One of my favourite things about high school was buying stationery supplies at the start of the year. I was terrible at revising in high school but I loved getting the opportunity to use highlighters. High school was a long time ago and along the way, I grew to hate those fluorescent yellow highlighters. However, all that changed a few years ago when I discovered the Zebra Mildliner.
As you may be able to tell from the name. These are highlighters but not as we know it. I first came across the Zebra Mildliner right around the time I was getting into bullet journaling. Along the way, they have become one of my must-have stationery supplies. I’m not joking when I say I love these highlighters.
I love the colour range. The pens are comfortable to hold. And most importantly the ink has lasted a long time. I’m still using the same highlighters I bought three years ago. But all this got me wondering. Are the Zebra Mildliners the best highlighters out there. Or is there some other form of highlighter which is better.
I am extremely biased here because I love my Zebra Mildliners. So today I’m going to explain exactly why I love these pens. And compare them to some other highlighters so you can decide for yourself which highlighters are the best.
ARE ZEBRA MILDLINERS THE BEST HIGHLIGHTER?
ABOUT THE ZEBRA MILDLINER
Zebra is a Japanese based stationery company. They are one of the largest companies in the world specialising in writing tools. Along with pens, pencils and other art supplies, they also make highlighters.
In particular, the make the Mildliner. This is a highlighter similar to highlighters you can find in any stationery shop. However, there are a few important differences between a regular highlighter and a Zebra Mildliner.
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First of all, these are double-ended highlighters. One end has a 5mm chiselled tip. The other has a 1mm fine tip. The Mildliners come in 25 different colours. It should be noted that this number does change depending on what website you look at. Based on my research there are currently 25 colours in the Mildliner range. However, this could change as Zebra releases new colours.
The highlighters can be bought in packs of 5, 15 or 25. Finding the larger packs can be tricky as they need to be imported from Japan. If you look at the packaging of the Zebra Mildliners you will see this is all in Japanese. This also means the price of the highlighters can vary quite a bit depending on where you buy them from.
One of the best things about the Zebra Mildliner is how the pen has been designed. Instead of a bulky highlighter, you all know what I’m talking about. The Zebra Mildliner is very similar to a regular pen. This means it is much more comfortable to hold and write with for long periods. It is also much easier to fit into a pencil case, making it a very good choice for students.
The Zebra Mildliners come in 25 different colours. These are all pastel shades which make them very easy on the eye. Especially compared to some neon highlighters. This means you can use the Mildliners in your bullet journal to easily create a pleasing spread.
If you do want more fluorescent highlighters you can also have that too. Zebra makes a set of 5 Mildliners in fluorescent colours. However, these pens aren’t quite so bright compared to normal highlighters. If you have to have a neon yellow highlighter this set might be a good alternative.
The Mildliners are sold in sets of 5. The colours in each set have been specially chosen to complement each other. This means you don’t need to buy all 25 colours. You can choose which set has the colours you like most. Though I love the light grey Mildliner, you may not want a highlighter in this colour. I love using the grey Mildliner in my bullet journal and it’s probably my most used highlighter.
The actual colour of the Mildliners will change ever so slightly depending on what paper you’re using. So I thought I would show some examples on different types of paper. First I tried the Leuchtturm1917. A very popular notebook for bullet journaling. The Mildliners work very well on the Leuchtturm paper with ever so slight ghosting through to the back of the page.
I’ve never had any problems with the Zebra Mildliners bleeding through the Leuchtturm1917 paper but it is important to note they do ghost ever so slightly.
I also tried the Mildliners on the MD Paper Notebook. This is one of my favourite notebook brands and one I use most of the time for bullet journaling. It probably doesn’t show well in the photo but the colours in the MD Paper Notebook are much more vibrant compared to the Leuchtturm example. The ink also looks slightly grainy on the Leuchtturm paper compared to the smooth MD Paper.
This could just be down to the quality of the paper. MD Paper is known for making very high-quality notebooks. Though the Mildliners worked better in this notebook they still worked perfectly well in the Leuchtturm and this isn’t a huge issue.
The important thing about highlighters, the Mildliners especially is how they work with pens. The Zebra Mildliners are notoriously bad if being used in combination with gel pens. Especially the Muji pens which seem to be very popular in the bullet journal community.
So I decided to do some smudge tests with different gel pen brands to see just how bad this smudging can be. I haven’t been very scientific about this. I tried to show how bad smudging can be based on how I would use the Mildliner in real life. So basically, writing in gel pen, then going back over with highlighter.
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As you can see the Muji, Kaweco and Lamy inks all take a while to dry and will smudge badly if the Mildliner is applied over the top. The stars show where I waited 5 minutes before going over with the Mildliner. The Muji and the Kaweco still smudged but not quite so badly. The ink in the Frixion pen seems to dry much faster.
HOW TO AVOID SMUDGES
There are a few workarounds to this problem. First, you could buy the Zebra Sarasa mark on pen. This is a gel pen made by Zebra specifically designed to work with highlighters. This means that the highlighter shouldn’t smudge the ink. This is quite a specialised pen and it’s not the sort of thing you can buy in the UK. You would probably need to have it shipped from Japan.
