Edit Vector PDF – Know Your PDF File Types

It’s easy to tell the difference between vector and raster PDF files by viewing them in Adobe Acrobat.  This is important since the two file types are converted differently. Vector PDF files are best transformed through data extraction. This is accurate and precise and involves minimal manual clean-up. Raster PDF files are traced since there is no data to extract. This is an approximation and requires operator involvement as well as manual clean-up. Visual Integrity is specialized in tools for vector conversion and will produce high-quality, accurate drawings from vector PDF input. If a raster PDF or scanned drawing is run through our software, we will turn the flat image into a tracing layer for manual work-up.

If you need to:

Test #1 – The Blue Test

Start by opening your PDF file with Acrobat or Acrobat Reader. Click anywhere on the drawing. If it turns blue, it’s a scanned drawing. Depending on the quality of the scan, you may have some success with a raster-to-vector tool. Alternatives are to manually redraw it or outsource it to be redrawn by a service bureau.

scanned drawing raster PDF

A scanned drawing as it opens on-screen in Acrobat (It has not yet been selected).

scanned drawing when selected turns blue raster PDF

Once you click anywhere on the scanned drawing, the entire drawing is selected and turns blue to signify this.


Test #2 – The Zoom Test

Open your PDF file with Acrobat or Acrobat Reader. Use the Magnifying Control to zoom in on a detailed section of the file. At 100-150%, it may be hard to tell the difference. Continue zooming until you are at a magnification greater than 400%.

When magnified, a scanned drawing will look jagged, noisy, blurry or dirty. If you are uncertain, magnify some more. The higher the resolution of the drawing, the more magnification it needs to degrade. Vector files will look perfect at any resolution.

When magnified, a scanned drawing will look jagged, noisy, blurry or dirty. If you are uncertain, magnify some more. The higher the resolution of the drawing, the more magnification it needs to degrade. Vector files will look perfect at any resolution.

Side-by-Side Comparison to See the Difference Between Vector and Raster PDF

The section of the picture should be magnified on your screen and it should become apparent whether you have a vector or raster PDF file. The Vector PDF file will look clear and smooth at any resolution while the raster PDF will become dirtier and grainier the more it’s zoomed. In the example below, the section is enlarged 400%. Sometimes, it’s necessary to magnify the file more than 1000% when it’s a high-res scan to determine the file type. It would be possible to edit the vector PDF on the left but not the raster PDF on the right.

difference between vector and raster PDF file

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PDF Conversion Options

Below is a summary of all PDF conversion options available in pdf2cad, pdf2picture and PDF FLY. These options and more are also available to developers via the PDF Conversion SDK/API or command line tools.

Conversion options - general settings

General Settings Tab

  • Characters as Strings Combines characters into words, and words into text strings, based on context.
  • Convert Characters to CurvesCreates a visual graphic match for text defined with unknown or unavailable fonts.
  • Rotate: Rotates drawing any degree in either direction.
  • Scale Text: Enlarges or reduces the size of the text in the converted file.
  • Emulate PDF cropping: Cropping removes unnecessary outer areas of a drawing. PDF supports cropping but some vector formats (WMF, CGM, DXF and HPGL) don’tWithout cropping, these formats would transfer unwanted elements during conversion. Activate ‘Emulate PDF cropping’ to ensue clean borders. Using this feature, the resulting file will match the original.PDF.
  • Show Font Warning: If the fonts in a PDF file are not installed on your computer, the text will not look right. Font mapping ensures the closest match possible. It also compensates for different font naming conventions across systems.
  • Ignore paths, text images: Turn certain elements on or off during conversion.
  • CAD Format: Choose your output format. DWG for AutoCAD, DXF for most engineering and technical programs and HPGL for plotter specific applications.
font mapping dialog

Font Mappings Tab

Text converts fine when PDF files use standard fonts. If text converts but doesn’t display right, you have a font mapping issue.
Fonts are a tricky subject. Installed fonts differ from system to system. Sometimes, the same font may even go by different names. For a perfect conversion, the same font needs to be on the source and target system. License agreements protect font vendors from illegal use of their typefaces. Embed only system fonts and permitted fonts. For more detail on font issues, read PDF Font Mapping When Converting Files and PDF Fonts: Embedding and Substitution from Adobe
Document fonts display based on comparing the font name in the PDF file with the font name on your system. If the fonts on your PC match the PDF, the file will look perfect. Often, the font names don’t match and the text looks ‘off’ . The first thing to check is whether you have a font name mismatch. Arial Bold, for example, may be “EHJPKB+Arial-Bold” in the original file. The same font is “Arial” on your PC. When you match the two, it’s known as “Font Mapping”. In this example, map “EHJPKB_Arial-Bold” to “Arial” with font style “Bold”. If you can’t make a successful match, we substitute the closest font. This is “Font Substitution” and is automatic.
PDF conversion page options

Page Settings Tab

The Page Settings control options that apply to all files. All of the other option vary depending on whether you choose a vector or bitmap output format.

Crop Picture: Remove Margin: By default, the margins of the PDF file are used. This setting can adjust or remove white space.

Page Size: pdf2cad will automatically figure out the page size. If you want to force a standard or custom page size, select it or enter dimensions.

Convert Range: pdf2cad, by default, will convert all pages of a file. You can set a page range if you only want selected pages.

Page Mapping: By default, a multi-page PDF file converts into a vector page for each PDF page. Other choices included include merging all pages into one file and applying horizotal or vertical alignment.

