Converting PDF to JPEG?
February 4, 2015 1:01 PM   Subscribe

I want to take my original art and sell prints and such on Society6. I don't have a scanner so I took the three pieces to Staples and they scanned them onto a jump drive for me. I didn't think to say, "hey can you scan these as JPEG," and when I opened the files at home they're all PDF.

How do I convert the PDF files into JPEG at their highest resolution for free? Am I doomed to go back and have them rescanned? That would suck as I already mailed out one of the pieces to it's new owner. And it's important that the process is free. I have no money at all to buy fancy programs.
posted by 80 Cats in a Dog Suit to Technology (26 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
In gimp, which is free, you can import PDFs and export as just about anything, including jpg. I'm not sure whether doing this conversion is going to lose you much resolution. I imagine you'll lose some as jpg is a compressed format by its nature.
posted by lollusc at 1:04 PM on February 4, 2015

Yeah, GIMP is probably easiest if there are just a few. If there are many PDFs, here's a blog post on how to convert large batches of PDFs all at once using the free command line tool ImageMagick. (Instructions for doing it on a Mac but ImageMagick is cross-platform and the steps would be similar; just provide the details of your computer if you need help.)
posted by XMLicious at 1:11 PM on February 4, 2015

This web utility doesn't seem to be noticeably sketchy, and it turns a 8.5x11 sized PDF into a 2550x3300 pixel JPG image on the high detail setting.
posted by figurant at 1:12 PM on February 4, 2015

You will almost certainly lose resolution in the pdf-jpeg conversion, as default pdf image compression (which is what they are going to use at Staples) is going to be pretty lossy. Once you have compressed images using a lossy algorithm, that data is gone and you can't get it back.
The next time you do this, go to a local independent print shop instead of Staples and have them scan them at the highest possible resolution and save it as an uncompressed TIFF. Once you have the scan as a TIFF, you can convert it to any other format trivially using free software like GIMP.
posted by rockindata at 1:12 PM on February 4, 2015 [3 favorites]

What kind of computer do you have?

The graphics are inside the PDF in some format, possibly TIFF or PNG, or maybe JPG. You want to just extract the existing graphics from the PDF file, not rerasterize them. There are lots of utilities to do this, but before people can recommend one they need to know what kind of computer you have.
posted by alms at 1:12 PM on February 4, 2015 [1 favorite]

For example, in the Macintosh App Store there is a $1.99 utility called "PDF+ Toolkit" that lets you (among other things) extract all the images out of a PDF file into a folder. It does not convert the image files, it just extracts them from the PDF container. So there shouldn't be any loss in image quality that Rockindata is describing.
posted by alms at 1:14 PM on February 4, 2015

Have you complained to Staples? Scanning art as PDF is sloppy; (very likely) all they had to do was click a different button and wait a bit longer to get decent image files. Unless those PDFs are quite large, they're unlikely to ever give you the quality you want in prints.
posted by teremala at 1:18 PM on February 4, 2015

To repeat (sorry if this is getting old), you don't want to "convert" the PDF to jpg or png format, which is what figurant's web utility does. That's also what Photoshop does, and probably what GIMP does. All of those involve re-rasterizing the image.

This should be a very simple thing to do. (OP, if you want to just get the files to me via drop box or something I'm happy to do the conversion for you. It should take all of five seconds. Feel free to memail me.)
posted by alms at 1:19 PM on February 4, 2015

Response by poster: I have an HP Stream. It's a 1496 KB PDF and I need at least a 75 mb JPEG for print use. Is this doable?
posted by 80 Cats in a Dog Suit at 1:20 PM on February 4, 2015

The resolution of the image needs to be high if you want the image to be enlarged and printed. At this point do you know what resolution they scanned the images at? You'll lose resolution if you convert the .pdfs to jpeg. If you didn't have enough resolution in the first place, it'll be useless.

I'd follow rockindata's advice.
posted by quince at 1:22 PM on February 4, 2015

If you have a 1496 KB PDF document then you don't have enough pixels in there to get a 75MB JPEG. Sounds like the scan at Staples wasn't done at high enough resolution. Did you explain to them what you wanted to do with the artwork?

