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Is there a way to create a PDF file that shows a background color or image when viewed in Acrobat Reader, but when printed that background does not get printed by default?

Ideally, this would happen as the default for the PDF, i.e. the user need not be concerned with any settings. I am interested, if this is possible at all, but tool specific answers regarding Creative Suite are welcome, too.

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up vote 7 down vote accepted

The only way I can think to do this is via a watermark.

The basics...

Open PDF in Acrobat. Choose Pages > Watermark > Add Watermark.

Select a jpg or PDF of your background and adjust scaling options as desired.

Then click the Appearance Options.. and uncheck the Show When Printing option.


In this image the PDF is a blank page with the word "Test" on it. The watermark is the stamp and impression (a stock photo jpg).

If you want a solid color background, just create a flat image of the background color for use as the watermark.

This could be saved as an Acrobat Action. I have several watermark actions I use. I don't believe you can't make it a default in anyway. Automation may be possible via scripting and watched folders.

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With default I was refering to the opening view of the PDF, not the creation thereof. I just don't want to instruct users to this and that to get the background non-printing, but want it to not print by default. Good answer, this might be usable. Pitty there is not a more inherent solution - maybe someone will still come up with something. – kontur Jan 9 '13 at 9:52
Well if you do this once, every subsequent opening will show the watermark. As an action, it can be just a single click once the PDF is opened. All the options are recordable in the action. The only hiccup is the watermark file needs to be in the correct location when setting the watermark initially. It's then stored in the PDF (when PDF is saved). – Scott Jan 9 '13 at 10:00

You can use layers for this as well, e.g. from (note to export the layers you must use PDF ≥ 1.5, unfortunately export doesn't seem to carry over the non-printing property!). Open the pdf in Acrobat Pro, right click the specific layer and change its print initial state to "Never prints".

Acrobat Pro Layer properties

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How to access the "Layer Properties" dialog? I cannot find it in my Adobe Acrobat XI Pro... – Alexey Popkov Nov 11 '15 at 8:58
@AlexeyPopkov I'm using DC, where it's hidden in the navigation pane at the left side (press F4 to open it), or use View -> Show/Hide -> Navigation Panes -> Layers – Tobias Kienzler Nov 11 '15 at 9:12
Thank you, I have found it at the same place in Acrobat XI. – Alexey Popkov Nov 11 '15 at 9:17

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