The Best Pens for Any Writing Purpose, Tested

Here’s everything you need to make your mark.

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Writing with a pen that feels like it was made just for you is a small pleasure unlike any other. However, finding that elusive best pen can take a little trial and error. In fact, there's a lot to take into consideration: Variables like ink type, pen width, writing purpose, and paper type all subtly affect the writing experience differently for every person.

In this guide, we're thoroughly breaking down everything you need to know about the best pens and how to differentiate among types, so you can make the best choice for you.

What to Consider

Ballpoint, rollerball, and gel pens typically all have a rolling ball mechanism at their tips, which distributes ink from their internal cartridge onto the page. However, the ink type differs slightly among them.

  • Ballpoint pens contain ink that is oil-based and is the most viscous of all pen-ink types. This means that the ink dries quickly, but you may find yourself pressing down hard on the page in order to write with it.
  • Rollerball pens contain water-based ink, which allows them to glide far more smoothly over the page. However, this type of pen can be troublesome for left-handed people to use since the ink is slower to dry and has the tendency to smudge.
  • Gel pens also contain water-based ink, but this ink is pigment-based rather than dye-based, so the consistency is slightly thicker than rollerball-pen ink. These pens are a little more user-friendly than rollerballs, and they can also be found in a rainbow spectrum of colors. Cheap gel pens are prone to clumping and drying out, so this pen category is worth spending a little more on.
  • Felt-tip pens are also known as marker pens or porous-point pens due to the porous material of their tips. These pens actually encompass a wide group of marker-type utensils — both permanent and nonpermanent – but the ones that are used for writing on paper contain water- or pigment-based dye .
  • Fountain pens are sophisticated writing utensils that require a little more know-how to fill and use. They are typically used with dye-based inks, which are contained in disposable cartridges or refillable converters. The tip of a fountain pen is called a nib, and the size of the nib affects the flow of ink from it. The fountain pens in this guide are equipped with medium nibs, which produce a line width of about .8 mm . Though fountain pens can be used on regular paper, a thicker paper is recommended because the pen's higher output of watery ink is likely to bleed through a thin page.

The price of your pens can also be a major factor as you’re looking since the price per pen can range anywhere from less than a dollar to well into the thousands for a designer or rare piece. Some of the most highly regarded pens are incredibly expensive, so we narrowed our focus to pens around $25 each — though the top-rated pens from our test are even more affordable than that!

How We Tested

We researched pens within each of the above categories individually. Due to each pen category's unique ink type and design characteristics, we decided that the pens within them should be judged against each other, not across categories.

Once we honed in on 22 reviewer-favorite pens, we then drew up the criteria for the testing phase. These criteria were based on the most common features found in our research, along with our own gut-check instincts of whether or not this was a pen that we'd recommend to others:

  • Comfort in hand
  • Writing smoothness
  • Level of ink smearing (also when highlighted)
  • Level of ink bleeding through paper
  • Ease of left-handed use

To test, we asked 15 of our site editors and staffers to write with pens on regular office paper and rate them. The fountain pens were tested on thicker notebook paper and were judged mainly on comfort in hand and ease of use. Based on the responses from our test, we were able to narrow our candidates down and rank the best pens in each category.

The results of our testing are below. Find out which of the best pens earned top marks!

Uni-Ball Jetstream Retractable Ballpoint Pen (3-Pack)

Jetstream Retractable Ballpoint Pen (3-Pack)

What may seem like a no-nonsense retractable pen at first glance is actually a total delight to use. The majority of our testers gave a perfect rating to the Uni-Ball Jetstream’s comfortable grip and bleedproof ink quality.

While the smoothness of this ballpoint pen is not as slick as other types, testers still found that it wrote easily and effortlessly; as one editor said, “It writes without a hiccup, making it a great everyday pen. Smooth to the touch and steady on the paper.”

This particular Uni-Ball Jetstream pen has a fine .7-millimeter tip (for comparison, the standard BIC ballpoint pen has a 1-millimeter tip), and three out of four of our left-handed testers gave it top marks for its smearproof quality.

We also tested the Skilcraft U.S. Government Ballpoint Pen , the Zebra F-402 , and the Fisher Bullet Space Pen in the ballpoint pen category.

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Zebra F-402 Ballpoint Stainless Steel Retractable Pens (2-Pack)

F-402 Ballpoint Stainless Steel Retractable Pens (2-Pack)

We wanted to make sure that we included a highlighting component in our testing criteria since some pen inks, even when dry, can smear from the added layer of wet ink. We tested this with all pen categories except for fountain pens.

Unsurprisingly, the viscous-ink ballpoint pens performed the best, and the Zebra F-402 was the top pen in this test. Almost instantly, after writing with it, we found that the text could be highlighted without any smearing whatsoever.

This 0.7-millimeter fine-point retractable pen has a stainless steel build and velvety grip, and it struck most of our testers as being a substantial writing utensil. One tester said, “This one felt sturdy and comfortable; not too fussy.”

A few testers did critique the weightiness of the pen, though, and felt that the ink flow was too thin for it to be their top choice.

Pilot G2 Retractable Gel-Ink Pen (12-Pack)

G2 Retractable Gel-Ink Pen (12-Pack)

Gel pens were a popular category with our testing group, thanks to the gel ink's smooth writing flow and quick-drying properties. The fine-point 0.7-millimeter tip of this particular Pilot G2 model was highly rated for its comfort in hand, smooth writing, and bleedproof qualities.

Our left-handed testers were split on whether the ink’s smear factor was a problem for them. One noted, “It’s fairly trusty with a smooth tip and solid ink flow, but if you aren't cautious, it does smear."

This retractable pen is equipped with a comfortable, contoured grip, making it an ideal choice for longhand writing. It's also available in 0.38-, 0.5-, and 1-millimeter tip sizes.

We tested this gel ink pen alongside the Uni-Ball Gel Grip , Pilot G-Tec-C , the TUL Gel Pens , the Zebra Sarasa , and the Pentel EnerGel Deluxe RTX .

Pilot Metropolitan Collection Fountain Pen

Metropolitan Collection Fountain Pen

When it comes to buying a luxury pen, the sky is truly the (price) limit. We found the Pilot Metropolitan fountain pen to be one of the most affordable yet high-quality and reviewer-beloved pens out there, clocking in at just around $25 from most retailers.

Our testers voted that this model was the easiest and most intuitive of the fountain pens to use. One person noted, “This is a great pen. It’s on the slim side but still elegant, and it writes very well. Very smooth.”

This particular pen comes with a medium nib but is also available to buy in a fine-nib size. It comes equipped with an ink cartridge, as well as a squeeze converter that can be used to fill it from an inkwell. For our purposes, we tested it using the provided ink cartridge.

We tested this fountain pen alongside the JinHao X750 Fountain Pen , the Platinum Preppy Fountain Pen , and the Lamy Safari Fountain Pen .

Uni-Ball Vision Elite Rollerball Pen (3-Pack)

Vision Elite Rollerball Pen (3-Pack)

As far as writing smoothness goes, the Uni-Ball Vision Elite may be the best of the bunch. Our testers found its fluid ink flow quite exceptional, with one person saying, “I thought it wrote very smoothly. I also love how dark and rich the ink appears.”

As is expected with rollerball pens, this pen’s ink takes slightly longer to dry and is unfortunately prone to smearing. One of our left-handed testers said, “I want to like this pen because I love how thick the ink comes out, but it is just not meant for left-handed people.”

The design of this rollerball pen can also be a point of contention with users. A few of our testers loved the substantial flow of ink from its slim 0.8-millimeter tip, but they found that the pen's crosshatched grip was uncomfortable to hold for longer periods of time. Others found this design to be a major plus and actually conducive to the writing experience.

In any case, you may want to reserve these pens for thicker, non-glossy paper to enjoy them to their fullest.

In the rollerball pen category, we also tested the Pilot Precise V5RT and Uni-Ball ONYX rollerball pens.

Marvy Uchida Le Pen (12-Pack)

Uchida Le Pen (12-Pack)

Our testers were split on the felt-tip category overall because personal preferences on pen barrel size varied widely. The fine-point 0.3-millimeter Marvy Uchida Le Pen won out for its smearproof ink.

This pen writes incredibly smoothly, requiring virtually no force to make a vivid, bold mark on the page. As one tester put it, “It may be a little slimmer than the average writing utensil, but it makes writing by hand really fun.”

We also tested the Pilot Razor Point II Marker Stick Pen , the Prismacolor Premier Illustration Marker , the Paper Mate Flair Felt-Tip Pen , and the Sharpie Pen in this category.

Gullor JinHao X750 Medium-Nib Fountain Pen

JinHao X750 Medium-Nib Fountain Pen

Every one of our testers actually said “whoa” upon picking up the JinHao X750 fountain pen — and that was before they found out how inexpensive it is! This pen was undoubtedly the thickest and weightiest pen of the group, but its surprisingly comfortable grip made it easy and enjoyable for beginner fountain-pen writers to use.

One tester said, “The heft makes it feel expensive and substantial. Aesthetically, it’s very pleasing, and the writing is easy and smooth.”

While this is not a pen for extended longhand writing, its included medium-size nib gives a nice flourish to handwritten notes, calligraphy, and of course, your signature on important documents. If the provided medium nib doesn’t work for you, you can always swap it out for a compatible model in your preferred size.

It’s worth noting that the JinHao X750 comes equipped with a piston converter, so users will need to have their own inkwell on hand to be able to refill it. We used ink from a Parker Quink inkwell . The pen’s converter mechanism worked without any issue, and we found this video tutorial from JetPens to be a fantastic guide for first-time users.

Pilot Razor Point II Marker Stick Pen (12-Pack)

Razor Point II Marker Stick Pen (12-Pack)

Of the 15 testers in our group, four are left-handed, and each type of pen category seemed to present its own set of challenges for them. The fountain pens and gel pens were tough categories in terms of ink smudging. Intriguingly, their only unanimous vote went to a pen in the felt-tip category.

The Pilot Razor Point II is technically a porous-point pen with a super-fine 0.2-millimeter tip that writes like a very slim marker without looking as dark or unwieldy. One tester even said, “It doesn’t feel like a felt-tip! More like a ballpoint.”

This pen also got high marks on its bleedproof quality and comfort in the hand. While it definitely doesn't write as smoothly as the Le Pen, it may be more versatile in terms of the paper thickness you're able to use.

Our lefties also liked the Uni-Ball Jetstream Ballpoint Pen , Pilot Precise V5RT Rollerball Pen , and the Pilot G2 Retractable Premium Rollerball Pen .

