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How to Convert Your PDF to Black and White (Grayscale)

January 20, 2022

Adding many colors, visual assets, and images to your PDF can spike up the file size.

Converting it to black and white is a great way to reduce its size, if you don’t want to delete the content within.

Turning a PDF into grayscale can also help save costs when you’re printing without color.

Whether you want to save on colored printer ink or reduce your PDF file size to attach it to email, you’ll learn all the different ways to remove color and turn your documents into black and white.

Here’s what we’ll cover:

  • What Is the Difference Between Grayscale, Monochrome, and Black and White?
  • Why Convert your PDF to Grayscale?
  • Methods to Convert a Document to Black and White (Grayscale)
  • How to convert your PDF to black and white using Adobe Acrobat
  • How to convert your PDF file to black and white with Windows
  • How to convert your PDF to black and white on Mac using Preview app
  • How to convert your PDF to black and white with PDFelement
  • How to Convert a Picture In a PDF File to Black and White
  • How to Convert a PDF to Monochrome and not Grayscale
  • How to Restore Color to a Grayscale or Black and White PDF
  • Frequently Asked Questions On Converting PDFs to Black and White or Grayscale

What Is the Difference Between Grayscale, Monochrome, and Black and White?

Grayscale simply contains shades of grey (from white to black) and is used for reproducing images or documents that contain colors more than just printed black text.

Monochrome, meanwhile, simply means that there's a use of different hues of a single color to represent different images in an image. So, all black and white images are monochrome, but not all monochrome images are necessarily black and white (they can be a different hue or color).

Black and white (monochrome), only has two colors - black (ink or toner) and white (no ink or toner).

Why Convert Your PDF to Grayscale?

Color images add more details to the document, so why convert your PDF to black and white? 

There are a variety of reasons why you may want to convert your documents to grayscale. These can include but are not limited to the following reasons:

  • To save cost: Printing with colored ink costs more than black and white printing. So, if the images still do well in black and white, converting the PDF to black and white is economical to save costs.
  • To compress the PDF size: The PDF size tends to be larger when many color images are added to the document. Grayscale images are smaller in file size than colored images, so converting to black and white reduces the file’s size. But this is not the only way to save your PDF file size. Learn how to Zip a PDF file to compress its size here. 
  • To preview the document: Even if the document is left with the color images, if you want to print out the copy in black and white, you should convert the PDF to black and white. This is to see how the images will look after it is printed. With this, you can spot pictures that become blurry or reduce quality and change the photos to another.

Methods to Convert a Document to Black and White (Grayscale)

Ready to convert your PDF file to black and white?

There are a few different ways to do this with a few different tools.

Here’s how:

How to convert your PDF to black and white using Adobe Acrobat

With Adobe Acrobat Pro DC, you can convert your PDF to black and white using the Print production tool. You can do this by following these steps:

  1. Click on the View tab > tools > Print production menu.
  2. Select Preflight in the resulting dialogue box.
  3. Then click Prepress > color transparency. 
  4. Then click convert to grayscale from the options made available.
  5. Click Analyze and fix button.
  6. Finally, save the converted PDF.
converting pdf document to black and white with adobe

In the older version of Adobe Acrobat, you might have to go through a different process. If you are using 2015 versions or older, use these procedures:

  1. Click on Print Production from the tools tab.
  2. Select convert to grayscale > analyze and fix
  3. Then, save the document.

The difference between the older and newer version is the many processes you have to pass through in the more recent version of Adobe Acrobat.

How to convert your PDF file to black and white with Windows

If you are using Windows, use these steps to convert your PDF to black and White:

  1. Right-click on your PDF file. 
  2. Click on PDF Output Settings from the resulting options.
  3. Select the PDF output tab.
  4. Then tick the box Output PDF as Grayscale.
pdf output to grayscale windows
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How to convert your PDF to black and white on Mac using Preview app

To convert your PDF to Black and White using Mac, you will use the Preview software, the in-built PDF viewer, and editor on Mac. Take these steps to convert your PDF:

  1. Open the PDF using Preview software.
  2. In the File tab, click on Export.
  3. Type the new name you want the document to be saved as.
  4. In the resulting menu, next to format, choose PDF from the options available.
  5. And next to the Quart Filter menu, select Black and White or Grey.
  6. Click on Save, and the document will be saved in the chosen location as a Black and White document.

