Please forgive me as I'm new to GIS and all this might be a silly question, the wrong place for this question, or a hack way of going about what I'm getting at. So any suggestions on better practice is greatly welcome. This might not be a GIS question entirely, but I've been trouble shooting this for a bit and thought the expertise of this form would be worth a shot.

I'm trying to make vectors from QGIS editable in something like Illustrator. So, I'm currently taking elevation contours I created from a .dem and saving them into a .pdf from the print window, as to make them editable in some design software. The .pdf appears as expected, but when I bring it into Illustrator from there I lose large swaths of some elevations.

I'm going to give ArcGIS a shot to see if its something crooked in the .pdf export, but I would rather stay with a QGIS or GDAL solution, as open is better.

Thats roughly it, so thanks in advance for any help.

  • So it sounds like you are really losing your contours in the conversion from PDF to Illustrator, not during the conversion from QGIS to PDF, correct? Commented May 25, 2012 at 18:49
  • Correct, I've only run into this problem reliably out of QGIS so I thought starting a step back from the Pdf-to-Illustrator part might be good.
    – JHovell
    Commented May 25, 2012 at 19:14

2 Answers 2


You could try the SimpleSVG plugin (full description) to see if it produces non-lossy SVG output when read into Illustrator. It should be available via the QGIS Plugin Installer.

A very expensive, non-FOSS, but superb solution is to use the Illustrator plugin, MAPublisher, and import your GIS data directly.

If only QGIS had tight integration with Illustrator or Inkscape. Inkscape support has been proposed, but the SimpleSVG plugin is the closest as of now.

  • That worked, though the resolution of the SVG generated is much lower than I can use for my purposes, as it's combining some contours that are close to each other. This aside it none the less preserved the contours that were previously lost. Thanks! I'll be giving MAPublisher a swing as well.
    – JHovell
    Commented May 26, 2012 at 21:33

I believe Illustrator has support for SVG and DXF. As a work around you could export your contours to SVG or DXF instead of PDF and have the data as vectors. This would get over any resolution problems you might be encoutering with a PDF or an image format. You are then able to edit the vectors, which is surely prefereable to editing a raster representation of them.

An alternative approach, staying with FOSS, would be to use Mapnik or similar rasteriser to create your image.

Unfortunately writing to PDF from GDAL directly only comes in in v. 2.0 which is not stable yet.

  • Yeah, that's for the most part what I've been doing. Somehow the vectors that appear in the PDF's and the SVG's lose large chunks of contour elevations (consistently the whole northern waterline of San Francisco Bay and some change) when I bring them into Illustrator to edit. Maybe I'll give the latest GDAL a try and see if that does the trick.
    – JHovell
    Commented May 25, 2012 at 23:41

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.