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The Best Highlighter Pens

The Best Highlighter Pens

The Best Highlighter Pens

Highlighters are indispensable tools for school and work. Like blazes on a trail, they mark important information and point us in the right direction. It can be hard to navigate the wide range of options, so we tested every highlighter pen we carry to guide you through the forest of neon. Keep reading to find out how to choose a highlighter, our test results, and recommendations for specific uses.

Watch the video above to see an overview of our highlighter recommendations.

Top Choice
Zebra Justfit Mojini Line Highlighters
Zebra Justfit Mojini Line Highlighters do not smudge gel, ballpoint, rollerball, or fountain pen ink.
Our best overall pick is the Zebra Justfit Mojini Line—its ink is specially designed to keep written notes safe, and it handles various types of ink admirably. It didn't smear over ballpoint, rollerball, gel pen, fountain pen, pencil, or inkjet ink after the ink had dried. The Justfit Mojini Line Highlighter has a flexible chisel tip that can highlight curved surfaces like thick books, and it comes in five colors.
Highlighter Pen Considerations

Material Composition

Most highlighters use liquid ink and function similarly to felt-tip pens or markers. Liquid highlighters have the widest selection of colors, tip features, and body designs. Varieties with broad tips or wet ink flow may bleed through paper.

Gel highlighters mark paper with a gel stick rather than ink. They are designed to be more resistant to smudging and bleedthrough, but are also less precise and may leave “crumbs” of gel on your paper. They are less likely to dry out if left uncapped.

Pencil highlighters are very bright colored pencils. They will not bleed through paper at all and need no drying time. They may take several strokes to highlight a full line of text and are often better suited to underlining. They are slightly more opaque over text than liquid or gel options.

Text Smearing

Text Smearing

Some highlighters interact with other writing meda and cause them to smear, even if the text is completely dry. As a general rule, gel pen ink, fountain pen ink, and inkjet printing are the most likely to react with highlighters.

Gel highlighters are often a better choice for fountain pen inks, but they also caused ballpoint ink to feather in our tests. Smearing depends on the formula of both the highlighter and the writing medium, as well as the paper you use, so it’s always best to test highlighters on your specific ink and paper before you highlight large portions of text. If you’re using a fountain pen, check out our fountain pen ink comparisons for resistance tests against representative gel and liquid highlighters.

Tip Features

Tip Features

Highlighters can come with several different tip styles. Most have a chisel tip that can cover a single line of text, but others have extra-broad tips or fine bullet tips.

Some manufacturers add unique features to their highlighters’ tips, like embedded windows that let you see the text as you highlight it or specially-shaped tips that can make multiple kinds of lines. Choose a highlighter that lets you be as precise or bold as you like to be.

Bleeding & Showthrough

Bleeding & Showthrough

Because they put down a lot of ink and use prominent colors, highlighters frequently show through paper. They may even soak through the page and leave marks on the other side. This is called bleeding. Inks in general are more likely to bleed on thin or highly absorbent paper. You can reduce showthrough and bleeding by choosing highlighters that deposit less ink or are specially formulated to not bleed.



Highlighters traditionally come in fluorescent yellow, but many come in a variety of colors to allow for color-coding. Some lines of highlighters offer dozens of hues! Or, if you love one color in particular, our highlighter samplers are a great way to explore your favorite color in depth.



Though all highlighters help emphasize text, they vary in just how emphatic they are about it. Some inks scream and some inks whisper. We’ve tested our selections so you can find soft and subtle colors, eye-searing neons, or something in the middle–it’s truly a matter of personal preference. We’ve also noted which highlighters abandon standard fluorescent inks for calmer hues.

Highlighter Pen Recommendations
The Best Highlighter Pen for Bibles

Bible highlighters are hard to find and often fall short. The thin paper Bibles use is vulnerable to bleeding and virtually guarantees showthrough. We looked for highlighters that did not bleed through or wrinkle the paper, showed through as little as possible, and permitted precise highlighting of Bibles’ small font. Although all Bibles use thin paper, some are more delicate than others. It’s a good idea to test new highlighters in an inconspicuous spot to make sure that they work on your Bible’s specific paper.

