Cleaning up Scanned Images

PDF redaction,pdf clean-up

I recently received this message from a legal technology consultant:

I have had several clients (and have wondered myself) why there’s no way to delete something from a PDF. For example, if I scan a document and want to delete the black marks made by the staple holes in the top left corner, I can’t do that without cropping the entire image. What is the reasoning for not including a feature that would allow me to draw a box around those staple holes and delete them from the image?

Actually, Adobe did include a feature to clean up scanned images!

You can easily clean up scanned images using the Redaction tool:
Mark for Redaction Tool
Normally, redactions appear as a black box which obscures the underlying document. Did you know that Acrobat can redact to “No Color” as well?

In this article, I’ll offer step-by-step instructions for cleaning up scanned PDFs using the Redaction tool in Acrobat Professional.

Using this workflow, you can easily delete staple marks, hole punches, shadows, dirt and more from PDFs.

Read on to learn how…

Using the Redaction Tool

I’ve written about using the Redaction tool before in my article, Acrobat 8 New Features: Redaction.

Redaction is the permanent deletion of data from a document. One little known Acrobat redaction feature is the ability to use “No Color” when redacting. This handy feature is great for cleaning up scanned images.

Follow these steps to use a “No Color” redaction for scanned image cleanup:

  1. Choose View—>Toolbars—>Redaction
    The Redaction toolbar will appear.
  2. Redaction Toolbar
  3. Click the Mark for Redaction tool
  4. Mark for Redaction tool
  5. Click and drag a rectangle around the items on the page you wish to remove. In this case, we’ll remove a hole punch.
  6. Mark the redaction area
  7. When you hover over the object, a black redaction mark appears:
  8. When hovering, the redaction mark will appear black.
    We’ll change the appearance from black to “no color”
  9. Right-click on top of the Redaction mark and choose Properties
  10. Getting to the Redaction Properties window
  11. The Redaction Properties window appears.
    (A) Change the fill color for the redaction mark to “No Color”
    (B) Optional: Check “Make Properties Default” to always redact to “No Color”
  12. Redaction Properties window
  13. Click _OK.
    _When you hover over your redaction mark, you will see a preview of the cleaned up area.
  14. The hole punch mark is gone!
  15. No more hole punch!

Using Acrobat 9? Use the Properties Bar

Instead of right-clicking on the redaction mark to set properties, you can use the context-sensitive Properties Bar to easily change the color of redaction marks.

To open the Properties Bar, choose View> Toolbars> Properties Bar or type CTRL-E.

With the redaction mark selected, you can easily change the mark to “no color”.


Applying the Redactions

Once you have marked up all the areas of the document to be cleaned, you need to apply the redactions to make final changes to your document.

  1. Click the Apply Redactions button on the Redaction toolbar.
  2. You’ll receive a stern warning. Redactions are permanent.
  3. Redaction Warning Dialog
  4. Acrobat will next ask if you would like to examine the document for metadata.
  5. Do you want to examine your document for metadata?
    You may skip this step depending on your workflow. Click the No button.

When you go to save the document, Acrobat will prompt you to rename the file.

While you may save over the original document, note that redactions are permanent and irrevocable. After you save over your original document, anything you marked is gone forever.

One Final Tip

If you regularly need to either redact or clean up documents, docking the Redaction toolbar can be convenient:

  1. Start Acrobat, but do not open any documents
  2. Choose View—>Toolbars—>Redaction
  3. Choose View—>Toolbars—>Dock Toolbars or Ctrl-F8 (Command-F8 on the Macintosh)
  4. Quit Acrobat

The Redaction toolbar will be docked for all future sessions.