When I select text in PDF file in Preview it doesn't highlight properly.

This issue is reproducible after a restart. I'm on Mojave 10.14.1

I mean it's not about highlighting words or something, that works. But when I select text to copy it, it doesn't highlight although I can copy it and paste somewhere. Text is selectable, and it used to work like week ago, but now it doesn't. Any ideas?

  • Hi Alex. If Preview has temporary memory corruption - that would explain the colors. Are you able to make this happen if you log out and back in and also after you restart the OS?
    – bmike
    Nov 17, 2018 at 16:28
  • @bmike thats first thing i did. Nothing changed Nov 17, 2018 at 16:56
  • OK - you'll need to edit those details into your question if you find people's answers are making assumptions about the core issue.
    – bmike
    Nov 17, 2018 at 17:01

5 Answers 5


If I understand your question..

The text highlight (select) color for Preview is set in your

System Preferences > General

enter image description here

You can customize it by selecting Other then choose the color and how dark you want it by moving the slider.

enter image description here

  • 2
    That helped me, thanks. It seems to be a bug, coz i have this problem only using Graphite color, although PDF background isn't graphite so no way highlighting blends in with bg. Nov 17, 2018 at 17:01
  • @AlexSherzhukov I know, I had same problem.
    – Ruskes
    Nov 17, 2018 at 17:52

This bug also affects Microsoft PowerPoint running under Mojave. If the highlight color is set to "Graphite" you may not be able to see the text highlight and the text selection cursor will disappear. Any other highlight color seems to work.

To change the highlight color, go to System Preferences > General > Highlight Color.


Issue is still in Mojave 10.14.3, not technically a bug. It's taking the color you select and then lightening it by a fixed amount so that it's not so dark that you can't see your text. When graphite is selected the amount it lightens the selection nearly completely offsets the color. (It's very slightly visible if you have sharp vision.) If you want a darker gray selection highlight, choose Other, then move the sliders to black and you'll get the Graphite gray you wanted.



None of the answers worked for me. I was on macOS Catalina 10.15.1.

Upgrading to 10.15.2 resolved the issue. Multiple Reddit users experiencing a similar issue confirmed the same as well.


Found this apple suport article covering this exact error - https://support.apple.com/en-gb/guide/preview/if-you-cant-select-or-copy-text-in-a-pdf-prvw1499/mac

  1. In the Preview app on your Mac, go to the PDF page you want to change.
  2. Check the following:

    • The Text Selection tool may not beselected. Click the Show Markup Toolbar button, then click the Text Selection button.

    • The PDF may require a password before you can select or copy text. Choose Tools > Show Inspector, click the Encryption button, then
      enter the password.

    • The text might be an image instead of actual text. You can’t select the text in this case.

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