Update 30th June 2014:
GOOD NEWS!! I’ve been meaning to update this post for a while now. The latest version of Inkscape actually allows you to open *.ai files directly and then save them as *.svg. No extra software or action needed. As before though you sometimes get issues with gradients, depending on the way the gradients were set up and if the *.ai file was saved with *.pdf compatibility. See the original post below for more detail!
Basically if you want to convert an *.ai or *.eps file to *.svg (and therefore be able to use it in Inkscape), there are three ways (that I know of) to do this, depending on the software you have available and on the complexity of the original drawing:
Using Adobe Illustrator
This is very simple,
- Open up the drawing in Adobe Illustrator. If it is an *.eps file, illustrator will automatically convert it to *.ai.
- Then if it is a really complex drawing involving many layers, groups and gradients, it is best if you ungroup everything and put it all on one layer
- Then click on File > Save as and choose “*.svg” as the option.
- You should then be able to open it with Inkscape and edit it as you wish.
Without illustrator: Neevia technology online
If you don’t have Adobe Illustrator, your options are a little more limited. There is a free online tool from Neevia technology http://docupub.com/pdfconvert/ that you can use to convert files to *.pdf. It will convert both *.ai and *.eps files as well as other formats (http://docupub.com/pdfconvert/fileformats.html). Unfortunately there is a 2MB limit, but if you regularly need files above 2MB converting, there is the possibility to buy the pro version.
Once you have converted your file to a *.pdf, you can then open up that *.pdf with Inkscape directly. Inkscape will TRY to convert the *.pdf into vectors. Unfortunately, it doesn’t handle gradients particularly well, usually converting them to a black and white gradient, but you can then alter that in Inkscape and save your new drawing as an *.svg file. Note: If the *.ai or *.eps file was not saved with *.pdf compatibility however, this will not work! Sorry!
Without illustrator: OnlineConvert.com
Another online resource is http://image.online-convert.com/convert-to-svg
This tool will convert *.ai and *.eps files as well as *.jps and *.png directly to *.svg format. It’s not quite as good as the Neevia product imho, but when the Neevia product doesn’t work, it can be an alternative route to try. In addition it allows you to create vector images from raster pictures, quite a neat trick! When converting *.ai files with gradients it usually works better than Neevia, but again it’s not perfect. I suggest you experiment with both to see what works and what doesn’t.