How to Remove Smudges in a PDF File

Updated March 23, 2017

Portable Document Format (PDF) files may be opened and viewed on any computer with a PDF viewing program such as Adobe Reader. The source of a PDF file can be a scanned document or any file from a program that allows printing. Depending on the condition of a paper document, as well as the quality of the scanner or all-in-one printer used, the PDF version may have smudges on it. With the right software, you can easily remove smudges in a PDF file.

Download and install a PDF editing program on to your computer. Some, such as the Adobe Acrobat suite of programs, are somewhat expensive. There are freeware programs available that can make some changes to PDF files. One such program, PDFill, is used in the steps that follow (see Resources).

Open the PDFill “PDF Editor” portion of the PDFill download. Click the “File” menu and select “Open New PDF Project.” This will launch a separate “Select PDF file” window. Use the “Look in” drop down menu to access the folder in which the PDF file you want to edit is located. Click once on the PDF file and once on the “Open” button.

Click the “Insert” menu and select the “Whiteout” option. The cursor will change to a plus sign. Click once on an area of the PDF document that contains a smudge that you want to remove and drag the cursor to an appropriate size while holding down the mouse button. A box that looks similar to a text box will appear and a “Properties” window will launch. Use the features in the “Properties” box to edit the “Whiteout” box and click “OK.” The “Whiteout” colour properties are set to white, but they can be adjusted to match the PDF background. “Whiteout” boxes can be adjusted to different sizes to cover smudge marks within PDF documents.

Click on the border of the box to edit its size and shape. Click on one of the small dots on an edge and, while holding down the mouse button, drag the edge to create a new size box. Move a “Whiteout” box to a different location by clicking once on the border and holding while dragging it to another part of the PDF file.

Repeat steps 3 and 4 as necessary to cover all remaining smudge marks within the document. To remove or edit the properties of the “Whiteout” boxes, click once on the “Edit” menu and select “Select to Edit.” The cursor will change to a hand, and the individual “Whiteout” boxes will have a blue border when you move the cursor over them.

Click on a “Whiteout” box to adjust the shape and size, as in Step 4. Right-click on the border to launch the “Properties” window to edit the appearance of the “Whiteout” box, as in Step 3. Remember to save the edited PDF file using the “Save As” option under the “File” menu.

Things You'll Need

  • PDF file
  • PDF writing program
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About the Author

Cooper Temple has over 15 years of experience writing procedural and training material for a Fortune 500 company. His articles specialize in productivity programs and other business-related software.