How to Flatten a PDF on PC and Mac [5 Free Methods]

The document format Adobe PDF is vastly used in electronic submissions and sharing of information, and that popularity stood to reason. The support for embedding content, editable layers, and security features has made PDF extremely versatile.

However, since the multi-layers of a PDF document, which provides the very edibility, inevitably bring about relatively larger file sizes, flattening a PDF is a good idea when you only need a print with the physical look. In this article, you’ll learn about 5 easy methods to flatten a PDF on Windows and Mac computers, most of the methods are free so you can easily get started.

Method 1. How to Flatten a PDF Online with PDFgear

Online PDF solutions are getting more and more trending lately, and the first method that we like to introduce is using the online PDF flattener tool PDFgear. PDFgear is an all-in-one PDF management toolkit with many practical features, since it’s a web-based tool, you can use it to convert, compress, edit, and make PDFs on iPhone, Android, PC, Mac, etc.

With PDFgear, you can easily flatten PDF documents with form fields and editable layers in a minute, in an intuitive drag-and-drop manner.

The fact that PDFgear is beginner-friendly, completely free to use, and doesn’t require registration is what grabs our attention. Now follow the tutorial below to see how to flatten a PDF online using PDFgear. 

Step 1. Go to Online PDF Flattener

Open a web browser application on your computer or mobile phone, and navigate to the PDFgear Online PDF Flattener tool.

ALT= Go to PDFgear Online PDF Flattener

Step 2. Upload PDF to PDF Flattner

Hit the “Choose files” button to upload the PDF you intend to flatten to PDFgear. Then you’ll be led to the PDF editor workplace with the PDF Preview, hit the upper-right “Print file” button from there. 

ALT= Upload PDF to PDFgear PDF Flattener

Step 3. Flatten and Download the PDF

In the pop-up Print settings window, customize the Printer, Orientation, Print to file, pages, etc., and hit the Print button to Print your PDF. Then you can get the flattened copy of the original PDF document.

ALT= Flatten PDF in PDFgear and Download

Method 2. How to Flatten a PDF in Adobe Acrobat

If you’re looking for more flexible controls over the manners of flattening PDF documents, look no further than the industry leader Adobe Acrobat, which offers pro-level flattening for both companies and individuals.

Note that Adobe Acrobat Reader doesn’t offer the PDF flattening feature, and the following tutorial will show you how to flatten a PDF in Adobe Acrobat Pro DC, the professional version of Adobe Acrobat that requires a paid subscription.

Adobe Acrobat provides two ways for you to flatten a PDF, and the following tutorial will be using the handier approach, flattening a PDF in Adobe Acrobat with shortcuts. 

Step 1. Launch Adobe Acrobat Pro DC on your computer. Before getting started, back up the original PDF if needed.

Step 2. Go to the File tab and click Open to open the PDF file you want to flatten in Adobe Acrobat Pro DC.

ALT= Open the PDF in Adobe Acrobat Pro DC

Step 2. Use the keyboard shortcut Ctrl + P (on Windows) or Command + P (on Mac) to go to the Print settings Window in Acrobat.

Step 3. From the Print settings window, you can customize PDF parameters to your preference with the given options including Pages to Print, Page Sizing & Handling, etc.

Step 4. Make sure to set the Printer option as Adobe PDF and the Comments & Forms option as Document.

ALT= Print to Flatten a PDF in Adobe Acrobat Pro DC

Step 5. Lastly, hit the Print button from the lower side to print your imported PDF in the desired manner, and this will flatten your flatten and export the PDF.

Method 3. How to Flatten a PDF on Mac using Preview

For those who don’t have a paid subscription to Adobe Acrobat Pro DC, there are also many useful methods for you to flatten a PDF without Acrobat, especially if you running a Mac device. Mac computers and MacBook’s have an inbuilt PDF reader application called Preview, which is a powerful PDF tool that serves also as a PDF flattener and PDF reader.  

With the Preview app, you can flatten your PDF on Mac without installing any further software. Now check the easy steps to flatten a PDF with Preview app: 

ALT= Flatten a PDF on Mac

Step 1. On your Mac device, open the PDF you need to flatten with the Preview app.

Step 2. Go to the Files tab and hit the Print option from the dropdown.

