How to import Adobe PDF files in Illustrator

Adobe Portable Document Format (PDF) is a versatile file format that can represent both vector and bitmap data. You can bring artwork from PDF files into Illustrator using the Open command, the Place command, the Paste command, and the drag-and-drop feature.

  • Starting from the March 2018 release of Illustrator CC (version 22.1), use the Open command to import a PDF file into Illustrator. Use the PDF Import Options dialog box to specify if you want to open a single page, a range of pages, or all pages of the PDF file as linked or embedded pages in the Illustrator document.
  • Use the Place command with the Link option selected to import a PDF file (or one page of the PDF if it is a multi-page document) as a single image. You can modify the linked image using transformation tools; however, you cannot select and edit its individual components.
  • Use the Place command with the Link option deselected to edit the contents of a PDF file. Illustrator recognizes the individual components in the PDF artwork and lets you edit each component as a discrete object.
  • Use the Paste command or the drag-and-drop feature to import selected components from a PDF file, including vector objects, bitmap images, and text.

Note: If you are color-managing artwork in a document, embedded PDF images are part of the document and therefore color-managed when sent to a printing device. In contrast, linked PDF images are not color-managed, even if color management is turned on for the rest of the document.

Import an Adobe PDF file

Introduced in the March 2018 release of Illustrator CC

When you open an Adobe PDF file in Illustrator using the File > Open command, you specify which pages you want to import. You can open a single page, a range of pages, or all pages. The page range options appear in the PDF Import Options dialog box. You can view a thumbnail of a page in this dialog box before you import them.

PDF Import Options dialog box

A. Preview a page B. Specify a page number to view its thumbnail C. Import a range of pages D. Import all pages E. Import as a linked file 
  1. In Illustrator, choose File > Open.

  2. In the Open dialog box, select the PDF file, and click Open.

  3. In the PDF Import Options dialog box, do one of the following:

    • To open specific pages, choose Range and then, specify the page numbers.
    • To open the entire document, choose All.


    When you import a linked or multi-page PDF, you create a new document. When you import an embedded, single-page PDF, you can either update the original PDF using the Save command or create a new document using the Save As command.

  4. To open the pages of your PDF file as links, check the Import PDF Pages As Links For Optimal Performance check box.


    • If you choose All to import the entire PDF document, this check box is selected by default and Illustrator open the pages as links.
    • If you specify a range of pages that you want to import, this checkbox is deselected by default and Illustrator embeds the pages in the document.

  5. Click OK to continue.


    When you open a multi-page PDF that exceeds the canvas size, Illustrator displays the following error message: Could not open the complete PDF file, because it exceeds the available drawing area.

    You can click OK to continue.

Adobe PDF placement options

When you place an Adobe PDF file using the File > Place command, you specify which page you want to import. You also choose how to crop the artwork by selecting a Crop To option:

Bounding Box

Places the PDF page’s bounding box, or the minimum area that encloses the objects on the page, including page marks.


Places the PDF only in the area defined by a rectangle that the author created as placeable artwork (for example, clip art).


Places the PDF only in the area that is displayed or printed by Adobe Acrobat.


Identifies the place where the final produced page will be physically cut in the production process, if trim marks are present.


Places only the area that represents where all page content should be clipped, if a bleed area is present. This information is useful if the page is being output in a production environment. Note that the printed page may include page marks that fall outside the bleed area.


Places the area that represents the physical paper size of the original PDF document (for example, the dimensions of an A4 sheet of paper), including page marks.

Import monotone, duotone, and tritone images from Adobe PDF files

When you import artwork from an Adobe PDF file, it’s possible to introduce data that you can’t create within Illustrator. This is called non-native art and includes monotone, duotone, and tritone images. You can also generate non-native art within Illustrator by using the Flatten Transparency command to preserve spot colors.


Illustrator’s ability to preserve non-native art is useful in many situations. For example, Illustrator maintains the spot color information in linked PDF files when you output color separations.

By default, non-native art is labeled <Non-Native Art> in the Layers and Appearance panels. You can select, move, save, and perform basic transformations (such as scaling, rotating, or skewing) on non-native art. However, you cannot select and edit its individual components. In addition, you must rasterize non-native art before editing it with the liquify tools.

To convert non-native art to an Illustrator object, choose Object > Rasterize.