Kutsuwa HiLiNE Highlighter Pencils
Kutsuwa HiLiNE Highlighter Pencils are good for delicate paper.
How do you keep ink from bleeding through delicate paper? By not using ink at all! Kutsuwa HiLiNE Highlighter Pencils are colored pencils with a soft neon core. They are bright but less intense than most liquid highlighters. The points can make thin or medium-width lines depending on how sharp they are, so they work well for highlighting pages with tight formatting. It may take multiple strokes to highlight a full line. HiLiNE Highlighter Pencils come with a cap that conveniently doubles as a sharpener so that they’re always ready to use. They come in four colors and will never dry out.
If you must use a liquid highlighter in your Bible, Kokuyo Beetle Tip 3way Highlighters are a good option. They lay down a bright line without excessive moisture, so they did not wrinkle or bleed through our Bible paper. They have an unusual tip that lets you make thick, thin, or double lines just by rotating the pen. The broadest line has a medium width, so it fits well into closely-spaced lines. Kokuyo Beetle Tip 3way Highlighters come in five colors.
The Best Highlighter Pen for Books

Whether you’re a student or a lifelong learner, highlighting key points in books you read is a great way to improve your understanding and flag concepts to remember. Books are printed on all kinds of paper, but their pages are often rough and absorbent. Here are our picks for for highlighting novels, paperbacks, and more.

Staedtler Triplus Textsurfers
Staedtler Triplus Textsurfers highlight with flexible bullet tips.
The flexible bullet tips of Staedtler Triplus Textsurfers create precise and complete coverage. Use the side of the tip to highlight passages or just its point for underlining. Triplus Textsurfers are available in a wide range of ink colors. We’re particularly fond of their body design–it’s long and slim enough that it can act as a temporary bookmark (though longer-term this won’t be kind to your book’s spine), and it tucks easily into narrow pencil cases. In our tests, we noticed slight bleeding on printer paper, but no bleed or showthrough in books.
If you prefer to highlight or underline specific words rather than full passages, try Tombow Kei Coat Double-Sided Highlighters.The chisel tip is the perfect width for covering a full word, while the fine tip lets you make super-precise marks. These thoughtfully-designed highlighters feature plastic-reinforced tips to prevent fraying or splaying from heavy pressure. The broad tip’s protective sleeve cuts off below the point of the chisel to allow you to use it for making thin lines. Tombow Kei Coat Double-Sided Highlighters come in 10 colors.
The Best Highlighter Pen for Textbooks

Many textbooks use robust paper with a glossy finish. You can use almost any highlighter on them without bleedthrough, but be sure to give the ink plenty of time to dry or it’ll smear when you turn the page. All of the liquid and gel highlighters we tested took more than 30 seconds to dry. The following options dried around the 45-second mark on highly glossy paper.

Pilot FriXion Light US Erasable Highlighters are built to be erasable. If you over-highlight or use the wrong color, simply use the built-in hard rubber eraser to remove the highlighting without a trace. They use lighter ink than most highlighters. FriXion Light US Erasable Highlighters were mostly dry after 45 seconds but still smudged a small amount. They come in five colors. Pilot FriXion Light Standard and Soft Color Erasable Highlighters offer more colors and a different body style but dry more slowly.
Stabilo Boss Original Pastel Highlighters dry quickly even on glossy paper. Their tasteful color range is well-suited to color coding, and their flat bodies won’t roll away and send you crawling under a study carrel. We found these pens occasionally left spots of bleedthrough at the end of a line. While a little annoying, it did not impede readability on the other side of the page, and we think it’s a fair tradeoff for their lightning-fast dry time.
The Best Highlighter Pen for Printouts

We often highlight printouts for work and school. That’s no problem if you use a laser printer, but inkjet printing can smear under highlighter ink. These highlighters are inkjet safe so that you can highlight pages from any printer.

Ohto Rouge Gel Highlighter Pens
Ohto Rouge Gel Highlighter Pens have broad, crayon-like tips.
The Ohto Rouge Gel Highlighter lays down a smooth, fluorescent line that does not smear inkjet printing. Its broad, crayon-like tip wears down as you use it, so it’s best for highlighting large areas. It is not suitable for precise highlighting. The Ohto Rouge does not bleed through paper.
Uni Propus Window Soft Color Double-Sided Highlighters
Uni Propus Window Soft Color Double-Sided Highlighters have a handy window for precise highlighting.
Try the soft colors of the Uni Propus Window Soft Color Double-Sided Highlighter if you’d rather make more exact marks. They did not smear ink-jet printing in our tests and come with a handy window in the broad tip to let you see what you’re highlighting. The opposite end has a fine tip for underlining or circling text. If you prefer brighter colors, the regular Propus Window Double-Sided Highlighters caused minimal smearing in our tests.
The Best Highlighter Pen for Written Notes

If you’ve ever smudged carefully-written notes with a swipe of your favorite highlighter, you’re not alone. Pens and inks come in a wide range of formulations. It’s no surprise that they each react differently to being highlighted. These highlighters work well with several kinds of writing tools, so you can use your favorite pens, inks, and pencils without fear.

