How To Compress PDF Files: 5 High-Quality PDF Compress Hacks

PDF Files.

A Portable Document Format (PDF) is all about, well, being portable; as such, size isn’t usually an issue. The average size per page in a PDF file is around 10 KB, so a 100-page file can get up to 1 MB. But that’s assuming every page contains plain text.

Most settings, including business, produce and share PDF files with pages upon pages of text, images, and graphs. Because of this, the files can be several MB in size, which already poses several problems. For starters, unless you use a file-hosting and sharing service like Dropbox, you can’t send files that exceed a specific limit (typically 25 MB).

Reducing the file’s content isn’t an option, and splitting it into multiple parts can be a pain to both the sender and receiver. Not to worry, as you can reduce the size via compression. Here are several ways to compress PDF files without sacrificing their quality.

1. Use compression software

The first—and probably simplest—hack is to fire up Google and search for ‘PDF compression software’ or somewhere along those lines. You may stumble upon a list of the best software in the market, free or otherwise. All you have to do is choose wisely.

The best compression software is usually the one that does more than just PDF compression. Some tools offer plenty more features, from optical character recognition (OCR) to encryption. Users will likely feel more comfortable paying for a highly versatile app or service, much so if it’s free of charge.

Take advantage of any free trial these programs offer. One way is to get a PDF file, compress it through free trials of several services, and compare the results. Remember that the PDF file with the smallest size after compression isn’t necessarily the best. After reduction, it pays to examine the quality of the text and media on every page.

2. Choose RGB for images

Images often make or break PDF files, primarily because of their color modes. Two modes are widely used: red-green-blue (RGB) and cyan-magenta-yellow-black (CMYK). It’s easy to think that CMYK is better for images, but it’s a bit complicated.

If you’re trying to keep the file size to a minimum, RGB images are the way to go. According to printing experts, RGB images have smaller file sizes because their colors revolve only around three main colors, unlike CMYK’s four. But if you plan to distribute physical copies, you need to turn the images to CMYK mode since that’s what printers use for their ink.

Online channels, such as, and others offer helpful tips on adjusting the file’s color schemes, among other topics. In short, RGB will be enough for digital-only viewing while CMYK works best for printouts.

3. Convert directly from electronic

Many believe they must print out the document and scan one page at a time to create a PDF file. This is a misconception, especially with today’s office software that can save non-PDF formats into PDF ones. Save time and file size by saving it as a native PDF.

Native PDF files have several advantages over their scanned counterparts. They maintain the document’s digital formatting, enabling users to locate keywords (using their browser’s Find feature) or edit parts of the file. They also require less storage space, unlike scanned pages that appear as image files. Most online repositories favor native PDF files over scanned ones. 

You can easily distinguish the two with the zoom technique. Go to one part of the file (preferably with a lot of text) and zoom in by 400% or above. The text in a native copy will remain perfectly drawn while one in a scanned copy will be blurry. 

4. Minimize media assets while as non-PDF

Speaking of saving as PDF, reducing the file size of text and images while in a non-PDF format (e.g., .docx, .xlsx, .pptx, legacy formats) is a handy trick. The final file size will be much smaller when you save it as a PDF file. For example, Microsoft Word and PowerPoint lets users:

  • Compress pictures by deleting cropped portions and using the image’s original resolution
  • Save pictures at resolutions no larger than 150 pixels per inch
  • Disable enabled fonts (otherwise, enable only used characters)

For Microsoft Excel spreadsheets, some solutions include:

  • Saving the spreadsheet as a binary workbook (.xlsb)
  • Deleting any unnecessary worksheets

Older versions of these office programs will have the option to enable minimum-size saving in the Save dialog box.

5. Use JPEG/JPG for images or graphs

It’s surprising how few people consider the type of image format to go into their PDF files. A PNG image may be the epitome of quality, but unless you plan on handing out physical copies, it’ll only consume so much space. It pays to be smart about this.

For this, you can’t go wrong with the JPEG/JPG image format, widely known as a space-saver. It’s because it works by removing data from the image that the human eye can’t likely perceive. As a result, saving a picture or graph in this format will generate a file size that’s 90% less than when uncompressed. You won’t notice any loss in quality unless you look really closely.

A PDF file with JPEG/JPG images and graphs will have a reduced file size before compression, so expect it to get smaller after compression. To save Excel graphs in this format, copy-paste the graph into any graphics editor (e.g., Paint, Adobe Photoshop) and save it as JPEG/JPG. Trim any whitespace in the graph before saving to reduce file size further.


Businesses benefit from sending and receiving information as soon as possible. A file that takes too long to download or can’t be sent via email won’t do them any favors, occasionally costing them time and money.

Thanks to modern technology, downsizing any file—especially PDF files—is as straightforward as clicking ‘Reduce PDF Size,’ but sometimes it isn’t enough. These hacks to compress PDF files can help take the reduction further. Your employees and clients will thank you for it.

About Carson Derrow

My name is Carson Derrow I'm an entrepreneur, professional blogger, and marketer from Arkansas. I've been writing for startups and small businesses since 2012. I share the latest business news, tools, resources, and marketing tips to help startups and small businesses to grow their business.