There are many reasons why you may need to circle something in PDF. This is a clear and effective way to emphasize important text, highlight inconsistencies in a report, point out problems in a design, or draw attention to certain elements in a business presentation.

PDFs are difficult to edit by design, but if you are tempted to turn on your printer and go about this the old-fashioned way, think again!

Fortunately, there are a few easy ways you can draw circles of different colors and sizes directly on a PDF using your computer or mobile device. You can then save these changes and send the document to a colleague or client.

There is no need to download any special programs or apps, so no worries if you don’t have Adobe installed. Everything can be done online, so all you need is an internet connection.

Steps To Draw Circles Around Text Or Images In A PDF

1. Use A Free Online PDF Editor

There are free tools available online for situations just like these. A good one to start with is FormatPDF.

The website is simple and intuitive. The first screen you come to looks like this:


Clicking the button “Select PDF file” will open the folder system on your computer or phone. Navigate to the folder where your file is saved, select the file, and click “Open.”

If you’re on a computer or tablet, you may find it easier to drag and drop the file, which is also an option.

Once you’ve selected or dropped your file, after a few seconds of uploading, the document will appear on screen with several tools you can use above it.

Here’s how it appeared when we uploaded the Boston subway map to FormatPDF:


Now that your PDF has been uploaded, you are ready for the next step.

2. Use The Shape Tool To Circle Something In PDF

We will begin with the easiest, fail-safe method, which allows you to create perfect ovals or circles on the PDF.

Here is a closeup of the tool menu that appears when you uploaded your file:

shape tool in pdf

If you hover your mouse over each icon, you will see that left to right, these are:

Undo, Redo, Reset| Delete, Delete All|Draw, Shape, Icon, Text, Mask

For this method of creating circles on the PDF, we will use the Shape option, so click on the image that looks like a triangle placed over a square (between the pencil and the star).

shape in pdf

When you click on “Shape”, more options open up.

Click “Circle,” and you can decide:

  • Fill: this will determine if your shape is filled, which will cover the text or image below it. In this example, we will leave the default no fill so that the text inside the circle remains visible. If you want, you can choose which color to fill the shape with.
  • Stroke: here you can choose a color for the outside edge of the circle. You can also increase the number (default is 3) to make the lines thicker.

The map we’re using in the example already has lots of colors, so we will use black as the color.

Then scroll to the place on the image where you want the circle, click, and drag to make the circle as big as you want it. Here, we’ve circled the Warren St metro stop.

circle in pdf

And that’s it! While the circle is selected, you can play around by changing the color, thickness, and size. If needed, click the “Redo” button and try again.

Once you are happy with the result, click the “Download” button and the file will automatically download to your computer, tablet, or phone. A message appears on the screen to confirm that the file has been downloaded.

As an extra, you can also add other shapes. In this example, we’ve added a star by clicking the star that appears in the menu of tools.

circle in pdf

Other useful shapes you may want to include are arrows, which are also available within the star section of the tools.

3. Draw A Circle On PDF

There may be cases where a regular circle shape doesn’t quite fit your needs. Not to worry, you can draw your own. This may also be a good choice if you want to give the shape a more authentic, human feel.

From the original tool menu, select the Pencil, which should say “Draw” when you hover the mouse on it.

Draw a circle on PDF

Here, you can choose to draw only straight lines, or select “Free” for complete control. Again, you can select the color and thickness of the stroke.

See an example of a drawn circle below:

Pdf design

Clearly, using the shape tool looks more professional, as drawing it yourself can look a bit sloppy.

However, depending on the context, embracing imperfection can also add some flair and personality. After all, there’s nothing more human than being imperfect.

Examples Of When To Circle Something In PDF

In The Workplace:

  • To point out errors in documents, reports, presentations, etc. This is a highly effective way to communicate, without having to set up a call or meeting. Simply draw circles around all the errors, and send the document back to the person so they can see the issues and make the appropriate changes.
    • If the document is not already in PDF, for example, if it is in Excel, Powerpoint, Word, or GoogleDocs, you may want to convert it to PDF first. has an online converter tool if necessary. Also, now you can convert JFIF to PDF online from the source of for free of cost without any quality loss.
  • To emphasize certain texts, numbers, or images in a presentation or report. Use circles to grab the attention of your clients or other stakeholders.
  • To circle points of interest on a map, for example, to explain how a client or other visitor can arrive at the office.

In Education:

  • Professors and teachers can use circles to:
    • Indicate correct answers while digitally grading exams, to benefit student learning
    • Highlight certain sections of assignments, helping to give clear instructions during e-learning
  • Students can use them to:
    • Improve note-taking and reviewing for exams
      • Emphasize important points
      • Identify areas to revisit
    • Indicate correct answers while reviewing exam results

Commonly Asked Questions About Drawing A Circle In PDF

Here are direct answers to some additional questions that may come up during the process.

How Do I Make The Circle In PDF Bigger Or Smaller?

When the circle is selected, it is encased in a box with 8 black dots around it. Click and drag any of these dots to change the size of the shape.

circle in pdf

How Do I Rotate A Circle In PDF?

When the shape is selected, there is a black dot that appears above the shape, centered. By clicking that dot and moving your mouse (or finger in mobile), you can rotate the shape.

rotate a circle in PDF

Can You Draw A Perfect Circle In PDF?

The human hand cannot draw a perfect circle, but you can use the Shape tool in the FormatPDF editor to create one. You can also use the tool to create ovals, which are often more practical.

How Can I Share My Finished Document?

There are several ways to share your circled PDF:

  • Attach it to an email
  • Post it in a virtual classroom
  • Upload it to a shared folder on Dropbox or GoogleDrive
  • Send it to a friend’s phone on AirDrop
  • Share it in a WhatsApp message

Save it on a thumb drive or flash drive

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