I have a PDF document with text and basic graphics (squares, circles, thought bubbles, etc.) behind the text. My goal is to change the colors of these shapes.

Here's what I've tried:

  1. InDesign 5.5 - File doesn't open, "Placing" it into InDesign only creates the document as an image. Not effective.
  2. Acrobat Pro - Doesn't have the capabilities I'm looking for.
  3. Photoshop 5.1 - Should have the "Paint Bucket" capabilities I'm looking for, but opens up in one layer. Would be tedious and sloppy to paint inside all those "R"'s and "B"'s.
  4. Illustrator 5.1 - The document opens up in enough layers for me to separate the shapes from the text, but all the shapes are on the same layer (in the same bounding box - like they're one image), so the "Live Paint" function doesn't work very well. (At least, as much as I know how to use it.)

I don't have access to the original (non-PDF) file, so I don't know where to go from here. Any help would be greatly appreciated! :)

  • You say when you select an object it selects everything, when you right click does it ask if you want to release a clipping mask? You say there is enough layers, does that mean the shapes you want to select are in paths? – AndrewH Mar 14 '16 at 20:53
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    I don't know why you even tried, but InDesign has never been advertised as being able to edit a PDF. As you have discovered by now, PDFs are not meant to be editable at all - they are meant to be end products. .. That said: you need professional level software, such as Enfocus Pitstop. – usr2564301 Mar 14 '16 at 21:03
  • @AndrewH - Yes, it gives me the option to release a clipping mask, but I'm not really sure what to do once it's released. (Don't know where to go from there.) – cherylweb27 Mar 15 '16 at 0:35
  • I think I found something that will work, but I'm not sure if it will damage the PDF, or make it needlessly big, or some other not-easily-noticed consequence: 1. Open the PDF in Illustrator (one page at a time) 2. Export the PDF as a PSD file (layers seem to remain intact) 3. Open in Photoshop and use Paint Bucket Tool to paint desired areas 4. Save as a PDF file. (I also saved as a PSD just incase I need to make future edits.) Will this cause any unforeseen consequences? – cherylweb27 Mar 15 '16 at 3:15

Just to add to your comment, you can open your PDF directly in Photoshop if the PDF is made of raster images and texts anyway.

Just make sure you select the real resolution it was created for. Usually for printing, it's 300ppi. You will see if the resolution you chose is too high, the image will look blurry when you look at it at 100%.

Then you can change the color of your shapes using the tools you prefer. It's difficult to give you any advice on this without knowing what the file looks like.


A Suggestion:

If you plan to use this document for printing, you might want to "rebuild" it by separating the pictures (or shapes that are stuck together, and probably raster images) and keep the texts as vectors. And then re-import your new colored images into your vector file. This way, you will keep the perfect quality of your texts and that can always be useful later if you want to make other changes.

For example, open the PDF with Illustrator, copy the pictures/shapes only into Photoshop and do the color changes. Then re-insert these images into the Illustrator file and resave all this as PDF.

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  • Opening the PDF directly into Photoshop doesn't preserve the layers, so I'm back to coloring in "R"'s and "B"'s. Unless I'm doing it wrong. lol :) I found that with this particular document, I got weird text changes, like random misspellings (about 6 in a 24pg doc), some text didn't come out as nice as the original, and other small issues. I will try your suggested method, to see if that's more efficient. Thanks for the suggestions @go-junta. – cherylweb27 Mar 22 '16 at 13:49

Open it in Illistrator. You'll have to open each page at a time, save the PDF, and do the same for the next page. You'll be able to click the vector shapes and change their colors.

It's not a quick way if you have many pages but it'll work. I've done it many times.

By the way, clipping masks may make it harder to find the actual shape you're trying to click. So try using the white arrow to select them.

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CorelDraw will open all pages as editable separate pages. Or atleast the part that are in vector will be editable direcly in CorelDraw. Raster parts will be available for editing in the Corels' version of Photoshop (that is if you install the whole CorelDraw Suit)

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Open in Acrobat Pro. Click on "Edit PDF". Click on element/shape you want to change. Right click and select "Edit Using"and select Illustrator. That element/shape will open in illustrator as an isolated object that can be changed. Save/close the file after changes. Return to Acrobat. Voila.

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