Staedtler Textsurfer Classic Highlighters
The compact, square Staedtler Textsurfer Classic Highlighter is our go-to for written notes. It did not affect ballpoint, gel, rollerball, pencil, or inkjet printing in our smearing tests. It did smear fountain pen ink, but not so much that it was unusable. Its lightfast, pigment ink showed through paper but did not bleed through. The chisel tip is best for highlighting wide areas, although its point can make thinner lines.
Staedtler Textsurfer Gel Highlighters
Staedtler Textsurfer Gel Highlighters are a good choice for fountain pen ink.
The Staedtler Textsurfer Gel Highlighter is our favorite highlighter for fountain pen ink. It did not smear pencil or gel, rollerball, or fountain pen ink in our tests, but it did cause ballpoint ink to feather. The rounded tip is good for broad highlighting. The gel is difficult to shape, so we do not recommend it for precise work. The Textsurfer Gel Highlighter comes in five colors.
The Best Highlighter Pen for Color-coding

If you’re the type of person who highlights events in one color, dates in another, and names in a third, you need highlighters that can keep up. These pastel and fluorescent highlighters have enough hues for every category you can think of.

Zebra Mildliner Double-Sided Highlighters
Zebra Mildliner Double-Sided Highlighters come in a variety of soft colors.
Zebra Mildliner Double-Sided Highlighters are our most popular highlighters, and for good reason. They replace ultra-bright colors with “mild” hues that are just the right shade to stand out. They’re a great refuge if fluorescent colors hurt your eyes. Mildliners come in 35 gorgeous colors, including unusual options like dark blue, brown, and gray. They have both chisel and fine tips to let you highlight large areas or underline specific words. They are known to smear gel pens, so check our guide to compatible pens to see if they'll work with your favorites.
Kokuyo Beetle Tip Dual Color Highlighters
Kokuyo Beetle Tip Dual Color Highlighters have two colors in one pen.
Try Kokuyo Beetle Tip Dual Color Highlighters if you’d rather not switch pens when changing colors. They feature two different-colored tips right next to each other so that you can switch colors or make double lines just by turning the pen. These versatile highlighters come in three different bright and soft color options for a total of 12 colors.
The Best Highlighter Pen for Copying & Triplicate Paper

Office workers and teachers sometimes need to mark up shipping receipts or make clean copies of already-highlighted paper. Some highlighters fade when used on triplicate paper, but these keep their color and don’t show up when copied.

Monami Essenti Soft Highlighters
Monami Essenti Soft Highlighters have spring-loaded clips.
Monami Essenti Soft Highlighters leave no trace on copies of highlighted text and do not disappear over time on triplicate paper. Their caps have spring-loaded clips that help hold them in place on a clipboard or stack of papers. They come in 12 pastel colors that do not bleed and barely show through paper.
If you use highlighters a lot, the Zebra Optex 1 EZ is for you. It uses refillable cartridges, which saves you money and reduces waste. It’s also incredibly easy to uncap. Just squeeze the two tabs to pop the “EZ” cap right off. It comes in 10 colors but only orange, pink, red, and yellow don’t show up when copied. The Zebra Optex 1 EZ does not react with triplicate paper.
The Best Highlighter Pen for Left-Handers

Left-handed writers are particularly susceptible to smears as their hands often pass over ink while it is still wet. These quick-drying highlighters will help keep your hands and paper pristine. If you’d like more options, check out our picks for textbooks above and our Guide to Left-Handed Pens.

Uni Propus Window Q-Dry Highlighters dry phenomenally quickly, keeping hands safe from smears. They also feature broad chisel tips with built-in windows that help keep lines precise. A double-sided design means a simple flip of the pen will provide a fine tip for underlining and circling. These highlighters come in eight fluorescent colors.
Platinum Preppy Fluorescent Highlighters
Platinum Preppy Fluorescent Highlighters are very wet but dry quickly.
This highlighter version of the popular Platinum Preppy Fountain Pen dried within a second in our testing. Although the Platinum Preppy Fluorescent Highlighter puts down a lot of ink, it absorbs quickly into the paper. This makes it more prone to showthrough and bleeding than our other recommendations. It can be refilled with cartridges or a converter. This lets you also use other highlighter fountain pen inks.
The Best Dual Tip Highlighter Pen

Dual-tip highlighters take highlighters and fineliners and combine them into one, creating pens that you don’t even have to put down as you switch between annotation and color-coding.

