Poor man's workaround, GeoPDF to GeoTiff

10-24-2014 09:30 AM
Occasional Contributor III

The Federal government, in its infinite wisdom, is decreeing that we should all move to GIS.


The USGS, in its infinite wisdom, is releasing its topo maps in GeoPDF format.


ESRI, in its infinite wisdom, has not built GeoPDF support into ArcGIS Desktop.


The G-Raster program, which is supposed to be able to convert GeoPDF to GeoTIFF, cannot do it in its current version (6.3) as of today's date


Adobe Acrobat X Full Version cannot export to GeoTIFF



SO, here's what I did


Tools needed:

Adobe Acrobat or Acrobat Reader

Virtual PDF printer such as Adobe PDF

Adobe Photoshop (or a heavy-duty imaging program)


Plenty of RAM

Plenty of time


For single GeoPDFs:

1 - Open USGS GeoPDF in Acrobat

1a - Print to a virtual PDF printer

      - this "flattens" the GeoPDF layers, BUT strips out the georeferencing

1b - Open the new PDF in Acrobat and Export as TIFF

1c - To remove the "collar" around the topo map, crop it in Photoshop (the collar contains white border, legend, other text, and graphics)

1d - Load TIFF into ArcMAP and manually georeference using tools


To mosaic several GeoPDFs:

1 - Open USGS GeoPDF in Acrobat

1a - Print to a PDF printer such as Adobe PDF

      - this "flattens" the GeoPDF layers, BUT strips out the georeferencing

1b - Open the new PDF in Acrobat and Export as TIFF

2 - Use Photoshop to mosaic multiple TIFFs, saving the master image in PSD format (Photoshop's native format)

    - crop each TIFF to remove non-image areas (such as the white "collar")2a - Save final mosaic as TIFF

3 - Load mosaic into ArcMap and georeference


A Photoshop TIFF mosaic of our 270sqMI (698sqKM) county @250dpi is only 407megs; it contains 10 converted GeoPDFs



I prefer to do mosaics in Photoshop because it has more flexibility if images need to be rotated to match edges of adjoining TIFFs

(& because I've been using Photoshop since 1989 )


Finally, send Jack Dangermond a letter asking why GeoPDF is not supported in ArcGIS Desktop

Tags (2)
11 Replies
New Contributor III

I don't think Jack is listening to you.  Or anyone else, seeing as there are about 10000 points for this same suggestion, to import a GeoPDF into Arcmap, in the ESRI "Ideas" page, dating back about 4 years.  I just helped someone with this today. Global Mapper does the conversion quite easily.


Occasional Contributor III

Fair point.

I looked into Global Mapper, but knew that the boss would not spend that kind of money on something we would only use every few years, if there was a workaround

New Contributor III

This "works", but is really not a conversion, but rather just a georeferencing an image. All the new topo maps the USGS is producing contain vector data that is 100% useless to anyone using ArcMap. I can georeference all day long, but it will never retain vector data. I can still access referenced topo maps from the CASIL site, but good luck getting them from the USGS ever again.

Ultimately, the USGS blew it big time when they got bamboozled into producing GeoPDFs. ESRI could not care less about the problem - they're getting paid either way.

New Contributor III

I really can't believe there is not a solution in place for ArcMap yet. The Geopdf functionality from he USGS is wonderful. You can choose the layers (vector or raster) that you want to see. Why this is not available as an option to bring directly into ArcMap really boggles my mind.

I sure hope ESRI and the USGS folks/TerraGo can come to a solution soon. We need that functionality inside ArcMap not now, but five years ago.

Occasional Contributor II

So how exactly did Esri get this to work??:


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Occasional Contributor III

Apparently because the latest maps you can view are pre-GeoPDF - for instance Atlanta where the last map is c1997. I want to think GeoPDFs first appeared around 8-10 years ago.

Occasional Contributor II

But when you download any of the files, it's a GeoPDF with the map collar.  On the ArcGIS site, the collars are removed.

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Occasional Contributor

Or you could simply download the DRG's topo you neeed from USGS earth explorer?


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New Contributor

Although I haven't tried it myself, I've heard from multiple sources that you can convert GeoPDFs to GeoTIFFs using gdal_translate, there's a tutorial here: StayGeo: Convert GeoPDF Maps to GeoTIFF with GDAL