SolidWorks to Adobe Illustrator

September 3rd, 2009 by

Have you ever noticed you can save a SolidWorks file as an Adobe Illustrator file (.AI)?  Well, it works, but it’s not exactly as good as it sounds.  The entire purpose of Adobe Illustrator is to edit vector graphics.  However, when you save a SW file as an .AI file, it’s the same as saving it as a .JPG and then dragging that into an .AI file (i.e. it exports a raster image – no vectors).  It’s OK though because there’s another process that works perfectly:

  1. Create a drawing of your SW part/assembly in the orientation that you’d like it to appear in Illustrator.
  2. Save your SW drawing file as a .DXF.
  3. Import your .DXF into Illustrator.
  4. Voila!

You can now fully edit the vector version of your drawing view that you created in SolidWorks.  This means you can edit the stroke sizes independently, you can fill areas with solid colors and gradients, you can apply special filters and effects to the image, and anything else you might be able to do in Illustrator.

So that’s the solution for the guy that makes a handful of technical publications a year.  Beyond that, modifying all of your CAD pubs in Illustrator can become very inefficient.  What happens if a change is made to the solid model?  What if you’d like to reorient the angle of the view?  What if you’d like to move a few of the components around?  To deal with any of these questions, you’d have to go back to SolidWorks and start the entire process over again from scratch – making your previous hard work obsolete and useless.

The answer: 3DVia Composer.  I’ve been using this product for a few months now and I love it!  If you’re company makes technical publications based on your solid models, you need to check out the webinar I’ll be hosting on September 22nd, 11:00am-12:00pm.

Jordan Tadic

Certified Elite Application Engineer 3DVision Technologies

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12 Responses to “SolidWorks to Adobe Illustrator”

  1. Jeff Sweeney says:

    Presentation Studio, download-able free from SolidWorks labs is another fun way to make .pdf files.

  2. jtadic says:

    Good point, Jeff. That is a pretty cool tool. It might be able to satisfy the needs of a lot of people out there, but the final product still doesn’t give a technical illustrator the same amount of freedom a raw vector file would. You’re right though, I would also recommend checking out the tool you mentioned to see if it’s a good fit…

  3. Deborah Parker says:

    I have tried the save as DWF and opened it into AI, however, I find that the file I have, each tiny line has 3-5 lines of the same size under the original. So the drawing I am dealing with has close to 5,000 lines. None of which connect to form solid shapes to be colored. Is there something our engineering dept can do to their file to help this issue? Is there a plug-in that would solve it? Thanks in advance!

  4. Jordan Tadic says:

    Deborah, I haven’t been able to replicate your problem. I’d love to help solve it, but first I’d need some more information. Feel free to call my office at (440) 425-0114 and just ask for Jordan.

  5. Hang L says:

    I am in the same boat as the following user:

    Deborah Parker says:
    November 18, 2009 at 1:39 pm
    I have tried the save as DWF and opened it into AI, however, I find that the file I have, each tiny line has 3-5 lines of the same size under the original. So the drawing I am dealing with has close to 5,000 lines. None of which connect to form solid shapes to be colored. Is there something our engineering dept can do to their file to help this issue? Is there a plug-in that would solve it? Thanks in advance!

    I would love to know if there is a resolution to this!

    Thank you.

  6. jtadic says:

    Hang L, I never received a call from Deborah. I’d be happy to take a look at your specific files. You can ask your engineer to “Pack and Go” the drawing file into a ZIP file and then send it to me. Please call me at the phone number listed above if you need assistance.

  7. j lin hsien kung says:

    Was Deborah and Hang L’s question ever resolved?

    (This also occurs when a SW drawing is import to Illustrator as an AI file.)

  8. Jordan Tadic says:

    Still haven’t received any sample files. Could you send me your files that you’re experiencing this with? I’d be happy to take a look at it. My email can be found here: http://scr.im/jtadic3dv. Thanks!

  9. Mandy Link says:

    I’m an Adobe Illustrator person, not a SolidWorks person, but I do graphic design @ a manufacturer so I deal with technical drawing > Illustrator issues a lot. I have noticed that if you make the strokes of the drawings you bring into Illustrator from SolidWorks-generated files (either as .ai or .dxf) a very thin stroke, say 0.1 pt, and zoom in it will shed some light on what the “lines-on-top-of-lines thing you’re seeing is. I don’t have a solution except for I just change all the strokes to be thinner so the SolidWorks-generated drawings don’t have such a bold look when used in printed piece.

    Jordan, I’d love an answer instead of the workaround I use, if you’re still willing to help. What format(s) do you need? (a native SW format, .ai, .dxf… just let me know.) mlink@tuhill.com

  10. Jordan Tadic says:

    Mandy, I tried to email you at the email listed above, but it didn’t work. I’d be happy to take a look at your native SolidWorks file. Please email it to me at your convenience. My email can be found here: http://scr.im/jtadic3dv

  11. rafael says:

    1 – When exporting the drawing (SLDRW) File from Solidworks, select the drawing view and make sure it’s in the hidden line mode, that’s the one before the shaded view. Do not use shaded or it will produce lines over lines.

    2- Save as DXF, Go to Options, save as version 2007-2009 (seems to work ok), leave everything else as default.

    3 – Once imported into AI, select all or Ctrl-A, then Ungroup (Ctrl-Shift-U)- That should allow it to see all elements as one group, for some reason Illustrator will import different lines as in different groups although not visible when selecting each. Once all lines are in the “Same group” these should be able to join.

  12. Matt Hendey says:

    I was looking for a different answer when I found in this article but noticed the article needed to be updated. I assume since this was written Solidworks has changed. Solidworks now Saves out .ai files as vector. When you open the .ai file in Illustrator Solidworks will lump random objects together as Compound Objects so to separate them you need to Select All go to Object-Compaound Path-Release to separate them.

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