Help my career as a stripper (of PDF background images)
February 25, 2011 12:06 PM   Subscribe

How to strip background images from a PDF?

I've bought a bunch of role-playing game PDFs lately. Some of them I'd like to print on my black & white laserprinter. Often the pages have off-white backgrounds or other background images that serve no purpose other than wasting toner and making them less readable. So what's the best way for me to strip them? I use Linux, but if there's a great solution for Windows XP, I'd like to hear about that, too -- this would be worth setting up a VirtualBox instance of XP for.

(It'd also be worth writing my own, if I have to -- so please feel free to give advice on approaches, if you're inclined.)
posted by Zed to Computers & Internet (5 answers total)
How many pages are we talking about? Inkscape can read and write PDFs, but only one page at a time. I've had issues in the past with it not handling fonts properly, so YMMV.

If you want to roll your own automated tool, I'd look into using a library like PoDoFo. It looks like it requires a fair amount of familiarity with the PDF specification. I'm sure there are alternatives for whatever programming language you prefer.

Previously, but it's from 2004.
posted by teraflop at 12:22 PM on February 25, 2011

Some of the PDFs are hundreds of pages, so I'd count manual handling of 1 page at a time as a non-starter. Thanks; missed that 2004 thread.
posted by Zed at 12:34 PM on February 25, 2011

it may still be impractical for PDFs with a huge number of pages, but if I was in your shoes (and I could justify the price), I'd use Adobe Acrobat (not the free Adobe Reader). Assuming the background texture is a single image and/or not sliced up from transparency flattening, it would just be a matter of using the Touchup Object tool to select the background image, hit delete, move to the next page, and repeat. If you know anyone that has a copy and you run out of other options, it's a thought.
posted by kryptondog at 2:50 PM on February 25, 2011

Make sure you're sending them to the printer as black-and-white, not color. If these are light tints, ticking the "black and white" checkbox might "round them down" to white. At worst it'll send them as a light dither, which might be OK.

Of course, if there are other continuous-tone images on these pages, this approach is probably sub-optimal.
posted by chazlarson at 3:30 PM on February 25, 2011

Is the text rendered as in a picture in the PDF? If not, it is possible to convert the files to another format with software. I use NitroPDF for this all the time. The resulting file is a Word doc that is easier to manipulate.

NitroPDF also has a 14 day free trial which would be more than enough time to convert the pages.
posted by lampshade at 4:10 PM on February 25, 2011

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