Whether you are wanting to highlight and edit text, add a highlight for stylistic purposes, or even add a highlight to a PDF in Photoshop, it’s super easy to do.

Here you’ll learn how you can use shapes as a word highlight, how to edit singular letters within one word by highlighting, or how to highlight important text from PDF documents with a brush. So let’s get started!

How To Highlight Text To Edit It In Photoshop

One reason to highlight text is to edit it. Temporary highlighting allows you to define the text you wish to edit, similar to a word document.

For example, type your text with the Type Tool (T). 

Then select the text layer in the Layers panel by clicking it. 

You can then highlight text in a few different ways. You can either double-click, triple-click, or click and drag to highlight different amounts of text.

Double-Click To Highlight

Hover the cursor over or at the end of the word you want to highlight. 

Then double-click to highlight that word. 

This technique works to highlight one singular word.

Triple-Click To Highlight

If you wish to highlight the entire text, you can triple-click. Following the same advice from the previous step, hover your cursor anywhere on the text and quickly triple-click your mouse. 

Although this method sounds convenient, it often takes longer than it should. This is due to over-clicking from clicking so quickly; the text can be highlighted and un-highlighted before you’ve even realized it. 

For that reason, it’s often quicker and less frustrating to use the following tip to highlight all your text instead. 

Click And Drag To Highlight

This is the most common technique for highlighting text to edit it. You can do this technique for letters, lone words, multiple words, or the entire text. While it may take marginally longer to complete this, it’s the most accurate technique for highlighting text to edit. 

As with the other techniques, select the text layer in the Layers panel, and ensure you’ve got the Type Tool selected too. Then place your cursor next to the end letter of the word or words you wish to highlight. 

Click and then drag your cursor along to the other end of whichever words or letters you’re highlighting. When everything you plan to highlight is highlighted, you can release the mouse. 

You can edit the highlighted text using the Options bar or Character panel to change the font, size, color, or other attributes.

You can also press Delete to remove the highlighted text from your canvas.

How To Highlight Text Using Shape Layers

If you want to highlight your text with a shape to help it stand out, this is also easily done. Using the shape tools and the Layers panel, you can easily create colored boxes surrounding your text.

After you’ve written out your text, select the Rectangle Tool (U). For a non-traditional highlight shape, you can also use other shapes, such as an ellipse or a starburst shape. Traditional text highlights are rectangular, but if you click and hold the Shape Tool icon in the Toolbar, other shape options appear. Choose what you’d like to use.

Once you’ve chosen your shape, click the Foreground color swatch in the Toolbar, and set your color. 

To draw your highlight shape, click at one corner of the text and drag to the diagonal corner of the word or words you’re highlighting. Your shape will hide the text. 

In the Layers panel, drag the text layer to the top by clicking and dragging it above the shape layer. 

If you need to resize to highlight the text more effectively, select the shape layer. 

Then use the Move Tool (V) to resize it by clicking on any anchor point and dragging to resize the shape. 

To align the text and the highlight shape to the center, which works best if you’re only highlighting a one-word phrase or highlighting the entire text, select both layers by holding Control (Windows) or Command (Mac) and select each layer. 

With the Move Tool (V) active, in the Options bar, use the alignment tools to center the text and highlight together on the canvas. Using the alignment tools this way will only work if your highlight shape is for your entire text layer. 

Use the tools for center alignment for balanced results: Align horizontal and vertical centers.

From there, linking the shape and text layer together is a good idea to ensure they stay centered and move together if you need to reposition them in the project.

How To Highlight Text With The Brush Tool

You can highlight text in PDF documents, as well as native files, in Photoshop. This is a great alternative to Acrobat’s sometimes-wonky highlighting feature and possibly a more eco-friendly alternative to printing documents and using a highlighter pen. For this example, I’ll use a page from my Photoshop Blueprint ebook (available for free here).

With your PDF open in Photoshop, go to the Layers panel and select Create a new layer

Then select the Brush Tool (B). 

In the Options bar, choose a hard round brush and set Hardness to 100%.

Set the size to be slightly larger than the text. You can change the brush size in the Options bar brush settings, or if you hover your cursor over the text, you’ll see a circle showing the size of the brush. To change the size, press [ to make it smaller or ] to make it bigger.

Double-click the Foreground color swatch in the toolbar and set a highlight color. You can stay traditional with a neon yellow or green, or choose any other color you want using the color picker.

Click the Brush at one end of the text you’re highlighting, then hold Control (Win) or Command (Mac) and click the cursor where your highlight shall end. Holding Command or Control keeps the line perfectly straight and in line with the text. 

After adding the highlight, you won’t see the words you’re highlighting. To fix this, go to the Layers panel, keep your brush layer selected, click the dropdown menu for Blending Modes and choose Multiply

This gives your highlighted color a translucent highlighting effect.

You can then repeat this highlighting process with the same brush settings across all your PDF pages. From there, you will just need to export your PDF from Photoshop to ensure the highlights are visible in the new document version!

Happy Highlighting!