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I scanned a document in color to PDF, and I don't want to re-scan it.

How can I convert this PDF document to grayscale (preferably without loss of other information)?

My usual toolset of doPDF, pdfsam and the Neevia online converter don't work here. I was thinking I could simply print to PDF and select the Grayscale color option, but doPDF doesn't have that option.

I'm using Windows, but I can probably handle a solution for any OS.

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Sounds like a job for Imagemagick. Windows and Linux versions are available.

This should do the trick at the command line:

convert -colorspace GRAY original.pdf grayscale.pdf
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@nodiscc: you should be aware that ImageMagick employs Ghostscript as its delegate to render and interpret the PDF input file... (So without a working Ghostscript installation on the same system it won't work.) – Kurt Pfeifle Aug 8 '11 at 20:09
up vote 3 down vote accepted

I found a solution in a blog post:

With GhostScript (and Windows users can access gs via cygwin), you can do it with the following command:

gs \
  -sOutputFile=grayscale.pdf \
  -sDEVICE=pdfwrite \
  -sColorConversionStrategy=Gray \
  -dProcessColorModel=/DeviceGray \
  -dCompatibilityLevel=1.4 \

This will convert source.pdf to grayscale.pdf and put you into a GhostScript shell. To exit, press return and then enter quit in the shell.

Page 1
>>showpage, press <return> to continue<<


Alternately, you can pipe null in as input and that will convert the PDF and not leave you in the GhostScript shell.

command < /dev/null

Or, in a Windows command prompt:

command < NUL

Edit: from a comment, an improvement (for this case) in the arguments you can pass:

gs \
  -o grayscale.pdf \
  -sDEVICE=pdfwrite \
  -sColorConversionStrategy=Gray \
  -dProcessColorModel=/DeviceGray \
  -dCompatibilityLevel=1.4 \

(This will circumvent the need for dealing with the GS prompt.)

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OMG!, what a complicated workaround for avoiding the Ghostscript command prompt to stay up after the processing! A more simple solution is to add -dNOPAUSE -dBATCH to the commandline. The -dNOPAUSE part spares you from hitting [return] after each page, and the -dBATCH part saves you from typing 'quit' at to exit the GS> prompt. And even shorter: just use -o grayscale.pdf for specifying the output file; this -o ... implicitly also sets -dBATCH -dNOPAUSE... – Kurt Pfeifle Aug 8 '11 at 20:14
It appears this no longer works with recent versions of Ghostscript: says "'Gray' is not a documented legal value for ColorConversionStrategy" – AnC Feb 21 '13 at 17:01

Just install PDFCreator. It has a small footprint and adds a PDF printer to Windows. And as you've mentioned, just select grayscale when printing to it.

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Not that this would make your answer invalid, but do PDF prints lose information on each print? – palswim Aug 3 '11 at 21:43
I believe not, but you could just try - it's free :) – Traveling Tech Guy Aug 4 '11 at 3:33

You can just use the free service at to convert any PDF to greyscale.

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Nice; good find! Some people have sensitive information in their PDFs and don't want to use an online conversion service, though. – palswim Jan 14 '13 at 22:06

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