Adobe Illustrator to SolidWorks

This seems like a pretty popular route that could be of use. This is a repost from Solidsmack.

Illustrator to SolidWorks Quick Tips

Install Illustrator
Ha! you’re joking right? Nope. To bring an Adobe Illustrator File into SolidWorks, you need to have Illustrator CS3 or newer installed. You can get a Trial version here. Yeah for you.

Paths only or DIE
Not die for real, but die from picking and deleting line you wish were not there. Make sure the .AI file you import only contains the paths (line art) you need and you’ll be much happier. What if it contains fills, shading, and a bunch of other mess?

Pick your Paths
… and your friends, but not your friends paths, or their nose. For graphics with fills or an over abundance of lines, in SolidWorks zoom in on the paths (splines) you need. Right-click and hit Select Chain to select only the splines you need, then copy and paste them into a new sketch. Delete the other sketch after you’re done.

Kill the Excess
After import, thin lines in the sketch may mean there are lines on top of each other. If you plan on using the imported paths, you’ll want to clean up the lines. Really, if it’s a large piece of artwork, it’s going to be easier to snort your nasal spray and…

Trace the Paths
You’re rocking along now, but those imported paths are way too complex. Start a new sketch and use the imported paths to create simple lines, arcs or splines in SolidWorks. Not ideal, but can really save some load time and the time of getting the imported lines cleaned up.

Illustrator Paths For SolidWorks Surfaces?
I’ve had a bit of luck using paths from Illustrator to produce smooth Curvature Continuous surfaces. It’s a little hit and miss and while you may be limited to an import from Illustrator, you’ll have more capabilities after you bring those paths into SolidWorks. Amazing as it may sound, the Spline (Path) tools in SolidWorks are much easier to manipulate.

I’m so not the surfacing wiz in SolidWorks though, so if anyone has used Illustrator to aid in the creation of surface models, throw down some tipage in the comments, and I’ll have a wild sea otter visit you with some bonus points. That’s a lie, I’ve never met a sea otter I liked.

And I’ll repost my comment from Solidsmack:

So you’re telling me that the best way to get Illustrator artwork into Solidworks is to drop it in and trace it! Why have compatibility at all?!? That’s total BS! Solidworks and Adobe need to get together to work out a direct import function. Something that leaves illustrator clean as a whistle, only to get dropped into SW as junk does no one any good. (Specifically I’m talking about vector text here) I’ve mentioned this to SW people before, but it really needs to be done. It would save me weeks of frustration over the course of a year.

And I stand by it.

are the problems on all curves, even if they are simple shapes/paths? is this opening AI files? have you tried DXF or DWG?

pretty sure that this could be more on the Adobe side. they are using bezier curves. one problem that i often see is when you are making paths and you double click on the bezier curve at the end to make it sharp, it actually is making a “multiknot” condition by placing several points on top of itself. No big deal for an illustration, but for CAD programs… that often is considered a bad thing. Hence, SWX might be trying to re-interpret the curves in usable form. not sure.

i have seen gold and junk coming from Illustrator into Alias.
DXF works best for Alias, but not perfect. they come in as 3 degree curves if they are just curvy(technical term) paths. seems like SWX would be the same.

What SW (or Adobe for that matter) needs is a rock solid Bezier to DXF Arcs/Lines converter. They are out there and they’re evidently very simple to write. That would make things much much better when importing, and there would be no need to re-draw anything.

The only way I know of to take Illustrator lines into Solidworks is via Rhino. Rhino imports linework super-clean. Extrude the curves and export as iges. If Illustrator exported iges curves that might alleviate some of these issues. I concur with the observation that Solidworks curve treatment sucks.

I haven’t tried this, but will tomorrow.

I’ve used some AI linework as part of a projected curve which was then used as a guide curve and been ok. However, I inevitably need to modify that spline and the AI line becomes little more than a guide.

I bring my AI linework in via DXF. I make sure the the AI file I’m exporting to DXF has a) no fills and b) black strokes set to 0.25pt. I know people who believe that, in addition, all of this linework should be UNgrouped prior to exporting. However, for the work I do, I leave my orthographics grouped in AI so that they import to SW as blocks, which for my purposes act just like groups do in AI. This just saves me the work of ungrouping in AI and then creating blocks in SW.

Be careful when opening the DXF file in SW that on the third step/screen of the open/import dialog box (at the top left) that your units are set to the same as those in AI or else it will scale your linework incorrectly.


We have been well aware of the issues that we’ve had with AI into SW since we introducted it in SW2006. When we implemented it we were using a custom designed importer. We have found some quality issues since then and for SW2010 we decided to rewrite the importer to significantly improve the quality and eliminate these issues. I would incourage you to give it a try. The one change that we needed to make to insure quality is that you must have AI installed on the same machine as the AI file you’re importing to SW. No, this is not a marketing decision but rather a technical issue to insure robustness of the import. We did research on our existing users and a majority of them had both AI and SW. I realize that there are some that don’t and I apologize for that, but we had to implement it this way to make in useful.

So, if you have SW2010 and AI, please give it a try and let me know if you are satisfed with the results.



Just tried a bunch of random curved shapes, as well as boxes. Closed shapes, open splines, fill, no fill, stroke, no stroke… Everything imported easily into a sketch with simple drag-and-drop. Splines only broken up at the illustrator curve points. Too bad the splines aren’t edible with handles, but I suppose the whole point is to have it done in AI. Good job.

If you right-click on your spline and say “Simplify Spline” you can generate edit points with handles back on, just go as low as you can without the shape drastically changing. You will see a nice preview when it does.

Make sure to also right-click on the same spline afterwards and “Show Curvature Combs” to ensure the spline is still internally smooth everywhere.

While I have had somewhat moderate success with “Fit Spline” for other uses, the “Simplify Spline” tends to work out quite nicely :slight_smile:

Thanks for the update Mark. I haven’t gotten my 2010 copy yet, but when I do I’ll give this a shot. Thanks for listening to your customers!

Ditto from here: Thanks for the response and the info, Mark – it’s great to see D’Assault engaging the design community like this.

If anyone else on this thread does start messing around with AI curve importation, do us a favor and let us know how it goes (I’m still on SW2009 or I’d do it myself…).