Headshot of Melanie Yates

Melanie Yates is the senior service editor of Best Products, where she writes and reports pieces pertaining to the etiquette, dilemmas, and how-tos of gift-giving for different occasions. Previously, she was the site's senior home editor, covering all things decor- and bedding-related since 2015. Her digital byline can also be found on Bustle, House Beautiful , and Elle Decor . A longtime classical-music enthusiast, Melanie spends her off-hours enjoying performances big and small across New York City.

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The 100 Best Pens, As Tested by Strategist Editors

Gels, ballpoints, rollerballs, felt-tips, and fountain pens — we tried them all..

good writing for pen

At its most basic, a pen has to do just one thing, but there are so many reasons to choose one over another. Does it glide along the page, or does it drag? Does the ink flow in a smooth line, or is it unpredictable? Does the pen feel good or would note-taking cramp your hand? And how does it look? With so many varieties out there, from plastic ballpoints sold by the dozen to thousand-dollar fountain pens hunted down by collectors, we became determined to find the very best pens for everyday use.

We consulted a panel of experts, picked through personal favorites, and mined our own pen coverage to determine the top contenders. Then we called in and tested dozens upon dozens of gels, rollerballs, felt-tips, ballpoints, and fountain pens, and put them to the test. The resulting list is a ranking of the top 100 pens, according to Strategist editors and writers. One note: A lot of what makes one pen better than another is completely subjective. Some of us prefer a finer line and some of us a thicker one (even within the Strategist’s ranks, there is dissent). One person’s beautiful pen might be no more than inoffensive to another. The finer the point, the scratchier it’s likely to be. And if you disagree (or have a favorite we missed), share it in the comments — we just might test it when we update this list in the future.

Before we started testing pens, we did a wide sweep to determine which ones would make the list. We trawled through our own archive, looking for pens favored by highly opinionated people like André Aciman and Curtis Sittenfeld , pens from around the world , writers’ and illustrators’ favorite pens, and even the best-reviewed pens on Amazon. Then we branched out and consulted pen bloggers like Ed Jelley , Jessica Chung of Pretty Prints & Paper , and Ana Reinert of The Well-Appointed Desk ; pen shop proprietors like Brian Goluet of The Goulet Pen Company , Elaine Ku of JetPens , and David Cole of Pen Heaven ; and even ballpoint-pen artists Rafael Augusto and Nathan Lorenzana , who use the humble tool to create intricate works of art — often on Instagram.

Among our team we have those who prefer thin-lined pens, others who like thick, marker-y ones, and even one fountain pen fanatic, but while our individual preferences vary, we’ve aimed to standardize our judgments by evaluating each pen on a scale of 1 (poor) through 5 (excellent):

Smoothness: How easily does the pen glide across the page? Does the tip feel scratchy or catch on the paper? How smoothly does the ink flow?

Smudging: Does the ink smudge on the paper or on your hand when writing? To what degree?

Bleed-through: Does the ink bleed through to the other side of the page?

Feel: How does the pen feel in your hand? Is it comfortable to hold? Is it heavy or light?

Looks: Is it a beautiful writing instrument? Are there design elements that make the pen stand out?

good writing for pen


Once we narrowed our list down to the very best, most highly recommended pens, we divided them up among the Strategist’s team of writers and editors (there are 11 of us) to be rated according to our five criteria. To standardize the writing surface, we asked each tester to use the pens on the same Muji notebook and averaged each pen’s scores across the five categories. If two or more pens ended up with the same average score, we broke the tie by looking at each pen’s smoothness rating, as we collectively found this factor to be the most important one. Still — we were left with some pens that had the same average score and the same smoothness rating, so we broke the tie by recruiting left-handed volunteers (we’re all righties) from the New York office to break the tie, as lefties are more susceptible to smudging.

Finally, two pens earned perfect scores in testing, so to find our number-one pen, we put the two to a vote among our team, plus one of our volunteer lefties. Winning out 9-3, our number one pick is — we’re confident — a crowd-pleasing pen. For devotees of a specific style, we’ve also noted which pens earned top marks within its type; we’ve listed them as “Best in Category” and you may hit Ctrl-F , in case you’re specifically interested in our favorite felt-tip, ballpoint, rollerball, gel, or fountain pen. Click here to jump to the top 80 , top 60 , top 40 , or top 20 , too.

100. Pilot Fineliner

Type: Felt-tip

Smoothness: 1 | Smudging: 3 | Bleed-through: 3 | Feel: 3 | Looks: 2

It’s easy to understand the appeal of the Fineliner, which has a straightforwardness that I wanted to like. It came recommended from a few of our experts, but I found that the Fineliner produced a good amount of smudging, some bleed-through, and some dragging. It isn’t great for the average note-taker, but die-hard marker pen fans may find something to love about the retro attractiveness of this one. — Dominique Pariso, Strategist intern

Total score : 2.4

99. Pentel Arts Slicci 0.25 mm. Extra Fine

Type: Gel

Smoothness: 1 | Smudging: 5 | Bleed-through: 3 | Feel: 2 | Looks: 3

I have to admit, I found little to like about this pen. The line it creates is skinny and light, and writing with it feels (and sounds) scratchy. For a gel pen, it created a lot of resistance between the tip and the paper. The ridges on the body look like they’re meant to serve some ergonomic purpose, but since they’re carved into the plastic, they dig painfully into your fingers. In its favor, there’s no smudging and no bleed-through, though it does create raised scratch marks on the other side of the page, which make for a rough writing surface if you’re using both sides of the piece of paper.  — Karen Iorio Adelson, writer

Total Score : 2.8

98. Uni-ball Jetstream

Type: Ballpoint

Smoothness: 4 | Smudging: 3 | Bleed-through: 3 | Feel: 3.5 | Looks: 1

Like the BIC Atlantis (see #64), the Uni-ball Jetstream was built for comfort rather than looks. It’s a thick pen, which might mean fewer hand cramps for those who experience them, but it does have the feel of a pen you’d find in the lobby of a used car dealership. Or — and the name is likely creating some subliminal messaging — it may call to mind a commercial airplane. Big and not glamorous. As far as ballpoints go, this one writes well and leaves smooth, clear marks. A thin layer of silicone sheathes the body to give your fingers a hint of padding. — Margaret Rhodes, senior editor

Total score : 2.9

97. Pilot Metropolitan

Type: Fountain

Smoothness: 1.5 | Smudging: 3 | Bleed-through: 4 | Feel: 3 | Looks: 3.5

This is a budget fountain pen and it writes like one. The ink spreads and spiders, and the line is not clean. The nib feels scratchy across the paper and drags too much. A positive note is that the ink output is consistent (no skipping), but, again, it bleeds. Another good quality is that it does dry pretty quickly and doesn’t smudge as much as other fountain pens. As for looks, it’s got a metallic body in a rosy gold and is rounded and tapered on each end. It has a good heft and feels nice in the hand, but the subpar inking makes it a less than desirable choice. — Lauren Ro, writer

Total Score : 3

96. Pentel R.S.V.P. RT

Type: Ballpoint

Smoothness: 3 | Smudging: 5 | Bleed-through: 4 | Feel: 2 | Looks: 1

The padded grip and overall light weight make this pen comfortable to use for extended periods of time, but I had to dock a few points because after a while, it really feels like you’re dragging the pen across the page. And while the clear body of the pen makes it slightly more interesting to look at than similar retractable pens at this price point, there isn’t anything particularly special that makes it stand out. — D.P.

95. Koh-I-Noor Rapidograph

Type: Fountain

Smoothness: 2 | Smudging: 2 | Bleed-through: 4.5 | Feel: 3 | Looks: 4

As the name indicates, this is a technical pen for artists — not surprising, since it’s used by cartoonist Roz Chast . Its needle-fine point feels like an actual needle: it’s that fine. And the nib contracts when pressed to the paper, which is the mechanism by which the ink is drawn from the well, which you manually fill and refill. The lines are thin, and you could probably control the output of the ink depending on the amount of pressure you use while writing. As for smoothness, again, it’s like writing on a pad of paper with a needle, but the ink output is consistent. It’s a fun pen because of all of its components, and it looks delightfully vintage. Lightweight and mainly made of plastic, it comes in a plastic case with a cool graphic font. For our purposes, it’s definitely a pen not for every day, but it could be a great gift for an artist or architect who values technicality. — L.R.

Total Score : 3.1

94. Staedtler Pigment Liner

Type: Felt-tip

Smoothness: 1 | Smudging: 5 | Bleed-through: 5 | Feel: 3 | Looks: 2

Super draggy, with uneven pigment. It skips constantly, especially if you’re trying to write quickly. There’s a ton of resistance, and the nib of the pen is so thin that it keeps on dragging and pulling. It feels unpleasant, especially because it seems like the only way to get an even stream of ink is to write slowly, with your pen held straight up. I truly do not know what writer would use this pen for long periods of note-taking, but it came recommended from Alexander Chee , who uses it to sign books, which may indicate a better purpose (occasional, deliberate name-signing). No smudging or bleed-through, but that’s because the writing is so light. I like the matte finish and how the cap fits snugly on the back of the pen. It’s a totally average-looking pen. I’m mostly docking points because it’s fully covered in text, which makes it look really busy. — Maxine Builder, writer

Total Score : 3.2

93. Staedtler Lumocolor Permanent

Type: Felt-tip

Smoothness: 2 | Smudging: 5 | Bleed-through: 1 | Feel: 4 | Looks: 4

This Staedtler permanent marker pen intermittently sticks to the page and makes handwriting look staccato rather than smooth. For the amount it bleeds I was surprised to find that this pen doesn’t smudge at all. I did find that this guy bled through two sheets of notebook paper, though — a deal-breaker for me. The matte-finish plastic casing is pleasant to hold and the pen fits well in my hand. But it is too light for my taste and has a strong chemical smell (which I like but some people might not). This is a cool-looking pen with its ribbed cap, flat clip, and an orange “S” on the end. It looks very “professional draftsman” which would make me feel cool. — Liza Corsillo, writer/editor

92. Pilot G2 Ultra Fine

Type: Gel

Smoothness: 2 | Smudging: 5 | Bleed-through: 5 | Feel: 2 | Looks: 2

This pen produces alarmingly thin lines. So thin that my handwriting was rendered even more unreadable than it typically is. I also found it slightly difficult to write with — it took genuine effort to make sure I got every letter I wanted to on the paper. It is just not a smooth writing experience; there is just too little ink being administered. (The 0.7 mm. version of the G2 fared much better, though; see #31.) On the flip side, because the ink comes out so sparingly, there is quite literally no bleed-through or smudging. — Katy Schneider, associate editor

91. Zebra Jimnie

Type: Rollerball

Smoothness: 3.5 | Smudging: 1.9 | Bleed-through: 4.5 | Feel: 4.2 | Looks: 2

For a rollerball with gel ink, this pen isn’t entirely smooth. I discovered that it makes you work a little harder to get it across the page. Even though there isn’t any bleed-through to the other side of the page, there’s a significant amount of smudging, even whenbi the ink has had a few seconds to dry. It’s not an especially great-looking pen either, but if your hand tends to cramp or fatigue while writing, you may appreciate the soft, silicone grip. — K.I.A.