If you regularly convert your files to Black and White, you can use the Automator to do the job.

How to convert your PDF to black and white with PDFelement

If you use PDFelement, here’s how you can convert your PDF document to black and white:

  1. Open PDFelement.
  2. Click on Open files and select the PDF you want to convert from its file location.
  3. After the file has been opened; click on the File tab > Print.
  4. In the resulting options, click Wondershare PDFelement as the printer.
  5. In the color option box, change it from Multicolor to Grey.
  6. Then click on Print, and the file will be converted to Black and White.
  7. The opened file will be in black and white. Click File, then Save.

You will have your document saved in black and white form.

How to Convert a Picture In a PDF File to Black and White

If you want to convert only selected pictures in your PDF file to black and white or grayscale, and not the whole document, here’s what you do:

  1. Open the file with a PDF document viewer.
  2. Locate the picture whose color you want to change, and click on it.
  3. In the tabs above, under Format, select Recolor and choose Grayscale.
  4. You can save the document, and the picture will be saved as Black and White.

The setting is not permanent so it can be reverted. To revert it back to colors: 

  • Click on the changed picture, and in the Format tab above, select the Reset picture option.

How to Convert a PDF to Monochrome and not Grayscale

If you have a printer that can only print monochrome or black and white files, you might want to change your Grayscale files to monochrome. 

You can do this with Adobe Acrobat. Though you cannot convert an already existing file with this process, you must first export it as a monochrome image before importing it to Adobe Acrobat. 

 Follow these step-by-step processes to convert grayscale PDF documents to monochrome:

  1. Open the Adobe Acrobat software and click on the file you want to convert.
  2. Click on the File tab, and click on Save as.
  3. Afterward, select Image > TIFF.
  4. Then, in the Color space resulting menu, choose Monochrome. Then click ok
  5. Then, all the pages will be saved separately as TIFF image files
  6. Then, you can create the PDF again by combining all the images into a file.
  7. Go back to the main menu and click on Add files and add all the TIFF saved images
  8. All the images will be merged to create another document.
  9. Click on the File tab, then Save the document.

Learn how to convert TIFF to PDF here.

How to Restore Color to a Grayscale or Black and White PDF

Changed a PDF document to black and white and want to change it back to its original color? 

To revert the PDF colors with Adobe Reader, follow these steps:

  1. Locate the black and white document, and right-click on it.
  2. Click Open with > Adobe Acrobat DC.
  3. After the file opens, click on Edit > preferences
  4. In the left upper tab, click on Accessibility
  5. Then tick the boxes Replace Document Colors.
  6. Click on the Custom color option
  7. Afterward, mark the boxes for Page Background and Document text.
  8. Choose your preferred color in the resulting options.
  9. Click Ok, and you will have your preferred colors shown.

Frequently Asked Questions On Converting PDFs to Black and White or Grayscale

  • Can I add color back to a black and white PDF?

Yes, you can invert colors to a black and white PDF. You can use Adobe Acrobat software, Photoshop, and Chrome to do this. 

  • What is the difference between Black and white, Monochrome, and Grayscale PDF?

There is little difference because they are all converted to shades of grey. But some printers do not print out Greyscale files clearly, so you might have to convert the file to Monochrome. The steps to convert from Greyscale to Monochrome are stated above.

  • Will my highlighted texts still be highlighted after converting my file to black and white?

Yes, your highlighted texts will remain the same, though they might not be in the original highlight color. The highlight color might be grey instead of red or yellow.

  • Can colored PDF be printed out?

Yes. Some printers print out colored files. Though, it might cost more than printing out in black and white. The only difference is the ink used.

  • After converting it to black and white, can I get back my original file back?

It might be hard to get back all the original colors of the file after converting it to black and white. To be on the safer side, save a copy of the original file before converting the file.

Conclusion

When you need to convert your color PDF to black and white, make sure the images and other characters are of good quality. So that after you convert the file, the photos will not come out as blurry or distorted. 

Converting the PDF to Black and White does not reduce the quality of the images, but it reduces the sharpness and some other attributes of the images.

Need more info on converting your PDF documents or managing the color of the content within?

Be sure to also read:

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