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How do I convert and SVG (containing a a few words of latin text and some simple vector graphics) to a PDF on Linux?

I tried Inkscape 0.47 on Ubuntu Lucid, but it moves some sub-graphics randomly, and it makes some lines shorter in the output PDF. So it's output is useless, because the graphics looks completely different.

I tried opening the SVG in Google Chrome 16 and printing it to PDF, but it distorts all the colors, and it also removes some elements. (The SVG appears fine on screen, but it's already bad in the print preview and the generated PDF is also bad.)

I don't want to rasterize or render the SVG. A solution which converts the SVG to a bitmap image and then creates a PDF with the image embedded is not an answer to my question. (FYI Inscape 0.47 renders the text is a very ugly way, without antialiasing, when rendering to PNG.)

What other options do I have?

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up vote 71 down vote accepted

rsvg-convert did the trick for the SVG I wanted to convert:

$ sudo apt-get install librsvg2-bin
$ rsvg-convert -f pdf -o t.pdf t.svg

rsvg-convert -f pdf doesn't rasterize the SVG, and it embeds and subsets fonts (at least it has embedded the used characters of the Arial font). Sometimes font embedding fails (e.g. for the LMRoman17 font), and the whole font file gets copied to the generated PDF.

Dependencies on Ubuntu Lucid:


By default, libcairo needs libX11, so rsvg-convert may be hard to install to a headless system.

Note: The man page of rsvg-convert states that the tool always rasterizes, but this isn't true. The manual is simply obsolete. Sometimes your svg generating tool can partially rasterize the svg image, which can also mislead you.

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That's a lot of dependencies I'm seeing here: cairo, libgphoto, gtk3, libsane...Oh well, if it does the job... – ShiDoiSi Apr 16 '13 at 15:47
Will this convert to a cmyk color space? – justingordon Feb 23 '14 at 4:18
justingordon: I don't know, you can ask this as a separate StackOverflow question. – pts Feb 23 '14 at 4:53
@AyberkÖzgür That's inkscape's fault - when you save an Inkscape project, it will by default save it as a SVG, but the SVG it saves includes a bunch of nonstandard inkscape-specific data that can frequently mess up other programs. You need to export as an SVG rather than just saving as a SVG. – AJMansfield Nov 7 '15 at 23:18
It worked for me and the quality of pdf is same as svg. Before this was using imagemagick to convert to pdf and the quality was poor especially for svg. – Pratik Soni May 26 at 9:08

This works on Ubuntu Lucid:

$ sudo apt-get install inkscape
$ inkscape t.svg --export-pdf=t.pdf

The command-line Inkscape invocation above works even in headless mode, without a GUI (DISPLAY=). However, installing Inscape installs lots of dependencies, including X11.

Please note that the exit status of Inskscape is always 0, even if an error occurs -- so watch out for its stderr.

There is also inkscape --shell, suitable for converting many documents in a batch. This avoids the slow Inkscape startup time for each file:

$ (echo t.svg --export-pdf=t.pdf;
   echo u.svg --export-pdf=u.pdf) |
  DISPLAY= inkscape --shell

Inkscape is also useful for simplifying an SVG:

$ DISPLAY= inkscape t.svg --export-plain-svg=t.plain.svg
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Unfortunately this doesn’t seem to work on OS X. Still, nice answer. – Konrad Rudolph Nov 26 '13 at 23:12
The OP specified that Inkscape had rendering bugs; this matches my experience. – Dylan Thurston Oct 22 '14 at 17:17
On OSX using Homebrew, you can install Inkscape using brew install inkscape these days. The resulting /usr/local/bin/inkscape worked for me without having to run – Alex Schröder Dec 31 '15 at 22:27

I get good results from printing from Inkscape (0.47 too) to PDF, and for saving as PDF (but slightly different), but this might depend on the graphic at hand.

An alternative with lower resolution (I did not try any switches to improve it) is

 convert file.svgz file.pdf 

convert is part of the ImageMagick package. Rasterizer is another program:

 rasterizer -m application/pdf file.svgz -d file.pdf 

To find out, which programs which handle svgs are installed on your system, just try

 apropos -s 1 svg

The manpage for these programs should explain, wether the program is useful for converting the svg to pdf.

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Thank you for your suggestions. FYI convert is not an answer to the original question, because convert rasterizes the SVG to a bitmap image, and the original question was looking for a solution which doesn't do that. – pts Jan 22 '12 at 20:15 mentions gsvg, part of GhostPDL.

I've tried gsvg ghostpdl-9.06 on Ubuntu Lucid, but it failed for two SVGs generated by Inkscape. One SVG had text in it, the other had only vector graphics. It also failed for simple graphics without Inkscape extensions or clip-path. So I don't consider gsvg a usable SVG-to-PDF converter.

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I have used CairoSVG successfully on OSX and Ubuntu.

pip install cairosvg
cairosvg in.svg -o out.pdf

CairoSVG Documentation

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