Total Score : 3.22

90. BIC Round Stic Xtra Precision

Type: Ballpoint

Smoothness: 4 | Smudging: 5 | Bleed-through: 5 | Feel: 1 | Looks: 1

This pen is so familiar to me — it’s the same cheapo BIC you see attached to medical-form clipboards, at the bodega counter when you sign receipts, and what you stock up on in high school when you don’t care about quality. In fact, writer Curtis Sittenfeld buys them on the theory that her family members won’t be tempted to steal such an unexciting pen. Revisiting it wasn’t fun for me: despite the pen’s small size and light weight, it’s not especially comfortable to grip for long periods of time and my wrist felt sore while jotting out my lines for this (I ended up writing out the same passage from Virginia Woolf’s Orlando for all the pens, as a control group for this test — fittingly, it’s about pens). The pen does get good marks for being reliably smudge-proof, smooth, and for not bearing down to the next page, but ultimately it looks like a cheap pen and feels like one. — Lori Keong, writer

89. Pentel Tradio

Pentel Tradio Pen

Smoothness: 3 | Smudging: 2 | Bleed-through: 4 | Feel: 4 | Looks: 3.75

Writing with the Tradio can be very hit-or-miss. If you’ve given the ink some time to settle, and you’ve got it at the correct angle and you’re writing in a flowy, cursive script, it can feel pretty smooth. However, if you’re quickly jotting down some notes in a less fastidious style, it instead scratches against the page and can alternatively leave pooling ink blots of bare, skipping lines. So if the Tradio works with your handwriting style, it could prove to be a keeper. Veep actor Timothy Simons has had his for more than five years, for instance. The ink smudges very easily, but fortunately it doesn’t have much bleed-through. It’s a wide-bodied plastic pen that’s lightweight and comfortable to hold. — K.I.A.

Total Score : 3.35

88. Pelikan Fineliner 96

Type: Felt-tip

Smoothness: 4 | Smudging: 4 | Bleed-through: 2 | Feel: 3.5 | Looks: 3.4

Smooth and richly inky, the Pelikan Fineliner is a delight to write with. From fine-writing German brand Pelikan (some of their pricey fountain pens also came highly recommended), the Pelikan is an affordable introduction to the brand that would work for daily writing or even drawing and outlining. If you’re okay with a good amount of bleed-through, that is. While the writing quality shows the brand’s attention to functionality, aesthetically it’s not the most exciting pen. The cap doesn’t have a clip; instead it’s more like a seamless addition to the body, which does give it a bit of a streamlined look. — K.I.A.

Total Score : 3.38

87. Muji Gel-Ink Ball Point 0.5 mm.

Type: Gel

Smoothness: 1.5 | Smudging: 4 | Bleed-through: 5 | Feel: 3 | Looks: 3.5

While this Muji pen was recommended by several of my colleagues, I found the point to be too fine and the pen too scratchy for my taste. The thin, gel ink doesn’t bleed through at all and there isn’t much smudging, but those benefits don’t outweigh how uncomfortable it is to write with. If you’re a fan of the Japanese brand’s minimal aesthetic you’ll probably like the transparent plastic body, although there aren’t any design features that make it especially comfortable to hold compared to your standard cheap pen. — K.I.A.

Total Score : 3.4

86. Platinum 3776

Type: Fountain

Smoothness: 2.5 | Smudging: 3 | Bleed-through: 4 | Feel: 3 | Looks: 4

This fountain pen has a very thick nib and line. The ink-flow is smooth and consistent, but the nib catches a bit on the paper, and you can feel the flat metal move across the surface. In terms of feel, it sports a pretty robust body made of red translucent plastic, and it feels substantial in the hand without feeling too heavy. There are golden accents (nib, clip, band around the cap) that elevate the pen, but they don’t necessarily warrant the price tag. — L.R.

85. Pilot Hi-Tec-C

Type: Gel

Smoothness: 2.5 | Smudging: 4 | Bleed-through: 4.5 | Feel: 3 | Looks: 3

For those who prefer their points extra fine, this is the pen for you. Writing with it is like writing with a needlepoint — the smoothness isn’t really the selling point, but you can write as small and as neatly as you want. The ink-flow is on the consistent side, given the fineness of the point, although it feels scratchy across the page, which may or may not be a deal breaker for some. It’s got a clear plastic body with a cap, and you can see inside the pen, which has a ridged grip. It’s not the most comfortable pen in the world, but if you’re concerned about being as precise as possible with your lines, then that is a small price to pay. — L.R.

84. Pelikan M200

Type: Fountain

Smoothness: 3 | Smudging: 2.5 | Bleed-through: 4.5 | Feel: 3.5 | Looks: 3.5

A fountain pen in the $100-range, this one has a finer point than the other ones I tested, and the mechanism for filling it with ink was a bit more involved. It uses a vacuum system, but filling it — by twisting the back end of the pen in an inkwell to draw the ink up — was straightforward, and the pen was ready to use immediately afterward. The flow of the ink when writing is a little uneven, and the nib drags a bit on the page, but overall it feels nice to write with. It’s got a plastic body with pretty marbled accents and is lightweight as a result, and it would work for prolonged periods of writing with a bit of finessing. — L.R.

83. Pelikano School

Type: Fountain

Smoothness: 3 | Smudging: 3.5 | Bleed-through: 4.5 | Feel: 3.5 | Looks: 2.5

This pen is billed as a fountain pen for school, and its robust plastic structure and bright blue color make it ideal for a high school or college student looking to up their pen game. For a budget fountain pen, the ink output is consistent, and the nib feels decently smooth across the page, although there is slight catching. The smudging is better than on most fountain pens — which is perhaps what makes it particularly fit for use in school — and you can use it without feeling too precious about it. A rubber grip lends a level of comfort to this solid, everyday fountain pen. — L.R.

82. Sakura Gelly Roll

Type: Gel

Smoothness: 4 | Smudging: 1 | Bleed-through: 3.5 | Feel: 4 | Looks: 4.5

Listen: as a child of the ’90s, Gelly Roll pens hold a special, nostalgic place in my heart. But as an adult human who frequently writes first drafts in my notebook, this is not the most practical pen. It is ultrasmudgy, both on the hand and on the paper, and just dispenses too much ink for practical writing. On the other hand, this is the perfect pen for doodling (if you don’t mind getting a little dirty). It’s super inky, which means you can fill in any bubble or shape in seconds, and the ink comes out shiny and dark and thick. It’s also the pen Cupcakes and Cashmere blogger Emily Schuman reaches for, in sparkly pink, when she wants to “add a little punch to [her] to-do list.” — K.S.

81. Zebra Sarasa Retractable

Type: Gel

Smoothness: 5 | Smudging: 5 | Bleed-through: 3 | Feel: 3 | Looks: 1

There is little resistance when writing and the rubber grip adds some comfort to the overall writing experience. However, I had to dock points for the clunky design and the amount of bleed-through. This one is just an average, run-of-the-mill retractable. — D.P.

80. Stabilo Fineliner

Stabilo Point 88 Fineliner Pens, 0.4mm, Assorted Colors

Smoothness: 3.3 | Smudging: 4.8 | Bleed-through: 4 | Feel: 3 | Looks: 2

The Stabilo Fineliner is a comfortably middle-of-the-road felt pen. Its hexagonal body feels just fine to hold and there’s very little smudging or bleed-through. However, it’s sticky on the page and I found that my not-so-neat handwriting was even harder to read than usual because of how the pen dragged across the paper. The line-thickness also varied without my changing the pressure with which I was writing. Will it work for a quick note or to-do list? Certainly. But it’s not a standout by any means. — K.I.A.

Total Score : 3.42

79. Traveler’s Company Brass Pen

Type: Ballpoint

Smoothness: 2.5 | Smudging: 4 | Bleed-through: 4.5 | Feel: 2 | Looks: 4.5

I really wanted to like this pen based on looks alone, but its performance is less than subpar. It’s a ballpoint pen with an extremely fine point; something I would normally like, but it feels like a very fine-point mechanical pencil — which is interesting considering the fact that the body of the pen looks like that of a wooden pencil. Still, the very fine point is great for neat, small writing, but not necessarily for everyday note-taking. I do like that the ink comes out uniformly with very little pressure. When capped, the pen appears to be rather short. It has a brass body that looks vintage in the best way — like a bullet, almost — but when you open the pen, you realize that the cap is longer than the pen itself. And holding onto the pen without the cap on the back makes it too short to use comfortably (it’s basically like holding a short golf pencil). Because of this imbalance in the proportion of the cap to the pen itself, the weight-balance feels off, too. With the cap attached to the back of the pen, it feels as if the pen could tip out of your hand; the pen (again, more like a tiny pencil) isn’t hefty enough to stay pointed downward in your hand. — L.R.

Total Score : 3.5

78. Uni-ball Signo RT

Type: Gel

Smoothness : 3.5 | Smudging : 4 | Bleed-through : 4 | Feel : 3 | Looks : 3

My first thought when I started out testing this one was, “Wow, this looks like chicken scratch.” This might be because the pen has a fine point of 0.38 mm., which lends itself better to detailed doodlings than to glorious strains of prose. Writing with this, I felt the slightest bit of drag, like the pen was scraping on the page, which is why I docked points for smoothness. It also feels plastic-y in the hand (with a slight amount of cushion, thanks to a thin finger grip), and there is the teeniest hint of smudging when you pass over fresh sections of writing or art. Overall, it’s a pretty average pen — it looks like the Pilot Gels, but doesn’t feel as cushy and operates like a thinner drawing pen — and an okay option for a doodler on a budget. — L.K.

77. Pilot Varsity

Type: Fountain

Smoothness : 4.5 | Smudging : 2.5 | Bleed-through : 3 | Feel : 4 | Looks : 3.5

This under-$2 disposable plastic fountain pen could easily be a gateway drug to the expensive world of fountain pen collecting because it’s so comfortable and downright fun to write with. There’s more room for error in angling and handwriting style compared to the pricier fountain pens, as the thick, black ink flows effortlessly across the page. Because the ink is thick, dark, and slow-to-dry, though, there is significant smudging and bleed-through — but better to discover you can’t stand that with this pen than with a $200 one. — K.I.A.

