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How to Convert a PDF for Autodesk Inventor

About Autodesk Inventor

Autodesk is mostly known for its architecture and engineering products – AutoCAD and Revit being the most popular – and its media and entertainment software used for movies and video games. The company has a lot more programs under its belt with Autodesk Inventor being one of them. Inventor is a 3D CAD program geared towards and designed for mechanical design, visualization, simulation, and digital prototyping.

Within its interface, users can work both in integrated 2D and 3D views to accurately design and test a product idea before actually building it. As with most Autodesk-backed big-name software, Inventor boasts a fully parametric modeling toolset that can handle direct edits and freeform 3D modeling. It can handle and export all the standard Autodesk file formats.

Autodesk Inventor also uses Autodesk’s own geometric modeling kernel – ShapeManager. With this, it makes for tough competition for its industry rivals Solidworks, Autodesk Inventor, and Solid Edge.

Video tutorial: Converting PDF for Inventor

Without further ado, let’s see how we can convert a PDF to AutoDesk Inventor using Scan2CAD. 

View video transcript

Hey there. So today I’m gonna be showing you guys how to convert your PDF into something that we can edit and change on Autodesk Inventor. So let’s open up the file here. With PDFs, you’ll notice that there are two basic types of image files within them, vector and raster. You can check what the PDF has by cycling through these tabs over here. In this case, it doesn’t have any vector objects, only raster ones. The process is pretty much the same with both image types, but vector is much easier, we’ll be skipping a lot of steps. In this case we have our raster image, so let’s go through the whole process.

With a raster image, we wanna clean up the image first, let’s get on threshold. This particular image is pretty clean as it is, so there’s no need for us to mess around with the settings too much, but there are a couple of settings that we can use here if we wanna clean up the image a bit more. If we’re happy with the preview here, we click on Okay. Next step is to click on Convert the Image over here. This particular image is a technical image.

We do want to use the OCR function because there are text objects that we want to convert to true type. So let’s click on Vectorize an OCR. As for this, let’s set it to Mechanical for this particular image. In this OCR tab let’s select the maximum character size from the image. Just click and drag, which will set it automatically here. This image doesn’t have any particular Angular text, but with images that do have, don’t forget to tick these boxes over here. Once we’re okay with the settings, we click on Run. That’s usually the part of the process that takes a little bit longer, depending on how complex the image is. So as you can see, it’s hard for the software to actually, reasonably convert some of these texts into readable text. And that’s only because they’re a bit blocky, as you can see.

This isn’t the most suitable for conversion, so assume it’s possible, you don’t want something that’s too blocky like this one. But it’s just a simple matter, if we’re happy with the preview here, we click on Okay. It’s just a simple matter of just changing the content of the text boxes using our Text Editor. If we’re happy with the whole result, the last part would be just to click on File, Save as Vector, and then choose the file format over here. If we were working with a vector file in the first place, we wouldn’t have to go through the clean image and the convert steps of this process, it would just be straight to saving the file as whatever file format it is that you wanna save it as. So that’s basically, the process. The next step would just be to open it up on Inventor and then work with the file there.

Before importing into Inventor

Inventor user interface

Autodesk Inventor’s user interface Source

Autodesk Inventor users are familiar with its typical workflow – sketch out product details in 2D on their corresponding planes and then extrude and refine the details into a 3D model. With the first part of this process, it is not uncommon for users to import external reference files of 2D sketches and schematics and use those as jump-off points in Inventor. These reference image files will contain important product measurements and data and would have been made in other CAD software and exported as vector or raster files.

Before we get into the details of importing an image into Inventor, let’s take a look at some qualities that a source image has to have to be suitable for use in Autodesk Inventor.

1. Clarity

With any conversion process, the biggest factor in determining the quality of the output is the quality of the source image. We need PDF files to have clear, defined lines for conversion; any blurry areas or gradients won’t be converted well when put through the process. For images that you want to use as references for an Autodesk Inventor model, aim for clear, crisp lines and information. This is a non-issue for vector type PDF files, but be more aware of a raster PDF’s clarity if you have to use one.

2. Resolution

The resolution of an image refers to the number of pixels is has. The bigger the image, the greater the number of pixels, the better the resolution. In general, images with larger resolutions have cleaner, clearer, and crisper details than those with poor resolutions. With scanned images, we ideally want something between 300 to 500 DPI.

3. Colors

When using images as references for 3D models, you would want to do away with as much unnecessary information as possible. Being clear and concise is key in getting good results. So when it comes to colors, less is more. You ideally want to have something black and white, but monotone images work well too.

Importing an image into Autodesk Inventor

Here’s the step-by-step process of importing your image into Autodesk Inventor:

  1. Look for an image to import and then do one of the following:
  2. In an active part sketch, click Create 2D Sketch on the ribbon 3D Model tab. Click on the planar face or work plane on which you want to insert the image. On the ribbon Sketch tab’s Insert panel, click on Image.
  3. In a drawing sketch, just click on Insert and then Insert Image. Click on the drawing sketch afterward.
  4. After going through the previous step, you’re going to see a dialogue box pop up. Look through your files and folders, navigate to the image file that you’re hoping to import, and then click Open.
  5. Click in the graphics window to place down your imported image. Note that the cursor will be at the upper left corner of the image.
  6. At this point, you can continue to insert images or right-click and select Done if you’ve finished importing.
  7. Readjust your image according to your preferences. You can click on it to move it vertically or horizontally, pivot the image by clicking on the corners, and even resize the image while maintaining its aspect ratio by clicking on its edges.
  8. At this point, you can do bigger edits to the image such as change the image boundary of the imported file and changing its transparency.