PDF to DWG DXF format specific options

DWG and DXF Format Specific Options

The PDF Conversion Options for DWG and DXF options apply to specific CAD drawing features.
Scaling Factor:  CAD programs define dimension in units. These units disappear when creating a PDF file but the scale remains. You can set a scaling factor for the x-y relationship during conversion. You can also set the units when you open the converted file in your CAD program. By default, pdf2cad uses 1mm (0,03937 inch) = 1 unit in the CAD output. To learn more about CAD units, read Units and Scales
Precision Factor: The default precision is set to 10. Sometimes, it will help increase coordinate accuracy to change this to 1 or to 100. If none of these settings provide desirable results, please send us the file to diagnose.
Paths as Polylines/Polygons: PDF doesn’t understand objects or their relationships. To compensate for this,, use our object recognition engine. It identifies lines and curves and renders them as shapes. Polylines are a connected sequence of lines and arcs that create a single object. Polygons are shapes with straight sides.
Layers: By default, all objects are on one layer. You can separate layers by color, line width, PDF layers, spot colors or a combination of color and line width.
Minimum line width: Defines the smallest line width for each vector object in mm. The default is 0.
Zero line width: Removes 3D effects
Dashed and Dotted lines as segments: PDF sees dashed and dotted lines as lots of individual lines. By selecting this feature, the lines will converted into whole lines with a pattern.
Fill option: Sometimes, white fills in a PDF file show up as black fills in a DXF file. If this is a problem, use this option to ignore white fills.
Advanced PDF Conversion Options

Advanced DXF and DWG Options

Recognize Circles/Ellipses: Our object recognition engine identifies closed polygons and circular paths. Convert them into circular and elliptical shapes.
Recognize Horizontal/Vertical Dashed Lines: Create one line object with a line-style attribute.
Error Tolerance: This is a tolerance level set for recognition of CAD objects. If one point on the closed polyline is outside of the specified range, it will remain a polyline.
Kerning Factor: This setting controls the space between letters or characters. Apply a kerning factor to make the space between characters wider or more narrow. A factor of 1.2 would increase the space by 120%, Important Note! A spacing problem may not be a kerning issue at all. It may be due to a font mismatch and is best solved through font mapping.
Compound Objects: A compound object is a group of objects that make up a discreet item. The object recognition engine identifies objects to group into compound objects. If you want all graphics to remain as singular objects, turn this off.
Convert Hidden Text Objects: PDF files can have transparent text or text hidden under an object. This PDF Conversion Options converts all text on the page, including hidden text.
Fit Drawing: This option scales the converted PDF to be fully visible on the page when opened in a CAD program.
Include AI Prologue File: Early Adobe Illustrator files (v8 or earlier) need an AI prologue file to convert. Only use this option if needed. Starting with Illustrator version 9, the AI file is PDF compatible.
Custom Line Styles: Map line styles in the PDF to custom line styles in the CAD file.
Use True Color: Uses RGB true color values in the CAD file. By default, files use an indexed 256-color table. 

expert options

Expert CAD Options

Password Protected PDF. If the PDF file you are converting has a password, enter it here.
First Page Number. When unchecked, the first converted page will be the same as the file name. For example, page one of myfile.pdf becomes myfile.dxf. Checking this option adds a numeric suffix. In our myfile.pdf example, the first page comes out as myfile-1.dxf (followed by myfile-2.dxf, etc.). 
Number of Digits. If you choose the ‘First Page Number’ option, enter the number of digits for the suffix. A value of 0 makes page 2 of myfile.dxf will come out as myfile-2.dxf; page 3 as myfile-3.dxf, etc. Setting this option to 4, will add a 4 digit suffix (myfile-0002.dxf). Using this feature ensures logical alphanumeric listings in document management systems.
Filename is directory. When checked the file destination is a new directory. The directory is the chosen output name with no file extension. The converted files save to this directory using only their page number.
Show image warning. Check this option if you want alerts when the input file (PDF, EPS or AI) contains images. Images appear in the CAD output as non-editable IMAGE objects.
Z-Order Image Objects. Z-Order refers to the order of overlapping objects. The order in the PDF file is the default. You can place images at the back or reversed at the back of the drawing. This is useful when PDF images are transparent since IMAGE objects in DWG or DXF are opaque. 
Convert cropped images to color lines. DWG and DXF don’t support image cropping. Using this option is useful with small cropped images. It converts them to color lines and crops them that way.
Ignore Image Objects Size Less Than. This option strips small image objects during conversion.

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Converting multiple files is also called batch mode and all of our products support it. To specify more than one file, use the “Add” button. Once you have specified your first files, you can remove files and add files until you have the batch of files together that you want to convert.

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WMF, or Windows Metafile, is the original 16-bit metafile format. It is the native vector graphics format for the Microsoft Windows platform. It is also the standard format for scalable graphics in Microsoft Office and many other Windows applications. Even though it has been enhanced and extended as a 32-bit format (EMF -Enhanced Metafile), WMF is still the most widely used and supported metafile format on the Windows platform.

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Several vector formats such as WMF, CGM, DXF and HPGL do not support cropping. This is the act of cutting away and discarding the unnecessary portions of the picture such as extraneous fills and other elements. PDF and PostScript, both very robust and complete formats, do support it. To bridge the gap, Visual Integrity has developed a proprietary method to simulate cropping. When applied during conversion, the resulting file will appear cropped just like the original.

To apply it, select the “Emulate PS/PDF cropping” feature in the General tab of the Options menu.

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The font glyphs of the 13 standard PostScript fonts are included.

If you need to convert to an image format or the text to curves/polys (= emulate) in a vector format either the font must be one of the 13 standard fonts or the font should be embedded within the PDF or PostScript file. Contact if you want to add font glyphs.

13 Standard PostScript fonts:

  • Courier (Regular, Oblique, Bold, Bold Oblique)
  • Helvetica (Regular, Oblique, Bold, Bold Oblique)
  • Times (Roman, Italic, Bold, Bold Italic)
  • Symbol

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