Winter Scene #3: From AutoCAD To Illustrator

Illustrator lets you combine your drawings with images and other visual material in a much more visual way than AutoCAD. There are several ways to import your drawings from AutoCAD to Illustrator, each with its own advantages.

Previous Tutorial Part

This is the 3rd tutorial in Winter Scene series, please check the previous tutorial:

Winter Scene #2: Post-Production In PhotoshopPost-production is an essential process to bring life to the rendered images of your project.

Exporting From AutoCAD To Illustrator

Ok, now let’s make sure we have the drawings exported from AutoCAD into such a format that Illustrator can read.

There are two ways we can do this: by loading .dwg file in Illustrator, or by exporting to PDF first.
I suggest you always use Method #1 (dwg file), whether version “A” or version “B” (see below), and only if you have some very old version of Illustrator you may want to use method #2.

Method #1A: Use .DWG Model Space

If each layer in your AutoCAD drawing has its own linewidth, and its own print color, then you can simply save .dwg file and open in Illustrator, and open it from model space (see video).

Good news is that Illustrator can read DWG files! However, it can’t read the latest .dwg file format, so we need to save it to an older AutoCAD file format , ideally 2010 (for Illustrator CC – if you have older version of Illustrator, you should try saving to 2007 or even older version of AutoCAD)

Here’s how to do it, note how I changed file format to AutoCAD 2010:

Then simply open the .dwg file you’ve just saved in Illustrator.

Important: Write down the correct scale when importing!

See around 0:08 in this video where I write down the scale.
This means: “1 unit in AutoAD (where I drew in meters) will be 2 cm in Illustrator”, which is exactly the scale of 1:50! If you want another scale, you write down other values, such as “1 unit = 1cm for 1:100, 5 units = 1cm for 1:500, etc…”

Here’s how it’s done:

You will notice you have all the layers as in AutoCAD file. More over, each layer maintains its color from AutoCAD, and line width. All this makes export method is far superior than method #2. It’s also much quicker, as you don’t need to set up Layouts in AutoCAD nor print anything.

After you import, save your Illustrator drawings as .AI file, as it’s Illustrator’s native file format.

Method #1B: Use .DWG with Layouts

You should use this method if the lineweight and print color is not defined in your AutoCAD layers, but in print style. Saving file from AutoCAD is the same as for Method #1A.
The only difference is when we open file in Illustrator, we specify an AutoCAD LAYOUT we want to load instead of model space. This also means you don’t need to calculate scale here, because you already did that when composing layout in AutoCAD, so just put “1 unit = 1 centimeter”:

Method #2: Print to .PDF

If Illustrator reports an error when you try to load the .dwg file, first try to go back to AutoCAD and save it to even lower version (don’t go lower than AutoCad 2000 though).
But if even this doesn’t work then you need to “print to PDF” which will be an intermediary file format that should be loaded in Illustrator.

In order to do this, you need to have your Layouts prepared, which I assume you have done, for example to print the drawings on a 30x30cm sheets (format defined by Idea & Form 1 Task Requirements).

Here’s how to print from AutoCAD to PDF. Basically, it’s the same as sending the file to a real printer, only under “Printers” you choose AutoCAD PDF (High Quality). You might be asked if you want to keep the 300x300mm format, you say “yes and save to layout”.

Note that you will need to save each layout as a separate PDF file.

Now you load these PDF files to Illustrator.

Important:  With this method, you don’t define the scale of the drawing in Illustrator, but in AutoCAD’s Layout properties.

Another important thing: When saving PDF, you will lose layers. Also, you will need to do one additional action, which is to Release Clipping Mask (see video), in order to be able to select individual objects:

After you import, save your Illustrator drawings as .AI file, as it’s Illustrator’s native file format.

Next Tutorial Part

After you’ve successfully imported the drawings, next tutorial will show you how to compose your poster in Illustrator:

Winter Scene #4: Putting Things Together In IllustratorThis tutorial will show you how to compose your poster by bringing together different visual material such as drawings, rendering, photos and text.

Any questions?

Leave a Reply

You must be logged in to post a comment.