76. Fisher Chrome-Plated Space Shuttle Pen

Fisher Space Chrome Plated Shuttle Space Pen

Smoothness : 3 | Smudging : 5 | Bleed-through : 5 | Feel : 1 | Looks : 4

Surprisingly smooth, especially for a ballpoint pen. Not a ton of snagging, pretty clean, even lines. But it drags a bit on the page, and there’s a fair bit of resistance. It’s not as bad or noticeable as with a cheaper ballpoint pen, though, and there’s no smudging or bleed-through. The tactile quality isn’t awesome, as the ridges are a little rough, and it feels small in my hand. It’s kind of like writing with a golf pencil rather than a full-size one. While that doesn’t make it ideal for everyday use, frequent travelers do like that it’s compact and easily stashed away. Also, the cap of the pen has a tendency to slide off, which, to be honest, seems like it could be a liability in a zero-gravity situation. But I do like that it’s all metal, so it feels like it’s got some heft. And it looks like a space-age pen. — M.B.

Total Score : 3.6

75. Muji Gel-ink Hexa 0.25 mm.

Type: Ballpoint

Smoothness: 3 | Smudging : 5 | Bleed-through : 5 | Feel : 1 | Looks : 4

I love the way this pen looks (elegant!), but the hexagonal barrel makes it a rather un-ergonomic instrument. I can’t imagine using it over a long period of time simply because it would hurt my hand. The point of the tip is so thin that using it practically feels like dragging a razor blade across the page. The ink is about as smooth as you could expect it to be — good, considering, but the word that comes to mind is “scratchy.” You won’t have any problems with bleed-through or smudging, but it’s not a pen I’d use for anything unless I needed the thinnest of lines (e.g., if I were to ever to need to do an architectural rendering by hand). — Jason Chen, deputy editor

74. Uni-ball Deluxe Fine

Type: Rollerball

Smoothness : 3 |  Smudging : 5 | Bleed-through : 4 |  Feel : 3 | Looks : 3

This is a classic pen and writes almost like a felt-tip. It writes best when drawing loopy lines and signatures, but for everyday writing, the tip catches a bit, and the ink output isn’t uniform. One might associate this pen with an office or a bank, and it even looks pretty utilitarian, although the pale gold body and minimal stick design are nice. It’s lightweight and would fit right into a leather attaché. — L.R.

73. Lamy Al-Star

Type: Fountain

Smoothness : 3.5 | Smudging : 2.5 | Bleed-through : 4.5 |  Feel : 3.5 | Looks : 4

This is a mid-range fountain pen with decent ink-flow and smoothness. The blue ink looks a little watercolor-y, which is pretty, but the output isn’t always uniform. There are issues with smudging, as with any fountain pen, but if you let it dry before running your finger across the ink, you’ll have no problems. It’s a light-weight aluminum pen with a thick body in a dark silver and a translucent grip area that allows you to see into the pen. It has two straight edges for ergonomic finger placement, and the main body has alternating round and flat sides. The cap is oversized with a paper-clip-style clip. Utilitarian in its looks, it would make a decent everyday fountain pen. — L.R .

Total Score : 3.6 Editor’s note: The review was changed to reflect that the body of the pen is made of aluminum, not plastic, as the previous version indicated.

72. Uni-ball Roller

Type: Rollerball

Smoothness : 3.5 |  Smudging : 4.5 | Bleed-through : 4 |  Feel : 3 | Looks : 3

This is another standard office pen that doesn’t stand out much except for the fact that it’s utilitarian. It’s a rollerball that doesn’t feel as smooth as a gel (the metal tip tends to catch on the page), but the line is uniform in both cursive and print. There’s no smudging, but there’s a little bit of bleed-through. In terms of looks, it’s as simple as they come: an all-black body with a matching cap and a metal clip. It’s on the thinner side and may be uncomfortable for prolonged use. — L.R.

71. BIC Round Stic Grip Xtra Comfort

Type: Ballpoint

Smoothness : 4 |  Smudging : 4.5 | Bleed-through : 4.5 | Feel : 4 | Looks : 1

Oh, the humble BIC Round Stic! This bad boy is not going to be winning any awards for design any time soon. But sometimes you need a workhorse, not a show pony. It is cheap and it gets the job done, even if it is ultimately nothing to write home about (see what I did there?). — D.P.

70. BIC Clic

Type: Ballpoint

Smoothness : 3 | Smudging : 3 | Bleed-through : 5 | Feel : 3.25 | Looks : 4

As we were assembling this list, we often discussed how different pens have different purposes. Is this an everyday writing pen for journaling or taking notes? Or a fancy-schmancy pen you whip out for signing important documents? The Bic Clic occupies a unique space as it’s probably the only pen on this list whose main value is as a souvenir — and a branding tool. Since they’re cheap and easily customizable (single or double-colored body, logo-ready, and with the option of a classy-looking gold or silver clip), Clics are the pen of choice for restaurants — and they expect you to steal one after signing the check. As a writing utensil, though, the Clic is squarely “fine.” It’s not a smooth and flowing writing experience, and there’s more smudging you’d expect from a ballpoint’s ink. There’s no bleed-through, though, and it’s affordable (especially if you pocket one after dinner), so it’s a fine option for a backup pen to keep in your bag — or to start a colorful collection to show off your dining adventures. — K.I.A.

Total Score : 3.65

69. Pentel EnerGel RTX Retractable

Type: Gel

Smoothness : 3 | Smudging : 4.5 | Bleed-through : 4.5 |  Feel : 3.5 | Looks : 3

Its very fine tip translates into less than ideal smoothness, but the fineness allows me to write more neatly and with more control. The ink output, however, is consistent. The tip feels like a mechanical pencil dragging across the page, and would not be great for the average user, unless you prefer a very fine point. There’s virtually zero smudging, however, and the rubber grip and the clicking mechanism are satisfying. As far as looks go, it’s a utilitarian pen that doesn’t necessarily stand out. — L.R.

Total Score : 3.7

68. Pilot FriXion Point Erasable

Type: Gel

Smoothness : 3 | Smudging : 5 | Bleed-through : 5 |  Feel : 3 | Looks : 2.5

This gel pen has a very fine tip whose ink looks almost like a felt pen’s. Although the ink is black, it comes out looking light gray, and the super-fine tip means that there is quite a bit of dragging on the page. The ink output isn’t very consistent, either. What’s special about this pen, however, is that the ink is completely erasable with the rubberized tip at the other end. It erases more cleanly and evenly than a pencil; it’s incredible. There’s zero smudging or residue left behind and you can barely notice that there was ink there (all you can see is the physical imprint of the point on the paper). For those looking for an erasable pen that actually works, this one’s for you. A very cool, if not ideal, pen. A rubberized grip adds a little comfort, but otherwise, it’s a lightweight pen. — L.R.

67. Parker Sonnet

Type: Fountain

Smoothness : 3 | Smudging : 3.5 | Bleed-through : 4.5 |  Feel : 3.5 | Looks : 4

The Parker Sonnet fountain pen has a thick nib that yields a thick stream of ink that’s quite consistent. The metallic nib does drag a little across the page, but that doesn’t necessarily affect ink flow. On the pricey side, it would be a handsome (and giftable) upgrade to your everyday plastic fountain pen. It’s great for cursive and for signing your name with a flourish. As far as feel, it’s got great proportions and is made of brushed metal. It feels hefty and balanced in the hand. — L.R.

66. Sailor Pro Gear Slim

Type: Fountain Pen

Smoothness : 3.5 | Smudging : 3 | Bleed-through : 4.5 |  Feel : 3.5 | Looks : 4

The Sailor fountain pen yields smooth lines and the ink output is consistent — dark and thick. The nib feels a little draggy and scratchy across the paper, but that seems common of fountain pens. Smudging is a problem, but because it’s a fountain pen, it may require more time for the ink to dry. There’s no spotting or pooling, and it works well when writing in both print and cursive. In terms of looks, it’s a simple black pen with silver accents and an etched nib and it doesn’t stand out much from other fountain pens in this price range. — L.R.

65. Pilot Precise V5 RT

Type: Rollerball

Smoothness : 4 |   Smudging : 4 | Bleed-through : 4.5 | Feel : 4 | Looks : 3

This is the retractable version of the also very popular Pilot V5 (see #51). It has a needle-fine point that allows for smaller and neater writing. I like the point on this pen. It’s not as smooth as I prefer my pens to be, but its fine point allows me to write smaller and more neatly. There’s a little smudging but that’s not a deal breaker by any means. As far as smoothness goes, the pen passes the cursive test, but there’s a tad bit of resistance, most likely owing to the needlepoint style of the tip. It’s fine but substantial. — L.R.

64. BIC Atlantis Original

Type: Ballpoint

Smoothness : 3.5| Smudging : 5 | Bleed-through : 4| Feel : 5 | Looks : 1

The BIC Atlantis is like the orthopedic shoe of pens: it’s lightweight, has a squishy, padded rubber grip for your fingers, doesn’t smudge at all, and is retractable, so you can’t lose the cap. It also isn’t particularly sexy, neither in body nor in ink output. No ballpoint pen will ever leave a mark as smooth as a felt-tip pen, and the BIC Atlantis is no exception. It’s perfectly utilitarian, but there are little skipping moments where the ink vanishes, leaving some letters with ghost ligaments. It gets the job done, but it’s more of an office supply closet staple than a pen you’d use for your journal or a love note. — M.R.

 Total Score : 3.7

63. BIC Classic Cristal

Type: Ballpoint

Smoothness : 4 | Smudging : 4.5 |  Bleed-through : 5 | Feel : 2 | Looks : 3

A classic disposable ballpoint pen that everyone has probably tried at some point. It’s hard to get excited about, but it’s a solid performer. It’s reliable and smooth. No skipping or bleed-through, and smudging is minimal if present at all. The one thing that really detracts from this one overall is its discomfort. The angular, hard plastic body quickly becomes uncomfortable in the hand. It’s a reliable, affordable pen for jotting down quick notes, but not something you would want to write with for an extended period of time. — David Notis, writer

62. Lamy Safari

Type: Fountain

Smoothness : 3.7 | Smudging : 2 | Bleed-through : 4 | Feel : 4 | Looks : 5

Strategist writer David Notis called the Lamy Safari a “fountain pen for dummies,” and I, as a total fountain pen novice, found this to be mostly true. Using a fountain pen takes some getting used to — the angle of the pen hitting the paper has to be just right, and varying the pressure you’re writing with can make a big difference in how your lines look. Writing quickly with it — as you would when jotting down ideas or taking notes in an interview or meeting — isn’t all that easy, and the pen can often feels more scratchy than smooth. The wet ink is also super smudgy, although there’s not as much bleed-through as I expected. With its bright yellow body (other color options are also available), it is a refreshing pop of color among blue and black pens, and the angular body and oversize clip look cool and not at all fussy. — K.I.A.

