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How to Black Out Text in a PDF

by Hung Nguyen

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

Learn how to quickly black out text in your PDF file with the free PDF Editor from Smallpdf.

The news was sent into a frenzy last year when the reports of Paul Manafort’s inability to convert and redact PDF files went viral. In the current digital time, simple processing tasks of PDF files should be a common practice. Examples from this case include the conversion of files from one format to another or black out text in PDF files to conceal sensitive content.

The latter of the two can get tricky. PDF software is usually expensive to purchase. Moreover, you’d often have to opt for a whole tool suite rather than a standalone redact tool - such as in Adobe Acrobat Pro. On the other hand, you can add black boxes over PDF text using common readers, i.e., Preview. However, this can be invalidated by anybody from using the same reader. Thus, it’s not the most reliable option, either.

And that leads us to our guide today, on how to blackout the content of your PDF document, using our free PDF editor.

How to black out text in PDF files?

  1. You can start by opening our online PDF editor.

  2. Click and drag a PDF into the toolbox.

  3. Choose ‘Add shape,’ choose the square box, and modify its size and color as needed.

  4. Drag the box over a block of text. Do this as many times as you’d like.

  5. Hit ‘Finish’ and save the document to your local drive.


How to black out text within your PDFs with Smallpdf

The other workaround


Another method of protecting content would be to remove it altogether. The Smallpdf is hard at work to improve our Edit tool, for users to select text they wish to delete text and other info from their PDFs, on the spot. The new editor will also come with many other useful features, such as highlighting and markup.

In the meantime, you can convert the PDF to Word (or other Microsoft Office format) and edit the content from there. Then, save it back to the original form using our tools. Smallpdf has an all-in-one PDF converter to keep the process in one place.

The PDF converter can also be used in case you need to blackout text of documents other file formats. As you’ve figured, this would entail converting different file types to PDF, carry out the redacting, and then converting the file back to its original format. Look out for the ‘connected tools’ function, where you can move directly from one tool to another, without the need to download and re-upload files between tools. On the result page, there should be an option for you to Edit your files, once you’ve converted it to PDF format.

OCR is available for Pro users in case you’re dealing with scans - we’re here to help! :)

generic converter - pdf to word

Example: Convert PDF to Word

Can I undo this?


You cannot do so directly from a regular PDF reader. Otherwise, anybody would undo the blacked-out text. But because of this, make sure to have a copy of the original document. Still, there may be workarounds to remove the image element using another tool. Thus, if this is not suitable, you might need to purchase software to redact text from a PDF properly.

If you’re dealing with contracts and signatures, do check out our eSign tool. With this option, you can freely create, sign, and electronic request signatures, all in one go.

Chrome Extension


We receive PDF files everywhere we go, daily. You may be opening a PDF from an online platform, form an email attachment, or are exporting a PDF from a cloud service. Regardless, to gain direct access to our editor to redact or black out text in PDFs, do check out our Chrome Extension. You can then get the file uploaded and ready for processing in a simple click, anytime, anywhere.

Questions about security


As a GDPR compliant company, we ensure the safe handling of documents for our 25 million monthly users. For most tools, the materials that are uploaded are not stored on our server infrastructure for more than one hour. This period should give you more than enough time to upload, edit, and save your file. Check out our legal page for more info!

Hung Nguyen
Hung Nguyen
Content Marketing Manager