Anyone here able to enlighten me with your knowledge of Adobe Illustrator files?

I have spent several hours trying to find a way to view an Adobe Illustrator (.ai) file from CloudMade.

Is there a way (preferably free) to at least view these *.ai files in ArcGIS 10 (or any other GIS software)?

ArcGIS has had "export to .ai" for at least 10 years but there seems to be no way to use (or at least view) them in ArcGIS.

  • Are AI files spatially-enabled in any way? I equate them to PDF files and AFAIK those can't be imported to ArcGIS either (although they can be spatially-enabled).
    – blah238
    May 30, 2012 at 16:33
  • You can convert illustrator files (v8 only) to shapefiles - have done for years....
    – Mapperz
    May 30, 2012 at 16:39

1 Answer 1


Convert Adobe Illustrator to Shapefiles:

Assumes you have a copy of Adobe Illustrator (or trial version) you must export as DWG file.

1) If necessary, sort the linework to layers based on the attributes you want the GIS data to have. The layer names will end up in a field "Layer" in the converted data, so be as descriptive as possible.

2) Curves in Illustrator must be converted to lines before export. Use Object>Path> "Add Anchor Points" command to add nodes to the curves (may need to invoke several times), and Object>Path> "Simplify" command to convert to lines.

3) Export to older version of DWG or DXF (R14 works).

4) View in ArcGIS, and export the data to a shapefile then use the Spatial Adjustment tool (does not work with a personal/file geodatabases)

5) Use the Spatial Adjustment toolbar in an edit session to match the linework to points on a known projection (the ArcGIS Help has quite a bit about this). You can match as many points as you wish, and you can choose the method ArcMap uses to align the data.

6) Export your data to a geodatabase feature class and set the projection.

  • thanks for the instructions Mapperz... i am currently downloading the free AI CS6 free trail (it's almost 2GB). Once it finishes i will attempt your ai2shp recipe.
    – sirgeo
    May 30, 2012 at 18:18

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