Review: Sharpie Clear View Highlighter, Sharpie Gel Highlighter, Bic Brightliner, Colored Pencil

6 months ago Jack 0
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First world problems right? You never thought you would have trouble selecting a highlighter, yet here you are. Highlighters can bleed through your paper, smudge, smear, and be generally unwieldy.  Take a look at these four options and see which one works best for you.

The Sharpie Clear View Highlighter

This highlighter runs on regular ink and gives you a nice clear window inside the tip so you can partly see the line you are highlighting. The fluorescent yellow-green color practically glows on the paper. These can be purchased in different colors and different ink capacities and tip sizes. I’ll share with you my experience using the smaller standard yellow highlighter.


The main distinguishing feature of this highlighter is the windowed tip; which actually does prove useful. Being able to see pieces of the test around the highlighter’s contact point with the page makes it easier to stay on target and not get carried away and highlight too far into the line. It also seems to reduce the amount of ink that the tip can disperse. That means you get the highlighting effect with less bleed than many other highlighters.

Tested on what feels like 20 lb. computer paper, I could only see slight coloration through the page with little to no wrinkling. On a thinner receipt paper effect was the same. The ultimate test is in a book that I found notoriously hard to highlight; “A Biblical History of Israel” by Provan, Long, and Longman. In that book, the highlighter managed to bleed through in any areas along the stroke that were not made at full speed. even at slower speeds, the color still showed through.

The Sharpie Gel Highlighter

These gel highlighters seem like they were designed in response to ink bleed in normal highlighters. The gel highlighter is essentially a soft crayon that lays down a translucent clear film on the page.


The idea works in theory, but the drawbacks can outweigh the benefits for some people. For instance, the tip of the highlighter is huge. It blocks all view of the target area and the girth of the highlighting tip makes it difficult to see where the highlighter makes contact with the page. Where the windowed highlighter excelled in accuracy, this one limps along miserably.

That said, this highlighter passes all of the bleed tests. Color is visible through some pages, but no obvious bleed through occurs. Note though, that the gel highlighter leaves a solid on the page that can smudge or rub off when put against other pages. it also can leave flakes and crumbs on the page that will smear and spread into highlighter scars on your otherwise neatly marked work.

The Bic Brite Liner

My Bic Brite Liner is extremely old. It may be around 10 years old actually. The newer ones may have improved.


In the case of the one I own, things don’t look good. You get none of the benefits of the windowed or gel highlighter and even more bleed through. It managed to bleed on nearly all test and laid down a warm yellow color instead of the bright fluorescent yellow-green of the other two. It works well enough for computer paper or thicker notebook paper, but avoid using these older highlighters on thin-paged books.

The Colored Pencil

Maybe this surprises you, but a colored pencil can be a better highlighter than any of these in certain cases. I would not want to use any of the highlighters listed above inside of a paperback text, but a hard colored pencil worked just fine. In fact, when I realized that my highlighters were doing more damage than good, I experimented with colored pencils only to find the best option of all.

The difficulty of using a colored pencil is that you often have to color in the area to be highlighted. They don’t lay down a crisp filled line like the regular highlighters do. The advantage is that a pale pencil colored pencil highlight doesn’t bleed through the page and cause issues in even very thin paged books.

Below, you can see the three highlighters applied to a page of the book I mentioned earlier. Gel(left), Brite Liner (center), Clear View (right).

Note that all three show some color through the page, but the two ink highlighters clearly bleed through. There is no way to avoid seeing any color through a thin page when light comes from the other side.