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I thought this would be a simple task, but it turned out the other way.

The watermark is the very same (overlapping, but transparent) image on every single page. I created the PDF file myself (so no copyright worries here) using PDFCreator 0.9.8.

I have already tried my friend's Adobe Acrobat Pro, but it didn't work. It tries to remove it, but it can't. I tried to remove header/footer, etc., but the watermark just won't disappear.

How can I remove the watermark?

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PDF is an output format, like an electronic printed page. It isn't meant to be edited, and in most cases you won't be able to do what you're asking short of exporting the pages to images and photoshopping out the watermarks. – Mk12 Jul 30 '12 at 18:06
Shopping recommendations are off topic for all stack exchange websites. To prevent this question from closing, I would recommend changing it to a how question, instead of what one – Canadian Luke Jul 30 '12 at 22:47
It seems you would simply use PDFCreator 0.9.8 and set the option so a watermark is NOT added to each page. I assume this question is because you don't have the original source. – Ramhound Jul 31 '12 at 16:51
up vote 52 down vote accepted

For image-based watermarks, there are several tools that promise their automatic removal. For example:

All of these are free to try, but require a license to actually produce the desired output.

However, the watermark of this specific PDF file (which the OP sent me via email) isn't a single image that is repeated on all pages. As it turns out, PDFCreator hardcoded it (almost pixel by pixel) into every single one of them. This makes the watermark much more difficult to remove (and results in a rather bloated PDF file).

Since the watermark is actually composed of many tiny images, you can remove them with a PDF editor (e.g., Foxit Advanced PDF Editor), simply by selecting them and pressing Delete. Unfortunately, you have to repeat this for every page.

A less time-consuming solution would be to remove the watermark programmatically. We need:


  1. Download Pdftk and extract pdftk.exe and libiconv2.dll to %windir%\System32, a directory in the path or any other location of your choice.

  2. Download and install Notepad++.

  3. PDF streams are usually compressed using the DEFLATE algorithm. This saves space, but it makes the PDF's source illegible.

    The command

    pdftk original.pdf output uncompressed.pdf uncompress

    uncompresses all streams, so they can be modified by a text editor.

  4. Open uncompressed.pdf with Notepad++ to reveal the structure of the watermark.

    In this specific case, every page begins with the block

    q 9 0 0 9 2997 4118.67 cm
    /W 1
    /H 1
    /BPC 8
    ID Ÿ®¼
    EI Q

    and nearly 4,000 blocks just like this one. This particular block sets only one (/W 1 /H 1) of the watermark's pixels.

    Scrolling down until the pattern changes reveals that the watermark's stream is 95,906 bytes long (counting newlines). The exact same stream is repeated on every page of the PDF file.

  5. Press Ctrl + H and set the following:

    Find:               q 9 0 0 9 2997 4118\.67 cm.{95881}
    Replace:            (blank)
    Match case:         checked
    Wrap around:        checked
    Regular expression: selected
    . matches newline:  checked

    The regular expression q 9 0 0 9 2997 4118\.67 cm.{95881} matches the first line of the above block (q 9 0 0 9 2997 4118.67 cm) and all following 95,881 characters, i.e., the watermark's stream.

    Clicking Replace All removes it from all pages of the PDF file.

  6. The watermark has now been removed, but the PDF file has errors (the streams' lengths are incorrect) and it's uncompressed.

    The command

    pdftk uncompressed.pdf output nowatermark.pdf compress

    takes care of both.

  7. uncompressed.pdf is no longer needed. You can delete it.

The result is the same PDF without the watermark (and about half the size).

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Another trick that I found useful: It was difficult for me to figure out the block corresponding to the watermark in my PDF. So what I did was to just extract a single page from the PDF, ideally a page where there is just the watermark and not much else. From this one page alone, it should be easier to figure out the block that corresponds to the watermark. Then go back and do it for the original PDF. – Kenny LJ Jul 11 '15 at 17:14
Wow, this is the first place on the internet I have found a good way to manage this. Any places that you recommend to read up on the container format? – ConstantineK Sep 8 '15 at 18:50
@hobs IIRC, I read parts of the official PDF reference to write this answer. – Dennis Sep 8 '15 at 19:21
Thanks @Dennis, I already gave you an upvote, but this seems to be the best canonical source. I was able to get what I needed done by just some find/replace and a few additional compression trial and error runs. HUGE HELP! – ConstantineK Sep 8 '15 at 19:48
Instead of pdftk you can also use qpdf to uncompress and compress the pdf files. Commands: qpdf --stream-data=uncompress original.pdf uncompressed.pdf and qpdf --stream-data=compress uncompressed.pdf nowatermark.pdf – David Schuler Feb 19 at 13:10

It sounds like the watermark is actually part of the images within the .PDF, and not a separate image rendered over it by whatever you are using to display the .PDF. You may not be able to remove the watermark without extracting the images from the .PDF, running them through an image editor, and then reconstructing the .PDF manually.

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The artifacts of the stamp are that you can delete it within Adobe Acrobat Pro, however it regenerates on a mouse-move because the stream object keeps it persistent.

If you try to edit the pdf source - which is tricky, there's a chance that the file will be corrupted.

If the stamp is a stream, we can interrupt it by disconnecting the computer from the Net, which I did.

Then using the Adobe Acrobat Pro, I selected one of my annotations, right-clicked to get the popup, and selected "Show Comments List".

Select the nefarious watermark/stamp from the List, right-click to get the popup and select "Delete". Do this on every page where the affixation occurs.

Save the File under another name. My application crashed, but not before saving the file!

Open the new & much smaller file; note that all the watermarks/stamps are gonzo.

In my case, the file size of my 3-page document shrank from 300 kb down to an impressive 60 kb. All the original data and annotations remained intact - sans the watermarks.

~Good hunting :o)

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For text watermarks, editing a PostScript version can be much easier: After

$ pdftops document.pdf

edit, then convert back to PDF via

$ ps2pdf

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convert the document into .rtf file using zamzar. The water mark vanishes automatically after conversion. Please Note:- It works perfectly if the document contains text material. It has always been of great help.. (Mac user)

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This does not work for the PDF I tried. – Kenny LJ Jul 11 '15 at 15:05

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