You could also do something similar to myself when at university. Essentially wait a long time before highlighting. I will take notes during a lecture then go back and add highlights when I get home. This is usually anywhere from 4 to 6 hours later. This gives the ink enough time to dry that it won’t be smudged by the highlighter.
If you don’t want to do this you could always just put the highlighter down first. This solves the problem of the highlighter smudging the still-wet ink. This is my process when writing any headers in my bullet journal and is an extremely easy fix to this problem. It does mean you need to know the length of the area you want to highlight before you write it which can be a problem.
One thing I also learned recently is you should be careful with the ink you’re using while doing this method. It works fine for the Muji ink but the highlighter will still cause the LAMY ink to feather even if I put the highlighter down first. The best thing to do is to test your supplies before using them so you don’t get any nasty surprises.
USES FOR ZEBRA MILDLINER
The Zebra Mildliners are great for taking lecture notes. Seriously, all I need in a lecture is my bullet journal, a pen and my grey Mildliner. The highlighter helps me note important facts and is still easy on the eye. I know I could use a brighter colour if I wanted to but honestly, I like the grey colour.
The Mildliners are also great in my bullet journal. I like having a minimal planning style in my bullet journal and the Mildliners work well for that. I can choose one colour for each month and all the headers for that month are drawn in the same colour.
My Zebra Mildliners are also an essential part of my graphic design process. I have used them to take and highlight notes. But they also work almost the same as marker pens. I’ve used them as such while working in my sketchbook. It’s really handy that I don’t need something extra in my pencil case when the Mildliners double as highlighters and markers.
WHERE TO BUY
Like I mentioned further up this post. The Zebra Mildliners can be slightly tricky to find because they have to be imported from Japan. They can be slightly more expensive compared to other highlighters. As an example, the Stabilo pastel set is £4 for a pack of 6 while the Mildliners are anywhere from £5-8 for a pack of 5.
The cheapest seems to be on Amazon where you can get them for £5 per pack. However, I’ve only been able to find the 5-pack sets on Amazon. If you’re wanting the 15 or 25 pack set you may need to look somewhere else such as eBay.
You don’t have to buy the full set. I would recommend you don’t. Not just because it can be hard to find. You just don’t need that many colours. You can buy the pens individually from CultPens for £1.95 per pen. This is more expensive compared to the sets but if there is one specific colour you want this is a good alternative.
I know I said you can’t find the Mildliner on the UK highstreet however I have come across them on the Paperchase website. This must be a recent addition to Paperchase as I’ve never seen them for sale before.
I don’t know if this means Paperchase might start selling the Zebra Mildliner in store. If you’re ever close to one of the larger Paperchase shops in the UK it might be a good idea to check if the Mildliners are available.
If you don’t want to go to the trouble of having highlighters imported from Japan I thought I would share a few alternatives that can be bought in store.
First, we have the Frixion Ball highlighters. These are available in similar pastel colours to the Zebra Mildliners. In all aspects, they are very similar. The only difference is that these highlighters only have the 5mm chisel tip. They are also erasable which is a massive advantage over the Mildliners.
The Frixion highlighters seem to vary quite a bit in price depending on where you look. I’ve seen them anywhere from £5-13 which puts them around the same price as the Mildliners. If you’re going to buy the Frixion highlighters instead maybe shop around first so you get a good price. I know I wouldn’t pay £13 for 6 highlighters.
If you’re looking for something to use in your bullet journal the Tombow Dual Brush Markers are a great alternative. These aren’t highlighters but work almost the same as the Zebra Mildliner. The only difference is the Tombow pens have a brush nib rather than the chisel nib.
In the past, I’ve used Tombow markers as a replacement for highlighters and they work fine. The Tombows might be ever so slightly better because they have a better choice of colours. They are also much easier to find. You can buy them online or in Cass Art where you can buy them individually.
Individually the Tombow markers are quite a bit more expensive than the Zebra Mildliners. At £3.50 per pen compared to £1.95. But if you’ve bought the Tombow markers for some other purpose any way you may be better off using them as highlighters rather than buying separate highlighters.
I am going to admit I am 100% biased with this blog post. I love the Zebra Mildliners. They are the only highlighters I’ve used in years. I don’t think I could ever go back to those awful chunky fluorescent highlighters I used in high school now.
But despite all that, they genuinely are great highlighters. Some of the pens I bought years ago still work perfectly well today. Okay, so the nibs on some of my more used highlighters are starting to wear down. The chisel nib isn’t quite so sharp any more. But I bought these highlighters at least three years ago. And I’ve got a huge amount of use out of them ever since.
At no point have I ever had problems with the ink in the Mildliners running out, or going dry. Okay so maybe they are slightly more expensive compared to the Stabilos. But that’s only by a pound or so.
If you’re looking for highlighters and don’t want awful neon colours the Zebra Mildliners are a great alternative. Apart from my Muji gel pen, they are one of my most used stationery items. Even the grey highlighter looks good in my bullet journal. I can guarantee you won’t be disappointed by them.