How Big is a Highlighter?

How big is a highlighter

Highlighters are used to emphasize parts in a book that the reader considers to be worth memorizing. It uses a semi-transparent ink type that colors the white portion of a sheet of paper while leaving black or colored printer ink undisturbed. If you’re wondering how big a highlighter is, you’ve come to the right place.

A typical highlighter will measure about 5-7/8 inches long and 1-1/2 inches in diameter. The tip of a highlighter comes in various styles, which range in width from 0.03 millimeters all the way up to 50 millimeters.

When it comes to highlighters, their physical size isn’t as important as their tip style, color, ink brightness, and show-through or bleeding potential. In this guide, I’ll cover the basic considerations you should make when trying to choose the write highlighter for different purposes.

Highlighter Sizes

Highlighter Sizes

Although the size of a highlighter might not be as important as other factors, it’s still something you want to consider, especially if you plan on leaving the highlighter inside a notebook or  a clipboard compartment. When shopping for a highlighter, you’ll find that it comes in various shapes, styles, and sizes.

One of the most common highlighter shapes is cylindrical, which has a flat bottom with a slightly tapered cap on the top. These highlighters will typically measure 5-7/8 inches in length and around 1-1/2 inches in diameter, such as these pocket highlighters made by Sharpie.

Cylindrical highlighters are also a popular, space-saving choice since they are considerably shorter than the typical cylindrical highlighter. These highlighters will measure around 4 inches long, 7/8 inches wide, and half an inch in depth. An example of this is the Promarx Jumbo Highlighters.

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There are also massive highlighters, such as the Marvy Uchida Jumbo Bistro Chalk Markers, that are around 7-1/2 inches long, 1-7/8 inches wide, and an inch thick.

Now, with that out of the way, we can focus our attention on more pressing highlighter matters.

What to Look for in a Highlighter

When shopping for the right highlighter, there are several factors you need to consider—namely, what the ink is made of, how easily the ink smears, what tip style it comes in, the potential of bleeding, and the ink color, and how bright it is.

Ink Composition

The majority of highlighters will release a liquid ink when the tip is pressed against the surface of the paper. It’s not unlike those belonging to felt-tip pens or whiteboard markers.

However, you can also get your hands on gel highlighters that release a slightly thick substance onto paper, producing a vibrant color that is prone to smearing until it has had time to set. The upside is that if you leave the highlighter uncovered, it will take much more time for the tip to dry out.

Both ink compositions are great for studying, but gel highlighters are just slightly more expensive than their liquid-ink counterparts.

Ink Smearing

Ink Smearing

Ink smearing refers to the highlighter ink’s potential to smear printed text. This is a more common problem found in gel highlighters, which release a thicker ink that takes time to adhere to sheets of paper. So, if you want to highlight your notes taken down with gel or fountain pen ink, you should consider quick-drying liquid-ink highlighters.

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Tip Styles

There are 5 main types of tip styles to choose from—chisel, bullet, pronged, window, and pencil.

Chisel and bullet-tipped highlighters are the most widely used variants. The difference between them is that chisel tips are triangular in shape, which allows you to write in various widths by angling the highlighter, whereas bullet tips produce various line widths based on how much pressure you apply to the tip.

Pronged tips use tips that come with multiple points. Only these points are supposed to make contact with sheets of paper, and they typically leave an empty space between the points. Pronged highlighters are much less common, but they are great for coloring in the margins between lines of texts.

Window tips have a slight gap in the middle of the tip while also having a chiseled appearance. The design is made to limit how much highlighter ink flows to the tip, thereby reducing how much ink is used per stroke. It looks cool, but that’s the only thing it has going for it compared to traditional chiseled-tipped highlighters.

The final highlighter tip style is known as pencil-tipped, which uses a super-fine tip that measures around 0.03 millimeters. It’s great for writing down notes on the margins of the paper, but it will take multiple strokes to thoroughly highlight important portions of text.

Bleeding Potential

Bleeding refers to whether the highlighter’s ink will show up on the backside of a sheet of paper. This is commonly found in gel highlighters and liquid highlighters with wider tips, which release more ink upon contact.

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The amount of bleeding varies based on the thickness of the sheet of paper, how much pressure you apply when highlighting text, and the highlighter’s tip.

If you wish to reduce bleeding, choose a highlighter with a finer tip—e.g., pencil or bullet—and only apply slight pressure when moving the highlighter from side to side.



The most common highlighter color is fluorescent yellow. However, there are highlighters of virtually every color of the rainbow, including darker shades like purple, brown, and red.

The importance of a highlighter’s color is mainly a matter of personal preference, but it might be worth knowing if you plan on highlighting colored text.


Not only do you have to pay attention to the color of the ink, but its brightness is also an important factor to take into account. Fluorescent yellow highlighters can come in vibrant tones that are easy to notice while flipping through the pages of a textbook, while there are darker shades that might become toned down with time.

What About Erasable Highlighters?

Believe it or not, there are highlighters that come with erasable ink, such as these. What you’ll find is that their ink isn’t as vibrant as non-erasable highlighters, but the other end of the highlighter comes with a clear ink that easily masks any “mistakes” you may have made.

Plus, they’re relatively inexpensive, so it might be worth giving them a try at least once.


Baron Cooke has been writing and editing for 7 years. He grew up with an aptitude for geometry, statistics, and dimensions. He has a BA in construction management and also has studied civil infrastructure, engineering, and measurements. He is the head writer of

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