How to Highlight in PDF

You can easily highlight text and remove highlights in PDF

Yellow highlighter pen on a white background.

Environmantic/Getty Images

PDF files are useful for sharing text, images, and more in a document. But unlike Word Docs and other text-based files, it’s not always clear how to highlight in a PDF. Fortunately, the instructions in this article will show you how to add and remove highlights, as well as how to change the highlighter color.

This guide focuses Adobe Acrobat Reader and macOS Preview.

How to Highlight Text in PDF Using Adobe Acrobat Reader

Although there isn't much you can do to edit a PDF file in Adobe Acrobat reader, you can highlight text for later reference.

  1. Open your PDF in Acrobat Reader.

  2. Once the file is open you'll see a side panel on the right with options to convert your PDF, edit it, and more. Along the top of the screen you will also see a toolbar. To choose the highlighter tool, select the pen icon on the far right of the toolbar.

    Acrobat Reader with the pen tool highlighted.
  3. You will know the pen tool is active because it changes to the current highlighter color.

    Acrobat Reader with the active pen tool highlighted.
  4. Now that you’ve activated the highlighter tool, simply locate the content you want to highlight, then select and hold at the start of it to begin your selection. Keeping your mouse/trackpad clicked, drag the cursor to the end of the area you want to highlight, then let go of the mouse button/trackpad.

    Acrobat Reader text selection feature.
  5. You'll see your selection is now highlighted. Select File > Save to save your PDF changes.

    Acrobat Reader with highlighted text.

An alternative method of highlighting text from within Adobe Acrobat Reader is to select the text you want to highlight, then select the highlighter from the context menu that appears. If you miss the context menu, you can right-click the highlighted text and select Highlight Text.

How to Change Highlight Color in Adobe Acrobat Reader

By default, the highlighter in Adobe Acrobat Reader is set to a light yellow color, but you can change it to a different color if you want to, say, color-code your highlighting.

  1. Right-click the pen icon, then select Show Properties Bar.

    Acrobat Reader with a secondary menu highlighted.
  2. The Properties Bar will open. Making sure the pen icon in your toolbar is still active, navigate to the Properties Bar and select the drop-down arrow next to the color square.

    Acrobat Reader with the highlighter tool properties bar highlighted.
  3. You'll see a palette with additional color options for the highlighter tool. Select the color you want.

    Acrobat Reader with the color pallette highlighted.
  4. The color box in the Properties Bar is now your new chosen color and is ready to use for highlighting new content. The pen icon in the toolbar is also the same color.

    Acrobat Reader with the new color text highlighted.
  5. To change the color of highlighted text, select it and you'll see a blue outline on the highlight, indicating it's selected.

    Acrobat Reader with yellow highlight selected.
  6. Navigate to the properties bar, and repeat steps 3 and 4, thereby changing the highlight to its new color.

    Acrobat Reader with the recolored text highlighted.
  7. Select File > Save to save your PDF changes.

How to Remove Highlight from a PDF Using Adobe Acrobat Reader

Highlight something you didn't really want to highlight? It's not a problem You can easily remove the highlighting from the document.

  1. To delete a highlight, locate the one you want to remove and select it.

    Acrobat Reader with the last highlight highlighted.
  2. You'll see a blue outline indicating the highlight is selected, as well as a small black box containing a comment and trash icon.

    Acrobat Reader with the bottom highlight selected.
  3. To delete the highlight, simply select the trash icon.

    Acrobat Reader with the bottom highlight selected.
  4. That's it! Your highlight has been removed. Select File > Save to save your PDF changes.

    Acrobat Reader with the highlight removed.

How to Highlight a PDF Using macOS Preview

If you're using a mac computer, the macOS Preview is another option you can use to highlight the text in a PDF. It's done in a similar manner to how you highlight in Adobe Acrobat Reader.

  1. Open the PDF in macOS Preview.

  2. Click the highlighter pen tool on the toolbar to activate it.

    MacOS preview with the markup tool highlighted.
  3. Locate the content you want to highlight, then click and hold at the start of it to begin your selection. Keeping your mouse/trackpad clicked, drag the cursor to the end of the area you want to highlight and let go of the mouse button/trackpad.

    MacOS Preview with the text selection tool highlighted.
  4. You'll see your selection is now highlighted. Click File > Save to save your PDF changes.

    MacOS Preview showing highlighted text.

How to Change the Color of PDF Highlights in macOS Preview

Changing the highlight color is slightly different if you're using a macOS device. However, you can change the highlighter color and use multiple colors in one document.

  1. To change the color of the highlighter, make sure the highlighter pen tool is active and click the adjacent drop-down arrow.

    MacOS Preview showing highlighted text.
  2. This will launch a drop-down palette, offering several new highlighter colors. Choose the one you want.

    MacOS Preview with the highlighter colors option launched.
  3. Ensuring the highlighter is still active, select the content you want to highlight in the new color.

    MacOS Preview with text highlighted in purple.
  4. To change the color of a previous highlight, simply ensure your highlighter is set to the color and reselect your content.

    MacOS Preview with the top highlight highlighted.
  5. Click File > Save to save your PDF changes.

How to Delete a PDF Highlight in macOS Preview

If you've highlighted some part of a document, then later decide you want to remove the highlighting, it just requires a few clicks in macOS Preview to get rid of it.

  1. To delete a highlight, locate the one you want to remove and double-click it.

    MacOS Preview with the top highlight highlighted.
  2. Select Remove Highlight.

    MacOS Preview with the double-click menu activated.

    Please highlight remove highlight in the pop-up menu.

  3. That’s it! The highlight is removed. Click File > Save to save your PDF changes.

    MacOS Preview showing a removed highlight.