5 Free and Easy Methods to Flatten a PDF Online or Offline: In 3 Minutes!

Last updated on February 8, 2024

Summary :

Explore five free, simple, and rapid methods to flatten layers within a PDF document and create a flat PDF. Step-by-step instructions are provided for easy follow-through.

Table of Contents

How To Flatten a PDF

How To Flatten a PDF

The editability of PDF documents is granted by different interactable and editable elements of a PDF document, which include comments, annotations, fillable form fields, etc. By flattening a PDF file, you get to combine the multiple layers of a PDF document and get an uneditable and unselectable image-based PDF file.

Daunting as it may sound, it actually can be quite easy to create flat PDFs, even if you are a beginner in PDF, as long as you pick the right tool.

👉 To get started, get PDFgear, the best free PDF flattener for computer and mobile.

How to Flatten a PDF: The Quick Answer

✅ PDFgear is a free PDF flattener tool that offers 1-click flattening by printing your PDFs to read-only PDF documents. Use the PDFgear online PDF editor tool to flatten PDF in seconds, and you are also allowed to edit PDF to make adjustments before flattening.

How to Flatten a PDF for FREE

PDFgear is a piece of PDF management software for Windows and Mac, and it has a practical PDF flattener tool for you to make PDFs flat offline, and with the batch mode supported, you can flatten multiple PDFs at one go.

Free PDF Flattener Software

One click to flatten PDF documents on computer or mobile for free, and reduce PDF file size.

When flattening PDFs using PDFgear, your original PDF file stay intact and unflattened, in case there are further usages to it, so you don’t have to manually back up your document. And with the PDF rearranging features, you can adjust the page orders before the document is made uneditable.

PDFgear has a user-friendly design so you can easily get the hang of it, now let’s follow the tutorial to learn how to flatten PDFs in PDFgear.

Step 1. Use the download button above to download and install PDFgear on your Windows or Mac computer. Launch it when it’s installed.

Step 2. From the home screen, hit the Open File button above to import the PDF you want to flatten into PDFgear.

Click Open File

Click Open File

Step 3. Then you’ll be led to the PDF preview screen in PDFgear, with your PDF document loaded in the window.

Click the Print Button in PDFgear Desktop

Click the Print Button in PDFgear

Step 4. Go to the upper-left side and hit the Printer button to print the imported PDF document.

Step 5. From the pop-up window, customize various printer settings, and hit print to print and flatten your PDF in PDFgear.

Print to Flatten PDF in PDFgear Desktop

Print to Flatten PDF in PDFgear

How to Flatten a PDF Online for Free with PDFgear

For those who have a stable internet connection, an online PDF flattener tool like PDFgear is ideal in terms of accessibility and ease of use. PDFgear.com is a web-based PDF management toolkit that offers a handy and practical PDF flattener tool and other practical PDF editing features like annotating PDFs, highlighting text in PDFs, and editing scanned documents.

With it, you can flatten your entire digital PDF document and scanned PDFs in one click, or convert fillable PDF forms to read-only PDFs on Windows, Mac, Linux, Android phones, and iPhones, in simple clicks.

Step 1. Upload PDF to PDF Flattener

Open a web browser application like Google Chrome on your computer or mobile phone, and navigate to the PDFgear Online PDF Flattener tool. Hit the Choose Files button or drag and drop the file into the flattener UI to upload the PDF you want to flatten to PDFgear.

Go to PDFgear Online PDF Flattener Tool

Go to PDFgear Online PDF Flattener Tool

Step 2. Flatten PDF in PDFgear

Then your uploaded PDF document will be automatically loaded in the PDFgear PDF editor’s preview screen. From there, go to the upper-right side and click on the print button.

Flatten PDF Online Using PDFgear

Flatten PDF Online Using PDFgear

Step 3. Download the Flattened PDF

Then the Printer settings window will pop up for your to customize printer options, pages, colors, etc. When everything is set, hit the Print button to download the flattened PDF on your computer.

Print and Save Flattened PDF from PDFgear

Print and Save Flattened PDF from PDFgear

How to Flatten a PDF in Adobe Acrobat Pro DC (Offline)

As the industry leader in the field of PDF, Adobe Acrobat is the optimal option if you’re looking for professional PDF editing features like flattening PDFs, converting Word documents to PDF, editing PDFs, saving PDF single pages, adding annotations to PDFs, etc. in the most detailed ways.

Adobe Acrobat Pro offers you full customizability when flattening PDFs as it allows you to specify which layer is visible and printable. Since PDF flattening is a paid feature, you need a paid subscription and Adobe Acrobat Pro DC to get started.

Now follow the steps below to flatten an entire PDF or a part of a PDF in Adobe Acrobat Pro DC.

