Does PDF Compression Reduce File Quality

We live in a world where informational technologies have taken over, and all of us have had to adapt and learn new things along the way. It has never been more important to be digitally literate.

One of the areas in which we have made significant progress is in storing and sharing documents. In the early days, all of the documents we had worked with had to be printed on a sheet of paper. That worked for a while, but with the introduction of the computer and the internet, we have found a new way to interact with documents in a much safer and efficient manner.

As you could assume, the new digital formats offer a lot more than physical copies ever could. Nowadays, you could have a document that contains text, pictures and even videos. One of the formats that allow us to do that is PDF.

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What Is PDF?

PDF stands for Portable Document Folder. It is a type of file format developed in the early 90s by Adobe, the company that brought us Photoshop, Illustrator, Premiere Pro, and many other useful tools we nowadays use.

PDF is inarguably the most complete file format to have ever existed. It works pretty much like a folder, hence the name. A PDF file can contain and present all kinds of different documents, including text, images, videos, graphics, layers, rich media, etc.

With that in mind, it’s easy to understand why has a format that has been around for almost 30 years has stuck around and is still one of the most beloved file formats. On top of all of that, PDF is also what is called a cross-platform format, which means that you can use it across all the operating systems, including Android, iOS and Windows. What’s even better, the same file that you’ve created on Android, for example, can be read and edited in Windows or iOS, as well.

The Applications Of PDF

As you probably know, PDF is the most commonly used format in all kinds of scenarios. You can store and edit your presentations and projects in PDF, you can store important documents such as legally binding contracts, receive and send bills nd invoices, and so much more.

What is also great, as we’ve said earlier, a PDF can contain images, both raster and vector, as well as videos and other media files. Now, what’s interesting about this and what will lead us to the next point is the raster and vector images are not the same. Namely, raster images are made out of pixels, while on the other hand, raster images are mathematical equations. Now, that may not sound like much of a difference, but in reality, it certainly is.

You see, a raster image can be scaled up and down, but in doing so, you’ll lose quality, as each individual pixel contains colour information, among some other things. On the other hand, a vector does not contain any colour value, therefore, you can scale it up and down infinitely and it would still remain the same quality.

Now, this loss in quality happens because of compression and loss of data, amongst other things. That leads us to our question – if compression can affect some of the data a PDF contains, does compressing a PDF does the same?

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Does PDF Compression Reduce File Quality?

Now, this is an important question because if you were to stack your PDF file with a lot of high-resolution images and videos, the PDF file would be immensely large, rendering it impossible to send via regular channels such as email. So, how do you work around that?

Well, it’s simple – you compress it

Now, compression works really well when it comes to things like text or simple graphics. In that case, you can compress your file to some great extent without experiencing any noticeable quality loss. On the other hand, the text files aren’t usually that big in size, so, this doesn’t really apply. Unless you have pages upon pages of text, then it might do.

On the other hand, if your PDF file is stacked with a lot of high-quality, high-resolution images and videos – it’s going to be huge. A huge file will be hard to send, so, you’ll have to compress it. Now, we have to ask the question – will you lose quality?

Well, in theory – no. In reality, yes, but only in some cases. That’s a rather confusing answer, so let’s expand on it a little bit.

You see, there are many apps and programs that allow you to compress your PDF files without compromising any files quality. Programs like AnyPDF, Acrobat Reader or Foxit all have the ability to compress your PDF files while also maintaining the quality of the file – to a certain extent.

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There are a lot of variables here

First of all, the compression rate matters. In most cases, you’ll be prompted by the program to choose whether you want to go for a low compression level, an optimal compression level or a strong one (the names might differ).

Now, the low compression level will do the best job when it comes to retaining quality levels. The program will do an excellent job of identifying the “empty” spots of your document, which still contain some data, but data irrelevant to the content of the file and it will remove them. Also, it will find the “excess” data in some other content and remove that. This will leave the quality of the file virtually untouched. However, the file won’t be as compressed as you much as you would’ve liked.

On the other hand, optimal compression will do a pretty good job of reducing the file size, but you will expect some quality loss in images or videos, which might be unacceptable if you need those details for whatever reason.

In the end, as you could guess, the strong compression levels will bring your PDF file size to a minimum, but it will noticeably and, in some cases, even severely affect the quality of your file.

Now, the key is to find the right spot. If you’re compressing a large text document, you should feel free to compress it as far as you want or need because the letters will still be pretty much readable. On the other hand, for some intricate, detailed designs or graphics, you will want to be compressed in a much gentler way, so you lose some of the “junk”, reduce the file size a bit, but still retain excellent quality.


As you can see, even though you will always lose some quality while compressing, in most cases, it won’t be noticeable and that’s the only thing that matters. Therefore, we can safely say that “lossless PDF compression” exists. On the other hand, if you really need to keep all of those details in, you’ll find a new way to get your PDF to someone without compressing it.