The best highlighter pens are often underrated but indispensable items of stationery. No other tool that can mark important information and point you in the right direction in the way a highlighter can, and they can also be used for creative purposes too, so if you need highlighters, you should make sure they're good ones.
While choosing one of the best highlighter pens might seem like a simple task, there's more to it than might meet the eye. And there are some key considerations to take into account when making a purchase. For example, do you need a gel or pencil highlighter, what tip would be best, how quickly does it dry, will it bleed through a page or smudge the text, how bright is the ink, and what colour best suits?
I'm not ashamed to admit to being mildly obsessed with stationery, and I've made it my mission to hunt down the best highlighters available right now. There are a lot to choose from, but I've narrowed the options down to a tried and tested selection of the best highlighters for different purposes. If you're looking for a non highlighter pen, see our roundup of the best pens for creatives.
The best highlighter pens available now
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Tip: Bullet & Chisel
It wouldn't be a list of great pens without a Sharpie, right? And the pen brand is fully deserving of this spot in our list – these are a pleasure to use. The dual-ended marker features a fine bullet tip one end, and a classic chisel tip at the other, so you can easily switch between stroke sizes. Our tests found no bleedthrough or smudging on printer paper or textbooks, and there's no reason you couldn't use the fine tip of these as a colouring pen too.
Best for books
Staedtler is a brand synonymous with highlighters, but our top pick isn't its popular chisel pen we all know and love. The Staedtler Triplus Textsurfer highlighter features fast-drying ink, with a flexible bullet tip that can create lines from 1-4mm thick – it's a top choice for use in books, specifically. Bleed through and smudge will largely depend on the book, but there was no sign of any of the ones we tested them on.
Best for prints
Tip: Bullet & Chisel
If you're needing to highlight print out from an ink-jet printer, or just fancy something a little softer than the usual bright flourescent, you'll love these Uni Propus Window highlighters. There's no sign of smear, or bleed through here, plus the broad tip comes with a handy window so you can easily see what you're highlighting. On the other end is fine tip for more accurate marking, which also writes really smoothly.
Best for written notes
If someone asked you to think of a highlighter, for many, an image of this pen would come to mind. Staedtler's Classic highlighter pen has been a round for long time now, and that, in short, is because it's a brilliant product. The chisel tip is brilliant for highlighting wide areas, and it's point can handle things with delicacy too. One of the best highlighters for handwritten notes, it glided over pencil, biro, ballpoint, gel and rollerball pens smudge-free. However, the ink is visible (but didn't bleed) through various paper types.
Best for colour-coding
Just when I thought I'd seen it all, I came across these Kokuyo Beetle Tip dual colour highlighter pens. Unique in having two different coloured tips next to each other, which you can alternate between using simply by turning the pen. I found this particular set very resistant to bleed, and really appreciated having both a bright and softer hue of fluorescent with each pen. It meant I didn't need to switch pens when I tried out different paper types, and could figure out which pen was best suited to each.
Best for left-handers
Tip: Micro Chisel
The left-handed among you will no doubt know using the wrong kind of highlighter can easily result in smears as your hand passes over the ink. These clear view window highlighters from Sharpie not only mean you can easily see where you are leaving a mark, but their fast-drying nature minimises the risk of smudging. They even - get this - feature smear guard ink technology to help avoid unwanted smudging. They don't include a fine tip, however, so aren't suited to fine lines and more accurate markings.
Best for art projects
Contrary to popular belief, the humble highlighter doesn't just have to be all work and no play, as these these glitter edition Zebra Kirarich pens prove. Kira means sparkle in Japanese, and with ink that is infused with silver and pulverised glass, these highlighters do just that. These are a great option to add that little extra something to your projects and create vibrant, stand out art projects too.
How do I choose the best highlighter pen?
While it might seem like they all do the same, there are many features to a highlighter pen, and depending on where you want to make your mark, there are few things you need to consider when choosing one. Cost is an obvious consideration, but aside from that you'll need to think about what colour you need, whether the the pen will smudge or bleed through to the page underneath, how fast the ink dries and the kind of tip required. You'll find options that address all of these above.
Which colour is best for a highlighter?
The answer to this really depends on the user and their preferences, but when it comes to making a mark that really stands out, the classic fluorescent yellow is a popular choice, as is light blue and orange. That said, to ease reading, pastel colours have grown in popularity in recent years, with the softer hue being more gentle on the eyes.
How did we choose the best highlighters for our guide
Creative Bloq has over a decade of experience in reviewing art supplies and providing news and tutorials for creatives. Our reviewers have tried and tested a wide range of equipment to enable us to make our selections for our buying guides. We also take into consideration customer reviews and price in order to provide recommendations for different needs and budgets.