I'm impressed how hard it is to do a simple task: print/save as PDF some transparent vectored images, as Microsoft Word and PowerPoint graphics.

Word can save as PDF and keep the transparency unchecking the PDF/A Compliant, but non vector images (PNG JPE) quality is very bad (pixellated) and there is no option to customize PDF image compression.

Others apps like PDF Creator gives the user image compression options, but they don't keep the transparency.


  • App: Transparency / image quality
  • Word builtin .pdf converter (Export or Save As): Keep transparency / Bad images resolution
  • PDF creator, doPDF, CutePDF writer: NO transparency! / Configurable images resolution

Adobe PDF works, but it is paid: Print and save transparent artwork

Flattening may be necessary when you print or when you save or export to other formats that don’t support transparency. To retain transparency without flattening when you create PDF files, save your file as Adobe PDF 1.4 (Acrobat 5.0) or later.

PDF versions

PDF (from version 1.4) supports graphic transparency; PostScript does not.

I don't want to flatten my images

Is there any free non PostScript(garbage) printer so I can print in PDF version >= 1.4?

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    one option is save the artwork as a png then export to PDF
    – Junme
    Aug 1, 2017 at 0:05
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    This is exactly what I'm trying to avoid
    – Pedro77
    Aug 1, 2017 at 12:07
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    Pedro - Would happen to have a link to a Word document that has such an image in it or could you create one, find a place to upload and provide a link for others to download. I have an idea off the top of my head but I'd like to test before I suggest to ensure it works as you describe you need it to. You can remove anything from it want removed but having at least a graphic in it for the test as you see lose quality would be nice. Aug 10, 2017 at 18:33

2 Answers 2


You may have a box checked in your settings that you should not. In the options panel, check that your ISO 19005-1 compliant (PDF/A) field is unchecked. This will prevent transparency's in artwork.

...I finally discovered that the problem was arising only when I had "ISO 19005-1 compliant (PDF/A)" selected under the PDF Options. Deselecting that option causes the image to be displayed correctly. Further investigation shows that transparency in objects is forbidden in "ISO 19005-1 compliant (PDF/A)" formatted documents...

Credit to: In Publisher 2010 save as pdf causes png pictures to have black backgrounds. How can I fix this?

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    As I said in my question: "Word can save as PDF and keep the transparency unchecking the PDF/A Compliant, but non vector images (PNG JPE) quality is very bad (pixellated) and there is no option to customize PDF image compression."
    – Pedro77
    Aug 10, 2017 at 22:32

One advice that is consistently given by Adobe is to use CMYK for images with transparency that are to be printed.

The Adobe article About flattening says this :

If you apply transparency to objects on a spread, all colors on that spread convert to the transparency blend space you’ve chosen (Edit > Transparency Blend Space), either Document RGB or Document CMYK, even if they’re not involved with transparency. Converting all the colors results in consistency across any two same-colored objects on a spread, and avoids more dramatic color behavior at the edges of transparency.

The above advice seems to imply only that it is bad to mix RGB and CMYK handling where transparency is concerned. (I would really love to understand what means that beautiful rhetoric of "edges of transparency".)

But the following text is more specific:

Depending on your workflow, do one of the following:

  • If you create documents for print only, choose Document CMYK for the blend space.
  • If you create documents for web only, choose Document RGB.
  • If you create documents for both print and web, decide which is more important, and then choose the blend space that matches the final output.

I would therefore advise to convert your images and blend space to CMYK. I do not know if that will help in your case, as the above article only gives hints which it does not explain.

Note that JPEG and PNG images are RGB. TIFF is better adapted to CMYK.

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    Nobody read my question? I don't want to flatten.
    – Pedro77
    Aug 10, 2017 at 22:50
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    Are you using CMYK? The flatten text was used as a hint - in the end printing will involve flattening.
    – harrymc
    Aug 11, 2017 at 10:22

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