I want to open a dxf file in Illustrator. The dxf file can be found here. It is important for me to keep the scale, so no changes in the size. I use Illustrator 2017. When I load the dxf I get an options-popup:

enter image description here

I can select keep original size, scale to drawing size, scale and other options. My problem now is: It only works when I select "scale to drawing size". Then it opens and displays something. When I click keep original size it does not work. I played around with the options (select mm), but it simply does not work, the file is openend however a blank page is shown.

So when I choose scale to drawing size I get an output:

enter image description here

When I choose Original size (no matter what I specify for units) I get an blank output (also when I zoom out nothing appears):

Blank Output

Where is the problem? How can I open it keeping the original size?

  • 1
    Is it possible for the DXF file to be saved as a PDF prior to opening in AI? That is usually how I receive files created in Autocad and it works fine.
    – ispaany
    Commented Jul 17, 2017 at 14:34
  • I am not using AutoCad, but delftship, there I can only export to DXF and not PDF, unfortunately. Commented Jul 17, 2017 at 17:10
  • I now tried to save the file in AutoCad as pdf, however it says "no plotable plans found". There is no pdf created? Furhtermore I also tried to select a section and save this special section to a dwg. This works, however again I have the problem when loading from Illustrator that I cannot open it in original size. Only scaled to drawing section and this time it really looks as it has a different size. So AutoCad creates even more problems for me. Commented Jul 17, 2017 at 17:23
  • @StatTistician CAD software have a separate concept for paper space and model space, So in auto cad you need to make a paper space view of your model for it to make PDF files. This way you never need to scale things for paper you would always design in 1 unit is one whatever it is in reality and all scale models are just views of this real deal scaled to suit your need.
    – joojaa
    Commented Jul 17, 2017 at 18:18

3 Answers 3


In his other question of his DXF problems the questioner provided his original DelftShip (=DS) model from where his DXF was exported. The model was in a comment after my answer. Opening the model in a demo version of DS revealed that his boat is nearly 900 meters long. That's not a realistic length. The questioner obviously thought that it's a missing setting or wrong mode selection in reading the DXF in Adobe Illustrator.

DXF exports from DS are unitless. So the exported boat normally is interpreted to be 900 millimeters (actually 899,991 mm) long in CAD programs which handle millimeters. It's the same in Illustrator. The problematic DXF had been exported in millimeters. That option multiplies all coordinates by 1000, so Illustrator thought it 900 meters long. It fitted to Illustrator when scaled down by selecting 1 unit = 0,001 millimeters.

What is the idea to draw a 900 m long boat, which in reality might be only 10...12 meters long? It's not a result of accepting the defaults. I quess the design is only a concept. Its zero thickness materials suggest it. In addition it's easy to talk about it when all position coordinates are handy integers and still accurate enough.

In DS the boat can be scaled (=Tools > Transform > Scale) to any practical size. Only remember to select all (=Ctrl+ A) before it, deselect with Esc.

The section curve placements can be set freely in the Tools > Intersections dialog.

How to make measurements in DS? One can easily point with cursor any detail in the model. The coordinates are visible all the time. The accuracy is only the screen accuracy and the result is acceptable only as 2D data. A perpendicular viewing projection is a must if one wants to be sure what he actually has pointed.

By selecting Home > Hull Display > Control Net one can make exact measurements. Those control points which are marked as corner points, are actual surface points with exact coordinates. Other control points are only theoretical quides for the curved surface.

There are red lines which are marked as edge lines. When one or several edge lines are selected, their added lenght is visible at the bottom of the screen. If the edge is between 2 corner points, its lenght is a real measure of the surface edge.

enter image description here

Here is one corner point and an edge (=yellow) selected. The coordinates of the point are in the dialog as well as "it's a corner point". The length of an edge (145,01 meters) is at he bottom of the screen.

In DS the section curves are only for visualization. They cannot be measured exactly in DS. But they are exact and measurable in the exported DXF.