Total Score : 3.74

61. Uni-ball Vision

Uni-Ball Vision Rollerball Pens

Smoothness : 2.5 | Smudging : 5 | Bleed-through : 4.5 | Feel : 4 | Looks : 3

The Uni-ball writes mostly smooth once it gets going, although there is some skipping at first. It does come in a variety of colors (I tested one in a peculiar shade of green, somewhere between “Emerald City” and chartreuse). For a Staples staple the design is not bad: space age-y with an alternating matte and chrome silver finish. There is barely any bleed-through and absolutely no smudging, which is rare for a rollerball. — D.P.

 Total Score : 3.8

60. Kaweco Classic Sport Ballpoint

Kaweco Sport Classic Ballpoint

Smoothness : 3 | Smudging : 2.5 | Bleed-through : 4.5 | Feel : 4 | Looks : 5

Kaweco is best known for its fountain pens, but this one is a standard ballpoint. I’ll start with the looks, because that’s the only reason you might spend $20 on one of these: this squat, faceted burgundy-and-gold pen looks like something you might’ve once found in your grandfather’s study. You smell mahogany and cigar smoke just looking at it. And for that, I’m a fan. As for the actual writing: the blue ink comes out more smoothly and easily than it would with a cheaper ballpoint, but it also smudges a bit more than a regular ballpoint does. It puts down thin, precise marks that don’t bleed through but have enough impact for anything with a carbon copy. Perfect for writing checks. — M.R.

Total Score : 3.8

59. Poketo Colorblock

Type: Gel

Smoothness : 3.5 | Smudging : 3.5 | Bleed-through : 4.5 |  Feel : 3.5 | Looks : 4

This pen from L.A. brand Poketo is one you might buy for looks (it’s designed with the brand’s signature modern color blocking) over function. It’s reasonably lightweight, with a thin point, but at the end of the day it’s just a hard plastic pen without a grip. I noticed that this pen encounters hiccups in writing where the ink catches, and only half of a letter might appear on the page from time to time, which isn’t ideal. But overall, the writing feels fairly smooth, and if you don’t mind the smudging, it’s a solid choice for everyday note-taking — or just for creating a certain desk aesthetic. — L.K.

58. Paper Mate Flair

Type: Felt-tip

Smoothness : 4 | Smudging : 5 | Bleed-through : 3 | Feel : 4 |  Looks : 3

The Paper Mate Flair boasts a fan base that includes writer Lesley Arfin , Saucony creative director Chris Mahoney , and New York ’s Pulitzer Prize-winning art critic Jerry Saltz, who came by our desks to rave about it when he heard we were testing pens. It’s mostly smooth and doesn’t drag on the paper. But it feels more like writing with a Sharpie than with a pen. It’s functionally a marker, so it’s not great for fine lines or details or even writing super small. It also sometimes has an uneven flow of ink, with the middle of the line appearing a little lighter than the final flourish. But for quick note-taking, where precision isn’t that important, I quite like it. I had no smudging issues. Again, it’s basically a marker, so there’s definitely bleed-through, especially where I write bullet points or periods. It’s pretty light in my hand, and, to be honest, it feels pretty cheap, since it’s all plastic. But it’s mostly balanced and easy to write with. The cap does seem like it would stay on the pen if it was in my bag or a pencil case, which is especially important since it’s a felt-tipped marker that could definitely do some damage on fabric. It’s a totally average, forgettable-looking pen, though I do really like that the entire pen is the same color as the ink. That makes it very easy to tell what color ink to expect when you start writing. — M.B.

57. Pentel Arts Sign

Type: Felt-tip

Smoothness : 4.5 | Smudging : 5 | Bleed-through : 2 | Feel : 4 | Looks : 3.5

The word “pen” feels like a bit of a misnomer, here: this is really a fine-tipped marker. Or a calligraphy brush dressed up as a pen. When writing, if you slant the tip of the pen downward, you’ll easily draw a fat black line. This makes the letter ligaments thicker than most, which will frustrate those who write small. But it is smooth: the only reason I didn’t give it a perfect score for how the ink hits the paper is because it sometimes bleeds a bit too much onto the page. It’s also light (it’s made out of mostly recycled plastic plastic, which is nice) which makes it easy to hold. Amazon’s product description says the Pentel Sign is perfect for artists and designers, and that sounds about right — use this one for big, detailed renderings. — M.R.

56. Pilot Pop’lol

Type: Gel

Smoothness : 5 | Smudging : 5 | Bleed-through : 4 | Feel : 4 | Looks : 1

The Pop’lol, besides having the most delightful name of the bunch, is also so, so smooth. Seriously, you barely need to apply any pressure when writing in order to get a continuous line. The fast-drying ink also results in zero smudging, which makes this pen ideal for cursive writers. The padded grip is a nice touch and the pen is super light. Unfortunately, what it boasts in comfort, it lacks in aesthetics. — D.P.

55. Conklin Duragraph

Type: Fountain

Smoothness : 2.5 | Smudging : 3.5 | Bleed-through : 5 | Feel : 4 | Looks : 4.5

The Conklin Duragraph is a big, stately pen. Sometimes that works for it, and sometimes that works against it. While those with larger hands will appreciate the generous size, it might be a bit unwieldy for those with smaller hands. The biggest issue was skipping, especially when starting to write again after a short rest. In general it’s quite smooth, but it skipped out more than the other fountain pens I tested. It’s possible that it needs to be held at a specific angle, but I didn’t find the other fountain pens to be as fussy in this regard. Smudging was about average for a fountain pen. No bleed-through. It’s certainly a nice looking pen with a bold design. — D.N.

 Total Score : 3.9

54. Pilot Hi-Tec-C Maica

Type: Gel

Smoothness : 3.5 | Smudging : 5 | Bleed-through : 4.5 |  Feel : 3.5 |  Looks : 3

The Maica is an upgrade to the Hi-Tec C and is supposed to appeal to a more design-conscious user. It has a rounded body with a removable cap that features a jewel-cut dome at the top and a loop on the side — perhaps for attaching a little charm. The logo (a calligraphied “M”) is enclosed in a kind of coat of arms. Honestly, the design elements are a little fussy, especially for Pilot, but the pen itself is a winner. It has a very fine needlepoint tip (.4 mm.) but writes very smoothly and consistently. The tip drags less than the that of the original Hi-Tec C and allows for very controlled, small, neat handwriting. For those who prefer a fine-point gel option, the Maica is an ideal choice. — L.R.

Total Score : 3.9

53. Paper Mate Write Bros

Type: Ballpoint

Smoothness : 3.9 | Smudging : 3.8 | Bleed-through : 5 | Feel : 3.8 | Looks : 3

I mean, what to say, really: this is likely the world’s most basic pen. It’s a pen you might see at a doctor’s office, or on the reception desk at an elementary school. It is absolutely, perfectly fine: it doesn’t smudge much (I dragged a sweaty palm over my signature and there was only the faintest trace), it has zero bleed-through. While writing with it isn’t necessarily pleasurable, it is smooth enough. The ink comes out neither too thick nor too thin. This is a true middle-of-the-road pen, and I really don’t have a bad thing, nor a good thing, to say about it. — K.S.

52. TUL Gel Retractable Needle Point Fine

Type: Gel

Smoothness : 4 | Smudging : 4.5 | Bleed-through : 4.5 |  Feel : 3.5 | Looks : 3

This pen has a needlepoint tip, but its smoothness factor far surpasses most of its ilk. I can use it to both print and write in cursive, and the line is consistent in both instances. The pen doesn’t glide as smoothly as other gels, but it would certainly be a good pen for everyday use for those who like a finer point. There’s virtually no smudging, and it feels nice in the hand with its rubber grip and retractable click. It’s a solid, reliable writing instrument. — L.R.

51. Pilot V Razor Point

Type: Felt-tip

Smoothness : 4 | Smudging : 4 | Bleed-through : 4.5 | Feel : 4 | Looks : 3

This is the felt-tip version of the popular Pilot V5 pen, and it’s just as solid a writing instrument. The point, though extra fine, feels substantial when pressed down, and the ink-flow and smoothness are extremely consistent. There’s minimal bleed-through for a felt-tip, and it would be an appropriate pen for everyday use if you prefer the performance of a marker-like pen. It’s slim in design, with the vented tapering and clear-bodied grip that the V5 is known for, and has a cap. As for looks, it’s utilitarian. — L.R.

50. Karas Kustom Bolt

Type: Ballpoint

Smoothness : 4 | Smudging : 2.5 | Bleed-through : 4 | Feel : 4 | Looks : 5

The Karas Kustom Bolt is a “machined, bolt-action pen.” It comes in either aluminum, brass, or copper, which is what gives this durable pen its heft. It’s also made in the good ol’ U.S. of A. (if that sort of thing matters to you) and is generally well-designed. Unfortunately, the same heft that makes the pen as durable as a tank might also make it tire out your hands. And there are traces of smudging. Design-wise, the all-black body with silver accents lends this pen a cool, minimalist look. But while the pen-release mechanism on the side is a well thought-out design feature, it does catch quite a bit during use. — D.P.

49. Delfonics Wooden

Type: Ballpoint

Smoothness : 4.5 | Smudging : 5 | Bleed-through : 5 | Feel : 2 | Looks : 3

For a ballpoint pen, the Delfonics is surprisingly smooth. The ink comes out nicely and dries quickly, but in many ways the pen is disappointing. With its raw wood body, it looks a little like a kid’s toy pen rather than an elegant writing instrument. The tip is also uncomfortably shallow — it’s hard to see exactly what you’re writing because the thick point of the pen is so close to the page it almost obstructs it. You end up having to contort your body a little to the left to make out the text, which makes the whole exercise pretty uncomfortable. I wrote in my notes: “Not a pleasure to write with. My hand would cramp.” — J.C.

48. Pentel EnerGel Needle Point

Type: Ballpoint

Smoothness : 4.5 | Smudging : 5 | Bleed-through : 4 | Feel : 3 | Looks : 3

For being a “needle-tip” pen, this one writes very smoothly: the best way I can describe the sensation of writing and doodling with it is “fluid,” which is nice, and the ink still has a thickness to it. The pen feels a little bulky and plastic-y in the hand, though it has a thin grip to offset that, and the color is pretty, but it doesn’t change the fact that it looks sort of cheap overall. I was impressed by how it didn’t smudge at all, though there’s enough color bleed-through going on to dock a point. I’d recommend it if you want a fine-tip pen that writes well, without producing spindly-thin script. — L.K.

