Review by Tina Koyama
Like many students, I could not have survived college without neon-colored highlighter markers. Since that time, I haven’t used highlighters nearly as much, but I still have occasional need for them in my planner, on receipts, in catalogs, and the like. While I’ve broadened my scope in most other stationery and office products, I still default to the same type of chisel point marker when I need a highlighter.
Over the past few years as I’ve increasingly used graphite and colored pencils for drawing, pencil highlighters started capturing my attention. A non-refillable marker leaves behind more waste, and if the cap is left off (ahem – not that I’ve ever done that), the highlighter is dead in a short time. A woodcased pencil version makes better sense on both counts – less waste and nothing to dry out. It was time to try one.
I chose the Kutsuwa HiLiNE Highlighter in eye-searing neon pink ($3.70). Also available in neon hues of green, orange and yellow, the HiLiNE comes with a pencil cap sharpener.
To test the HiLiNE, I pulled three different types of paper out of my recycle bin (from left to right): ordinary printer paper; a thermal paper receipt; and a catalog with slightly shiny paper. In each example, the first mark is made by the HiLiNE pencil, and the second mark by a Hi-Liter chisel tip marker. On the receipt and the catalog, the traditional marker is much easier to see. On printer paper, both the pencil and the marker are easily visible. The pencil obviously needs at least some tooth to work best. Regardless of paper, I found it much easier to “aim” the pencil, which has a soft, slightly crumbly core that easily highlights a single line of text, no matter how small. Sometimes with a chisel tip, I don’t pay attention to the tip’s direction and end up missing my target or highlighting more lines than I intended.
Next I tested how well the HiLiNE worked over various inks and pencils compared to the Hi-Liter marker. (Note: I had difficulty both photographing and scanning the page below so that the neon pink color showed accurately. The HiLiNE pencil is much less blue than appears here and much closer to the pencil’s hot pink barrel.) As expected for a dry medium, the pencil had no problem marking over any of the inks or other pencils. The marker also did well on everything except the fountain pen with water-soluble Diamine Eclipse ink, which smeared a bit. For good measure, I also erased a HiLiNE pencil line with a Tombow Mono Zero eraser. Not surprisingly, erasing was less than complete.
If this were the end of the review, I’d say the HiLiNE pencil is a useful option on papers with at least some tooth and is preferable to a chisel-tip marker when highlighting fine lines of text. It’s also preferable if you write with water-soluble inks.
But wait – it’s not the end of the review, because the surprise is the pencil cap sharpener! Whenever I see a secondary-use item (sharpener cap) sold with a primary-use item (highlighter pencil), I tend to look askance at the add-on: How good could it be? I was curious, of course, so I sharpened the HiLiNE with its eraser, and look at the point I got!
Then I started wondering if the reason the sharpener came with it was that the pencil’s barrel was difficult to sharpen with other sharpeners, but I didn’t find that to be the case. I then tried sharpening a Blackwing and a Caran d’Ache Supracolor pencil with the HiLiNE’s sharpener, and I got respectable points on both.
It’s a decent compact sharpener that can fit on the end of any conventional size pencil. In fact, it’s a little loose on the HiLiNE’s round barrel and fits more snugly on the Blackwing.
The Kutsuwa HiLiNE pencil is not ideal for all purposes, but I like its greater accuracy in highlighting single lines of text, and I feel better producing less waste. The bonus is the compact and serviceable sharpener that comes with it.