How to optimize a scanned PDF document using Acrobat X and XI

Learn how to OCR PDF or convert PDF to text to improve the appearance of a PDF scan.

By Donna Baker – March 23, 2012


In this tutorial, learn how to OCR PDF or convert PDF to text to improve the appearance of a PDF scan using Acrobat X or XI.

View transcript

How to optimize a scanned PDF document using Acrobat X and XI

Donna Baker – March 23, 2012

Sometimes the documents you scan don’t look very clear. The text may be blurry, you might see color from the paper background, or even stains or fold marks.

In the Document Processing tools, click Optimize Scanned PDF to open the Optimize Scanned PDF dialog box. Optimizing means to create the best quality document at the most efficient file size. The default setting for scans uses a lower quality file. For higher quality (and larger file size) drag the slider right.

Click Edit to pick Filter settings. Deskew squares up the contents on the page (on by default). Background removal brightens background areas to white. Select an amount: (Off by default), Low for textured paper, Medium or High for  newsprint or colored paper. Descreen (On by default) removes small dots on the paper from ink like newsprint. Text sharpening increases the contrast between the edges of letters and the background. Choose an option: (Low by default), or try Medium or High for blurry text. When you’ve picked filter settings, click OK.

Make Searchable is checked by default to capture the text on the page. When you’ve finished choosing settings, click OK. Acrobat processes, or optimizes the document. The scan appearance will improve, but you might have to repeat the process. If you’re pleased with the appearance, save the file. If you want to try again, close the file without saving, reopen it, and adjust the settings.

Products covered:

Acrobat XIAcrobat X

Related topics:

Convert PDF to JPG, Compress PDF online, Scan and Optimize

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Comments for this tutorial are now closed.

Raymond Mooney

6, 2016-01-21 21, 2016

I had someone send me a disc with ,pdf files on it but they are simply images how to I do OCR to convert them to readable text so I can underline them. I have Adobe Acrobat DC. I have searched for an ocr tool but can’t find one. Thanks

Lori Kassuba

4, 2015-09-18 18, 2015

Hi Namratha,

You’ll need Acrobat and not just the free Reader to do this. First, you can try using the File > Save as Other > Reduced size PDF command. Or, if you have the Pro. version you can adjust the PDF using the File > Save as Other > Optimized PDF command.



11, 2015-09-16 16, 2015

Am trying to convert my pdf file less than 500kb.But my actual size is 2.1MB. How can i convert my file less than 500kb?? please help me out..

Lori Kassuba

5, 2015-02-26 26, 2015

Hi srilakshmi,

Are you referring to running the Optimized Scanned Documents Action in Acrobat Pro?



12, 2015-02-24 24, 2015

hello every one. The clarification i want is about the option “optimize” after scanning the system. It showed me some files to select and the optimize is given. I don’t know what to do.
      can anyone please help me.
                  Thank you

Lori Kassuba

7, 2014-09-19 19, 2014

Hi Augustine,

Try using the Edit Text & Image command in the Content Editing panel to clean up your file.



11, 2014-09-19 19, 2014

I NOTICED WHENEVER I SCANNED SOME DOCS, I realized some part of the scanned material when converting will also convert the folded part and later convert it along side the document to imaginary Signs and Images
pls how do i remove this poor parts from the converted without touching the other useful part of the documents pls

Lori Kassuba

9, 2014-08-28 28, 2014

Hi C E Thomas,

The transcript links can come in quite handy for future reference.


C E Thomas

1, 2014-08-28 28, 2014

Ooopppppsssss!!!!!! I now see that there is a transcript link. My apologies!!!

best regards,


Lori Kassuba

5, 2014-04-01 01, 2014

Hi Nick Mourikis,

Try using the grayscale option instead of B&W since there is probably a lot of background color detection.


Nick Mourikis

3, 2014-03-29 29, 2014

When scanning a car title in auto detect color mode the scanning looks very good. When I specify to scan same document in black and white entire document is blury and there it nothing that I can make it be readable.
Any suggestions??

Lori Kassuba

6, 2014-01-30 30, 2014

Hi Mark,

What setting are you using when running the OCR? There are 3 different types of settings and each one processes differently. So, perhaps this is the problem.



4, 2014-01-28 28, 2014

With due respect, OCR on Acrobat Pro XI is crap.  The text remains blurred after running OCR regardless of filters or settings. 

You do know that Acrobat Pro 9 ran OCR perfectly the first time.  Adobe fixed something that wasn’t broken.


Hoho Satour

10, 2013-12-18 18, 2013

in Acrobat X : Tools > Document Processing > Optimize Scanned PDF
It’s the best way.

in Acrobat 9 : Document > Optimize Scanned PDF

Good luck :)

donna baker

9, 2013-10-29 29, 2013

Hi Li Ida -

Acrobat X used a different method. As you mentioned, use the File > Save As > Optimized PDF command. You’ll end up with the same outcome as using the command shown in this video.


Li Ida

3, 2013-10-24 24, 2013

Where can I find this function if I’m using Acrobat X? I don’t see it in the tools. I saw “optimize PDF” in the file-save as, however it looks different as shown in the video. thanks

Lori Kassuba

5, 2013-10-23 23, 2013

Hi medi,

To assist you further, can you post your question here?



