PDF to DXF — 7 Things You Need to Know

Updated Aug 4, 2017

One of the most common issues faced between client and professional is lack of file compatibility. Here we’re discussing all things conversion, focusing on the process of changing a PDF file into DXF format. We’ll be looking at its purpose, dangers that await you, and how—with the right software and a few handy hints—you can accurately convert your PDF to DXF in no time at all.

1. It’s necessary for collaboration

Workspace with desk, computers and notepad

If you’re used to dealing with CAD programs like AutoCAD or SolidWorks, you might not immediately see the need for converting PDF files into a compatible format. However, clients are likely to have limited expertise in this area, and may well send files as PDFs. Often their reasoning is sound: PDF is a widely supported file type, so they can be sure anyone receiving the file will have the capacity to access it. They might have no concept of the fact that you can’t just open it and get on with edits and additions. Alternatively, they may be well aware of potential issues, but unable to do anything about them, not having access to CAD software themselves.

You might also start out with a PDF if the drawing has originated from a hard copy. Perhaps it is an old architectural plan of a building, or maybe there’s a hand-drawn sketch you wish to work on. Whatever the reason, you need it on your screen. And when scanning it into the computer, you will be able to save the file as a PDF, but not as a format that is more CAD-friendly.

The difficulties that arise when attempting to edit PDF files makes it often imperative to convert it into a format such as DXF. DXF files are useful because not only are they compatible across CAD software, they can take you from design to manufacturing very easily. As vector files, they contain information that is able to be read by CNC machines, ensuring accurate production of your initial design.

2. Not every part of a PDF file will necessarily need converting from raster to vector

PDFs can contain elements of both raster and vector graphics; the latter referring to parts of the file that are compatible with CAD work. These entities are made up of lines, as opposed to the pixels that form a raster image. Such elements will not undergo further vectorization, but can be imported into your new file all the same.

It is possible to determine which entities of your PDF are raster, and which vector, but to save time and confusion, the software is able to identify them for you. You may decide to load just one of these types, but equally you can load all entities within the file.

You will also be given the option of converting any of the raster graphics into vector. Restrict the vectorization to raster text, lines or shapes—or, to enable them to be used more effectively for CAD or CNC, choose to convert them all. And forget time consuming manual tracing; instead of mouse or graphic pad, Scan2CAD will trace these entities entirely automatically.

Once vectorized, the editing suite allows you to alter any part of the image easily for your desired outcome.

3. It’s very quick and very easy

A man looking at his watch

When converting a PDF into a DXF format, there’s a lot that needs to happen—but, thankfully, not by you.

Simply load your file, and decide which parts of it you wish to convert: you may wish to use only certain pages of your original PDF file, for instance. You’ll also be able to choose different vectorization, Optical Character Recognition (OCR), and export settings. To make things even simpler, the software will pick up on individual aspects of your file(s) and display options that are specifically relevant to them.

Then you’re ready to save into DXF format. The whole conversion take just a few clicks of your mouse, and is completed within about half a minute! Suddenly those PDFs you’re sent from clients don’t seem so much of a bother, do they?

For more detailed instructions of the process, see our step-by-step guide to converting your PDF file to a DXF.

4. There are ways you can improve the outcome of your PDF to DXF conversion

During the PDF to DXF process, there are several things that could go wrong. However, with a few pointers, you can reduce susceptibility to all of the most common DXF conversion problems.

Right from the get-go, you will face decisions that will affect the quality of the output. First off, you need to make sure that your input image—the PDF—is scanned into the software in as optimal a manner as possible. Scanning in black and white, where color is not a requirement to your image, proves a big help to the software. It can convert monochrome shapes much more accurately than those that are colored, or even grayscale, which can still include nearly 300 different shades in between black and white.

Ensuring your scan is correctly aligned is another easy way to improve your chances of a successful scan. Although you can use the deskewing tool a little later, such technology can reduce quality—and why bother, when you can manually eliminate the need up-front? No need to worry about it being positioned the wrong way round, though; you can rotate your PDF easily on Scan2CAD.

While there is a whole checklist of things you can do to improve the scanning process, you’ll likely need to work on the image on-screen too. This includes checking that that the lines are thick enough to be recognized (although not thick enough to run the risk of producing multiple lines) and adjusting the color settings of your image.

After the conversion itself, there is a little more to do: the process does not end with a click of the button. Post-vectorization editing is a crucial step that can make all the difference to the quality of your DXF file output.

5. Scan2CAD will recognize text and numbers, although you can give it a helping hand

Architectural plan

Optical Character Recognition is a useful piece of kit that can trace over letters and numbers and convert them into editable text. The technology comes in particularly handy when vectorizing old plans, which often contain handwritten labels and notes.

Applying certain settings can be beneficial to the process. You can, for example, choose to split characters that may have bled into each other in their native, raster state. There’s also complete flexibility in how OCR is used: the settings you opt for needn’t apply across your whole document if you don’t deem them suitable.

You can also lend the OCR technology a bit of a helping hand. With handwritten or unclear fonts, it is possible that lettering could be vectorized into a series of lines or arcs, rather than text. Not ideal. So, why not type over the words, and erase the writing beneath it? And remember, if it’s not legible to you, the computer doesn’t stand a chance!

6. You can convert as many PDFs as you like in one go!

Multiple PDF files

What happens when you’ve got multiple PDF files that you need to use within CAD? It rather depends on which converter you opt for. Poor converters, as well as limiting the quality you’ll achieve, will only let you upload one graphic at a time. This is impractical for many users, who require a more extensive use of the service.

Scan2CAD, on the other hand, lets you use the automatic batch conversion option to save time and increase productivity.

Handy for multiple PDF to DXF conversions, there’s no need to upload your PDFs one at a time. It’s a no-corners-cut shortcut: get the same benefits that you enjoy with individual files, including the option to specify your required upload and vectorization settings.

7. You can do it all for free

There are many file converters available online—and you can even find some of these offering the service for free. However, you need to beware of various issues common to many of them. Poor quality is likely to abound: you may find that the output file is watermarked, or a very large in size. Any letters or numbers contained in the PDF may be vectorized as separate entities, leaving words jumbled and totally unreadable. There is also an increased risk that your digital security will be compromised; the risk of malware is not one to be taken lightly, and this is why we warn against the use of cracks.

And if safety and quality weren’t enough, there are various other pitfalls to conversion freeware. They do not tend to offer comprehensive editing suites, which are necessary to optimize your PDF to DXF conversions, nor advanced tools such as OCR.

However, with Scan2CAD, you get all of this (and more) and can even take advantage of a free 14 day trial. During this period, you will have access to the full, professional version of the software. That way, you can test out all of the features we’ve discussed, without committing with your wallet.

And if, and the end of that time, you do decide that paying for the ultimate vectorization software is indeed worth it, you can enjoy the benefits of this market-leading program for as long as you need them.

If you’re new to the Scan2CAD blog, and would like more advice to aid you in all your CAD needs, check out our tips section, featuring more handy hints and tricks on everything from student resources to building the ultimate CAD PC (and with much more in between).

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