What is the best way to convert a file from freehand to Illustrator CS6?

I tried different methods:

  • Illustrator 7: Go to an old computer open the freehand file and export as Illustrator 7. Then go to the new computer open Illustrator CS6 and open the Illustrator 7 file. It works but things are moved and I need hours to put everything in order.

  • Illustrator CS4 or Illustrator CS5: Go to the old computer, open Illustrator CS4 or CS5. Go to file > open and go to the Freehand file. I can open the Freehand but everything are moved.

  • EPS: Go to the old computer open the freehand file and export as .eps. Everything is in place but the colors change. Even when the colors are in the same Pantone number, the perception in the screen is really different. I do not understand why?

  • PDF: Go to the old computer open the freehand file and export as .pdf. Then open the .pdf with Illustrator CS6. Everything is in place the colors in the screen are the same but I loose the information of the number of Pantone of each color.

I need hours to restore-update old files.

Do you know any better method or a way to solve the problems of the commented methods?

  • 2
    Do you have Illustrator CS5 (v15)? That will open Freehand files. It's only CS6+ which killed the Freehand migration.
    – Scott
    Commented Oct 21, 2013 at 16:43
  • This is a comment since I don't have a solution, but I am playing to the strengths of the examples offered. Open up the freehand doc, export to AI7 and PDF. Open the PDF, import color swatches from AI7.
    – horatio
    Commented Oct 22, 2013 at 18:16
  • The pdf method seems the best. But I need a lot of time to give each object its Pantone. And there is the risk of mistakes as there are so many things!
    – Nrc
    Commented Oct 23, 2013 at 11:47
  • 1
    The Pantone colours shifting in their previews is a minor thing and which can be adjusted or not --- it won't affect final output w/ spot colours.
    – WillAdams
    Commented Oct 23, 2013 at 12:58
  • Not sure if you know this, but the fastest way to get objects with the same color (instead of choosing each one individually) is to select one, then head to Select > Same > [one of the options] (see cl.ly/TBcI). That would save you some time with the PDF option.
    – A Herrera
    Commented Jan 3, 2014 at 17:50

2 Answers 2


A bulk solution to at least get things converted.

If you have access to Illustrator CS4 (it may also work in later versions), you can try this script.

Unfortunately, there is nothing I'm aware of that will work perfectly in all cases. You're going to have to double-check the final files.

Keep an archive of original and converted versions. The Freehand community is quite large and passionate about their software. You might be surprised what solutions appear in the future.

  • Illustrator CS5 will also work. It's just CS6+ that doesn't.
    – Scott
    Commented Apr 1, 2014 at 18:58

The best way to convert a FreeHand file to Illustrator CS6 & CC-2014 is using the FreeHand Interface Plugin from Tensai. I use it and the conversions are very good.

You must have a copy of AI-CS 3,4,or 5 installed but this can be a trial version (even if it is expired.) It doesn't do batch processing but I understand the developer is working on that. Cost is about $50 and well worth it especially if you have a backlog of FH-files (like me.)

PS: The new Affinity Designer vector app will convert/open FreeHand files as well.

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