47. Sharpie Fine Point

Type: Felt-tip

Smoothness : 4.1 | Smudging : 4 | Bleed-through : 3.5 | Feel : 4 | Looks : 4

When we were researching pens, we were surprised to discover how many of the famous people we’ve interviewed in the past like writing with Sharpies. In fact, the permanent markers are the top picks of writers Michael Cunningham , Lucy Sykes , and Meg Wolitzer . In the spirit of keeping the pens on this list comparable, we ruled out the extra-thick varieties you’d use to address a package, but maybe not for scrolling notes in a lined notebook. What remained was this Sharpie pen that has a finer line but still feels smooth to run across the page and isn’t all that smudgy for a marker pen. The smoothness of the pen is also rather nice, and for being felt, it’s not very smudgy, either. It’s also cool-looking in all black. — K.I.A.

Total Score : 3.92

46. BIC Gel-ocity

Type: Gel

Smoothness : 4.5 | Smudging : 3.7 | Bleed-through : 4 | Feel : 4 | Looks : 3.94

Rating the BIC Gel-ocity was a classic case of not judging a book by its cover. For an affordable pen that doesn’t look like anything special, it’s surprisingly fun to write with. It’s exceptionally smooth, with a medium-weight line that makes even messy handwriting easy to read. There’s minimal bleed-through and smudging, and the plastic body has a soft covering that’s comfortable to grip. The retractable clicking mechanism did get stuck at times, which could be annoying, but overall it’s a solid everyday pen with a budget-friendly price tag. — K.I.A.

Total Score : 3.94

45. Uni-ball Onyx Fine

Type: Rollerball

Smoothness : 4.3 | Smudging : 4.5 | Bleed-through : 3.5 | Feel : 3.4 | Looks : 4.1

Compared to other fine-line pens, the Onyx has a much smoother flow and is more accommodating to writing large, rounded letters. It doesn’t glide quite as easily as some of the other rollerballs I tried, but on the plus side, there’s comparatively less smudging than average. All-black with a white logo, it’s sleek-looking, and small dots on each end of the pen show the ink color, which is an interesting touch. — K.I.A.

Total Score : 3.96

44. Machine Era Solid Brass Pen

Machine Era Solid Brass Pen

Smoothness : 3.9 | Smudging : 2.5 | Bleed-through : 4 | Feel : 4.5 | Looks : 5

Now this is a sexy pen. Made of solid, shiny brass, it’s petite with rounded edges and a slender, bullet-like shape. The cap seamlessly disappears into the body when it’s twisted over the tip or fitted over the back while writing. It’s perfectly purse- or pocket-sized and tastefully statement-making. As for writing, it’s acceptably smooth — not the smoothest of the pens I tested, but free of noticeable skipping or dragging. The ink is a bit slow to dry and can smudge if you run your hand over it too soon. — K.I.A.

Total Score : 3.98

43. Cross Bailey

Type: Ballpoint

Smoothness : 3 | Smudging : 4.5 | Bleed-through : 4.5 | Feel : 4 | Looks : 4

This is a fancier ballpoint with a substantial metallic body and a twist mechanism. The point is rather thick and requires more pressure to write, although you can control the ink-flow this way. A light touch yields a finer line, while pressing down harder imparts a thicker line. The ink-flow is not consistent and there’s some buildup, but moving the pen across the page feels nice and smooth. The body is black with silvery accents and the pen feels weighty in the hand. It’s handsome but doesn’t necessarily stand out among pens of this caliber. It would be a good pen for signing special documents and displaying on a corporate desk. — L.R.

Total Score : 4

42. Pelikan P40

Type: Fountain

Smoothness : 4 | Smudging : 3.5 | Bleed-through : 4.5 | Feel : 4 | Looks : 4

This is in the mid- to high-end range of fountain pens, and it feels like it. The nib glides easily across the page, yielding consistent ink-flow and lines, even though the ink looks a little wet. The blue ink looks almost purple, and it, too, has a watercolor-y aspect. It’s got a metallic body, parts of which are both solid and matte, and its design is a little more modern than your average fountain pen. There is a satisfying weight and heft to the pen and it feels nice in the hand. An all-around solid fountain pen if you’re looking to splurge a little. Another bonus: the ink-flow started immediately after the cartridge was installed. — L.R.

41. BIGiDESIGN Ti Arto EDC Titanium

Type: Gel

Smoothness : 4 | Smudging : 4.5 | Bleed-through : 4.5 | Feel : 2.5 | Looks : 4.5

This is a hefty pen made out of solid titanium. Billed as “the world’s most refill-friendly pen,” it accepts over 200 different refills without the need for special parts or modifications. Even the tip length can be adjusted, and without any “wiggle.” This particular sample came with a Schneider Gelion 39 refill and a 0.4 mm. point. When writing with it, the ink flowed in a thick line and was rather smooth, with minimal smudging. But with the Ti Arto EDC, it’s really about the pen itself. While it looks raw and has a cool aesthetic, it’s heavy and a little unwieldy. It’s on the short side for a pen, and larger hands may feel cramped when using it. Still, it’s a substantial pen. Each component screws on and off via threading: the barrel holding the tip of the ink cartridge, the cap, and the back of the pen. The grip is ridged, but because it’s metal, it isn’t very comfortable for prolonged writing. But the pen as a whole looks sleek and tough (it’s a dark gray with a thin black band at the end) and is definitely a statement item if not purely utilitarian. It’s on the expensive side and would make a very handsome gift for someone who values looks and prefers to choose their own ink. — L.R.

Total Score: 4

40. TUL BP3 Retractable

Type: Ballpoint

Smoothness : 4 | Smudging : 5 | Bleed-through : 5 | Feel : 4 | Looks : 2

So smooth, no drag, but it’s still a ballpoint pen. I really like the click top — it has such a substantial and satisfying feel and noise. And the rubber grip is nice. It feels smooth and comfortable in my hand, not too heavy. It’s a pretty forgettable looking pen, though it has some nice detailing. — M.B.

39. Parker IM

Type: Rollerball

Smoothness : 4.5 | Smudging : 4.5 | Bleed-through : 4.5 | Feel: 3 | Looks : 3.5

The Parker IM Rollerball is handsome looking. A smooth operator. The kind of pen that takes itself seriously. One could imagine it on a wooden desk, being used to sign important papers by an important person. An important person who doesn’t have time for smudging or bleeding. Granted, its relative heft isn’t great for writing over extended periods. But this pen approximates what a luxury pen offers, at a much lower price point. — D.P.

38. Pilot Razor Point II

Pilot Razor Point Marker Pen

Smoothness : 5 | Smudging : 5 | Bleed-through : 2.5 | Feel : 3.5 | Looks : 4

The Pilot Razor Point pen is a lot like a Le Pen, but dressed in American business casual instead of a perfectly cut blazer. For those who prefer the clear, consistent lines of a felt-tip, this is the ideal day-to-day pen: it’s smooth and doesn’t catch or blot, and the ink dries in an instant. It’s plastic and lightweight, so it’s a utility player. And looks-wise, it’s basic in a good way. It’s even slightly retro: There’s a slight shimmer-sparkle print on the body and an embossed silver logo in an all-caps, non-cheesy typeface, making this look like a pen that belongs in an office with wood floors and nice Aeron chairs, and not in a Dilbert cartoon. It’s also artist and architect Richard Meier ’s favorite. — M.R.

37. TUL Gel Retractable Medium

Type: Gel

Smoothness : 5 | Smudging : 4 | Bleed-through : 3 | Feel : 4 | Looks : 4

I have a very intimate working knowledge of this TUL pen, because I own a colored set of these that I use every day. The TUL is my go-to for journaling and note-taking because it’s stupidly smooth, which really helps when I’m jotting stuff down quickly and have a lengthy train of thought, and the ink appears thick and bold on the page (I find it to be very similar to the Pilot Gel pens, but less messy). It does smudge slightly if you’re doubling back on your writing, and it’s pigmented enough to bleed through the page a bit, but it’s still a very good option for someone who writes a lot and wants something that allows for movement and speed. — L.K.

36. Staedtler Triplus Fineliner

Type: Felt-tip

Smoothness : 4.3 | Smudging : 5 | Bleed-through : 3.6 | Feel : 4.2 | Looks : 3

One of the most unique things about this pen is its triangular-shaped body with rounded edges. This little tweak makes it a lot easier and more comfortable to hold, while also giving it some traction so it doesn’t slip around in your fingers. For the most part, it’s a smooth pen with just an echo of resistance on some upstrokes. It doesn’t smudge at all and only a few darker points and lines bleed through. For a basic-looking pen with a relatively fine point, though, it’s satisfying to write with and most letters look clear and legible even when you’re writing quickly. — K.I.A.

Total Score : 4.02

35. Stabilo Worker

Type: Rollerball

Smoothness : 4 | Smudging: 3.5 | Bleed-through : 3.5 | Feel : 4.8 | Looks : 4.5

With a solid and smooth line, this rollerball pen is reminiscent of a fountain pen — with none of the learning curve. Even though it has a fine point, it’s easier to control and way less scratchy than some of the other fine-nibbed pens I tested. With a wide, silicone-coated body, it’s easy to hold for long periods of time, and the orange color gives it a modern feel. Another cool touch: the dots on the body indicate the ink color. — K.I.A.

Total Score : 4.06

34. Sakura Pigma Micron

Type: Felt-tip

Smoothness : 4.5 | Smudging : 5 | Bleed-through : 5 | Feel : 3 | Looks : 3

The Sakura Micron pen sticks a tiny bit which slows me down as I write. It does, however, have a nice flexibility of line thickness. I like the opacity of the ink, but sometimes it builds up on certain letters, which is ugly. It does not smudge and there is zero bleed-through. This pen has a pretty good weight to it, but because it’s shiny plastic I think it might make my hand sweat a little. It also feels slightly short in my hand. The cap is functional enough and the clip is kinda small. When it comes to looks, Micron pens are, in my opinion, sort of anti-design. The greenish, khaki-colored plastic is the definition of bland and visually, the overall design is basically negligible. — L.C.

Total Score : 4.1

33. Acme Rollerball

Type: Rollerball

Smoothness : 3.8 | Smudging : 4.5 | Bleed-through : 3 | Feel : 4.5 | Looks : 5

Hawaiian-based Acme has been collaborating with architects, graphic designers, and artists since its founding in 1985. These are good-looking pens and it’s not surprising that they frequently win design awards. The two I tried out (a black-and-white geometric edition inspired by Frank Lloyd Wright and a brightly colored one designed by Karim Rashid ) were both attractive from afar and feature little details (like the artists’ signatures engraved on the cap bands) that reveal the care invested in the pens. While it’s not an unpleasant pen to write with by any means, it does seem like function takes a backseat to form. I noticed some skipping and there’s resistance when you’re dragging the pen across the page. The ink dries quickly and doesn’t smudge, but there is some visible bleed-through on the back of the page. Still, this is a pen that’ll get noticed in the office. Let your coworkers try it out — even if just for the highly satisfying sound the cap makes when it clicks on the pen. — K.I.A.