We found an informative video tutorial to help give you a more visual guide of what the process is like:

Autodesk Inventor doesn’t have automatic raster-to-vector conversion tools. But it’s not all lost since there is third-party software that would do the job such as Scan2CAD. Other than that, the only other way around it is manually tracing the reference image over with your CAD software’s sketch tools. This is where image quality comes in and why it’s so crucial to the conversion process.

Manually tracing imported PDF files can be a little tedious, so if you’re looking to use the automatic tracing options discussed earlier, Scan2CAD is one of the best solutions out there. Here’s a basic idea of how the workflow might work: You take your raster image and open it up on Scan2CAD, the software convert the image into a workable vector file in the program, and then you open that file on Inventor.

Raster vs. Vector

difference of raster and vector images

Raster and Vector Files Source

Most PDF files can handle either raster images, vector images, or a mix of both. Let’s discuss the differences between raster and vector and what this could mean when trying to import PDF files into Inventor.

Raster images are made up of pixels and can be considered a “map” of colored “bits” (hence the alternate name for raster images – bitmap images). Typical raster file types include JPEG, PNG, GIF, and BMP. PDFs can contain these types of files and these are the types of PDFs that might need a bit more work when it comes to importing its data into Inventor.

Vector images are made of editable geometry such as lines, arcs, and circles as opposed to pixels. The 2D files produce on CAD software are actually examples of vector formats. These include DWG, DXF, and G-Code files just to name a few.

Vector files are generally easier to work with than raster files when we’re talking about importing PDF’s and placing them onto Autodesk Inventor to work and edit with.

In both cases, however, it would still be easier to first convert these PDF’s into an editable file format that can readily by worked on in Inventor, and that’s where Scan2CAD comes in.

Importing a PDF into Autodesk Inventor

import a file into Inventor

Importing a PDF file into Inventor Source 

  1. Click on PDF Import. You’ll find that in the Import panel under the Insert tab.
  2. In the dialog box that follows, locate and open the PDF file you want to work with.
  3. A new dialog box will open up and you can figure out some settings before opening up the PDF and its data on Inventor:
  4. Choose the page you want to import in the case of PDF files with multiple pages.
  5. Specify the PDF’s insertion point on the screen (the default being 0,0).
  6. Set the PDF’s scale and rotation.
  7. Set what Inventor should do with geometry, fills, raster images, and text objects.
  8. Set what to do with imported objects in terms of layers.
  9. When all the settings are finalized, click OK.


Convert PDFs to Inventor with Scan2CAD

  1. Open up the image file or PDF that you want to convert and use as a reference on Inventor on Scan2CAD.
  2. You’ll find yourself dealing with one of three types of PDFs: one with all vector elements, one with all raster elements, and one with a mix of both raster and vector elements.
  3. For vector PDFs, it’s as simple as opening up the file on Scan2CAD and then skipping to the last step of these instructions.
  4. For raster PDFs, you’ll have to make the raster elements suitable for conversion by cleaning them up and turning them black and white.
  5. For mixed PDFs, you’ll have to convert and save the raster and vector parts of the PDF separately.
  6. When you’ve sufficiently cleaned up your raster image, the next step would be to proceed with the actual conversion of the image. In general, you’ll want to go with the “Technical” Vectorization Preset for most of the drawings you’ll be using as references on Inventor, the exceptions being more free-form shapes such as customized logos. 
  7. When you’re done tweaking the settings of the conversion, click on ‘Run’ to execute the process and to see a preview of the converted file. Keep changing the settings if you’re not happy with the preview, each time clicking on ‘Run’ to see the changes on the file. When you’re happy with the preview, click on ‘OK’ to move on to the next step.
  8. You can cycle through the original raster tab with your unconverted image, the newly converted vector file tab, and the tab that shows both so you can see how closely your converted image matches up with the original. Press ‘H’ to highlight the vector lines to have a clearer view of the superposition. If you’re happy, you can save the raster tab and choose between DXF or DWG if you’re looking to import into Creo.
  9. To import into an Inventor file, do one of the following:
  10. To import to a new file, select Import CAD Formats in the Open sub-menu under the File drop-down menu. Alternatively, you could go into the Get Started tab and click on Import CAD Formats in the Launch panel.
  11. To import into a part file, select Import in the Insert panel within the Manage tab. Alternatively, in the 3D Model tab, click on Import in the Create panel.
  12. To import into an assembly, select Place Imported CAD in the Component panel under the Assemble tab.
  13. You can also just drag and drop the file into Inventor.

We have a bunch of tutorials on our site that teaches new users how to use Scan2CAD to convert any and all raster images. You can check out our video tutorials to learn a little bit more about how to use our program.



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