How to Highlight in PDF

You can easily highlight text and remove highlights in PDF

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. Select the pen icon in the toolbar at the top of the screen.

    The pen icon selected in Adobe Acrobat Reader
  3. You will know the pen tool is active because it changes to the current highlighter color.

    The pen tool in Acrobat Reader showing current color
  4. Locate the content you want to highlight. Select and hold at the beginning of it to start your selection. Keeping the mouse/trackpad clicked and drag the cursor to the end of the area you want to select.

    Acrobat Reader text selection feature.
  5. Then let go of the mouse button/trackpad to apply the selected highlighted color. 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 and select Show Properties Bar.

    Acrobat right-click Pen menu with Show Properties Bar selected
  2. Go to the Properties Bar and select the arrow next to the color square to open a color palette.

    Acrobat Reader Properties bar with color swatch and arrow highlighted
  3. Select the highlight color you want from the color palette.

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

    New highlighting color shown on Pen tool in Acrobat Reader
  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. Go to the properties bar and repeat steps 3 and 4 to change 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. Select a highlight you want to remove.

    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, select the trash icon.

    Selected highlight and a trash can icon
  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 application 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 a PDF in Preview.

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

    Highlighter pen tool in macOS Preview app
  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.

    Arrow next to highlighter pen tool in macOS Preview
  2. This launches a drop-down palette, offering several new highlighter colors. Choose the one you want.

    Highlighter color palette in macOS Preview
  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, change the highlighter to a new color and reselect the 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 from the menu.

    Remove Highlight selected in macOS Preview
  3. That’s it! The highlight is removed. Click File > Save to save your PDF changes.

    MacOS Preview showing a removed highlight.
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