How to save AutoCAD as PDF

By Microsol Resources | CAD

PDF is one of the most commonly used file formats in the world and is utilized in a variety of jobs and industries. In this article, we will explore several different methods of converting Autodesk AutoCAD drawings and DWG files to PDF using both AutoCAD itself and alternative methods. We will also show you how to open and edit PDF files with AutoCAD.


Saving a Single AutoCAD Drawing as PDF

  1. Start by navigating to the Layout tab in AutoCAD. You can usually find it at the bottom-left part of the drawing area. From there, you can save a single AutoCAD drawing as a PDF file.


  1. Click on the Output tab that will appear at the top of the screen.


  1. At the very top and to the left, you will see the Plot button. Click it to continue.


  1. A new window will open, showing a variety of options and settings for the layout. Find the “Printer/Plotter” field and click on the “Name” drop-down. It contains a variety of PDF options to choose from, each suitable for a particular purpose. For example, if you want to export the AutoCAD file as a high-quality PDF, there is an option called “AutoCAD PDF (High Quality Print).pc3”. This is a great option to convert colorful PDFs.


  1. Once you select your preferred option, make sure to double-check the other available settings. Properties like orientation, plot area, plot scale, and paper size are automatically generated — make sure you do any necessary changes before finalizing the export. When you are ready, click the OK button at the bottom of the window.


  1. In the next window, you have to choose a location for the AutoCAD PDF file to be stored. You can also choose a name for it. Once you are ready, simply click the Save button to finalize the process. Your single-drawing AutoCAD PDF will be available in the folder you have chosen.


Saving Multiple AutoCAD Drawings to a Single or Multiple PDF Files

  1. In order to export multiple AutoCAD layouts to PDF, first you need to select them. Hold down the CTRL key and click on all layout tabs you want to be exported. If you do it like this, you will have the option of exporting those drawings either as separate PDFs or within one single PDF file.


  1. Once you have selected the layouts you want to export, right-click on the selection and click on “Publish Selected Layouts”. A new window will open, presenting a variety of options for publishing your drawings.


  1. Locate the “Publish to” drop-down at the top of the window. From the possible options, choose “PDF”.


  1. Just below the “Publish to” drop-down, you will see another drop-down called “PDF Preset”. It contains multiple options, each optimized for a particular purpose. Look through the choices and select the one that best fits your needs. For example, if you want your exported PDFs to be optimized to Web and mobile devices, choose the AutoCAD PDF (Web and Mobile).pc3 option.


  1. Now you need to determine whether you want your multiple layouts exported in a single PDF or as separate files. In order to do that, click on the “Publish Options” button on the right side of the window.


  1. In the “Publish Options” window, look for the “Multi-sheet file” checkbox. If you leave it checked, AutoCAD will export your selected layouts in one single PDF file. If you want to have individual PDFs for each layout, you have to leave the box unchecked.


  1. Once you are done, you have to double-check all other options in the window. AutoCAD will have several automatically generated properties, such as plot area, orientation, paper size, and plot scale. You need to go over all of them and make any necessary changes before you finish the export process. Click OK when you are ready.


  1. You will be back at the “Publish” window. From there, click the “Publish” button at the bottom of the window to complete the process.


  1. You will have to select a destination folder for your PDF files to be saved. Also, you will have to name them accordingly. After you do that, your AutoCAD PDF files will be available in the folder you have selected.


How to Convert an AutoCAD DWG File to PDF Using the Universal Document Converter

  1. Open your drawing in AutoCAD and click on the “Plot” button. This will open a new dialog box with plenty of options inside.


  1. From the “Printer/Plotter” drop-down, select “Universal Document Converter”. This handy tool, provided by AutoCAD itself, will allow you to convert your AutoCAD file to a PDF.


  1. Once you have selected “Universal Document Converter”, click on the “Properties” button right next to the drop-down. In the new window, select “Custom Properties” and choose “PDF document” in the “File Format” field. Click OK to exit this window.


  1. Back to the “Plot” window, locate the “What to plot” drop-down in the “Plot Area” section. From the available options, select “Extents.”


  1. In the “Plot Scale” field, make sure the “Fit to Paper” box is checked. Also, make sure the “Center the Plot” box under “Plot Offset” is also checked before continuing.