  • Thank you so much for your help! I am not sure if this allowed your want it or not. But if you want we can exchange e-mails and I would like to send you an amazon voucher. Also you seem to be really good at it and I am quite sure with my own project there will be new questions, about all this CAD, Illustrator dxf, DS.... Commented Jul 21, 2017 at 10:16
  • @StatTistician Thanks, but no money wanted! We make answers to interesting subjects for free. Also before answering we like to see that the questioner has already tried something himself. Upvote is the prize. You can any time open a chat and call me to it, if you have something else interesting.
    – user82991
    Commented Jul 21, 2017 at 10:42
  • Thanks a lot! How can I open a chat later and then call you to it? When I just try to open your profile and add "chat" before it: chat.stackexchange.com/users/82991/user287001 it changes to user Thijser? Commented Jul 21, 2017 at 10:50
  • Once again a big thanks for your help, however I now I have a new problem, connected to this issue. I opened a new question for this: graphicdesign.stackexchange.com/questions/96149/… Do you have any idea how to solve this problem? Commented Aug 5, 2017 at 15:39

Your DXF has no units. It's coordinates are interpreted to be millimeters if you have selected millimeters to be used in Ai. Probably the original cad program which has outputted your DXF knows a hidden place where to read the units from, but Ai knows nothing about it. This way the cad program manufacturer tries to keep some advantage against the rivals. I am sure that most cad programs do not find the right scaling of your DXF. I tried a couple and both failed altough opened the file. I do not have Autocad nor anything else from Autodesk.

If you still want to use Ai

  • open the DXF with sufficient scaling; try one unit to equal 0,001 millimeters or 0,0001 millimeters.
  • select all
  • Object > Transform > Scale xxxx % uniformly.

The scaling factor xxx is 100 * (a known length / how Ai shows the known length)

To check the Ai size of a known object select it. You can see its width and height in the Info panel and in the Control panel.

  • 1
    Yes it is defined as unitless. It might not actually have had units in the original software, just a assumption of units (it happens that people do not configure their cad properly. That is often a specialist task done by one person managing the CAD system, not all companies have top notch cad operators).
    – joojaa
    Commented Jul 17, 2017 at 18:26
  • Mh ok, that could be a reason, that I exported the file and did not set the size properly before in the Cad. Commented Jul 18, 2017 at 8:15

It is not possible to make documents that are bigger than ~578 cm (227 inches) wide in illustrator. If this boat is in real scale then that would be the reason; You can not do it. This limit can not be circumvented, you just have to work in scale.

Looking at your previous question one has to wonder why you would bother to use Illustrator at all? Its not the tool for this job.

  • Thanks for your comment, however the original size is way smaller. The original files are for a model with 30 times 60 cm. So this can't be the reason. I use Illustrator since the files were done this way and I wanted to replicate this to be able to do this with my own design. So I would like to know how this was done and this is important for me. Besides this, what tool would you suggest? Commented Jul 17, 2017 at 14:12
  • @StatTistician DXF has a notion of model space which is differeng from drawing space so even if you scale the drawing the model is in real size. So be sure to test the options in layout dropdown too.
    – joojaa
    Commented Jul 17, 2017 at 14:15
  • @StatTistician As for what other tool. Any CAD tool should be fine. But you could try autocad.
    – joojaa
    Commented Jul 17, 2017 at 14:16
  • What I am not getting is that this works for other persons? So it is possible to do this and it must be something with my settings or so? But thanks for the AutoCad hint, however this is not a solution, since I don't know how to isolate the sections in AutoCad. In Illustrator I have the idea how to do it. Commented Jul 17, 2017 at 17:11
  • I now checked AutoCad: I tried to save it as a dwg (2000 version) and open it from Illustrator. Same problem again, I am asked about the options and if I choose original size a blank page opens. So AutoCad creates even more problems for me. Commented Jul 17, 2017 at 17:24

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