How to Import Raster PDF’s to ArchiCAD

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ArchiCAD is a leading building information modeling (BIM) software that architects, designers, interior designers, and urban planners use to create 2D and 3D models. Developed by Budapest, Hungary-based Graphisoft SE, this software application offers a diverse list of exceptional features that have seen it become a staple within the global design community. 

Being a computer-aided design (CAD) software, ArchiCAD only creates or works with vector-based files – you cannot import raster PDF to ArchiCAD. The supported vector-based file formats include DXF, DWG, BCF (BIM collaboration format), 3DM (Rhino 5’s native file format), IFC, and more. 

Additionally, you can even drag and drop a vector PDF to ArchiCAD (one of the ways to import a vector PDF to ArchiCAD). Once imported, you will then have to explore the file in order to edit the contents of the original PDF drawing. Notably, the explode tool on ArchiCAD essentially converts the PDF model to an editable ArchiCAD project. What of situations wherein you have a scanned PDF whose contents you need to edit using ArchiCAD?

Available Options when Dealing with Raster PDFs

In such a case, you have two options. First, you can import the raster PDF to ArchiCAD and subsequently trace over the outline of the drawing manually. However, this is a time-consuming approach, which also impacts the accuracy of the drawing. 

Manual tracing using archicad

Manual Tracing Using ArchiCAD (source)

Alternatively, you can automatically convert the scanned PDF, which contains raster objects, into a vector-based drawing that can be saved using file formats such as DXF and DWG. This approach, which relies on third-party software such as Scan2CAD, indirectly enables you to import raster PDFs to ArchiCAD. And in this article, we’ll specifically detail how you can go about the conversion process.

About ArchiCAD

Graphisoft began developing ArchiCAD in 1982 with the aim of forming a powerful product that would not only digitize the traditional drawing board but also offer a robust suite of functions and capabilities. At that time, the pioneers behind the software intended to launch the first iteration of ArchiCAD for Apple’s first desktop computer, Lisa.

However, with development taking several years, it was not until 1987 that Graphisoft released the first official ArchiCAD product to the public for the then newly launched Apple Macintosh. The release marked the beginning of a journey that has seen Graphisoft increase the reach of the software to tens of countries around the world. 

ArchiCAD, which had more than 120,000 users worldwide as of 2020, currently enjoys a 6.1% market share in the construction segment. This user base and command in the design industry are attributable to its various useful features that get even more advanced with each new release. In mid-2021, Graphisoft released ArchiCAD 25, promising better and more improved features.

ArchiCAD 25 Capabilities

For instance, the latest release supports over 40 export and import formats, thus enabling collaboration among designers, engineers, contractors, and architects. It also offers interoperability with Autodesk Revit and easy migration of project files from Revit to ArchiCAD. 

It also introduced new residential and commercial furniture and a quick shift between 2D and 3D views. What’s more, the software now boasts better visualization tools and error-free documentation. 

However, while ArchiCAD thrives in situations involving vector-based files, it falters when it comes to raster PDFs and images. Thus, if you wish to import a raster PDF to ArchiCAD, you will first need to vectorize the drawing using Scan2CAD.

How to Import Raster PDF to ArchiCAD

Vectorization Using Scan2CAD

Like ArchiCAD, Scan2CAD has cemented its place as a leader in the vectorization space. The software can convert raster images (BMP, JPEG, PNG, and TIFF) as well as raster PDFs into vector file formats. It eliminates the need to manually trace over the outline of the drawing using ArchiCAD’s drawing tools. In addition to this vectorization capability, Scan2CAD also enables you to clean up the raster drawing. 

It is worth noting that not all scanned images are perfect, especially in CAD applications. For example, ink splotches and low dots per inch (DPI) resolution result in low-quality scans that could derail the vectorization process by introducing unwanted objects. Fortunately, with Scan2CAD, you can clean the drawing up by removing speckles and holes, smoothing lines, and thickening otherwise faint raster objects. 