Step 3. In the Print settings window, customize Printer, Presets, Copies, Pages, and more.

Step 4. For more printing details, click on the Show Details button.

Step 5. When ready, click the Print button to print your PDF to a flattened PDF on Mac using Preview.

Method 4. How to Flatten a PDF on Windows Using Print to PDF

The inbuilt Microsoft Print to PDF on Windows 10 and Windows 11 computers is an extremely useful tool if you want to print images and documents to flattened PDF, or flatten a PDF with forms and annotations.

The use of Microsoft Print to PDF is simple, you don’t need to install any software or use any third-party services, all you need is the Microsoft Print to PDF feature that comes with the installation of your Windows operating system.

Now follow the steps below to flatten a PDF on Windows with Microsoft Print to PDF: 

ALT= Flatten PDF Using Microsoft Print to PDF on Windows

Step 1. On your PC, open the PDF document you intend to flatten using any PDF viewer tool.

Step 2. Use the keyboard shortcut Ctrl + P to access the Windows Printer tool.

Step 3. Set the Destination as Microsoft Print to PDF, and the Pages and Color to your preference.

Step 4. Hit the Print button to print and flatten your PDF with Microsoft Print to PDF.

Step 5. Then the Save Print Output As window will pop up for you to choose where you want to save the flattened PDF. 

Method 5. How to Flatten a PDF Using Chrome

In late 2020, the popular web browser application Google Chrome has been updated with various PDF reading and management features, and PDF flattening is one of them. Since then, you’ll be able to read and view PDF files in Chrome and use various printer options to flatten your PDF. 

According to the internet data, the global web browser market share of Google Chrome has reached 65.84%, so I believe you may already have Chrome installed on your desktop device.

And the steps below reveal how you can flatten a PDF file using the Google Chrome browser:

ALT= Flatten a PDF in Chrome Browser

Step 1. Open Chrome browser on your computer.

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

Step 3. Hit the Print button from the upper-right corner.

Step 4. In the Print settings window, customize the Printer destination, Pages, Color, etc.

Step 5. Hit the Print button to print and flatten the PDF document in Chrome.

What Does it Mean to Flatten a PDF Document?

When you flatten a PDF file or a PDF form, you combine the multiple editable layers of a PDF document into one, keeping only the physical appearance of the original PDF document, and making an editable PDF uneditable. These editable document layers include editable fields, forms, signatures, etc. 

The flattening of PDF documents is commonly used in protecting a completed PDF document from unauthorized editing. Generally, the flattening of PDFs can be easily conducted by printing PDFs to popular formats like Microsoft Print to PDF.

Frequently Asked Questions about Flattening PDFs


How to flatten a PDF in Adobe Acrobat Standard DC?

The process of flattening a PDF in Adobe Acrobat Standard DC is the same as how we do it in Adobe Acrobat Pro DC. Go to Tools > Print Production > Preflight, and go with the fixup Flatten annotations and form fields.

How to flatten a PDF on Mac?

There are many practical ways for you to flatten a PDF on Mac, and the most recommended free methods are using PDFgear and Preview. Go to PDFgear online PDF editor, upload your PDF, and print and flatten your PDF for free.

How to flatten a PDF in Illustrator?

Flattening PDFs in Adobe Illustrator is not the best option but a doable choice. Use the Selection tool to drag layers, go to Object > Flatten Transparency, and hit OK in the pop-up window.

How to flatten a PDF in Photoshop?

The photo editing software Photoshop provides flexible options to flatten a PDF, while the simplest one is to go to the menu button from the layers window and select Flatten Image from the menu options.

How to flatten a PDF on mobile phones?

If you have a PDF document you need to flatten on your iPhone or Android phone, the easiest way is using a free online PDF flattener like PDFgear. Additionally, some PDF editor apps offer the flattening feature, yet they require app installations.

The Conclusion

As you can see, there are many practical ways for you to flatten your PDF documents, no matter if you’re using a computer or mobile phone. And the gist here is to learn from the tutorials and find the method that is perfectly fitting for your device and use case. 

The GetDroidTips team appreciates the accessibility and ease of use of online solutions, and that’s the reason PDFgear is recommended first, but we also believe that there could be another method that works better for you, so make sure to have a try.

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