Ask A Cartographer

3D PDF Generation

November 03 2011 | 6 comments
Categories: 3D Mapping, Publishing

I'd like to be able to generate a 3D pdf from a 3D visualisation I've built using 3D Analyst. As far as I can tell it's not currently possible to export directly to 3D pdf, but is there a "good" way to complete this workflow? (even if it's using third party software, such as SketchUp, or other tools?)

Mapping Center Answer:

First, you need to get your data into ArcScene.  Once you've symbolised your data in ArcScene so the model is how you want it to appear you click File > Export Scene > 3D which will create a VRML format file.

You can then enact 3D PDF functionality in one of three ways (all require Adobe Acrobat Pro Extended Edition):

  1. Drag and drop the .VRML file into Adobe Acrobat Pro
  2. Embed a 3D PDF window into a Microsoft Word document
  3. Embed a 3D PDF window into an existing PDF document (e.g. a blank 2D PDF document)

Taking the last option as an example, if you open a blank PDF in Adobe Acrobat Pro, choose Multimedia > 3D tool. Draw a bounding box in your PDf document. Browse to the .VRML file in the subsequent dialog box. The 3D model will appear in the embeded 3D window. You can then save the 3D PDF and distribute.

There are also Export to 3D PDF functions in the ArcGIS Data Interoperability extension so you can create 3D PDFs directly from ArcGIS.

3D PDF & GIS posted by afaf abbas on Feb 15 2012 12:43PM
Hi, Result from the two options I tried was,
- First option: drag and drop didn’t work, Acrobat give a message of “Acrobat couldn’t open “File name” because it is either not a supported file type or the file has been damaged”
- Third option: I opened a blank PDF, then Tools > Multimedia> 3D tools add the VRML file from the source to the PDF but ended with a message of “Unsupported 3D file format
“Any idea why is this happening? How can I solve it?
BTW, I'm running ArcGIS 10 sp3, window XP, Acrobat 9 pro
Thanks, Afaf
Adobe Acrobat Pro Extended Edition posted by Cameron Wallace on Feb 15 2012 12:50PM
You need the "Extended Edition" not just Pro 9.

I'm not sure what the equivalent in Pro X is... anyone?

Re posted by afaf abbas on Feb 15 2012 1:15PM
Thanks for the prompt reply. Dose upgrading to Win7 will solve the problem?
Upgrade to Win 7 posted by Cameron Wallace on Feb 15 2012 1:25PM
Won't fix the issue, the issue is with what files the version of Adobe Acrobat you have will accept.

I'm not sure if any version of Acrobat Pro X will accept VRML though...
Thanks! posted by Aileen Buckley on Feb 16 2012 1:11PM
Thanks for the info, Cameron!
A bit more info posted by Aileen Buckley on Feb 16 2012 1:36PM
It appears that a lot of the "mini-GIS" functionality was dropped at the X release of Acrobat, which also saw the discontinuation of "pro extended" licensing. You seem to have already discovered this by your comments.

It does look like our business partner TerraGo ( has a 3D PDF export function in their product; however, we have no details of said functionality nor whether it operates within ArcScene.

If you are interested in direct export to 3D PDF, you should register your interest in the form of a promotion and a comment on this web page. You can access it from this page on Mapping Center:

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