How to Highlight with a Rectangle Box in Snipping Tool

Highlight with a Rectangle Box in Snipping Tool

Looking to draw the eye to the key element in your screenshot and still keep the context? Find out here how to highlight with a rectangle or box in Windows Snipping Tool (in two, only slightly convoluted ways).

First, an Admiral Is Fond of His Coats

The Royal Navy admiral Edward Vernon was so fond of coats made of a coarse mix of silk and wool that he owned them by the dozen and, it seems, always wore at least one. So common was the sight that Vernon was commonly known as “Old Grog.”

If that reminds you of something, chances are you are right: Vernon’s aim to have navigators traverse the tricky seas safely and straight at all times eventually led to a drink named for a garment.

Now, want to navigate across a screenshot in straight lines and right angles? Prepare for troubled and tricky waters:

How to Highlight with a Rectangle Box in Snipping Tool

Time needed: 4 minutes

To draw a rectangular box in Snipping Tool (or Snip and Sketch) on Windows to highlight part of a screenshot:

  1. Make the ruler visible on the screenshot.

    Here’s how: Select the ruler in the tools toolbar in Snipping Tool; if the protractor appears, click the tool again and choose Ruler from the menu.
    Snipping Tool keyboard shortcut: Press Alt L to bring up the ruler.

  2. Choose either Ballpoint pen or Highlighter for the rectangle box lines.

    The differences: While the pen sports a richer color (both in selection and in saturation), it also has rounded corners; the Snipping Tool highlighter, by contrast, has sharp edges and more translucent colors.
    Keyboard shortcuts: Use Alt B for the ballpoint pen and Alt H for the highlighter.

  3. Click the chosen tool again in the toolbar to bring up its options.

  4. Pick the desired color and stroke thickness.

    Highlighter: Note that the highlighter is made for drawing horizontally; its thickness for a vertical line is fixed at a narrow size. Rotate the image temporarily so you can draw all lines horizontally if necessary.

  5. Use the ruler to draw the two straight lines that form the top and bottom of the rectangle highlight.

    Here’s how: Draw along the ruler for your line to remain straight.
    Three sides at once: If the box is not tall, you can start with the ruler’s top left corner aligned with the top left corner of the highlighting box, then draw along the top and left sides of the ruler. (The same, of course, works rotated by 90° for narrow, tall boxes.)
    Just the corner: You can also draw just the corner and top side, then align the ruler with the existing vertical line in the subsequent steps. Repeat for the remaining corners.
    Draw along two edges of the ruler to start highlighting with a rectangular box in Windows Snipping Tool

  6. Rotate the ruler 90°.

    Here’s how: Use the mouse wheel or touchpad to rotate the ruler in Snipping Tool until its value reads 90 degrees.
    Not a right angle: Your box need not have right angles, of course; you can just as well draw a trapezoid.

  7. Fill in the remaining sides.

    Rotate the ruler to draw the vertical lines for highlighting boxes in Snipping Tool

Another highlight: How to Highlight in a Straight Line with Snipping Tool

Add a Rectangle Border with Snipping Tool

While Windows Snipping Tool does not include a tool to highlight with a rectangular box directly, you can add a border to any screenshot:

  1. Select the three dots See more menu in Snipping Tool.
  2. Choose Settings.
  3. Turn on Add border to each screenshot.
    The looks: Click the downward-pointing caret and choose the color and thickness for the border.
    Add a border to screeenshots in Windows Snipping Tool

You can combine a (larger) screenshot without border with a screenshot of just the area to be highlighted with a border.

How to Highlight with a Rectangle Box in Snipping Tool: FAQ

Can’t I just delete the center of a thick line to get a rectangle?


Snipping Tool, alas, will not let you delete (or mask) part of a line you have drawn. You can always only delete entire strokes.

Deleting the central part of a thick line or highlight will not work to create a rectangle.

Can I change the colors available for drawing the box?


You can choose from the preset colors for highlighter and pen. For the border, you can pick a custom color:

  1. Expand Add border to each screenshot in Snipping Tool settings.
  2. Click the existing color under Color.
  3. Use the color picker to choose the desired color for the border.

(How to highlight with a rectangle box tested with Snipping Tool 11.2305; first published August 2023, last updated March 2024)

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