Total Score : 4.16

32. Pilot G-Tec-C Gel

Type: Rollerball

Smoothness : 3.5 | Smudging : 5 | Bleed-through : 5 | Feel : 4 | Looks : 3.5

It’s a bit counterintuitive that such an everyday pen could be handsome, but the G-Tec-C has a nice combination of colors (clear, black, silver) and clean lines that feel pleasant in the hand. Because it’s so thin, though, it’s hard to feel like you’re writing with a smooth instrument — the ink doesn’t skip, but the tip is so thin that it doesn’t exactly glide across the page — it feels like it might slice through it at any point. Since so little ink is coming out, though, there’s no time for it to smudge or pool, and it certainly won’t bleed through the page. Though the tip is thin, the pen isn’t overly narrow, and I can imagine being able to write comfortably with it for a while. For quick note-taking, it may be hard to write quickly without fear that the ink will skip, but it’s a solid choice if you prefer a thin-lined pen. — J.C.

Total Score : 4.2

31. Pilot G2 Retractable 0.7 mm. Fine

Pilot G2 Retractable Premium Gel Ink Roller Ball Pen, 12-Count

Smoothness : 4 | Smudging : 5 | Bleed-through : 4.5 | Feel : 4 | Looks : 3.5

The Pilot G-2 series are some of the most popular pens on the market, and that comes as no surprise. The ink runs smoothly and there’s virtually zero smudging. The lines are thick and more or less consistent, and that makes the pen great for everyday note-taking. I prefer a finer point, but this is a solid pen. It’s comfortable to hold thanks to its ergonomic and ridged rubber grip, has a satisfying click, and the clear barrel allows you to see the level of ink inside. — L.R.

30. Moleskine Go

Type: Ballpoint

Smoothness : 5 | Smudging : 5 | Bleed-through : 5 | Feel : 1 | Looks : 5

The Moleskine Go Pen lives up to its name in that writes consistently and smoothly without sticking to the page and it has a quick and satisfying ink-flow. It does the job of a ballpoint exceedingly well: It writes quickly and clearly, making my handwriting look neat and effortless. I noticed a minimal amount of smudging when I filled in an area and then rubbed my finger over it, zero smudging when I wrote normally, and zero bleed-through despite a nice dark, opaque ink. This pen hurts my hand to write with. Its rectangular design makes the corners dig into my thumb as I write. I would not be able to use this on a regular basis. Despite the pain it caused me it’s a nice-looking pen. I like the minimal grid design on the front and the black-and-white design reminds me of a Braun clock. I would keep this on my desk or in my pen jar. I also like the asymmetrical pocket clip. — L.C.

29. Sakura Pigma Micron Fine Line

Type: Felt-tip

Smoothness : 5 | Smudging : 5 | Bleed-through : 5 | Feel : 4 | Looks : 2

I usually hate fine pens, because my handwriting is relatively large and loopy and fine pens usually catch and drag, but writing with this pen felt like cutting butter with a hot knife, it’s that smooth. It has the feel and smooth, constant ink-flow of a fresh marker, and the precision of a ballpoint pen. I didn’t experience any smudging, nor, surprisingly, any bleed-through, even though it’s felt-tipped and looks inky. It feels comfortable in my hand, the cap clicks onto the back well, and for a plastic pen, it has a nice weight to it. My biggest complaint about this pen is that it is ugly. It’s an unseemly shade of khaki, covered in text, and a little clunky. — M.B.

28. Caran d’Ache 849 Fluorescent

Caran D'Ache Ballpoint Pen

Smoothness : 4 | Smudging : 4.5 | Bleed-through : 4.5 | Feel : 4 | Looks : 4.5

I love the way this retractable ballpoint pen by Swiss company Caran d’Ache looks and feels. It comes in a striking neon pink with ridged sides like a No. 2 pencil and a silver push button, clip, and point. Its metallic body gives a heft to the pen and it’s satisfying to hold and write with. The ink output is smooth and consistent, making it a great instrument for everyday use. At $25, it’s certainly an upgrade, but its eye-catching design makes it worth it. I loved this pen. — L.R.

Total Score : 4.3

27. Montblanc Meisterstuck Red Gold-Coated Classique

Montblanc Meisterstuck Gold-Coated Classique Ballpoint Pen

Smoothness : 4.5 | Smudging : 4 | Bleed-through : 5 | Feel : 4 | Looks : 4

Of course we had to include a Montblanc, and this one (the fountain pen version) is Salman Rushdie’s favorite . It’s a luxury pen that looks and feels like one. While its noticeable heft is comfortable at first, we docked a point because we imagine the weight may leave your hand feeling fatigued if you’re taking notes in an hour-long class or meeting. There’s no visible bleed-through and the writing experience is nearly seamless, with only a tiny bit of skipping when we first started using it. The ink is fast-drying but does leave faint smudging seconds after writing, which could be problematic for lefties. The shiny black body and rose gold details are nice looking, but we held off on giving the design top marks since, while elegant, it lacks any especially eye-popping elements to justify the cost. — L.R. & K.I.A.

26. Uni-ball Vision Elite BLX

Type: Rollerball

Smoothness : 4.5 | Smudging : 4 | Bleed-through : 4.75 | Feel : 4.5 | Looks : 4

Almost everyone has used a version of this pen at some point — it’s a standby for a reason. The rollerball line is fluid and the ink flows smoothly. But the line can feel a bit thick at times, which for cursive writers can occasionally cause blurring. Smudging can also be an issue with this pen; after a few seconds you’ll still see some streaking. When you look super closely, a bit of heathering happens once the ink dries. If the slightly finicky nature of the rollerball’s style doesn’t bother you, it’ll be easy to see why this smooth inky pen has collected so many fans over the years. — Simone Kitchens, senior editor

Total Score : 4.35

25. Pilot EasyTouch Retractable

Type: Ballpoint

Smoothness : 4.5 | Smudging : 4.5 | Bleed-through : 5 | Feel : 4 | Looks : 4

The Pilot EasyTouch is a reliable and affordable disposable pen. It’s surprisingly smooth and it draws a nice, fine line that doesn’t skip. The pen does not feel scratchy, but you do get a little pushback when writing with it; there is a small but normal amount of pressure required. No bleed-through. The retractable mechanism works well and yields an extremely satisfying but loud “click.” If you are looking to compulsively fiddle without disturbing your coworkers, this is not the pen for you. — D.N.

Total Score : 4.4

24. Cross Townsend 10 Karat Gold-Filled Rollerball

Type: Rollerball

Smoothness : 5 | Smudging : 4 | Bleed-through : 5 | Feel : 4 | Looks : 4

This pen is like the poor pen’s idea of an expensive pen: it’s plated in 10 karat gold and has a graduation-gift quality to it. It’s also remarkably smooth, though we’d say it’s not quite as glide-y as some other rollerballs. I did notice, however, that it smudged slightly when I wrote over previous writing, and while it has the perfect thickness between your fingers, the pen does begin to feel a bit heavy after longer periods of use. I happen to like its gold case, but after just one day in the pocket of our canvas messenger bag, the metal already had several superficial scratches. I’d probably save this for signing expensive checks on a well-appointed desk. — J.C.

23. Paper Mate Inkjoy — Best Gel Pen

Paper Mate Inkjoy Gel Pens

Smoothness : 5 | Smudging : 4.5 | Bleed-through : 4.5 | Feel : 4 | Looks : 4

This is a jelly pen, but succeeds in many places where the (iconic) Gelly Roll fails. It is exceedingly smooth, and has very little to no smudging, even the second after you write with it. It has no bleed-through, and the ink that comes out produces not-too-thick, not-too-thin lines. I just like writing with this thing — it feels made for pretty, loopy cursive. — K.S.

22. Idlewild Luxe

Type: Rollerball

Smoothness : 4.5 | Smudging : 4.75 | Bleed-through : 5 | Feel : 4 | Looks : 4

This pen feels a bit inconsistent at times: The line is smooth and the ink flows reliably, but not in the super-inky way that would feel commensurate to the look and “flair” of this pen. It’s quite heavy, so you’re sort of expecting an inkier, fuller line. Given the weight and the average writing experience, it seems more like a pen that’s for show, and less like one you’d want to use while settling down with a notebook. The feel is fine and the grip isn’t terrible; all in all it offers an average writing experience. — S.K.

Total Score : 4.45

21. Pentel Vicuña

Type: Ballpoint

Smoothness : 4.75 | Smudging : 4.2 | Bleed-through : 5 | Feel : 4.5 | Looks : 4

If you’re someone who likes a sharp line and has small handwriting, this pen will accommodate both. But the ink can well up in places, specifically if you’re writing cursive, which can create an uneven lines at times, as well as some smudging. While it’s not much to speak of in the looks department, the rubbery grip is solid and would allow you to write comfortably for quite a while, thanks to its ultralightweight body. — S.K.

Total Score : 4.49

20. Pilot Better Retractable

Type: Ballpoint

Smoothness : 4.5 | Smudging : 5 | Bleed-through : 5 | Feel : 5 | Looks : 3 An expensive-feeling ballpoint pen, the Pilot Better Retractable has a good shape that feels natural to hold. The line comes out unlike any BIC — as soon as I started writing, I was taken aback by the even distribution and glide of the ink (I wrote: “Smooth as butter”). As most ballpoints do, it gets high marks for smudging and bleed-through, too. Where it falls short for us is in the looks department; there’s something a bit humorless about it. Nobody’s going to ask you where you got it in your next meeting. — J.C.

Total Score : 4.5

19. Pilot Dr. Grip Center of Gravity Retractable

Pilot Dr. Grip Center of Gravity Retractable Pen

Smoothness : 4.5 | Smudging : 5 | Bleed-through : 5 | Feel : 5 | Looks : 3

Though I was forced to detract points for the pen’s aesthetic (frankly, the thing is hideous — silver and purple and cheap-looking), this Dr. Grip is the smoothest pen I tried. The writing experience is seamless, and the ink that comes out is neither too thin, nor too thick. There is virtually no bleed-through or smudging, and the top of the pen is encased in a (latex-free, apparently) rubber, which felt very squishy and comfortable on my fingers while I wrote. The pen is a wee bit thick for my liking, but overall, this is a pen I would make a serious to-do list with. — K.S.

