I'm saving an Illustrator CS6 file as a PDF. The file has a transparent background, however when exported as a PDF and dropped into InDesign the file has a white background.

I've tried saving the file as different types of PDF but nothing has worked.

This is a recent problem that I've not had an issue with until the past two weeks.

Can anyone give any suggestions?

  • Hi Sam, the background looks white because that's what the PDF associates as "transparent". It will still be transparent.
    – SaturnsEye
    Commented May 1, 2014 at 8:23
  • The background isn't transparent though as when I put it into InDesign over the top of an image it has a white square box background, even when viewed in high quality.
    – Samantha
    Commented May 1, 2014 at 8:26
  • This method is working fine for me with PDFS and InDesign. How are you importing the PDF to InDesign?
    – SaturnsEye
    Commented May 1, 2014 at 8:28
  • I know, it has worked for me too for as long as I can remember but for some reason there is a problem now. I'm saving an Illustrator file as a PDF then importing it into InDesign. I appreciate your help.
    – Samantha
    Commented May 1, 2014 at 8:32
  • I'm currently working so will not be able to I'm afraid. If you think of any suggestions please let me know.
    – Samantha
    Commented May 1, 2014 at 8:38

5 Answers 5


You are saving the image correctly but the white background is showing because there is a setting for it in Adobe Reader, follow the below steps to remove the white background from your PDF.

  1. Open Adobe Reader.
  2. Press CTRL + K or go to Edit > Preference and check the box, which says show the transparency grid (Please check the image below for clarification.).
  3. Open the saved PDF with transparent background.

enter image description here

  • 1
    How is this the most upvoted answer? It’s clearly not relevant to the question. The asker is placing her PDF into an InDesign document; Acrobat Reader does not enter into the picture at all. Commented Sep 29, 2015 at 23:57

It seems that you're placing the PDF ignoring its transparency. In the file selection window shown when the “Place” command is used, there's a checkbox (near the lower left corner of the window) “Show Import Options”. When checked it'll cause the said “import options” window to appear. Make sure that the “Transparent background” is selected there.

  1. File>Place (ctrl+D) To replace the pdf again into Indesign.

  2. This time check the "show import options" box. enter image description here

  3. In the next window check the "transparent background". This way you will create a default rule, so next time you place a pdf image without "show import options" checked, the object will be importet with transparency. enter image description here



When you are importing (Ctrl-D) your PDF into In Design, check the box at the bottom of the file selection screen that says "Show Import Options."

Show Import Options

Then check the box that says "Transparent Background."

Transparent Background


You have to make sure that the pictures is linked directly to the images. Else will it be white-boxed-background instead of transparent!

// MP

  • What exactly is this supposed to mean? That the pictures are linked directly to the images? What is the difference between a picture and an image here? Are you talking about the placed object having to be properly linked to the actual PDF file for its transparency to show up? That is true, but it doesn’t seem like that’s the problem here, considering that the asker specifically says that she places the PDF file by FilePlace, which means the link should be all right. Commented Sep 30, 2015 at 0:01

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