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The Portable Document Format (PDF) is almost like a plastic laminated paper. You can see what’s inside but you can’t get to the content.
It’s bit of a problem when one of the content types embedded in a PDF document are images. And, after viewing them, you want them for your own.
For instance, I am a voracious user of SlideShare, and sometimes I like to save a neat illustration or graphic for my personal use. Then there are some professional reports which come packaged as a PDF and you might want to use a graphic or an embedded chart from there in a presentation. Or, it could be a scanned document and you just need a vital image.
The very reason we rely so much on the Portable Document Format stops us from extracting images from the PDF file. But, as in everything, there’s a backdoor.
There are many tools to tinker with a PDF document. Today, we will look at how to pick at it like a locksmith, “steal” an image, and come out without leaving a trace behind. Let’s look at some ways to extract images out of a PDF.
The first two methods on the list will need cash. The others after that are all free.
Method 1 – Use a Dedicated PDF Reader
Image extraction from a PDF is a cakewalk if you have the professional version of Adobe Acrobat. It allows you to extract a single image or multiple images within a couple of clicks. I don’t have the professional version myself, so I will refer you to the official Adobe Acrobat help page that shows you how to export a PDF to other formats.
But, I am guessing most of us don’t have the professional version. That’s not bad news at all.
Some alternative PDF readers like the Nitro PDF Reader (Pro) also have this feature. But, who pays money for a PDF reader right? Let’s check out how we can take out images for free.
The Quick & Dirty Way with the Free Adobe Reader DC. When you have just one or few images to extract, try this shortcut on the free version of the Adobe Reader:
- Right-click the document and choose Select Tool from the pop-up menu.
- Drag to select text or click to select an image.
- Right-click the selected item and choose Copy. The image is now in your clipboard.
Alternatively: Use the Snapshot tool.
- Choose Edit > Take A Snapshot.
- Drag a rectangle around the area you want to copy and then release the mouse button.
- Press the Esc key to exit Snapshot mode. The image is now in your clipboard.
Method 2 – Launch Adobe Photoshop
Using Adobe Photoshop feels like launching a space shuttle to grab a weather balloon. But, if you are a creative designer then this Adobe giant must be a habit already. The process is as simple – open a PDF document with Adobe Photoshop. The Import PDF dialog box appears.
Select Images instead of Pages. You can select the images you want to extract. Click OK and then save (or edit) the image as you would normally do. Adobe Illustrator and CorelDraw also offer a similar functionality. Using this approach, you can easily extract an image and bring it over to another desktop publishing program.
Use Inkscape? Inkscape is the best free alternative to Photoshop when you are on a budget. It too has a PDF Import process which allows you to selectively save non-text parts of a document.
So far, we have brought out the BIG guns. Now, let’s look at solutions which are not only simpler but they have a far more important attribute for the layman – they are all free.
Method 3 – Use the Windows Snipping Tool
Or, any other screenshot tool. Sounds obvious, doesn’t it? But, you, like so many people, miss this obvious tool hidden in Windows 10, Windows 8.1, and Windows 7.
- Select the Start button. Type Snipping Tool in the search box on the Taskbar. Then, select Snipping Tool from the list of results.
- Click on Mode. Choose from Free-form, Rectangular, Window, or Full-screen Snip. For free-form or rectangular snips, use your mouse to select the area that you want to capture.
- Use the Save and Copy buttons to save it to the desktop or send it to the clipboard.
The Snipping Tool is a quick stab. Sometimes, we want a large excavator that is also free. Turn to a software.
Method 4 — Install a Tiny Software
You will find a few software that can extract selected or all images from a PDF file. I selected two for a review.
This is a tiny freeware you can install from Sourceforge. Unzip the 5.6MB download and run it like a portable program. The controls on the simple Windows Graphical User Interface are self-explanatory.
Open your target file. Enter the range of page numbers you would like to include. The dropdown gives you four output options for PDF extraction:
- PDF to Text.
- PDF to Image.
- Extract images from PDF pages.
- PDF to HTML.
We are interested in the third output. You can click on Advanced Settings and set a custom image quality if you want. Or, leave them at the defaults. Hit Convert and the software goes to work scanning all the pages in the file.
View the output in the frame on the right. You can also sift through a specific image format with the Image Viewer. All extracted images can be saved in a specific folder automatically.
PDF Shaper Free is a full-featured software than runs on Windows 10. The software has a simple interface. There is a paid version but fortunately for us, the free version has retained the image extraction feature. Download and install the 8MB file but beware the Avast promo on the install screen.
PDF Shaper is very minimal but there are some useful features under the hood. There are four conversions but we are interested in only the PDF to Image method here.
- Click on the “+” symbol to add your file.
- Select a folder on your desktop to hold all the extracted images.
- Click on Process to start the extraction.
Also, you can click on the Options tab and choose an output image format (BMP, JPG, GIF, TIFF, EMF, WMF etc.) and the final resolution. It can be useful if you want to reduce the size of the original images. When you are working with images, it is important to understand the difference between each image format and the right places to use them
Installed software is the best solution if you are concerned about the privacy of your PDF document. If not, there are many good online solutions to choose from. We go after a few of them next.
Method 5 – Upload to the Web Apps
If you don’t need to install anything, then don’t because these online PDF tools can handle almost all everyday tasks.
Small PDF is smart, clean, and quick. It has a pricing model but the free plan allows you to upload two PDFs for free every day. There are 16 tools to choose from. Pick the yellow colored tile that says – PDF to JPG.
- Drag and drop your PDF file or upload it from your desktop. You can also upload from Google Drive or Dropbox.
- Select either Extract Single Image or Convert Entire Pages.
- Small PDF scans the file and extracts all images in the next step. You can select an image individually, download them as a ZIP file, or save them in Dropbox or Google Drive.
Small PDF is a clean and elegant solution. You don’t even need to log-in for an occasional use. So, I don’t have any hesitation in recommending it as an online PDF tool that can save you a lot of work.
This site is an all-in-one PDF converter for a variety of needs. They have paid downloadable tools also, but you can avoid the splurge with the online versions. The PDFdu Free Online PDF Image Extractor is up to the task in just four steps.
- Click the Browse button to select and upload the PDF file.
- Choose an image format.
- Click Extract Images and wait.
Download the extracted images to your computer as a ZIP file or open them one by one in your browser. The site says that images are extracted with the highest quality. After the process is over, click the blue delete button to remove the PDF document from their server.
These aren’t the only two tools available. Keep these web apps as fallback options:
Why Do You Extract Images From a PDF Document?
This article proves one fact — there are enough online converters and extractors to do the job.
As the most popular document format, there are many ways to skin a PDF file and manipulate the content for our own use. The more interesting question is this:
What kind of situation compels you to extract images from a PDF? Is there any other tool you would like to recommend here?
Image Credit: RTimages via Shutterstock.com