Paper to CAD Conversions

“Paper to cad” is a shorthand phrase that refers to the act of converting a set of paper drawings into CAD format. The focus of this article will be an introductory level explanation of the topic.

Setting the Stage

The occasion often arises where paper drawings need to be converted into AutoCAD format. There could be a number of reasons for this need. It could be to reuse the drawings for a new purpose, to store the drawings compactly, or etc.

Notably, there are a number of shorthand phrases that are synonymous with the phrase “paper to cad”. Some of those phrases are: cad conversion, drawing to cad, scan to cad, scan to vector, vectorization, and vectorize.

What type of drawings are we talking about?

Within the AEC industry, drawing types could range from being Architectural, Civil, Electrical, HVAC, Structural, or etc. The content of the drawings does not impact the paper to cad conversion process.

What is “CAD” ?

Strictly speaking CAD is an acronym for Computer Aided Design or Computer Aided Drafting. However, the term CAD does have a few other meanings too, depending on the context in which it is used. For instance, CAD is also used as a word meaning “computer drawing software”. This can be illustrated when used in the question, “Do you know CAD?”

In the context of paper to cad work, CAD is used as a word meaning: drawings that are in the format of some conventional computer drafting program. AutoCAD, Microstation, and Vectorworks are three examples of conventional computer drafting programs.

What is “paper” ?

Paper refers to a set of drawings that are in paper format. Long ago drawings only came in paper format, but nowadays drawings can come in paper or CAD format. In fact, most of the paper drawings created today are printouts of CAD format drawings.

Paper format is often referred to as “hard” format, while drawings in CAD format are referred to as “electronic” format.

How is paper to cad done?

There are two different methods to get a set of paper drawings into CAD format. The first is by manually redrafting the paper drawings. This method could be done by a CAD Operator in one of two different ways. First he could read off the information from the paper sheets and draft it in a CAD program. Or secondly he could scan the paper drawings into image format, import the images into his CAD program, and then trace over the images.

The alternate conversion method is by scanning the paper drawings into image format, and then using raster to vector conversion software to convert the image files into CAD format.

The second conversion method is not purely automated, as one might think it would be. The high end conversion software that I’m aware of requires performing conversions in steps, so as to distinguish between different items on a given sheet (e.g. The structure from the annotations, or etc.).

I’d also like to note that not all conversion software is created equal. For example, I’ve worked with conversion software that merely leaves behind useless point clouds, instead of editable CAD entities.

What if I have image files of drawings, instead of paper drawings?

Sometimes clients come to me and they do not have paper format drawings, but rather they only have drawings in image format. In these instances the scanning step mentioned in the conversion methods above is obviously not required. Hence, the conversion process becomes one step less.

Also, since paper drawings are not involved in the conversion process, there are a number of shorthand phrases used in lieu of the phrase “paper to cad”. Some of those phrases are: gif to cad, jpeg to cad, pdf to cad, pdf to dwg, raster to cad, raster to vector and tiff to cad

In Closing

In closing, paper drawings are “hard” format, whereas CAD drawings are “electronic” format. The words “paper” and “CAD” thus speak of different formats. Therefore, the term paper to cad simply speaks of the conversion from one format to another format.


About Brian M. Curran

I'm Brian M. Curran and I run a drafting services business in NYC. My aim is to create quality drawings, and to be entrusted with important projects. For some project on-site videos, please visit my Google profile.
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