Beginner's Guide to Extracting Text and Images From a PDF

Learn multiple ways to extract images and text out of a PDF file

PDF files are great for exchanging formatted files across platforms and between folks who don't use the same software, but sometimes we need to take text or images out of a PDF file and use them in web pages, word processing documents, PowerPoint presentations, or in desktop publishing software

Depending on your needs and the security options set in the individual PDF, you have several options for extracting text, images, or both from a PDF file. Choose the option that works best for you.

  • Use Adobe Acrobat Professional. If you have the full version of Adobe Acrobat, not just the free Acrobat Reader, you can extract individual images or all images as well as text from a PDF and export in various formats such as EPS, JPG, and TIFF. To extract information from a PDF in Acrobat DC, choose Tools > Export PDF and select an option. To extract text, export the PDF to a Word format or rich text format, and choose from several advanced options that include:

    • Retain Flowing Text
    • Retain Page Layout
    • Include Comments
    • Include Images
    Acrobat pro export options for MS Word.
  • Copy and paste from PDF using Acrobat Reader. If you have Acrobat Reader, you can copy a portion of a PDF file to the clipboard and paste it into another program. For text, just highlight the portion of text in the PDF and press Ctrl + C to copy it.

    Then open a word processing program, such as Microsoft Word, and press Ctrl + V to paste the text. With an image, click on the image to select it and then copy and paste it into a program that supports images, using the same keyboard commands.

  • Open a PDF file in a graphics program. When image extraction is your goal, you can open a PDF in some illustration programs such as newer versions of Photoshop, CorelDRAW, or Adobe Illustrator and save the images for editing and use in desktop publishing applications.

    Extracting images from a PDF in Photoshop.
  • Use third-party PDF extraction software tools. Several standalone utilities and plug-ins are available that convert PDF files to HTML while preserving the page layout, extract and convert PDF content to vector graphics formats, and extract PDF content for use in word processing, presentation, and desktop publishing software. These tools offer varying options including batch extraction/conversion, whole file or partial content extraction, and multiple file format support. These are primarily commercial and shareware Windows-based utilities.

  • Use online PDF extraction tools.With online extraction tools, you don't have to download or install the software. How much each one can extract varies. For example, with ExtractPDF.com, you upload a file up to 14MB in size or supply a URL to the PDF for the extraction of images, text or fonts. 

    ExtractPDF website.
  • Take a screenshot. Before you take a screenshot of an image in a PDF, enlarge it in its window as much as possible on your screen. On a PC, select the title bar of the PDF window and press Alt + PrtScn. On a Mac, press Command + Shift + 4 and use the cursor that appears to drag and select the area you want to capture.