Convert PDFs to AutoCAD DWG Files Using External Reference Method

In the previous article, we saw how to use web tools to convert PDFs to AutoCAD DWG Files. I believe you learn a lot from there. In this article, you will learn how to convert the same PDFs to DWG file, but using the External Reference method.

If you are a user of AutoCAD, you should know by now that it is possible to import images and PDFs into AutoCAD drawing area. I have been doing it, and will still be doing it.

There are several reasons why you may want to convert PDFs to AutoCAD DWG file. I have already stated some of them in the previous articles. You can go there to read it again or read it HERE.


  • You should have already saved PDF file to be attached into AutoCAD drawing.
  • Be familiar with the basics of AutoCAD and how to use some tools.
  • Be ready to learn.
  • Have a working PC to practice.

Having seen those requirements, let us begin.


How to Convert PDFs to AutoCAD DWG Files Using External Reference



I will be using a practical example in this case. The File has been saved in PDF, and what I want to do is to Convert to DWG file, Edit some elements, and reconvert it back to PDF.



To attach the PDF file to AutoCAD Drawig Area,

  • Click on Insert tab and on the reference panel, locate and click on Attach


  • A Select Reference Dialog box appears which prompts that you select the PDF file you want to work with.
  • Click on Open when you are done.

  • An Attach PDF Underlay Dialog box Pops up. NOTE: You will have to save your drawing before you begin.
  • By default, if your document was already saved, you should see the Path type as Relative Path. Note that if you selected multiple PDFs, it will display on the Attach PDF Underlay Dialog Box also.

convert PDFs to AutoCAD DWG Files


  • Select Specify on screen as the insertion point and click on Ok.
  • Click on the PDF underlay Boundary (the boundary around the attached PDF) to enable you see the PDF Underlay properties. This way you can work more with the attached files.


convert PDFs to AutoCAD DWG Files

  • The panels we have here are the Adjust, Clipping, Options, PDF Layers, and PDF Import.
  • On the Options panel, make sure that the Enable Snaps command is enabled.
  • If there are layers you want to turn off, you can use the Edit Layers command on the PDF Layers panel. In the file I am working on, there are not layers, so they are empty.


But we actually want to import it and turn it to a native DWG file. To achieve that, simply:

  • Click on Import as Object on the PDF Import panel.
  • Select the whole boundary of the object.
  • On the Command Bar, you will see three options, Keep, Detach and Unload. Click on unload.

convert PDFs to AutoCAD DWG Files

  • Wait for AutoCAD to convert the whole file to AutoCAD elements.
  • Your PDF has been converted to DWG File.


You can go ahead to edit all the elements, create layers, dimensions,edit blocks, etc. You can later on save it and convert it back to PDF.


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