format.
DWG is encoded in binary, an extremely hard format to decode without knowledge of the file architecture. Whereas DXF is encoded in the much more easily-read ASCII.
So why would engineers and designers opt to convert their DXF files to DWG? Due to the fact that Autodesk architectured the DWG format to be specific for AutoCAD’s use-case, the file format supports niche elements such as dynamic blocks, not thoroughly supported by DXF.
Additionally, DWG, being a binary file format is smaller in file-size when compared to DXF which can become bloated when a drawing contains thousands of vectors. Finally there may be some applications which exclusively support DWG and not DXF, although such applications are quite few and far between.
A DXF to DWG conversion involves a vector-to-vector and ASCII-to-binary conversion. The two formats may appear similar in how they display the CAD drawing contents but their architecture is significantly different. Converting DXF to DWG is not comparable to converting a PNG to JPG.
Therefore CAD conversion software, such as Scan2CAD, which is specifically designed for this type of conversion is required. Scan2CAD will appropriately decode the contents of the DXF file and encode in the DWG binary architecture without any loss in the CAD drawing’s data. In fact even non-visual elements, for example the drawing’s scaling, will be kept intact between the file format conversions.
4.8 Converting DGN to DWG
DGN is a file format first developed by Intergraph Corporation but is now supported and maintained by Bentley Systems, Inc. The format can be opened using Bentley’s software such as MicroStation as well as third-party CAD software such as AutoCAD and is mainly used within the architectural, engineering and construction sectors (AEC).
There are several approaches you can use to convert DGN to DWG including Bentley MicroStation, AutoCAD, or ReaConverter. The first two options are the most secure and stand out because they save the end DWG files using a code authored by Autodesk (consisting of a RealDWG license) and therefore guarantee DWG read/write capability.
In contrast, ReaConverter does not use the RealDWG software development kit to convert DGN to DWG, so AutoCAD would display an error message when it tries to open your DWG. If you have DNG files you want to convert to DWG, then it is worth reading up more about RealDWG and how to use MicroStation or AutoCAD to carry out the conversion.
4.9 Converting DWF to DWG
Drawing Web Format (DWF) files can be considered as a much-simplified version of DWG files. The DWF file format cannot support a vast number of entities which make DWG files so useful, such as layer data and object data.
Much like DWG, DWF is a vector file format developed by Autodesk. As DWF files are more simplistic than DWG, they are also typically smaller in file size, even as much as 5% of the size of a similar DWG.
DWF files are not only capable of storing 2D CAD drawings. They can also store 3D models. DWF’s less intricate file structure and 2D/3D versatility means that the format has been supported by a number of applications including (unsurprisingly) Autodesks’s Revit, AutoCAD and Inventor.
If a draftsperson were to view a drawing, such as an aerospace mechanical plan, in DWF format, and compare directly to the same drawing in DWG, the draftsperson might observe no perceivable difference in the drawing contents. However, behind the scenes the DWF is representing the same block elements of the DWG in a less intelligent manner.
Given the significant simplifications in DWF files, it is common that users wish to convert their DWF files to DWG. Converting DWF to DWG involves a vector-to-vector file conversion. This requires software specifically designed for CAD conversions, the most prominent of which being Scan2CAD. The conversion software will encode the elements in the DWF files to the DWG format so that the resultant file can be fully transformed in any CAD software that supports the DWG file format.
4.10 Converting Google map to DWG
If you wish to edit a map – perhaps of a city’s streets – in your CAD software, you must first convert the map to a CAD file format such as DWG. In our post, How to Convert a Google Map to DWG we discuss this exact process.
The two steps in converting a Google Map to DWG are:
- Download an image of the map area from Google Maps
- Convert the map image to DWG with Scan2CAD
Acquiring an image of your required Google Map area in a suitable layout can be more complex than typical drawings.