  1. Once you are ready, click on the OK button. You will be prompted to select a destination and name for your new AutoCAD PDF file. When you complete that, your file will be available in the selected folder.


How to Convert Multiple AutoCAD Drawings in a Single PDF Using the Universal Document Converter

  1. Open the project in AutoCAD and select the “Plot” button. In the dialog box that opens, select “Universal Document Converter” from the “Printer/Plotter” drop-down.


  1. Go to the “Device and Document Settings” tab and find the “Access Custom Dialog” section. Click the “Custom Properties” button to continue.


  1. Select “PDF document” as the destination file format. Make sure you find the paper size options and change them as you see fit.


  1. Find the “Multipage” drop-down and select “Append all documents to the existing file” from the available options. This will ensure that all drawings are included in a single PDF file upon export. Next, click the OK button.


  1. Choose a location for your PDF file and don’t forget to name it. Once ready, all the drawings in your project will be available in a single PDF document in your folder of choice.


How to Convert AutoCAD DWG to PDF Using an External Converter

There are numerous third-party tools that can convert DWG files to PDF. Doing a simple Google search will result in plenty of results — the majority of which are free to use. If you don’t have AutoCAD on your computer and need to convert DWG to PDF, such third-party solutions can be helpful. However, it is recommended that you only use the tools provided by Autodesk AutoCAD, as you will be eligible for support in case something goes wrong.


Also, keep in mind that using a third-party PDF converter means you have to upload your drawing file to a third-party server. You might want to avoid doing that in case your file contains sensitive or private information.


No matter the type of online DWG to PDF converter you are using, the process is more or less the same.


  1. Open the tool and click on the “Select File” or “Upload” button.


  1. In the dialog box that opens, locate the DWG file you want to convert to PDF and click “Open”.


  1. All third-party DWG to PDF converters come with their own set of options and preferences. Make sure you explore and tinker with them before finalizing the conversion. Any options regarding single-page or multiple-file PDFs will be available there as well.


  1. Once you are done, click the “Convert” button. Keep in mind that the process can take a while, depending on the third-party tool you are using.


  1. Once the conversion is ready, you have to download your PDF file via the provided button. Choose a name and location for it and the process is complete.


How to Convert AutoCAD DXF to PDF

As an alternative to the standard DWG files, AutoCAD also supports Drawing eXchange Format (DXF) files. Such files are much simpler and contain less data than DWGs. Usually, they only have basic properties such as text, dimensions, and line work. While DWG files are generally the most commonly used, sometimes you have to work with DXF files.


All the methods for saving and converting AutoCAD files we have detailed in this article work for DXF files, as well.


Can AutoCAD use PDF?

AutoCAD can open and edit files with a wide variety of extensions, including non-native CAD drawings. Ever since AutoCAD 2017, the program also supported working with PDF files. Of course, in the best-case scenario, the PDF file you will open with AutoCAD is generated by one of the methods explained above. You can only really work with PDF files generated by CAD software — otherwise, you might run into some problems.


Here is how you can open a PDF file with AutoCAD (provided you are using AutoCAD 2017 or a newer version):


  1. Start AutoCAD and open a new or already existing drawing file.


  1. Find the “Application” menu, click on it, and select “Import”. A variety of options will appear — choose “PDF”.


  1. A dialog box will appear, allowing you to browse your computer’s files and locate the PDF you want to open. Once you have selected it, click the Open button.


  1. The “Import PDF” dialog box will pop up, showing you a preview of your PDF and a variety of options. Usually, going with the defaults is recommended — however, make sure you check them out and make changes as necessary.


  1. Clicking Okay will import your PDF in AutoCAD, making it available for editing.

INDUSTRIES: Architecture, Buildings, Civil Engineering, Civil Infrastructure, Construction, Manufacturing, MEP Engineering, Structural Engineering

Published on March 23, 2022 in CAD.

About the Author

Microsol Resources delivers integrated solutions that help customers design, simulate and analyze their ideas, increase operational efficiencies, and maximize their return on investment in their technology solutions. As a team, we are passionate about helping customers improve their productivity and overall business processes. How can we help? Just reach out.