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How to Redact a PDF and Blackout Sensitive Text

January 13, 2022

Sometimes, you may want to share a PDF, but you do not want to share some sensitive information in the PDF. 

In situations like this, the best option is to blackout or redact the sensitive information. 

If you fail to do this correctly, some essential and private information might be made vulnerable and visible to all readers who might gain access to the PDF. 

In this article, you will learn ways to redact securely or blackout sensitive information in your PDF:

  • How to redact text in Adobe Acrobat DC
  • How to redact PDF content in Microsoft Word
  • How to redact PDF content online
  • How to redact text on a Mac with the Preview app
  • How to redact images In PDF
  • Can I Undo Redacted Content In My PDF?
  • Other Frequently Asked Questions On Redacting PDF Content

Why Redact Content in a PDF?

Redacting a PDF means removing or making some text and graphics invisible in the PDF. One of the significant reasons people redact, black out text or illustrations in a PDF is to block out sensitive information while still sharing the PDF. 

Some examples of sensitive information to block out in PDFs include:

  • Driver’s license/ private license numbers.
  • Trade secrets.
  • Bank cards number.
  • Social security numbers.
  • Medical information and many others.

Redacting a PDF is an alternative to adding password encryption to a PDF

But with the password, the recipient will have access to ALL the information. Redacting a PDF allows the recipient to access the document except for the redacted content.

How to Redact Sensitive Text and Info in a PDF

When you redact a text or graphics, the space is replaced with redaction marks in the form of colored boxes, or the area can be left blank. Like so:

blackout pdf text example


Let’s take a look at the different ways to redact content in a PDF - whether it’s text, images, and so on.

How to redact text in Adobe Acrobat DC

Click on the PDF containing the sensitive information you want to redact, and open it with Adobe Acrobat DC. Then you can use one of these methods to redact:

  1. Click on Tools > Redact; then choose the texts you want to redact.
  2. Click on the Edit tab, select Redact text and images, then drag the pointer over the text you want to redact.
  3. Select the text or image you want to redact and right-click the click on Redact.
  4. You can change the appearance of the redaction marks in the redaction toolset settings. To do this, click on the Redaction toolset tab, then select properties.
adobe acrobat pdf properties
  1. To preview the changes made, hold the pointer over the redacted area.
  2. After using any of the above methods, click on Apply and save the document. ‘Redacted’ will be added to the new file name to differentiate it from the original document.

Adobe Acrobat DC has a Sanitize tool that redacts some hidden metadata in the PDF document. As soon as you select the Redaction tool, it automatically chooses the Sanitization tool, but you can disable it.

Check the saved document to be sure that your information is safely redacted.

How to redact PDF content in Microsoft Word

If your document reader is Microsoft Word, you can redact text and images using these steps:

  1. Open the document with Microsoft Word.
  2. Drag your pointer across the texts or images you want to redact.
  3. Click on the word count on the bottom left corner.

4. It will bring out the number of words and letters you selected. Note the numbers of characters (with spaces).

5. Click close.

6. Copy the selected text by down-pressing Ctrl + C.

7. Press Ctrl + H to bring up the Find and Replace menu.

8. Click Ctrl + V to paste the copied text in the Find what space.

9. Beside the Find tab, click the Replace tab.

10. Type words or characters to replace the copied words with.

11. Do this for all the words you want to redact.

12. Then click Replace all.

13. Select Ok to other pop-up options.

14. Then, all your confidential texts will be replaced with certain words or characters.

To redact pictures in Word:

  1. Select the picture you want to redact.
  2. Click on the highlight option from the tabs above.

3. Change the highlight color to black by clicking on the back color.

4. Then drag the highlight over the image or text you want to redact.

5. Save the document when you are done.

This method might not be as secure as using the Redact tool in Adobe Acrobat, but it will help if it is your only option.

How to redact PDF content online

If you don’t use the pro version of Adobe Acrobat, you can redact PDF info online with tools like SmallPDF.