This is because your Google Map image should only contain the elements which you wish to convert to DWG. Typically, the map will contain a vast range of elements indicating everything from business names to public toilets. These elements would be useless information if you only required a map of the roads or buildings in a specific area. It’s important to remember that when converting images to CAD, whatever exists in the original image will be converted to DWG unless you choose to remove those elements prior to conversion.
Luckily, it is possible to remove multiple Google Map elements in relatively few clicks. To do this, we open Google Maps, navigate to the area we wish to convert and then – using a feature such as Google Chrome’s Inspect tool – we remove the unwanted labels overlayed on the map.
Finally, we export the image to a raster format such as PNG, TIFF or BMP and convert the image to DWG using CAD conversion software, Scan2CAD.
The result is a DWG file containing a map of your required area which can be edited and transformed in your favourite CAD software.
4.11 Converting floor plans to DWG
A floor plan is a shortened term for the typical architectural building floor plan drawings.
Often, each drawing will represent the complete floor – or level – of a building. If a building comprises of three levels, there will usually be three floor plans, one for each of the building levels.
The requirement to convert floor plan drawings to DWG is very common. This is because floor plans have been around for well over a century. Since the mid 1800’s architects have been using blueprints. ‘Blueprints’ is a term synonymous with floor plans, they were created as an easily reproducible medium for building floor plans.
Given that the world now uses CAD software to design buildings, and there is a legacy of 100+ years of pre-digital drawings, you can see why many will need to convert images of floor plans to DWG.
More often than not, these images will be scanned paper drawings, saved to a raster image format such as TIF or raster PDF, and then converted to DWG using CAD conversion software, the most dominant being Scan2CAD.
A common use-case for floor plans is the creation of fire safety plans. Fire protection companies will convert floor-plans for Fire Safety Zone Plans using Scan2CAD so they can edit the newly created 2D DWG floor plan drawing in their CAD software of choice. This process of digitizing legacy paper drawings or images to a CAD file format becomes invaluable to engineers who need to capture the data previously lost in old drawings.
4.12. Converting paper drawings to DWG
A common requirement in CAD is to digitize paper drawings to a CAD format such as DWG. For instance, imagine a governmental land-planning office which has tens-of-thousands of paper drawings of architectural plans. With raster-to-vector conversion software such as Scan2CAD, users can convert scans of their paper drawings to CAD drawings which could be edited in their CAD software of choice such as AutoCAD, Vectorworks, ArchiCAD, to name a few.
Converting paper drawings can be a challenging process if the original paper drawing is poor quality, perhaps the paper has deteriorated or perhaps the original drawing itself is not accurate. In these circumstances, it is important to scan the drawing (with a flatbed or large format paper scanner) using the appropriate scanning settings. A scanned drawing in monochrome, saved in a lossless file format such as lossless-tiff will be much more successfully converted compared to a scanned drawing in 256+ colors, saved in JPEG format.
When performed correctly, an automatic conversion of an appropriately scanned image of an accurate paper drawing will save countless man-hours when compared to manually tracing or redrawing the plans. Additionally, Scan2CAD is a suitable alternative to outsourcing your conversion needs to a third-party company.
In our article ‘How to Convert Paper Drawings for CAD’ we discuss how to get the best results when digitizing your paper drawings for CAD, including how to edit the raster image scan of the earlier vectorization. With Scan2CAD, users can deskew the image (a form of rotation correction to make the image perfectly horizontal), remove speckles, holes and solve other unwanted raster image anomalies. By cleaning the image prior to conversion, the clean raster image will be converted into a clean vector drawing which can be saved to a DWG format.
4.13 Converting Matterport floorplans to DWG
Matterport is web-based software used by real estate professionals. Its primary USP is that it creates 3D digital models of internal spaces like offices and homes using a variety of compatible cameras. Floor plans of those spaces can then be exported from Matterport typically in the format of raster images and PDFs. This is why many Scan2CAD customers then use Scan2CAD to convert the Matterport files to DWG for further processing in CAD software like AutoCAD.
