Highlighter Showdown (Mildliner, Frixion, Propus, Beetletip)

As promised, here is my highlighters comparison!  (My pens comparison will be up in a week.) I’ve reviewed each highlighter’s special features (if any), ink behavior (bleed-through and dry time), color, and pen design. At the end, I did some “superlatives,” ranking the highlighters for different purposes.

EDIT: Per request of a reader, I’ve added prices to each of the products from Amazon or JetPens. If the product is available on both sites, I listed the cheaper option.

DISCLAIMER: All thoughts expressed here are my personal opinions and what I have concluded through my own personal experience with these highlighters. I have been using them for at least several months (some for several years). I was not paid to write anything. If your opinion/experience is different than mine, feel free to leave a comment below and share your thoughts with others so we can have a more comprehensive view of these products.

Firstly, a quick view of all the highlighters I’m reviewing today! The colors you see here may be slightly different than you would see in real life depending on your screen’s color calibration, but I’ve done my best to match the color as close to as they appear in real life.

Highlighters OVERVIEW

Follow the cut for the in-depth review!

Highlighters MildlinersHighlighters Mildliners2

Zebra Mildliners

I decided to review these first as they are a #studyblr cult favorite.

Special Features: Each Mildliner is double-sided, featuring a chisel tip and a fine tip.

Color: Zebra Mildliners are available in such a unique range of colors, which was why I was initially drawn to them. However, I was incredibly disappointed in these “highlighters”. They’re actually more like markers; the only one that resembles a highlighter was the yellow one (which was very fluorescent), so I would assume the rest of the Mildliner standard/lightest colors available are similarly fluorescent and mild.

Ink: These highlighters don’t bleed badly through the paper, but they show up the most on the other side of the page out of all the highlighters I’m presenting today.

Since these markers are quite inky, they dry (more like soak into my paper…) quickly. I haven’t tried them on my glossy textbook pages.

EDIT | A note from an anonymous person after the publishing of this post:

“[…] studyblurb wasn’t reviewing the pastel type, which I personally have and they do not bleed through and the colour is really nice and clearly shows the words underneath.”

Design: The design is phenomenal; I love the minimalism and clean look of the pens. My only gripe is that when the markers are stored cap down, I don’t know what color each highlighter is. (Pens are best stored point down so gravity can help bring the ink to the tip.)

The chisel tip width is the largest of all the highlighters I’m reviewing today so if you have tiny handwriting or plan to use this with tiny type, you may reconsider getting a different highlighter. (The font used in the sample is Calibri, size 8.)

Price: $1.50/each (JetPens); ~$7 for a set of 5 or $17.50 for the complete collection [three sets of 5] (Amazon)

Rating: 1/5

Highlighters Beetletip

Kokuyo Beetletip 3-way Highlighters

These were the first set of highlighters I have ever fallen in love, and it is has remained as one of my favorite highlighters for the past few years.

Special Features: The tip is the salient feature of this highlighter.  I’ve included a diagram that will explain the concept of the beetletip better than I can in words.

Highlighters Beetletip2Color: Colors are fluorescent without being blindingly bright. It is a “soft” fluorescence.

Ink: These do not bleed! (Unless you hold the highlighter in one spot for an extended time, but that is a problem with almost any liquid ink.)

The ink dries immediately, even on glossy textbook pages.

Design: Although the barrel design leaves much to be desired, the amazing performance of the product way supercedes the lack of aesthetic.

Additionally, the width of these highlighters is the thinnest of all the ones presented today.

Price: $2.50/each (JetPens) or $8.80 for complete set of 5 (Amazon)

Rating: 5/5

Highlighters Propus

Uni Propus Window: Soft Colors

Along with the Kokuyo Beetletips, these are my second favorite set of highlighters.

Special Features: The magic of the Uni Propus Window is… its window!! Don’t you hate when you accidentally highlight more than you mean to? This window is to help you see through to where you’re about to highlight and stop when you want to.  I’ve included a photo to demonstrate what I mean.

Additionally, these highlighters are double-ended: a chisel tip and a fine point.

