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How to Flatten a PDF for Free

by Hung Nguyen

You can also read this article in German, Spanish, French, Indonesian, Italian and Portuguese.

Flatten your PDF in 2 simple clicks. No registration or installation is needed to access our free online PDF tools.

Filling and submitting forms online used to be very time consuming a decade back. You had to print out a blank form, enter all the information by hand, scan it, save it as a PDF or image, and then attach it to an online system or an email.

Nowadays, PDF forms are widely available to fill and save. The only concern you have is to ensure that these forms are not tampered with—by flattening them. The easiest method is to transform the PDF into an image and then convert it back to PDF. Doing so will render all the interactive elements (checkboxes, checklists, buttons) into one flat PDF.

How To Flatten a PDF File Online for Free

  1. Go to our PDF to JPG tool.

  2. Upload the file and choose the “Convert entire pages” option.

  3. Wait while we convert your PDF.

  4. Download your file. This should flatten your PDF.


How to flatten a PDF in less than half a minute!

What Does It Mean To Flatten PDF?


You may be wondering what a flattened PDF is. Well, a PDF document usually has multiple layers with different content or information in each layer. The process of flattening involves transferring the data presented on the PDF into a flat image, which will also remove layers and additional elements that would display once you trigger it, for example, if you click on a drop-down list. All the details will therefore become “integrated” into one cohesive layer.

Flattening your PDF will ensure that the information can’t be changed when viewed by someone else. This is important when you’re submitting a form to guarantee that no one will accidently change the data.

Reducing the Size of a Flattened PDF


Depending on the information stored on a document and what won’t be retained after you flatten it, the size may or may not drop considerably.

Either way, you can use our popular online PDF compressor to reduce the size of the PDF after you flatten it. The process is pretty much the same. You upload it to the Compress PDF tool, pick the compression rate, and sit back, allowing Smallpdf to work its magic. This particular tool will extract and remove duplicate data from your PDF file for an even smaller document.

The basic compression option will flatten the PDF and compress it in a way that maintains the formatting, as close to the original file as possible. The strong compression rate gives you the option of reducing the file even further if you need to. If you want to use our strong compression option, you'll need to get yourself a Pro account—try it for free with our 7-day free trial.


How to compress a flat PDF

How can I edit the flattened PDF?


You can’t - as you have taken a snapshot of the final version of the form, the way you wanted to save it. However, you may try to convert it to an editable Microsoft Office format. Smallpdf utilizes a unique OCR formula to extract and save the content into an editable format for you to do your editing.

To make work with PDF even more simplistic, check out our blog homepage, which lists 100+ tutorials on how to work with digital documents.

Happy creating!


Flawless tools, we know. You're welcome!

Hung Nguyen
Hung Nguyen
Senior Growth Marketing Manager @Smallpdf