Understanding the basics of Matterport is not too difficult but as we’ve explained above, raster images are made of colored pixels and, are not normally editable in CAD software, so the exported floor plans need to be converted to DWG.
Scan2CAD is a perfect conversion partner for Matterport users that need to use a vector version of the floor plans in another CAD package. If that’s you, then check out the video below or read through our guide on how to convert Matterport floor plans to DXG and DWG.
5.1 Why convert to DWG format?
The DWG file format is maintained by the leading CAD development behemoth, Autodesk. Autodesk develops some of the most well-known CAD applications including their flagship product, AutoCAD. With such development might behind the DWG file format, it has become the industry standard CAD file-type alongside DXF. DWGs are not-only supported by Autodesk products but also a wide variety of other CAD applications whether they be web-based, Windows or macOS applications. DWG is a smaller file size when compared to DXF due to the DWG Binary encoding method. Overall, DWG can be considered a very stable and somewhat versatile file format, supporting both 2D and 3D information.
5.2 How to convert only certain parts of PDF to DWG?
We’ve discussed earlier in this article how PDF files can contain both raster and vector images as well as text strings. PDF files are very versatile because they are able to store the rasters and vectors in individual layers and separate pages. With the appropriate CAD conversion software (e.g. Scan2CAD) you can define whether you wish to convert specific layers, specific pages or perhaps only raster information in the PDF to DWG. The ability to convert only certain defined parts of the PDF to DWG is a common requirement when a PDF contains information which would be useless in CAD software. For example you may wish to extract an engineering drawing from a PDF which is surrounded by text. In Scan2CAD you can choose to automatically remove all text, keeping only the necessary drawing for CAD drafting.
5.3 How to convert DWG to an older version?
The DWG file format is constantly updated by Autodesk. If an app wishes to keep up-to-date support for the current DWG file version then they must continuously update their software to align with these new updates. It is very common that applications are not able to ‘keep up’ with the constant DWG file format changes and therefore some applications in the CAD ecosystem may only support older DWG file formats. If you have a new DWG file which you would like to convert to an older DWG version, this is possible with Scan2CAD. Scan2CAD supports multiple DWG file format versions, therefore you can freely convert your DWG files to newer or older versions as you require.
5.4 Which free software can be used to edit DWG files?
There are many free DXF/DWG editors including DWG FastView, FreeCAD, LibreCAD and nanoCAD – to mention a few. They all offer a range of features like editing polylines, arcs, shapes and lines and adding text. Some even support 3D objects.
5.5 What software can be used to open DWG files?
Autodesk licenses and develops the DWG format, so if you have a DWG file to view, then AutoCAD is the obvious choice to use. Scan2CAD and other conversion software can also be used to open a DWG file. And if you already use a CAD tool like CorelCAD, then it’s likely that you can open the file with that. If you don’t have another CAD package or a license to AutoCAD, then check out our article on ways to open DWG files without AutoCAD.
5.6 Why you should avoid online DWG converters?
Online converters have many pitfalls. For example, additional capabilities and features tend to be to saved for paying customers, so as a free user you are limited and you may only have a few options to tweak quality settings, which are important to have access to. In addition, the security and privacy of your files is not guaranteed plus conversion can be slow, as conversion is done over the internet.
In this article we have discussed how you can convert your files to DWG with the appropriate CAD conversion software. We have discovered how it is possible to convert file formats to DWG including PDF, JPG, PNG, TIFF, SVG and more. We also learned how users can convert similar CAD file formats to DWG, for example, DXF, DGN and DWF.
As we delve into each file type, we answered commonly asked questions including ‘how to convert files to DWG in bulk’ and ‘how to to convert files on mobile and tablet devices.’. As with all cases in CAD, most common requirements are achievable with the suitable software designed to solve for that specific problem. We’ve seen how some engineers and designers have attempted to utilise online websites to convert their files to DWG with little success. And we’ve also learned how offline converters (i.e. those which you download and install on your computer) will most-likely garner the best results.