Integrate PDF Redaction in Java Applications

Redaction is the process of removing image, text, and vector content from a PDF page. This not only involves obscuring the content, but also removing the data in the document within the specified region.

Redaction is generally used when you want to remove personally identifiable or sensitive information from a document to ensure confidentiality and conform to regulations and privacy laws, such as GDPR or HIPAA. By using the Redaction component, the original content of a PDF can’t be restored, thereby guaranteeing privacy.

Redaction is a two-step process.

  • First, redaction annotations have to be created in the areas that should be redacted. This step won’t remove any content from the document yet; it just marks regions for redaction.

  • Second, to actually remove the content, the redaction annotations need to be applied. In this step, the page content within the region of the redaction annotations is irreversibly removed.

What this is means is the actual removal of content happens only after redaction annotations are applied to the document. Before applying them, they can be edited and removed the same as any other annotation.

For further in-depth information, check out Adobe’s PDF Redaction: Addendum for the PDF Reference.

Redacting Graphic Objects Shared across Pages

Graphic objects — including images and vector graphics — can be reused across pages in a PDF. If a graphic object is redacted and reused, all instances of that graphic object will also be redacted.

This means that, for example, when you redact part of an image, the same part of the same image on another page will also be redacted. This is compatible with how Adobe Acrobat does it. A common example of this is if you have to redact a logo that is shown on each page.

❗Important: Even if the images look exactly the same, they could be separate images and not be redacted the same. Always be careful and review the redacted document when you’re done.


Redaction is a feature that has to be licensed separately. The following list describes the expected behavior if Redaction isn’t part of your license:

  • It won’t be possible to create a redaction annotation.

  • Any Instant JSON with redaction annotation information will fail to be applied.

  • Any requested applyRedactionAnnotations will fail upon saving.