In any case, Extract PDF is a website that will extract images and other components from PDF files. If you run your PDF through that you'll see exactly what you have.
posted by alms at 1:23 PM on February 4, 2015 [3 favorites]

Response by poster: Dammit. Thanks for the help. I'm so annoyed right now. I said I was scanning my art work to use as prints.
posted by 80 Cats in a Dog Suit at 1:24 PM on February 4, 2015

I don't know if Staples is set up for such a scan. You would be better off going to a small print shop or possibly a photo place. What's the physical size of the artwork?
posted by any portmanteau in a storm at 1:26 PM on February 4, 2015

Response by poster: 8 x 10 for two, and smaller on the third.
posted by 80 Cats in a Dog Suit at 1:27 PM on February 4, 2015

Is this doable?

No. You simply don't have the information you need, and insofar as it's possible to "create" that data, it's just going to be noisy guesses. Staples almost certainly can scan at the resolution you want*, though it won't be the quality you'd get out of a real print shop that would do color corrections and all of that for you. They might tell you it costs more but I wouldn't be surprised if you can get them to just redo it for what you've already paid. Otherwise, they at least owe you a refund for the unusable files.

*I used to work at a very similar place and this exact scenario happened all the damned time.
posted by teremala at 1:29 PM on February 4, 2015

There's a really really good chance that the PDFs are just storing JPEGs wrapped in some PDF magic. The pdfimages command (from Xpdf or Poppler) can extract embedded images intact from PDFs.

I'd be happy to run the OP's files through this; memail me.

(On preview, there's a slim chance that the PDFs contain JPEG-2000 images, which are roughly 10% the file size of a JPEG for the same image quality.)
posted by scruss at 1:32 PM on February 4, 2015

Response by poster: Called to complain to Staples. They will rescan the images as JPGs but say they scanned it at its highest resolution. So I dunno if this will turn out any better. Also, one of the artworks is already mailed out to the new owner.

Lesson learned. I guess, next time I will save up and go to a print shop.
posted by 80 Cats in a Dog Suit at 1:38 PM on February 4, 2015

How big are your images physically? Scanners are cheap.
posted by musofire at 1:49 PM on February 4, 2015

If they're 8x10 or less then a photo place should be able to do it if you can't find a print shop. They'll be used to scanning people's photographs so should be able to get you a higher resolution scan of your art, and at the very least would be able to tell you the file format, resolution and colour depth they use before you actually get the scan done to see if it is good enough.
posted by any portmanteau in a storm at 1:51 PM on February 4, 2015

Don't scan them into JPEGs. Scan them into TIFFs. You should be able to get a minimum of 600 dpi. You might be able to get away with 300 dpi, but if Staples can't do 600 dpi they shouldn't be in the business of scanning things.
posted by alms at 2:10 PM on February 4, 2015

Best answer: Yes, you want 600dpi TIFF files, not JPEGs. JPEG is a lossy format, meaning that it throws out some of the detail in order to reduce file size. It tries to do this in a smart way that is less noticeable to humans, but it will always lose some and depending on what settings the Staples people use it may lose a lot. If you want a high quality art print at a decent size, you do not want to use JPEG as it will degrade thenquality of your image.

TIFF is a lossless format, which will preserve your image exactly as it is read from the scanner. This is what you want. You also want your images scanned at at least 600dpi (totally doable for any commercial scanner and most home ones) in order to ensure that you capture sufficient detail to make large prints without them looking blurry or pixelates. 600dpi is very high for screen viewing but not at all for printing.

There are other ways to get what you need, but that's the simplest. Your magic incantation, when you go to Staples, is "scan these documents at 600dpi TIFF files, please." That should be enough to get you what you want with a minimum of confusion. Note that the file sizes may be large (for images) but that's no big deal these days.
posted by Anticipation Of A New Lover's Arrival, The at 3:18 PM on February 4, 2015 [4 favorites]

Response by poster: Oh jeez, okay.
posted by 80 Cats in a Dog Suit at 3:55 PM on February 4, 2015

Response by poster: Thanks for the answers everyone, and thanks to the mefites that took time to extract images out of the PDF files to send me. This community is incredibly helpful.
posted by 80 Cats in a Dog Suit at 5:09 PM on February 4, 2015 [1 favorite]

> TIFF is a lossless format …

Not always. TIFF supports several lossy schemes such as JPEG and JPEG-2000. It's just a metadata wrapper.
posted by scruss at 6:24 PM on February 4, 2015 [3 favorites]

Memail me. I write software for manipulating PDF and can determine very quickly if the scans are salvageable from the PDF.
posted by plinth at 7:58 AM on February 5, 2015

« Older Weirdest scam ever or what?   |   Need a Russian translation, please. Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.