Can you imagine how brutal it would be to read through stuffy textbooks without a highlighter? Even in your career, you likely use one to pull out the important stuff in paperwork and meeting notes.
The highlighter is really an unsung hero, and it’s about time to give it a little bit of credit. After all, it’s been well-loved all over the world for decades!
Highlighters are essential classroom and office supplies because they make quick work easier. In fact, highlighting is so important that most computer word processors and e-readers even have a digital highlight feature!– Joy Fox, National Account Manager at BIC Graphic
Dr. Frank Horn, an employee for Carter’s Ink Company in Cambridge, is credited for inventing the highlighter. It was trademarked under the name HI-LITER and only came in yellow.
A company in California named Avery Dennison bought the rights to the HI-LITER. This company was the first to use the fluorescent colors that we’ve come to associate with highlighters today.
G.T. Luscombe, a family-owned company in Illinois, started producing highlighters specifically for marking Bible passages. The paper in Bibles is typically very thin, which is why these highlighters contain a special pigment ink.
Sales on highlighters were dwindling because there were people who preferred underlining with pens instead. Marketing geniuses in the industry put their heads together and came up with the dual highlighter pen!
BIC, a brand known for their pens and lighters, started to offer highlighters in their product line. You could get blank versions at stores, or order them online and get them custom printed with text or a design.
Martin Eberhard and Marc Tarpenning created the first e-reader, which included a built-in highlighter. This was perfect for the new digital age as it allowed readers to mark and save important passages on their device.
Dilip Bhavnani, an employee at Sun Coast Merchandise, filed a patent for a retractable highlighter. This was the first on the market, and it’s been a popular design ever since.
Sharpie added the Accent Highlighter to their list of products. This highlighter, which is known for its bright, neon colors, is one of the bestselling on the market today.
The mark from a highlighter will last for a long time. The Fader features ink that disappears after just five months, making it a great choice for students who want to mark up their textbooks, but don’t want anyone to know about it!
A highlighter company named Stabilo released their “Highlight the Remarkable” campaign. This was a series of printed ads literally highlighting extraordinary women who have been overlooked in history.
What is a Highlighter?
Merriam-Webster defines a highlighter as: “a pen with a broad felt tip and brightly colored transparent ink for marking selected passages in a text.” The word has been in our vocabulary since 1962.
What Are Highlighters Used For?
People use highlighters to stay on track at home, school, work, and everywhere in between. You’ll commonly see them come in handy for the following:
- Professional work
- Religious practice
- Family organization
- Craft projects
- Marking books
Students will be doing themselves a favor if they keep a journal full of colorful, detailed notes. It’s easier to look back through the notes later, which could mean an “A” on that big test!
You won’t look foolish bringing a pen, notebook, and highlighters to a meeting at the office. In fact, your boss may just appreciate how seriously you take your work.
Bibles are usually made with very thin paper, causing the ink to bleed through. If you want to mark your pages, look for highlighters that are specially designed for religious practice.
Do you have a big family? Keep track of doctor’s appointments, practices, and other important information on a giant calendar in your kitchen. You can then designate a specific color to each member of the family.
Highlighters deserve a place next to the construction paper, pipe cleaners, and googly eyes in your craft drawer. They’re excellent for projects, especially the ones that involve kids!
A highlighter is handy for marking books, whether you want to pull out key information in a textbook or a good quote in a novel. Just make sure not to mark library books or anything that you rented or borrowed from a friend!
Where Did Highlighters Originate?
The idea for highlighters originated in Japan in the early 1960s. Yukio Horie of the Tokyo Stationery Company created a felt tip pen that could be used to mark notes. This wasn’t the highlighter we know and love today, but it did serve as the inspiration.
Horie was both the president and one of the key inventors at the Tokyo Stationery Company. His claim to fame was the “Sign Pen” – an acrylic fiber tipped marker that wrote with black ink. This marker pen quickly rose to stardom. In fact, President Lyndon B. Johnson even used one to sign his photographs!
While the Sign Pen wasn’t exactly a highlighter, it did spark the interest of other stationery companies around the world. It wouldn’t be long before we were writing in color!
Who Invented the Highlighter?
The highlighter was invented by Dr. Frank Horn in 1962. He worked for Carter’s Ink Company in Cambridge, England.
Carter’s Ink Company was known for producing a variety of high-quality office supplies. This included not only highlighters, but also ink bottles and antique pens. These are highly sought after collector’s items today.
What Color Was the First Highlighter?
It should be no surprise that the first highlighter was yellow. These days you can find a variety of neon colors not limited to pink, purple, orange, blue, and green.
So why are there so many colors? It comes down to better note-taking! You should switch between colors to mark the following:
Vocab words (Recommended color: Yellow)
Mark the most important words in your notes or in a document in yellow. This color stands out and makes it easier for you to revisit vocabulary that may be important.
Concepts you don’t quite understand (Recommended color: Pink)
Use pink to highlight concepts that you need to do more research on, or ask questions about. Pink is a soft hue that’s often associated with kindness and compassion. This makes it easier for you to feel okay about not having all the answers.
Immediate action items (Recommended color: Blue or Green)
Do you have something in your notes that requires action? Highlight it using blue or green. Blue is associated with creativity and innovation, while green subconsciously makes us think of “go” time!
Examples (Recommended color: Orange)
You could have a few examples in your notes that help emphasize certain points. Use an orange highlighter to pull those out so you can reference them later.
Extremely important notes (Recommended color: Purple)
Purple is associated with royalty, which means it should be a color that’s used for your most important notes. If you’re a student, think of it as the things that will definitely come up on the test!
These colors are only suggestions, so feel free to mix-and-match however makes sense for you. The best way to take notes is to have some kind of system and to use your highlighter colors wisely!
Can You Advertise on Highlighters?
It’s very common for brands to advertise on pens, but you can also print your logo on highlighters. These promotional items can be used as giveaways at trade shows, community events, and by libraries and schools.
Are Highlighters Still Popular Today?
Highlighters used to always be on the back-to-school shopping list or sitting in the office supply closet, but is this still the case?
Unfortunately, there has been a decline in supply sales, which includes not only highlighters, but also sticky notes, paper clips, and staplers. Many people use their laptops and cell phones, which has made these products almost obsolete.
Still, it’s not all bad news! Experts say that writing things by hand may improve your memory, critical thinking skills, and even your sleep at night. With that in mind, you should continue using pens, highlighters, and paper for notetaking. It could make all the difference!
The Bottom Line
The highlighter is an example of human ingenuity at work. It started off in Japan and quickly made its way overseas to England, and eventually the United States. Share these fun facts about highlighters with your family and friends. They may just start appreciating this office and school supply a little bit more!
History of Pencils. History of Highlighters. Retrieved from,
Redding, R. (2018, August 24). Invention of the Highlighter and Productivity Tip. Retrieved from,
Greenbaum, H. Rubinstein, D. (2012, January 20). The Hand-Held Highlighter. Retrieved from,
Google Patents. Retractable Highlighter. Retrieved from,
Print Power. (2019, March 19). How Stabilo Used Print Ads to ‘Highlight the Remarkable.’ Retrieved from,
Digital Agency Network. Stabilo’s “Highlight the Remarkable” Campaign Keeps Taking Credits on Social Media. Retrieved from,
Cult Pens. (2016, October 3). Pentel’s 70th Anniversary. Retrieved from,
P2P Mag. (2017, January 20). Pentel Celebrates 70 Years of Success.
Vardy, M. What Highlighter Colours Actually Mean. Retrieved from,
Purdy, K. (2013, May 14). How Color-Coded Notes Make You a More Efficient Thinker. Retrieved from,
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