Converting an AutoCad DXF to work in SketchUp



Hey there,
I work for a fabrication and welding company as their office manager. My boss wants me to use sketchup to come up with 3D examples of railings, fencing, awnings, etc for customers. Most railings and fences have detailed panels inside. These panels are viewed, and ordered through our steel mill catalogs.
I downloaded ImgCAD to convert these files into DXF formats. That’s great, but when it comes time to upload that DXF into sketchup, the image comes out faded, blurry, and pretty much unworkable. I am unable to take that image and push/pull, rotate accordingly, color it, etc. Please help me figure this out! The scanner I have is fine, and is clean. No marks on the glass, and the catalog that I use is brand new. No creases, or bends in any pages. Ive tried watching a few tutorials, and follow step by step instructions, but to no avail. Someone help me with this issue! My next pay increase literally rests on this one task. Thanks in advance!


Do a forum search on “image tracing”.

BTW, the SketchUp Make edition cannot be used for commercial work. (Re-read the license.)


Thank you for the tip. I know that it is not meant for commercial use. I am just trying to self teach myself the program before I buy the Pro edition. I will check out that search. Hopefully it brings me to what I am looking for


SU make , “free version” does not have a dxf import capability. However , the pro version does and usually when you start using SU you get a free trial version of PRO and then it reverts to make after that period depending what version you downloaded to start with so, for your case it sounds like the trial period has expired or you downloaded the wrog version. When you scan you get a raster image. I get the sense you want to build the items in house vs ordering from the vendor. Those may be copy righted?/ If you want to show a customer how the item my look at installation you could possibly do a photo match but then you will still have to order from supplier.
Can you explain a little more what the plan is. All my not be lost but need to understand plans.


It is going to be preferable to draw the panels in SketchUp instead of trying to convert a raster image to a .dxf file. It does depend on just how detailed you are talking about though. Can you post an example image of the panel or the result you are after?


Thank you for taking the time to respond to my dilemma. I downloaded a program called “imgcad” that converts images from jpeg, and other image related formats into DXF. After that, I then go to Import the DXF file into SU. Depending on the size of the piece I am trying to use, sometimes it takes a while to make the “faces” but it never comes out clean. Its very pixelized and often fuzzy, with lines missing. I try to clean it up and freelance connecting lines. This is way to time consuming and I never get it right.
We order all our materials from outside vendors, and fabricate it to spec.
My objective is to take a wrought iron “panel” or design a customer has picked out during their initial estimate appointment, toss it into SU and create the fence/railing, etc for not just the customer to see, but to give me workshop an idea of what they’re supposed to be fabricating.
Unfortunately, my drawing skills are terrible, so drawing or tracing is not a very good option for me. I have found a few things on the 3D Warehouse I am able to use, but not all designs or panels are available there. I apologize if I seem vague, or unexplainable.
At this time, I do not have any examples of what I am referring to, as I am super busy with other tasks at work at the present time. Once again, thank you very much for answering me. Its great to see that I can find some answers to any questions I may have. I look forward to hearing from you again.



This is unfortunate because …

… it is obvious that this task is beyond your abilities.

The smartest thing you could do, is not waste your employers time (which is money,) and freelance this project out to someone who already has the experience and skills to get the job done in less time, (costing less money,) than would be if you waste a bunch of company time trying to learn how to do this.

Keep in mind, that if you did attempt to do this task yourself, the company also looses all the productivity of what you DO know how to do, and normally do,… which you wouldn’t be actually doing whilst wasting time trying to do something that should be “farmed out.”


My experience of automatic raster to vector conversion has learnt me that it is not worth the trouble. The time spent cleaning up and correcting the results is at least the same as drawing or modelling the thing from scratch, and much more irritating.
Were your original product fabrication drawings hand drawn? If not, there might be a way to bring those into SketchUp directly from the original files, with a much cleaner and more accurate framework to model from.



If my “next pay increase literally rests on this one task” for something I have zero training in, I would tell my boss to pound sand. At the very least to loosen the purse strings and either enroll you in some training or hire a CAD tech (it’s what we are trained for). But I get it, I’ve been in your shoes, we do what we can with the tools we have…

First off, you can clean your scanner till the cows come home, it won’t matter. You are bringing a raster image into a vector program - the only thing that will make it clearer is to increase the resolution at which the image is scanned. Similarly, converting to DXF will have no effect as the base data was raster. The only way I know to convert is (as Dan mentioned) is to ‘trace’ the image using software. Inkscape does this (with limited success) but does not have a ‘centerline trace’ option. I’ve used CorelTrace to do this but the results were less than optimal.

One option is to do what Sketchup does with its materials and apply the image as a material (either tileable or to fit). If you are able to ‘tile’ your panels it will allow you to use higher res images while keeping the file size down. Model a cube and apply materials and you will see what I mean. When you zoom in you will see the pixelation that comes with a raster image.

Another, more preferable, option is to model the actual panels. (I’m with Jim on this one). Depending on the complexity of the panels it will probably be quicker to do so in the end. You could also reach out to your suppliers to see if they already have available models. If the goal is to also provide shop drawings then modeling is the way to go as it will identify your assembly dimensions accurately.


jmanqbq8: There is a plugin you can use to make many different types for curves and it is specifically targeted at wrought iron types of things=> search for curve maker ( plugin in ) or draw metal ( company). However,you still have the issue of using the free version commercially. Think it is time to have a set down talk with you Boss.
You IMGCAD includes a conversion to dxf to PDF, You can open that in GIMP, it has several edge detction algorithms and covert that to jpeg,TIF, PNG, etc then import into SU and use that for basis of tracing. The results you get will depend on the anti aliasing, I’'ve used in the past some good other bad results jpeg not the one to select probably

Good luck