Can PDFs have Transparent Backgrounds?

A Portable Document Format or PDF is a type of file format. PDF allows you to save a copy of your file regardless of the software used to create it. Therefore, it can be exchanged and viewed on various operating systems, hardware, or software. They can also be edited and even signed electronically. Though we view PDFs as digital paper files, there are some notable differences. 

Yes, PDFs can have transparent backgrounds. In fact, PDF files are transparent by default. Therefore, the cause of the white background you generally see on your PDF is the application or processor you are using. 

If you see a white background on your PDF file and prefer the default background setting, transparent, it can be done with the correct program. If you’ve been sent a PDF file and you desire to change the background to be transparent, that can be accomplished as well.

How Can a PDF Background be Made Transparent?

Now that you know that a transparent background on a PDF file is possible, you can move forward with creating PDFs in this style. The first thing you want to do is ensure that the program you’re using can create and change the PDF file. 

The recommended program, Photoshop, was also made by the creator of the PDF, Adobe. Photoshop is known for being a bit complex, but working specifically on PDF files is relatively simple, regardless of your level of expertise. Let’s begin. 

The steps you will take are dependent on the version of Photoshop you are using.

  • Older Versions of Photoshop
  • Photoshop CC (Creative Cloud)

Take note of the edition of Photoshop you have on your computer and follow the corresponding guide. 

Old Versions of Photoshop

The first thing you do is start a new file by clicking on the “File” option from the toolbar menu and then clicking “New.” Once the blank document is up, continue with the following steps:

  1. Click on “Contents >Transparent>Ok.” 
  2. Go back to “File” in the toolbar menu and then “Open.” 
  3. A pop box will appear, locate the file you would like to convert into a PDF file, select it and then click “Open.” 
  4. You can now check the document to ensure the background is transparent by returning to “File” and then clicking on “Print Preview.”
  5. The last thing you have to do is save the document. Under “File>Save As.” 
  6. Make sure you change the format in the drop-down menu of the format field to “Photoshop PDF” (.pdf). Select “Save.”
  7. If a dialog box for PDF Options pops up, go through the settings and click “Ok.”

Photoshop CC (Creative Cloud)

This version of Photoshop works a little differently from previous versions. In the older versions, you were free to remove the background and select a transparent one instead. The Photoshop CC version only has colors for options; this does not mean that a transparent background can’t be achieved. 

  1. Select the default white background to start, then click “Ok.” 
  2. Your new project will show a locked background. You can identify this with the padlock symbol to the right of where it says “Background” on the right panel. 
  3. The way to get around this is by going to your toolbar menu and selecting Layer>New>Layer from Background, then clicking “Ok” to save your changes. 
  4. Now, to make it transparent, you set the opacity level to 0%. 
  5. To include text, you will need to add an additional layer, so the opacity of the background will not be affected. You can do so through a key sequence, CTRL+SHIFT+N, then “Ok.” 
  6. Once you are done, save your file but be sure to change the format in the format field to “Photoshop PDF” (.pdf). 

More Programs that Make a PDF Background Transparent

If you don’t already have Photoshop on your computer, never fear; there are other programs that will allow you to give your PDF file a transparent background. Several PDF editors are available to download for free, like Wondershare or iSkysoft PDF Editor 6. You can opt to use another Adobe product like Acrobat or InDesign. Whatever your operating system or your budget, there are options. 

Just keep in mind that creating a PDF with a transparent background does not mean that whoever you send your PDF will view it with a transparent background. Remember, PDF backgrounds are transparent by default. It is the application that makes the background white because the settings are not calibrated to accommodate transparent backgrounds. 

Changing the Default Settings to View PDF Transparency

Most individuals, especially industry professionals, use some version of Adobe Acrobat to view and edit PDF files. Luckily there is a way to change the settings in this program to view PDFs with a transparent background. 

  1. Go into the “Preferences” of Adobe Acrobat.
  2.  Under “Categories” in the left panel, select “Page Display.” 
  3. Under “Page Content and Information,” you will see an option that says “Show Transparency Grid.” 
  4. Check the box next to that option, then click “Ok” at the bottom right-hand corner. 

You can also pass along these instructions to anyone who isn’t seeing your background in the way you intended. Once this preference is changed, it is set and will not have to be selected again the next time a PDF is viewed or edited. 

Suppose another application is being used to view or edit the PDF file. In that case, you may be able to find directions to change the settings through an internet search engine or by selecting “Help” in your program and typing in “Transparency in Preferences.”


Not only can PDFs have transparent backgrounds, but there are several ways to accomplish this. Regardless of creating or editing your PDF to have a transparent background, settings must also be adjusted to view the transparent background of the PDF file. 

Setting the preferences to accommodate transparent backgrounds is information you can pass along to anyone you exchange PDF files with, so they can view the document as you intended.