In this tutorial, we’ll highlight how you can go about cleaning the drawing. We’ll follow that up with the procedure on how to convert raster PDFs to vector with the aim of then importing the converted drawing to ArchiCAD. Simply put, we’ll detail how to indirectly import raster PDFs to ArchiCAD. 

Scan2CAD Tutorial: How to Import Raster PDF to ArchiCAD

Step-by-step Guide: How to Import Raster PDF to ArchiCAD

  1.  Launch Scan2CAD and import the raster PDF file you wish to convert to vector.
  2. Click the Clean raster image button, which displays the Clean Raster Image pop-up window. If your drawing is in greyscale, that is, it is not black and white, check the Threshold (Black & White). This button blackens all the raster objects and subsequently whitens the background. You can also use the ‘clean image’ tools, including Remove Speckles & Holes, Thicken Lines, and Smooth. For instance, if your drawing contains lines that are not entirely straight, you can smoothen them using the available tools. Finally, if you are satisfied with the outcome of the cleanup exercise, click OK. 
Clean raster image pop-up window

Clean Raster Image Pop-up Window

3. Click the Convert raster image button. The Convert Raster Image window pops up. Here, you can choose several options depending on the nature of your drawing. However, ensure that you have selected the Architectural present as its essential when importing PDF to ArchiCAD. Also, if your drawing contains both text-based objects and geometric elements, check the Vectorize and OCR options. The OCR function enables Scan2CAD to recognize text-based objects and convert them into true-type text. It is also important to set the maximum character size as well as the character rotation, both of which can be found under the OCR tab of the pop-up window.

Convert raster image pop-up window

Convert Raster Image Pop-up Window

4. Click Run to generate a preview of the vectorized drawing. With this preview, you can identify the exact sections of the drawing that need correction. In fact, you can overlay the vector drawing on top of the raster drawing. Next, click OK if you are satisfied with the outcome.

5. Select the Export button, which lets you save the file. Under the Save vector to file window, you can choose either the DWG or DXF file format as ArchiCAD supports the importation of each of them. Finally, click Save. A DXF/DWG Export Options pop-up window will display on the screen. It’s worth noting that if you use ArchiCAD’s dark mode or dark theme function, it would be best to check the Convert black vectors to white box. Otherwise, leave it unchecked. Click OK to complete the vectorization process.

Dxf/dwg export options pop-up window

DXF/DWG Export Options Pop-up Window

Benefits of Scan2CAD Over Manual Vectorization 

As stated, there are two options in situations where you need to export a raster PDF to ArchiCAD. First, you could elect to trace over the outline of the drawing manually. Or, you could choose to use Scan2CAD, an easier route that also offers a bevy of benefits. 

The first option presents additional problems. For instance, you will also have to measure and place the dimensions manually on top of drawing the outline yourself. The latter is compounded even further by the fact that, in some cases, you may not even know the drawing’s scale. Together, these individual steps conspire to unnecessarily take up your valuable time.

However, if you choose Scan2CAD, you will get to enjoy all the trappings of a well-thought-out conversion software application. It is packed with numerous advantageous features. For instance, it saves you plenty of time by automatically performing conversion operations. Scan2CAD also lets you clean up the raster image/drawing for the best results possible. You can also use Scan2CAD’s object character recognition (OCR) tool, which automatically recognizes text within a drawing. It lets the software convert raster-based text into true-type text. 

At the same time, Scan2CAD allows you to choose between the DWG or DXF file format. These are two of the over 40 formats supported by ArchiCAD. You can then seamlessly import the saved file – DWG or DXF – into ArchiCAD. 


Scan2CAD enables you to indirectly import an editable raster PDF to ArchiCAD. So, how does it achieve this? Well, as one of the world’s leading vectorization software, Scan2CAD automatically and accurately converts the raster drawing into a vector format that can be edited using ArchiCAD. This means that Scan2CAD eliminates manual processes such as tracing, which can be unnecessarily time-consuming. It is noteworthy that this drawback is particularly pronounced, especially when working with complex drawings that contain hundreds of objects. 

It is against this backdrop that we recommend Scan2CAD for all your vectorization needs. Start your 14-day free trial today.

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