How to Flatten PDF Documents and Forms (Step-by-Step Guide) | Inkit (2023)

If you’re generating PDF documents from Adobe InDesign or even Photoshop, you might have realized your PDFs contain multiple layers.

Whether you want to flatten your PDF forms so the content within gets merge into one, or simply want to organize your PDF documents better, you’ve come to the right place.

Depending on your professional and printing needs, file flattening could be carried out to serve various purposes, whether informational, print or security inclined.

It can be a convenient way to limit user interaction or editing on form fields, remove any transparency effects, as well as merging various layers and dimensions into a single layer.

So, to help you learn how to properly flatten PDF documents or forms, here’s what we’ll cover below:

  • What Happens When You Flatten PDF
  • When to Flatten PDF Documents
  • How to Flatten PDF Files Using PDFelement Pro
  • How to Flatten PDF Files With Adobe Acrobat
  • How to Flatten PDF Files Using Bluebeam
  • How to Flatten PDF Files Using Foxit PDF Editor

What Happens When You Flatten PDF

So, what does this mean, exactly?

When you flatten a PDF, you convert it to secure a document by eliminating the ability of the user or receiver to make edits or alterations.

Unlike the standard PDF files or scanned documents, flattened PDF files prevent manipulation of files such that changes cannot be made.

The fillable PDF presents options of user interaction on multiple platforms with form fields like check boxes, text boxes, radio keys, drop-downs as well as long boxes for editing values found in a standard PDF document.

In conducting surveys and collecting data on platforms like websites and applications where the receiver may be required to input much needed data into the system, a fillable PDF could be useful.

Nevertheless, regardless of its many advantages, it has its downsides which could very much be prevented through the use of a flattened PDF file in its stead.

Here’s what happens when you flatten a PDF:

  • Modifications can no longer be carried out on interactive elements (layers) of a document.
  • Annotations are converted to native texts to remove transparency effects.
  • Layers or additional elements like texts, images and header styles are merged into a single layer to reduce file size.

When to Flatten PDF Documents

If you work with PDFs regularly, you should know when to flatten your documents before sharing them.

Here are a few use cases:

  • To restrict users from modifying the documents: When fillable forms are flattened for security purposes, unauthorized alterations or edits cannot be made. The nature of document remains constant, thereby eliminating possibilities of internet scams and fraud being carried out, because the document is already secure and accurate.
  • To maintain original structure of file in print: In order for document creators to avoid printing errors and other problems encountered in the printing process, it is essential to lock the contents of the document. This way, the elements such as fonts, text color and style remain static and uncompromised. Documents with many layers may not print as intended, thus, the need to flatten it.
  • Increase loading speed and reduce file size: the aftermath of flattening a document leaves it simplified as the document size is reduced without compromising its quality. The rendering speed becomes faster to open on devices such as laptops, PCs, or smartphones. Also, this allows for display PDF readers.

Adobe Acrobat PRO offers a 7-day trial period for users with new accounts, once the trial period expires you would be required to pay a fee to subscribe for its inbuilt features.

You can flatten documents with most PDF tools, online or offline, as we’re about to show you below. Or flatten only specific pages.

How to Flatten PDF Files Using PDFelement Pro

PDFelement Pro is a multifaceted PDF editor that could be utilized in viewing, editing, and encryption of PDF files by document creator.

This software is accessible to users of various devices and could easily compress fillable PDF forms in just a few clicks.

  1. Open the PDF flattening tool on your device and import your PDF file using the “Open files” button on the software’s home page or drag a file icon into the interface with your mouse.
  2. Click on the “Tool” tab, then select the option provided to “Flatten File”. Your PDF file would be flattened briefly and be displayed as a preview in a new tab on PDFelement. The fillable elements would cease to exist in your document.
  3. Lastly, click “File” > “Save As” to make changes to file name and then hit “Save” after you have renamed the flattened PDF file.

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How to Flatten PDF Files With Adobe Acrobat

PDF documents can also be flattened with Adobe Acrobat tools using these two methods;

Method 1: Making a Flattened PDF in Adobe Acrobat in Print Production.

  1. Open Adobe acrobat on your PC or laptop, import your PDF file by selecting “File” option at the top left corner of your screen and Open.
  2. Scroll down the menu of the Tools and click on the feature called “Print Production”, it will appear in a new window.

How to Flatten PDF Documents and Forms (Step-by-Step Guide) | Inkit (2)

3. At the right side of the tool bar, select the option that says Flattener Preview and then click on it, it’ll open the Flattener Preview window with advanced editing options such as;

  • Options to adjust the transparency flattener from high to low resolutions and Raster/ Vector balance if needed.
  • Compression option for images generated.
  • Adjust the document transparency for color space.

How to Flatten PDF Documents and Forms (Step-by-Step Guide) | Inkit (3)

4. After the necessary adjustments have been made, it is important to enable the page numbering in the PDF document. Choose preferred numbering from the left side of the window by clicking on options, all pages, current pages or by manually selecting the range.

5. Click Apply to flatten PDF, a dialogue box will appear and then click on Yes.

Method Two: Making a flattened PDF in Adobe Acrobat with shortcut.

  1. Backup your PDF files to allow for possible edits in the future.
  2. Go to File> Open to import your PDF file in Adobe. Then click on “Ctrl + P” to open the printer in Adobe Acrobat Pro DC
  3. Check the new window to select the Custom Scale in Page Sizing and Handling, then, enable Auto in orientation.
  4. Click on the Advanced options, then, you could make adjustments to the “Transparency Flattener Preset” and the “Raster/Vector balance” if needed by clicking the option to change resolution levels from high to low.
  5. Click on the OK button and save the flattened PDF file by selecting the “Printer” option and clicking on it. Open the displayed list and select Adobe PDF. To wrap it all up, click “Print”. A window will pop up to save the PDF File, you could rename it and click “OK

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Need more info on managing your PDF documents with Adobe?

Be sure to also check out:

  • How to Rotate PDF Pages and Files In Adobe (Online or Offline)
  • Change Highlight Color in Adobe Acrobat
  • How to Delete Pages From a PDF File

How to Flatten PDF Files Using Bluebeam

Take the following steps to flatten all selected pages on a PDF file at once.

  1. Go to “Document > Flaten Markups or as a shortcut, press “CTRL+SHIFT+M”, the Flatten Markups dialog box instantly appears.
  2. Select all markups and any desired flattening settings.
  3. Step three: to flatten the markups on specific pages of the PDF file, choose one of the following from the Pages dropdown list:
  • All pages: to set the range to all pages
  • Current: sets the page in one page only with the current number appearing in parenthesis.
  • Selected: this sets the range to the current user selection. This option only appears if pages were selected prior to invoking the command
  • Custom: sets the range to custom value. When this option is selected, the list becomes a textbox.

4. Click “Flatten

How to Flatten PDF Documents and Forms (Step-by-Step Guide) | Inkit (5)

How to Flatten PDF Files Using Foxit PDF Editor

  1. Open your PDF document in Foxit PDF Editor.
  2. Click on Organize> Flatten.
  3. In the Flatten Pages dialog box, specify the page range (all pages, current pages, custom pages and selected pages).
  4. Click OK.


So, as you can see, flattening a PDF is easy and you can do so with more PDF management tools.

In professional and business spaces today, data collectors utilize flattened PDFs in conducting surveys and assessments.

Through the step by steps provided above, you should be able to use the online resources covered to flatten or convert your documents from fillable documents to flattened files.

In a bid to secure your documents and perform your printing tasks, a flattened file could be a great daily office tool for you.

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