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?

  • 1
    If you just have a few images to convert you might find it easier to use some of the online converters. I tried CloudConvert and it did a very good job with half the file size of the SVG. – Frank Breitling Jun 13 '17 at 17:28

10 Answers 10


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:

  • libcairo.so.2
  • libgobject-2.0.so.0
  • libgthread-2.0.so.0
  • libglib-2.0.so.0
  • librsvg-2.so.2
  • libpthread.so.0
  • libc.so.6

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... – Volker Stolz Apr 16 '13 at 15:47
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    @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
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    Might save some time searching: On Suse-Systems the package containing rsvg-convert is called rsvg-view. – Trendfischer Jan 22 '16 at 16:14
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    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 '16 at 9:08
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    Worked perfectly for me in macOS. No rasterisation. brew install librsvg then used rsvg-convert -f pdf -o t.pdf t.svg as above. – Benjamin R Mar 20 '18 at 4:45

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
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    The OP specified that Inkscape had rendering bugs; this matches my experience. – Dylan Thurston Oct 22 '14 at 17:17
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    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 X11.app. – Alex Schröder Dec 31 '15 at 22:27
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    Inkscape can be installed on OS X from the dmg distributed at its own website, and then called from the command line after creating two symbolic links: ln -s ~/Applications/Inkscape.app/Contents/Resources/bin/inkscape ~/bin/inkscape and similarly for inkscape-bin (assuming ~/bin is in your $PATH). – Ioannis Filippidis Dec 21 '16 at 13:08
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    You can use the -z (or --without-gui) flag with Inkscape to run it in batch mode only (no window will open at all). – Artefact2 Jan 6 '17 at 18:48

I have used CairoSVG successfully on OSX and Ubuntu.

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

CairoSVG Documentation

  • 2
    There are even python-bindings you can use. Unfortunately I found that this method is rather limited, i.e. a lot of svg features are not supported. – bodo Mar 12 '17 at 10:09

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.

  • 22
    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

https://superuser.com/a/79064/19956 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.


I'm wondering why it hasn't been mentioned before, but I tested a bunch of different svg->pdf converters and found that the best one is Headless Chrome. It produces the most precise results for me. Before switching to Chrome, I was trying to fight with Inkscape bugs, but many of them are too serious and I can't do much about it (transparency bugs, wrong fonts, etc).

 chrome --headless --disable-gpu --print-to-pdf="output.pdf" "input.svg"

It needs some tweaks to use custom PDF size(A4 is default), but I was able to set custom size after some googling and playing with CSS and SVG attributes (check out this answer on stackoverflow)

  • 1
    Welcome to Super User! External links can break or be unavailable, in which case your answer would be just a teaser. Even while links still work, the content can't be indexed to help people find the solution. Please include the essential information within your answer and use the link for attribution and further reading. Thanks. – fixer1234 Jul 2 '19 at 3:47
  • from WSL, you need some extra flags chromium --no-sandbox --disable-setuid-sandbox --headless --disable-gpu --print-to-pdf=output.pdf input.svg – ticapix Jul 20 '19 at 20:31
  • Rendering with custom fonts is better than other solution, great ! – themadmax Jun 1 '20 at 13:49
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    For Red Hat derivates (here Fedora 32) use chromium-browser on the command line ... – Erich Kuester Aug 27 '20 at 9:55
  • Why don't you just share your solution for a custom size? How do I have to modify the command to pass the dimensions? Your linked answer does not tell that... – Thomas Oct 26 '20 at 10:20

On Mac OS (considering that you already have brew installed) I do:

$ brew install cairo libffi python3
$ pip3 install cairosvg

$ cairosvg -o blah.pdf ./blah.svg 

Same should work on Linux, but with apt-get instead.

  • 1
    This works with pdf output as well. In contrast to svg2pdf and rsvg-convert, this preserves the fonts. – oarfish Oct 12 '18 at 14:28
  • Thanks, I put the wrong extension. I updated the example. – Adriel Jr Oct 14 '18 at 2:34
  • Worked like a charm! – mayrop May 29 '19 at 23:07

Awesome solution, Avael Kross (https://superuser.com/users/1057244/avael-kross)!! Headless Chrome worked great for me.

I automated the procedure to remove a header and footer from the output PDF and make it fit to the size of the SVG. I uploaded the shell script to the following gist.

svg2pdf.bash: https://gist.github.com/s417-lama/84bf66de1096c4587e8187092fb41684


$ ./svg2pdf.bash input.svg output.pdf

Most of the tools mentioned here have problems when displaying SVG 1.1. Therefor, I used the following workaround:

  1. Most browsers seem to be the best viewers for SVG. Firefox and Chrome have full support for SVG 1.1. I just displayed the SVG in the browser.
  2. Then printed the page to PDF, while:
    • fitting the image into the page
    • setting all page borders to 0
    • leaving all headers and footers empty
  3. As you cannot differ from the predefined page sizes, I used pdfcrop afterwards, to get a PDF with the exact dimensions of the SVG.

Open the svg file with Image Viewer (Also called Eye of Gnome eog) and print it to a PDF file (say image.pdf) and convert that pdf to eps using pdf2ps command. Simple!

Elaborated steps:

  1. Install Image Viewer if not yet done (highly unlikely step if you use gnome)

    sudo apt-get install eog
  2. Open svg file with eog and print it to image.pdf file.

  3. (Optional) Remove surrounding whitespace from the pdf file:

    pdfcrop image.pdf

    This will generate image-crop.pdf with surrounding whitespace removed.

  4. Convert cropped pdf to eps (use image.pdf directly if you didn't crop the pdf)

    pdf2ps image-crop.pdf image.eps

Thats it!

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