How to Erase and Clean-up a Scanned PDF in Acrobat XI

I recently received this email from one of my blog readers:

Does Adobe Acrobat have a feature similar to the eraser in the old MS Paint program to edit pdf documents? The feature does exist in ScanSoft Paperport  (I have version 11).  It is very useful to remove stray marks on scanned images, staple marks, fax headers, punched hole marks, etc. If used with extreme zoom, I can remove just about any marks on the page so it looks like new. However, it would be useful to have all the features in one program.  I prefer to use Adobe Acrobat to OCR, and otherwise manage PDF documents, but if they need editing I am forced to use ScanSoft Paperport.  Also, the file size seems to go way up after I edit the document with Paperport.

There are two ways you can clean up content in a PDF:

  1. Use the Redaction tools (Acrobat Pro only) and redact using the "No Color" option.
    See my Redaction Guide for instructions.
  2. Use the Edit Image option and an external editor to clean up the PDF

I’ve never written about the second option previously, so this seems like a good opportunity to do so!

Using an external image editor makes the most sense for image-based PDFs. However, Acrobat can also call a program to edit vector content, too.

Image Editor Preferences

When you first install Acrobat, the installer program searches for compatible editing programs on your Mac or PC.

The install process will select Adobe tools— Photoshop for image editing or Illustrator for vector editing— as the defaults, but you may also use tools like MS Paint.

If you install an image editor after installing Acrobat, you will need to tell Acrobat where to find it.

To view or change your image editor preferences:

  1. Edit> Preferences (Acrobat> Preferences on the Mac)
  2. Go to the Content Editing category
  3. Click the Image Editor button to find a program which can edit images
  4. Click OK

Editing an Image in Acrobat XI

With your image editor preferences set, you are ready to edit an image embedded in a PDF. Note— this will only work on an image within a PDF or on an scanned PDF document..

  1. Open a scanned PDF
  2. Open the Tools panel and then the Content Editing section, then click on Edit Text and Images
  3. Right-click on the page, and choose Edit Using> and select the image editor of your choice:
  4. The image of the page will open in your editor of choice (Photoshop below). Use the appropriate tool(s) such as the eraser tool to clean up the image.
  5. Close the document and the following message (or similar) should appear. Click Yes.
  6. Switch back to Acrobat and the page will update:
  7. Save the file.
Note: Once you save the file, the change is permanent. Work on a copy of the file if you are unsure about what you need to do.

2 Responses to How to Erase and Clean-up a Scanned PDF in Acrobat XI

  1. Jenny V says:

    A quick way to remove extraneous marks in a scanned image without switching out of Acrobat is to use the Rectangle tool and then flatten the page. I change the rectangle tool default properties to be all white with 100% opacity, and then just draw various rectangles over stray marks. I do so quickly over large areas of the screen, but your reader could easily zoom in and create small rectangles over even the tiniest marks. Once everything is covered, I’ll use the Flatten Comments and Annotations JavaScript to merge the white rectangles with the background. (Be sure to flatten the rectangles before trying to OCR or do other extreme manipulations of the pages, or the rectangles will realign themselves in the wrong places.)

    • Rick Borstein says:

      That’s one way to do it, but this will not look great unless the page background is 100% white.