Highlighters Propus2Color: Like the Kokuyo Beetletips, the colors are fluorescent without being blindingly neon. However, these colors are more saturated and a bit darker than the Beetletips.

Ink: When used on thin paper, these are more prone to bleeding than the Beetletips, but the bleeding is minimal; it mostly occurs at the “end” of the line, as you can see on the left of the highlight samples (I highlight from right to left).

However, when used on thicker paper or on glossy textbook pages, there is no bleed. It does take a bit longer to dry on the page than Beetletips, but not a long time.

Design: I think the design is great. Classic and clean, and it’s easy to see which color the highlighter is.

The chisel tip is medium-sized – between the Beetletip and the Mildliner.

Price: $1.65/each (Jetpens); ~$8 for set of 5 (Amazon)

Rating: 4.5/5

Highlighters Frixion-horiz

Pilot Frixion Light: US version, Japan version, & Soft Colors

I first tried the US version when I saw them at my school bookstore and thought it was a cool idea. However, I soon forgot about them after being completely enraptured by Kokuyo Beetletips. But after I was gifted the Japanese Pilot Frixions, I absolutely loved them, bringing them all back into my life.

Special Features: The Pilot Frixion highlighters claim to be erasable highlighters, with the eraser on the opposite end of the highlighter (silver on the US version, colored on the Japan version, and clear on the Soft Colors). The effect is driven by friction, or heat. (You get the same effect when heating your paper – all the ink will disappear. So don’t leave important notes in a hot car if using Pilot Frixion products.)

These all work great; they are truly erasable. You can’t tell anything was highlighted before!

However, there are a few caveats:

  1. If you use these highlighters on pen or pencil and then try to erase, it will smudge your writing
  2. Once you erase an area, you cannot highlight over it again.

The unique ink is kind of almost like paint. It sits as a layer over what you are highlighting. Therefore, it leaves a slight chalky cast over what you highlight. It’s pretty unnoticeable, but more apparent when highlighting thick lines such as bolded words.

Highlighters Frixion

Color: When I want a very pastel or light highlight, the Frixion Light Soft Colors are my go-to! These are actually soft colors. The US versions are slightly more watery, but these were purchased several years before I got the Japan versions, so perhaps the formula has been updated to better match the Japan versions.

Ink: I talked about this in the special features, but a couple other points of comparison:

There is no bleed! Because, as I mentioned, it is more like paint and sits as a layer over the paper rather than the ink soaking into the paper.

Dry time is longer than the Beetletip but faster than the Propus Window. Keep in mind that their dry times are all within a second or fraction of a second of each other.

(Surprisingly,) the Frixion highlighters perform the same on glossy textbook pages!

Design: I love the design of the Japan Frixion highlighters! The US version looks tacky…


  • US version: $1.50/each or $3.65 for set of 3 (JetPens)
  • Japan version (regular & Soft Colors): $1.65/each (Jetpens); $7.12 for set of 5 (Amazon)

Rating: 4/5


Good for Handwritten Notes (Pen/Pencil)

They all work about the same; it mostly depends on your your pen ink or pencil lead. I think the Kokuyo Beetletips fare slightly better than the Uni Propus Windows and the Pilot Frixions. I haven’t tried the Zebra Mildliners.

Good for Printed Notes

They all work well.

Good for Glossy Textbook Pages

  1. Kokuyo Beetletip
  2. Uni Propus Window / Pilot Frixion

I have not used the Zebra Mildliners on textbooks.

Smallest to Thickest Width of Chisel Tip

  1. Kokuyo Beetletip
  2. Pilot Frixion
  3. Uni Propus Window
  4. Zebra Mildliner

I hope this post was helpful for you all! See you back on Tumblr 🙂 Next up is my pens comparison – but that will take at least one more week D:

3 thoughts on “Highlighter Showdown (Mildliner, Frixion, Propus, Beetletip)

  1. Totally and completely disagree about the Zebra Mildliners. I don’t think you weren’t really fair with those. A 1/5? I feel like you used the worst colors. Mine don’t bleed AT ALL (I have all three sets) and the colors look really subtle compared to the other overly bright colors. Preference I guess? But I definitely don’t think you gave them an accurate description at all.


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