4, 2013-10-22 22, 2013

je n arrive toujours pas a transformer un document que j ai numeriser avec un scaner car un message apparait a chaque fois et me dis ce document est numériser et il faut l exporter vers un autre programe; J AI ESSAYER TOUT LES PROGRAMES mais rien à faire
merci a tous de m aider car c est casse tete

No I still can not convert a document that I have to digitize a scaner because a message appears every time and tell me what document is scanned and the need to export to another programe, I HAVE TO TRY ALL THE programes but nothing to do
thank you all for help me for it is broken head

Lori Kassuba

4, 2013-10-21 21, 2013

Hi medi medy,

Have you tried running the Text Recognition command on your scanned PDF document before exporting to another file format?


medi medy

1, 2013-10-19 19, 2013

j aimerai modifier des document numeriser mais un message me dis a chaque fois d exporter le document mais c est illisible
help me   merci a tous

I’d like to change digitize paper but a message telling me every time to export the document but it’s unreadable.

donna baker

3, 2013-04-22 22, 2013

Hi Rita -

The Image & Text tool should help if the text is captured. Since you select everything with one click, it’s obviously not captured. There are a set of OCR tools in the Tools’ pane’s dropdown menu. If your background is really ugly, sometimes streaks and smears, etc. are defined as graphics, which you can click and delete.


Rita Marshall

12, 2013-04-17 17, 2013

Thanks Donna, I found it.

The sharpen text seems to help, but the remove background leaves a bit to be desired.  I’m open for any recommendations.  Using Edit Text & images does not seem to offer any help.  The entire page is selected.


donna baker

2, 2013-04-16 16, 2013

Hi Rita -

Click Tools to open the pane. Click the Options dropdown menu icon at the far right of the panels to open a list of panels. Click Document Processing to load the tools.


Rita Marshall

10, 2013-04-13 13, 2013

I have Acrobat Pro XI.  How do I get to Document Processing tools?  I do not see that option, but I really need to improve the images on the PDF file.

donna baker

9, 2013-04-11 11, 2013

Hi Khalid -

Since you’ve already got the scan complete, use the tools in Acrobat to apply some filters to the file. In Acrobat XI, open the Document Processing tools, and click Optimize Scanned PDF. From there you can pick features such as the compression type, and adjust the filters such as deskew, background removal, and so on. It would be best to make a copy of the document first, then take out a few pages that are a problem for you and try the process with those first. When you’re satisfied, apply the same settings to a copy of the entire original file.


Khalid Desouky

1, 2013-04-04 04, 2013

I have a few PDF scans of some old documents. They aren’t very clear because they’re copies of copies. I’ve used some simple applications on my iPhone called Genius Scan that have been great. After I scan the photo I want, it allows me to use some simple filters to optimize the scan. I’m trying to find something similar to use for my iMac. I can’t use the iPhone application because I have a 200 page PDF document thats already scanned. Any suggestions? i just want some simple filters to add to the scan that would allow it be more clearer in some places on the document.

donna baker

1, 2013-04-03 03, 2013

Hi Rita -

You may be able to remove the backgrounds using the Edit Text and Images tool. As soon as you select the tool, you’ll see the objects on the page identified with bounding boxes. Artifact on your background such as smears, etc. will also be identified. Click to select them and then delete.


Rita Marshall

2, 2013-04-01 01, 2013

I am attempting to clean up an exixting PDF file, not scan a new one.  Is there a way to remove the background from an existing PDF file in Acrobat XI Pro?


Rita Marshall

5, 2013-03-28 28, 2013

I have just upgraded to Acrobat XI Pro.  I have existing PDF’s that require background removal. What are the steps?

donna baker

6, 2013-01-15 15, 2013

Hi K-Dub -

It isn’t necessary to install a plug-in as the feature has been automated, although you can still adjust the contrast if necessary.

Choose File > Create > PDF from Scanner. If you’re working on Windows, click the Configure Presets submenu option to choose a preset. You can choose from Autodetect Color Mode, Black and White, Grayscale, etc. Since you’re concerned about contrast, I suggest using the Autodetect or Black and White modes, depending on whether or not you want to OCR (capture) the text.

On Mac, you can’t configure presets, but do still achieve the final outcome.

Regardless of your operating system, start the Scan process to open the Acrobat Scan dialog box. Click the Optimize Scanned PDF checkbox in the Document Settings section of the dialog box, and click Options to see a list of configurable filters. There isn’t a filter named Contrast, but you could approximate it by adjusting the Background Removal and Text Sharpening settings.



5, 2013-01-04 04, 2013

Hi Donna,
      I’ve upgraded a user of mine from ver. 5 to X Pro.  In ver. 5 when scanning a document, she was able to change the contrast through an “Acrobat Scan Plug-in”, but when scanning documents in X Pro, there doesn’t appear to be any such option.

Is there some ‘plug-in’ for X Pro that can be installed to obtain the “changing the contrast” functionality, or is there some built-in option in X Pro that enables you to do that?


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