How to Create AutoCAD & Civil 3D Linework Using PDF Import

The PDF Import command was introduced with the release of AutoCAD 2017 last year. Instead of attaching PDFs as underlays in your drawings, you can now import geometries, raster images, and text directly as AutoCAD elements. PDF Import is a tool that many users have been hoping for ever since the ability to underlay PDFs was added in AutoCAD 2010.

In this video, I walk through how to use the PDF Import tool. I’m using Civil 3D, but this tool is available in AutoCAD, as well as any of the AutoCAD vertical products.

Looking for more of my civil infrastructure tips and tricks? Then check out these quick reads.

Video Transcript

In this video, I’m going to talk about the PDF Import command, as opposed to the underlay command, and show how the PDF Import command will import geometry into your AutoCAD drawing as AutoCAD elements. Right now, I’m using Civil 3D—obviously, this is in AutoCAD as well. In Civil 3D, if I’m in the Civil 3D workspace, I can type in PDF Import, and you’ll see that command will come up. Or I can change over to the Drafting & Annotation workspace so that I’m in more of an AutoCAD environment. Once there, if I go to the Insert tab, you’ll see we have the PDF Import command up on the ribbon. If I choose this, I get to browse out and grab the PDF file that I want to import. I’ll go ahead and select it here and I’ll say Open. And then I have some settings that I can use here. You see scale and rotation and different things to import, such as vector geometry and solid fills and how do I want to put them on layers once the geometry is imported in. Do I have a lot of solid fills? If I do I can convert those to hatches and things of that nature. And of course, I’ve got options over here to have PDF image location, things of that nature. I’m just going to hit the OK button at this point and at the prompt it’s gonna go to 0,0 so I’m going to hit Enter for that. Then, I’m going to go ahead and let this import and when I start zooming, in you’ll see I’ve got actual geometry here and when I list it out we’ve actually got a polyline here. If I go over to properties on this, you can see that, yes, it is indeed a polyline. And if we take a look at some other things here, there is a contour, for example—same thing—this is a polyline as well. So we’re actually getting geometry. Now text is another issue. We do have SHX text recognition. We can go in and, if we go the settings of that, we can have entries compared to different font types. There’s a recognition threshold. With this particular font type that’s in AutoCAD, I haven’t had much success with this, but, basically, what we can get it do is take this geometry that looks like text and then turn it into actual text elements. In a lot of cases, we might get individual letters, so then we can use the Combine Text. Or we may not get individual letters—it might be individual lines of text—and then we can use the Combine Text tool, which happens to be the same command as Convert to MTEXT over here in the Express tools. But either way when we can get some text recognition going and a lot of this text can get into valid AutoCAD text. When I look at some other text though, like large text here, I’ve basically got geometry with hatching—same thing with my border. Instead of getting a thick polyline here, I get lines with hatching between them. But the main thing to get from this process is that we are actually getting geometry imported as AutoCAD elements.

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Do you already use the PDF Import command in Civil 3D? What other Civil 3D tools would you like us to cover next? Leave a comment below!

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