How to Change Highlight Color in Adobe Acrobat Reader DC

Occasionally, Adobe Acrobat Reader DC throws out quite a few annoyances to hinder productivity. Last time, we talked about how you can deal with the persistently nagging Tools pane, and ways to work around the unintuitive tabbed-view in place. And today, let’s take a close look at another issue — the highlighting tool.

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Mess around with the highlighter for a while, and it seems as if Acrobat Reader DC provides no option to change the default color. But thankfully, that's not the case. There are in fact several ways to swap highlighter colors — it’s just that Adobe has needlessly put them away in places where no one would bother looking.

Highlight Properties Dialog Box

Let’s start off by looking at a method to change the color of your highlights after you’ve already applied them. Simply right-click the highlighted portion of text, and then select Properties — this should load the Highlight Properties dialog box. 

Tip: If you want to change the color of more than one set of highlighted words, hold down the Ctrl key and left-click to select multiple items.
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Under the Appearance tab, use the color picker to switch to another color. There’s also a slider to change the level of opacity of the selected color.

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You can also set a default color while you're at it — check the box next to Make Properties Default.

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Once you click OK, the new color should replace the older one on the highlighted text immediately. And if you checked off the Make Properties Default box, you can also use the same color on the subsequent highlights that you perform.

Highlighter Tool Properties Toolbar

The method above isn't very convenient when it comes to switching colors in real-time. Thankfully, there’s a faster and better way which involves using the Ctrl+E shortcut to bring up the Highlighter Tool Properties toolbar.

Note: If the toolbar doesn't show up, click on the highlighter icon and then perform the shortcut.
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This nifty toolbar stays on no matter what, and you can easily move it around to any area of the screen. It consists of a palette to easily select colors in advance, as well as a pull-down menu to modify opacity that makes customizing colors a breeze. 

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And if that isn't enough, the toolbar also lets you have the highlighter tool set to be selected at all times, which actually helps a lot when performing rapid highlights on text-heavy PDF documents.

The opacity menu contains five presets, and while it doesn't provide the level of accuracy present on the Highlight Properties dialog box, it's much quicker to use.

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Any color that you select then becomes the default highlight color — even if you exit and relaunch the application. Considering that the toolbar can be brought up and closed down instantly, switching between colors and going crazy with your highlights is more than possible.

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You may even forgive Adobe after messing around with this toolbar for a while — yeah, it’s that good.

Comment Mode Color Picker

There’s yet another way to change highlight colors on the fly, and that involves switching to Comment mode. However, you do lose out on screen real-estate due to the additional toolbar and side pane that shows up subsequently. However, you can hide the latter.

To activate Comment mode, click View on the menu bar. Then point to Tools, select Comment, and then click Open.

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To change colors, simply use the color picker on the new toolbar, and then continue using the highlight tool. Any color that you select also becomes the default until you switch to another.

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Similar to the floating toolbar that we talked about earlier, you can also keep the highlight tool selected by clicking the pin-shaped icon. And don't forget to use the opacity slider to customize colors even further.

Note: To exit Comment mode, click the Close button to the right of the toolbar.

Highlight Color on the iOS Version

While Adobe Acrobat Reader DC on Android provides a highlight color picker directly within the user interface itself, the iOS version isn't so accommodating. But it's quite simple to change color if you know how.

Start off by tapping on a highlighted word or set of words. On the menu that shows up, tap Color to bring up the color picker.

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Any color that you select then replaces the current color and also becomes the default for the following highlights.

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You can also change the opacity of the color by tapping the Opacity option. And it stays as your default opacity level should you wish to change it later.

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Again, it's not a very convenient method if you're looking to change color regularly. But sadly, this is something that you've got to deal with.

Paint Them Right

Adobe Acrobat Reader DC is an excellent application for reading and marking up PDFs, yet it’s UI design can be irksome. Really, you shouldn’t be looking around just to perform something this trivial, right? Hope Adobe is really taking note of these issues and make necessary improvements in future iterations.

Now that you know of a few ways to change color of the highlighter, what’s your preferred method? Is it the floating toolbar? Do let us know in the comment section below.

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Dilum Senevirathne has written about tech and finance for over five years. When he isn’t messing around with the latest iOS apps, you can catch him tweaking a collection of IoT gadgets. Dilum is a management accounting student and a prospective charterholder.