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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 is needed to access our online PDF tools. And it’s free to use.

Filling and submitting forms online used to be a pain a decade back. You had to print a blank form out, 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 tempered - 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, convert the entire page to a JPG.

  3. On the next page, click ‘to PDF’.

  4. Wait and 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?


As I’ve stated, there are many interactive layers on a PDF document. By following the indicated procedure, you are essentially transferring the data presented on the PDF into a flat image. This process would also remove layers, as well as additional elements that would display once you trigger it, i.e., clicking on a drop-down list. All the details on the page become ‘integrated’ into one cohesive layer.

This ensures that your information cannot be changed, once viewed by another party. Flattening PDFs is essential when you are submitting forms, to guarantee that no one can accidentally adjust the data stored.

Reducing the size of a flattened PDF


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

Either way, you can use our popular online 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 ‘high quality’ option 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 should only be used when you are in dire need of reducing the file as much as possible, in size. For instance, some online platforms may have a size ceiling on PDF files.


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.


Flawless tools, we know. You're welcome!

Hung Nguyen
Hung Nguyen
Content Marketing Manager @Smallpdf