Kokuyo Mark+ 2 Way Marker Pens
Kokuyo Mark+ 2 Way Marker Pens combine highlighters and fineliners.
Kokuyo Mark+ 2 Way Marker Pens highlight with tasteful colors, each paired with a fineliner on the other end of the pen. Gray Type markers all include grayish fineliners, which we found dark enough to be legible without being obtrusive; Color Type markers all have matching fineliners, suited to color-coding. Mark+ 2 Way pens allow you to highlight and write notes without switching to another pen.

We will note that on absorbent papers, such as cheap paperback pages, the fineliner bleeds through slightly and writing with the fineliner over the highlighter will feather very badly. When in doubt, write with fineliner first!

If you’re on the hunt for more coordinating highlighter colors, try Kokuyo Mark+ Dual Tone Highlighters. Any of their dual hues will go delightfully with the subtle Gray Type markers.

Sun-Star Ninipie Dual Tip Highlighters
Sun-Star Ninipie Dual Tip Highlighters are some of the most unique pens in the JetPens catalog.
The innovative design of the Sun-Star Ninipie Dual Tip Highlighters might cause bystanders to do a double-take. It packs a chisel tip and fineliner marker into one end of the pen, so you can switch between highlighting and writing with only the slightest rotation. Lovely pale highlighter inks are paired with coordinating or stylishly contrasting fineliner colors.

Like the Mark+ 2 Way, we found the fineliner bled through slightly on rough paper at the end of the line. There’s also a slight learning curve to the Ninipie–be sure to hold it steady to prevent accidentally switching between tips.

The Best Highlighter Pen for Making an Impression

Sometimes an ordinary highlighter just isn’t good enough. Here are two pens that stand out from the pack.

Zebra Kirarich Highlighters
Zebra Kirarich Highlighters add dreamy shimmer to notes and art.
These dazzling highlighters put down so much glitter that it’s in their name—“kira” means “sparkle” in Japanese. Kirarich Highlighters deliver this radiance with bright ink that is infused with silver and pulverized glass. Their twinkling lines are a fun surprise for study partners and a great reminder to smile. We love using them for highlighter art as well!
Epoch Kobaru Sweet Tapir Scented Highlighters
Epoch Kobaru Sweet Tapir Scented Highlighters have double-sided bodies with two pastel colors.
The Epoch Kobaru Highlighter adds whimsy to notes with its unusual shape and scented ink. It has a thin, double-sided body design and soft pastel colors. The sweet scent of the ink is easy to smell when the highlighter is uncapped and lingers for several minutes on the page.
Highlighter Pen Test Results

We performed our tests with yellow highlighters for consistency. When product lines included both bright and pastel colors, we tested both versions to account for differences in ink formulation and color intensity.

Drying Time & Showthrough

We tested drying time in increments of 5, 10, 20, and 30 seconds on both Rhodia and copy paper. If a highlighter dried in under five seconds, we narrowed the drying time down to the second.

Text Smearing

Different pens and inks can have widely divergent formulas and react differently to the same highlighter. In addition, the paper you write on can make ink more or less likely to smear. We used Rhodia paper and tested our highlighters against some of the most popular options in each category of writing instrument. Other pens, inks, and papers may react differently.


We tested brightness on Rhodia paper and broke it into tiers of "low," "medium" and "high." Low brightness indicates a soft, translucent color, while high brightness is almost startling.

We also noted which highlighters are not neon or fluorescent. This is important to separate because some fluorescent highlighters can be quite light on the page, while non-fluorescent highlighters and markers can still stand out like a dandelion in a sunbeam.

Click through to each product for writing samples, but please be aware that photographing fluorescence is extremely difficult and photos may not exactly match real life.


Do you want to see all our recommended highlighters at once? Use our comparison tool to see their specifications side by side.


Our writers draw on their personal expertise, consult our in-house subject matter experts, and do extensive research to make our guides as accurate and comprehensive as possible. We then test every finding that makes it through the research stage. Only the techniques and tools whose performance we personally confirm make it into our guides as recommendations.


Whether you’re studying for a test, editing an article, or making notes, highlighters are the ideal tool to help you remember information and draw attention to important points. What are your favorite highlighters? Let us know in the comments below!

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Are you still not sure what to try? Check out our highlighter samplers! These samplers offer a plethora of options, so look through and find your favorite color.

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