Review by Tina Koyama
In a strange moment of synchronicity, several highlighters in my home went dry at the same time, and my stash of spares was nearly empty, too. Instead of stocking up on my usual go-to brands, I thought it would be fun to try some new ones. JetPens offers numerous highlighter sampler sets by color theme, which made it easy to try six in my favorite highlighter color – magenta (6 highlighters/$10).
Included in the set are two Zebra Mildliner Double-Sided Highlighters (one Mild Magenta, one Mild Fuchsia), one Lilac Pink Stabilo Boss Original Highlighter, one Red Purple Uni Mitsubishi Propus 2 Double-Sided Highlighter, one Purplish Red Zebra Optex 1 EZ Highlighter and one Purple Pilot Spotliter 2 Double-Sided Highlighter. If purchased separately, the total would be $10.55, so the sampler set offers a bit of savings. They all come in at least 10 colors (though it’s hard to beat the Mildliners that come in 25 colors).
A distinguishing characteristic of the Spotliter 2 and the Optex 1 EZ is that they are refillable with convenient cartridges (also available at JetPens). These environmentally friendly options are appealing, though the skeptic in me wonders whether the tips will mush down before the highlighters need be refilled. (My heavy handedness will tell the tail soon enough.)
All but the Stabilo Boss and Optex 1 EZ have both a standard chisel point and a fine point, so it’s like having two highlighters in one. Of course, I have always used a chisel-point marker on both its side and its tip (see my chart below), so it can be used two ways also. Here are closeups of the tips.
Below I made lines with each highlighter tip to show the differences in colors and point sizes. Though they are all similar, even the two Zebra Mildliners, the scanned image shows the colors a bit more accurately. Unfortunately, the biggest difference in color doesn’t show well in either image: The Stabilo Boss is closer to a neon hot pink while the others are more like pale magenta. (Strange… whenever I try to photograph or scan neon-colored inks or colored pencils, the fluorescent properties seem to disappear from the images.)
Next I made a bunch of scribbles with a Blackwing graphite pencil, Uni Jetstream ballpoint, Uni-ball Signo gel and Pilot Petit fountain pen containing water-soluble ink. To test for transparency and smearing, I drew each highlighter through the scribbles several times. As expected, all highlighters smeared the water-soluble fountain pen ink, but the other pens and pencil showed little smearing. All were sufficiently transparent.
Finally, I highlighted a line of text in a catalog page with each highlighter to again compare their relative transparency and color. Since I most often use highlighters in books, catalogs and other printed matter, this test is most important to me.
My favorite? I like the bright ink color of the Stabilo Boss best. Unfortunately, its unwieldy body is the least user-friendly highlighter design I’ve used. It’s awkward to hold, and the tapered cap is difficult to pull off.
Which brings me to the Optex 1 EZ’s “EZ cap,” which I had nearly overlooked: To uncap it, you simply squeeze the four dots above the arrow, and the cap pops off. I love it when small conveniences like this take almost all the effort out of using a simple highlighter! The cap also posts securely, which is always a big deal to me because I’m prone to losing caps that don’t post well. Both of these features make the Optex 1 EZ my favorite, and it’s refillable, to boot. I don’t mind that it doesn’t have a fine point on the other end, but if you prefer one, the double-sided options are equally good performers.