Sometimes, flipping back and forth between a PDF or AutoCAD drawing is enough to make you start humming loudly and spinning in tight circles. That’s ok… when you don’t have to get a drawing out, but when you need to get some concepts going or figure out how things fit together, you can use some good ol’ images to speed up the process.

Here’s some super quick tips to get your from a PDF to a Solid and a method that’s sure to make it more fun.

I use to spend hours taking measurement off another CAD drawing or trying to infer some scale from a sheet. Now, the first thing I do is scan or convert a file to PDF, then to a JPG image. Here’s the process I go through that keeps me from going insane.

Save the PDF as a JPG
You need full-blown Acrobat to do this. If you don’t have it go to for a quick file conversion.

Use Sketch Picture
The Sketch Picture command is located in Tool, Sketch Tools near the bottom. You can only bring this into parts. Start a part and bring in that cool .jpg image you created.

Add Picture to an assembly
After you shout triumphantly, save the part with the picture in it and drop the part into an assembly. I do this because I can add as many parts as I want to the assembly.

Scale picture and make transparent
Double-click on the picture to edit it. Scale it by grabbing the corners and adjust the transparency in the Property Manager so you can see your sketches better.

Draw Reference Sketches
Draw some simple sketches on top of the picture to use as reference for other parts.

Insert Parts for the pieces
Insert a part for each assembly you want to represent in the layout. You may also prefer to use one part. In this case, you can keep each items separate by unchecking Merge Results in the Property Manager.

What’s nice about this is that the parts can be as simple or as complicated as you like. If you’re having trouble figuring out where to start, try this out.

Are there more?
I’m sure there are tips you have for using pictures to create models. Are there more than these measly few?


Josh is founder and editor at, founder at Aimsift Inc., and co-founder of EvD Media. He is involved in engineering, design, visualization, the technology making it happen, and the content developed around it. He is a SolidWorks Certified Professional and excels at falling awkwardly.