How to black out text in PDF files.

A man types on the laptop he is holding.

Learn how to quickly black out, or permanently remove, sensitive information from your PDF documents with this easy step-by-step guide.

A PDF is one of the most shareable types of documents online — it’s quick, secure, and easy to open and read. Sometimes, though, you have sensitive information within a document that you don’t want to share with everyone. In those instances, you can save yourself a total rewrite and quickly black out that existing text in just a few easy steps. Read on to learn how to redact text in PDF files.

Why would I need to black out text in a PDF file?

If there is sensitive information in a document or you only want someone to focus on certain portions of a document, you may want to black out text. Maybe at your company you need to share an important document that contains the company background with a new employee. The document, however, contains trade secrets that are not acceptable to share until a person has worked there for a longer period of time. You might want to redact that text in your PDF.

Maybe you got a new identification card and want to show friends or colleagues your new photo. You can black out the text on the PDF to hide personal information. Similarly when helping students prepare for a test, a teacher might give students a list of questions that will be on the test with the answer key blacked out. There are many uses for blacking out text in a PDF file to ensure that sensitive information is not revealed.

Is “black out text” and “redact text” the same?

While you can black out text as a form of text redaction, it is not technically the same thing. Text redaction includes blacking out, blurring out, deleting, or other means of hiding text in a document. Blacking out text is just one method of redacting text to hide sensitive information.

Is redacting safe in a PDF?

Some methods, such as using a black marker or changing font color, are not foolproof. But PDF redaction in Adobe Acrobat is secure. When you redact text in PDF files, you can rest assured that your information cannot be seen by the receiver of the document. Once your PDF file is saved with the redaction adjustments, the hidden information will remain hidden.

How to black out sensitive information with the Redact tool.

There are many instances when you may want to black out, or redact, information in a PDF document. Perhaps a business file has confidential data that you aren’t yet ready to share with other team members. Or a document may have too much personal information, such as your email address, physical address, and phone number — or even your SSN and credit card information. With the redaction tool, you can black out any and all confidential information quickly and easily. Here’s how to black out text in a PDF:

  1. Open your PDF in Adobe Acrobat.
  2. Select Tools, then Redact.
  3. Select text. Either double-click to select the text or drag to select lines of text.
  4. Apply redaction. Once you’ve selected the text you want to remove, click Save to apply the changes and save the document. (Make sure you’ve already saved the original PDF in its unredacted form.)

If you have multiple paragraphs or large areas of information you want to redact, you can drag and select the text, right-click, and choose Redact. As you continue to work through your document, if you find information that you want to change instead of remove, you can simply edit the PDF.

If you have a multi-page document, you can save time by replacing every instance of certain words, phrases, or numbers with just a few clicks. To do this, navigate to Tools and select Redact > Redact Text & Images > Find Text & Redact. This makes it easy to identify and then black out that content throughout the document.

You can also specify general patterns, such as phone, Social Security, or credit card numbers. The Redact tool will automatically search the entire document and black out every occurrence of the specified patterns.

Once you’re happy with your document, you’re ready to download a copy or share it with others.

How do I redact in Adobe Acrobat Pro?

You can redact in Acrobat Pro by taking the following steps:

  1. Open the PDF in Acrobat, and then do one of the following:
  1. Mark items you want to remove by doing any of the following:
  1. To apply multiple code entries to a single redaction, right-click a redaction mark and select an option.
  2. When you have finished marking the items you want to redact, click Apply in the secondary toolbar to remove the items. Alternatively, you can save the document, and then choose Apply & Save.
  3. In the Apply Redactions dialog, choose if you want to “Sanitize and remove hidden information” by clicking the toggle button, and then click OK.
  1. The Save As dialog is displayed. Specify a filename and location. The suffix “_Redacted” is appended to the filename. If you don’t want to overwrite the original file, save the file with a different name, at a different location, or both.

If you’re a visual learner, check out the screenshots in this post about how to redact a PDF using Acrobat.

After I black out text, can I undo it?

You can undo text that you blacked out in Acrobat by following these steps:

  1. Click the Edit tab at the top of the screen.
  2. Select Redact Text & Images.
  3. Remove redactions.

Other ways to redact text in PDF files.

Need to redact text on a different platform such as mobile, Mac, or PC? These resources will be helpful:

Discover everything you can do with Acrobat online services to edit and safely share all of your important documents.