Here’s how:

  1. Open the online PDF editor in your browser.
  2. Click on Choose File, and select the PDF from your files.
  3. Click on a box representing the shapes.
  4. Then select Rectangle.
redact text with smallpdf online

5. Set the color of the shape to black

6. Draw the rectangle over the part of the PDF you want to cover.

7. Click on Finish when you are done.

8. Save the document.

If you do not want to use a shape, you can use the markup pen tool. However, this might not be as neatly drawn as using a shape. Set the Mark-up color tool to black and draw over the content you want to redact.

Also, if the file you want to redact is not in PDF format, you can use an online file converter to convert it to a PDF document, then back to its format after redacting it. 

This method is safe because you or anyone else cannot undo the redaction after making it. So, it is advisable to have a copy of the document before using an online PDF tool.

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How to redact text on a Mac with the Preview app

To redact text or images on Mac, you can use the macOS Preview app. Apple made it possible to redact content by adding a redaction tool in the Preview app. You can either make the content permanently deleted or otherwise. 

To temporarily cover the sensitive content in your PDF on a Mac:

  1. Select the View tab from the tabs above and click on Show Markup Toolbar
  2. Then click on any item or shape you would like to use; it is advisable to use a rectangle shape or thick line.
  3. Draw the chosen tool over the content you want to cover.

It will give a warning saying The content behind this annotation will not be deleted. And it might suggest you use the Redaction selection tool instead. This redaction method may not be completely safe as people can copy the area and get the covered information.

redact text with mac preview app


To use the redaction selection tool:

  1. Click on the redaction tool icon represented by a black-colored square.
  1. Drag the tool across the content you want to redact.
  2. It will sound a warning saying Related content is permanently removed, click on Ok.

If you covered a text you were not meant to cover; you can use the Revert tool in the File tab to recover the text.

When you are done, save the PDF. After saving it, you cannot recover that part of the document anymore.

How to redact images In PDF

Redacting an image has similar steps to redacting a text. Take these steps to redact an image:

  1. Open the document containing the image you want to redact with Adobe Acrobat.
  2. Right-click on the image and select Redact.
  3. Or click the image in and select the Redact icon in the floating menu.
redact images in pdf how to with adobe

4. Click on Apply, then save it.

Can I Undo Redacted Content In My PDF?

After redacting some content in a PDF, some document viewers save the original file and the redacted one. 

If your document viewer saved the original file, you could easily remove the redactions in the PDF. To remove the redaction:

  1. Click on the Edit menu at the top left corner.
  2. Select Redact Text and Images.
  3. Then, you can either add to the redactions or clear the redacted parts.
  4. As soon as you clear the redacted parts, the colored bars will no longer show, thereby revealing the information there.

This method can only work if you have the original document. You cannot undo the redaction if the document were saved and sent to you. 

So, before using the redaction tool, make sure you have a copy of the document saved in files.

Other Frequently Asked Questions On Redacting PDF Content

  • How do I confirm that my redaction worked?

You cannot be too careful as the document contains sensitive information. To confirm the redaction of the document:

  1. Open the saved (redacted document).
  2. Copy the black area that shows redaction.
  3. Paste in a blank document.
  4. If it shows blackout/ the redaction sign, it means the redaction is intact.
  5. Or you can search for the words you redacted, and if it does not come up, the redaction is undoubtedly in place.
  6. Also, you can open the document with other PDF viewers to confirm.
  • How do I copy redactions across the PDF document?

If you want redactions to be along the same line as the pages of your document, you can use Acrobat’s Repeat Mark Across Page tool. This tool will copy the redactions on a line and duplicate them on the same line on another page. Right-click the redacted area and click on Repeat Mark across the page option.

Conclusion

It is necessary to protect some information that’s authorized for specific people.

If the information is susceptible, you should be selective about who you share the document with even after redacting the information. So, consider password protecting your documents when needed too.

You cannot be too careful!


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The easiest way to automatically generate and manage paperless documents at scale.
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