Today I was sent an Illustrator (.ai) file from a client which I needed to use to output a .svg file. The only problem is I don't have Illustrator so I had to go searching for a solution.

A quick google didn't offer much. Some solutions assumed you had access to Illustrator but wanted to just export to Sketch. Not ideal.

Instead of involving Sketch in my search term, I decided to see what happened if I googled "Open .ai without Illustrator" and boom! Solution right there!

Simply change the .ai file format to .pdf (best make a copy rather than edit your original) and then open the PDF in Sketch. You now have a layered, scalable file to play with!

I've only tried this once on a file that wasn't too complex (about 20 flat-colour layers altogether) and the only problem I've come across is that some layer fill colours changed to black which I had to manually edit. All the layers except one also appeared in a group. I don't know if this was just how the original .ai file was structured or if this was caused by this process.

If you try this and come across any other issues, fire me a tweet and I'll edit this post.

Edit: I've had a few people contact me saying this has been useful which is awesome! Most recently, Zev Eisenberg sent me this tweet with an additional tip:

One trick: when I first opened the ai that I had renamed to pdf, it was upside down and off the edge of the pages. So I opened it in Preview and exported it back to PDF, and then it was happy in Sketch!