Step 1. Open Adobe Acrobat Pro DC on your computer, and open the PDF document in it. Before we start it, you can use the Save or Print features in Acrobat to back u the PDF.

Step 2. From the preview screen of the PDF document, hit the Tools option from the upper-left side.

Step 3. From the Tools section, find and click on the Print Production tool.

Go to the Print Production Feature in Acrobat

Go to the Print Production Feature in Acrobat

Step 4. Then click on the Preflight button from the feature panel to the right.

Go to the Preflight Feature in Acrobat

Go to the Preflight Feature in Acrobat

Step 5. From the Preflight window, find and highlight the option that says Flatten annotations and form fields from PDF fixups, and hit Analyze and fix.

Select Flatten Annotations and Form Fields

Select Flatten Annotations and Form Fields

Step 6. In the next window, hit Replace to replace the original PDF with the flattened PDF. Then you will get a flattened PDF with comments.

How to Flatten a PDF Using Chrome (Offline for Free)

The well-used web browser application Google Chrome has gradually evolved to be a PDF reader and viewer with many practical PDF reading and editing features, and flattening PDF is one of them.

For example, in our earlier tutorial, we’ve elaborated on how to unlock a PDF without a password using Google Chrome.

With the printing feature in Google Chrome, you can easily flatten comments, annotations, forms in PDF documents, and export a shareable but uneditable PDF document. The steps below show you how to do it.

Flattening a PDF in Chrome Browser

Flattening a PDF in Chrome Browser

Step 1. Launch the Google Chrome browser on your computer or mobile phone. You don’t need to connect your device to the internet.

Step 2. Drag and drop the PDF you need to flatten into the UI of the Chrome browser.

Step 3. Hit the Printer button from the upper right side of the PDF preview screen.

Step 4. Then you can customize the printing details in the popup window and set the destination as Print as PDF.

Step 5. When you’re ready, hit the save button from the lower-right corner to flatten PDF in Chrome.

How to Flatten a PDF on Windows Using Bluebeam Revu (Offline)

Another popular choice to flatten or unflatten PDFs is using the PDF collaboration program Bluebeam. If you already have Bluebeam, then this method is best for you.

What makes the PDF Flattener Bluebeam Revu is that it’s a powerful and flexible tool, you are allowed to flatten the entire PDF document in one click, and conduct more precise flattening for a particular part of a PDF document while keeping the formatting for the rest of the areas.

Please note that if you find that you can’t flatten a PDF in Bluebeam, it’s because you haven’t selected any markups or annotations in your PDF document.

Flattening a PDF in Bluebeam Revu

Flattening a PDF in Bluebeam Revu

Step 1. Open the Bluebeam Revu program on your computer, and open the PDF document with it.

Step 2. Go to the Markup list and select the annotations and forms that require flattening.

Step 3. Go to Document and then Flatten Markups or use the keyboard shortcut Ctrl + Shift + M to go to the Flatten Markups dialog box.

Step 4. From the Flatten Markups window, adjust the Flattening details, and hit the lower Flatten button to flatten the imported PDF.

The Applications of Flattening PDFs

As mentioned, the flattening of PDFs is intrinsically the process of combining and keeping the needed layers of a multi-layer PDF document, and there are tons of applications for creating flat PDFs. The flattening of a PDF can be used for different purposes including:

  • Apply copy restrictions to text information in a PDF
  • Reduce PDF file size without losing visual quality
  • Print the top visible layer of the PDF document
  • Resolve printing issues resulting from multi-layers
  • Meet specific format requirements in sharing/submissions

So pick the method that works best for you and follow the tutorial to get started now!


What does it mean by flattening a PDF?

By flattening a PDF, you merge multiple previously separated layers of a PDF document into one and flattening PDF is widely used in making the editable PDF read-only.

How to flatten a PDF with comments?

To flatten comments in a PDF, you need a PDF flattener that flattens annotations. You can use PDFgear.com for flattening the entire document or use Adobe Acrobat or Bluebeam to flatten specific comments.

How to flatten a PDF without losing quality?

To flatten a PDF without losing quality, you need to flatten PDFs using a lossless PDF flattener like PDFgear Desktop and Adobe Acrobat Pro DC.

How to flatten transparency in PDF?

The transparency in PDF is also a type of visible layer of editable PDF documents. To flatten transparency in PDF, the simplest method is using a PDF to JPG converter such as PDFgear.com.

The Concluding Thoughts

So that will be all about how to flatten a PDF using the 5 easiest methods, I really hope that you have benefited from the good information. Additionally, do not forget that some of these methods are completely free so make sure you have a try on them when you have time! And if you have any better ideas in this regard, please leave a message and let us know.

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