18. Marvy Le Pen

Type: Felt-tip

Smoothness : 5 | Smudging : 5 | Bleed-through : 2.5 | Feel : 5 | Looks : 5

Oh, the Le Pen. It is the nearly perfect pen: the felt tip leaves smooth, slender, consistent marks on paper, and your handwriting inevitably looks more elegant because of it. The actual build of the pen is refined but not flashy: it’s simply a tailored writing utensil of uniform width with a silver logo embossed on the side. There are no bumps or ridges where your fingers hold the pen’s body, so gripping it is comfortable. The Le Pen’s only flaw is that at the joints of letters, where you might press down for a beat longer, the ink can bleed through to the back of the paper. But for the Le Pen, you can forgo taking double-sided notes. — M.R.

17. OHTO Liberty Ceramic

Type: Rollerball

Smoothness : 4 | Smudging : 5 | Bleed-through : 5 | Feel : 4.5 | Looks : 4.5

There is a lot to love about this pen. It feels substantial in your hand, but not too heavy. The lacquer finish makes the pen cool and comfortable to the touch; the ink is smooth and smudge-free. The black body with its gold details makes for a classy, elegant pen that looks more expensive than it really is. — D.P.

Total Score : 4.6

16. Pilot Precise V5

Pilot Precise V5 Roller Ball Stick Pen, Pack of 12

Smoothness : 4.5 | Smudging : 5 | Bleed-through : 4.5 | Feel : 4.5 | Looks : 4.5

My old high school art teacher used to have to buy these by the boxful because us students would steal them every chance we’d get (sorry, Mr. Rapone!). The beauty of this one lies in its extra-fine tip. Precision is the name and the game here. Further, this baby really glides over the paper. It is, in short, the ideal doodling pen (and also the ideal everyday writing pen). If you want to feel like a disaffected art student during your morning meeting, this one’s for you. — D.P.

15. Pelikan Stola III

Type: Fountain

Smoothness : 5 | Smudging : 4.5 | Bleed-through : 5 | Feel : 4.5 | Looks : 4

This is one of the smoothest fountain pens I tested. In some ways it almost feels like a rollerball: you don’t get any of the feedback resistance you sometimes get with a fountain pen. It doesn’t skip at all, and it starts writing right away — no need to scribble initially to get the ink flowing. There’s no bleed-through, and barely any smudging, which is very impressive for a fountain pen. The metal body has a nice finish and gives the pen a nice weight. The one issue I found was that the cap does not easily fasten onto the back of the pen. This won’t be a problem if you’re someone who uses fountain pens “unposted.” (In fountain pen lingo, writing “unposted” means writing with the cap removed from the body of the pen; writing “posted” means you slide the cap onto the back of the pen to write). If you prefer to write posted, it can be a bit of an issue to secure the cap to the back of the pen — you really need to force it on. This is really the only flaw here, if you can even call it one; overall, it’s a really solid fountain pen. — D.N.

14. Baron Fig Squire Click

Type: Ballpoint

Smoothness : 5 | Smudging : 5 | Bleed-through : 5 | Feel : 4 | Looks : 4

The smoothest ballpoint pen I’ve tested so far! It’s a little short for my taste, but it’s got a nice heft to it. I like the smooth, all-metal finish, and the clicking mechanism is very satisfying. Sleek, smooth, though if I had to knock off points, it would be due to the relatively prominent Baron Fig logo on the side. — M.B.

13. Schneider Slider Rave XB

Type: Ballpoint

Smoothness : 4.75 | Smudging : 4.5 | Bleed-through : 5 | Feel : 4.8 | Looks : 4

This pen delivers an incredibly smooth gel-feel that makes for a fun and almost bouncy writing experience. The harder you press it to the paper, the darker the ink and the chunkier the line. Writing a bit more softly, though, I experienced occasional skipping and it showed a little unevenness in places. You will notice the occasional tracer lines between picking up the pen and putting it back down on the paper. Still, the overall writing experience felt smooth and has a gliding effect. The ergonomic rubber grip feels great in your hand and it takes no time at all to get in a comfy position with it. — S.K.

Total Score : 4.61

12. BIC 4-Color

BIC 4-Color Ballpoint Pen

Smoothness : 4.2 | Smudging : 5 | Bleed-through : 5 | Feel : 4 | Looks : 5

I’ve long loved the way the BIC 4-Color Ballpoint looks. It’s blue and white, with each of its four color options represented by little slidable strips on the top (you press the color you’d like to use down, and the pen switches to that ink). That said: the ink comes out extremely faint, meaning you have to press down hard to make sure you can see your own notes. Smudginess and bleed-through are, needless to say, not an issue with this pen — and it’s not particularly fun to doodle with, because there’s just not enough ink coming out to fill drawings in. I love to use this for checklists — you can make the list with blue or black ink, then put little stars next to the urgent items in red ink. Do I sound crazy? — K.S.

Total Score : 4.64

11. Poppin Signature

Type: Ballpoint

Smoothness : 5 | Smudging : 4.8 | Bleed-through : 5 | Feel : 4 | Looks : 4.5

The action on this Poppin ballpoint pen is so smooth, it almost feels like it’s doing the writing on its own. It doesn’t stick to the page and it makes my handwriting look graceful. The flow of ink is on the lighter side and pressing harder won’t really affect that. This would be good for letter-writing or sketchbook notes. There is zero smudging (there was none even when I filled in a large area and ran my finger over it, hard). However, I noticed that ink did smudge onto the edge of the cap when removing it and putting it back on, which means the mint color of the case starts to look dirty fast. Zero bleed-through. This pen feels nice but it’s a little light for my taste. It almost feels like if I looked away, I would think I had dropped it. But the plastic is smooth and the cap pulls off and clicks back on with a nice sound. The mint color is nice and I like the design of the clip (which may be an ode to a paper clip). It would look great on a desk or in a meeting, where I want to project good taste and organization. — L.C.

Total Score : 4.66

good writing for pen

10. Pelikan P205

Type: Fountain

Smoothness : 4.5 | Smudging : 4 | Bleed-through : 5 | Feel : 5 | Looks : 5

This has the looks and feel of a classic, high-end fountain pen. The design is simple and understated, especially in the black with silver accents. The ink-flow is quite steady and it does not skip at all. It’s a smooth writer, but the nib feels slightly scratchy, most likely because it’s an “Extra Fine” nib, so a little scratchiness is inevitable. It is lightweight, easy to maneuver, and comfortable to hold. The cap screws on, so it can be stored away in your pocket without worry, and the cap also clicks onto the back easily and securely. No bleed-through. Smudging was a minor issue, about average for a fountain pen. (I tested this with the included ink cartridge, which is a special edition Pelikan ink from the “Edelstein Ink Collection,” so it’s possible that had something to do with the smudginess.) — D.N.

Total Score : 4.7

9. Hay Bullet

Type: Ballpoint

Smoothness : 5 | Smudging : 4.8 | Bleed-through : 4 | Feel : 5 | Looks : 5

I can tell a pen’s great from the way it makes my writing look — neat and pretty, ideally, like that of someone who bullet journals and scrapbooks regularly. But scrawling with this Hay pen felt like I was gliding over ice, too: if my cursive were any less rudimentary, I would go wild with elegantly looping g ’s, y ’s, and z ’s. I suppose I should expect nothing less from the Strategist-beloved brand Hay — the pen is a Midas-y gold and is the most delightful-looking pen I’ve ever used, and the function really lives up to the design. I was struck by how weightless this pen felt in my hand. Despite the lack of a rubbery grip, the shape is ergonomic enough (it tapers like a chopstick) that my fingers felt secure and comfortable, and there’s virtually no bleed-through or smudging. I ended my testing by messaging a co-worker: “This pen has changed me.” — L.K.

Total Score : 4.76

8. Retro 51 Tornado

Type: Rollerball

Smoothness : 4.75 | Smudging : 5 | Bleed-through : 5 | Feel : 4.5 | Looks : 4.6

This is a total “signature” pen — perfect for signing checks, if that’s something you do often-ish. This rollerball delivers a super-clean, medium line; you won’t experience a lot of inconsistencies or smudging. As far as the pen itself goes, the weighty feel and the fat, torpedo-shaped body match up well with its super-inky and dark rollerball line. It’s not the type of pen you’d want to use for extended periods of writing, though — you really do feel the weight of it as you pick it up and put it down. But the clean, seamless line and substantial feel create an enjoyable experience overall. Design-wise, if a pen with a personality is your thing, perhaps you will particularly appreciate the “E = mc²” chalkboard motif. (It’s also available in — among many other styles — a crossword grid design , a herringbone-patterned metal , and an embossed honeybee-honeycomb design.) — S.K.

Total Score : 4.77

7. Parker Jotter

Parker Jotter Stainless-Steel Ballpoint Pen

Smoothness : 5 | Smudging : 5 | Bleed-through : 5 | Feel : 4.5 | Looks : 4.5

The Parker Jotter is extremely smooth, but its ink is darker than average, making it, in my opinion, more of a work pen and less of a correspondence pen. I like that you can control your lines’ thickness and darkness by the pressure you apply — this is the mark of a more complex tool. This pen doesn’t smudge during normal note-taking or doodling. I got it to smudge a tiny bit, but only after trying very hard to fabricate smudge conditions. There is zero bleed-through. The weight of this pen is very satisfying. I like how it’s cool to the touch and then gradually warms in your hand, thanks to the metal casing. My favorite thing about this pen is the sound it makes when you click the top button — ka-chunk . It is very springy. This is a classic-looking pen, thanks to its super-handsome brushed metal body and arrow-shaped clip. It isn’t necessarily going to turn the heads of any pen snobs, but it is a few steps above a regular old BIC. — L.C.

Total Score : 4.8

6. Schneider Slider Memo XB Medium

6. Schneider Slider Memo XB Ballpoint Pen (New entry)

As far as disposable ballpoints go, the Schneider Slider Memo XB is really impressive. This pen is smooth . Like, really smooth. Almost disarmingly smooth. It really glides effortlessly, with minimal pressure required. It’s basically smudge-free. (If you try really hard to smudge just after writing, you can get the slightest smudge, but under normal conditions there should be no smudging at all). And there is no bleed-through. The XB yields a really thick line, so that is something to be aware of. It’s probably best suited for jotting down quick notes, and might present issues if fine lines or neat handwriting are required. Its large size combined with the cap attached to the back and its thick point make the pen slightly difficult to maneuver. It’s sort of like a big, comfortable Cadillac. I gave it a 4 on looks, which I know is potentially controversial. Is it an objectively attractive pen? No, definitely not. It has an unapologetically orthopedic look and a bulbous shape, and the metal clip on the cap is disarmingly wide, but this is all in the service of its function. It’s also wrapped in a comfortable, rubberized coating. — D.N.

5. Kaweco Classic Sport Fountain Pen

Kaweco Classic Sport Fountain Pen

Smoothness : 5 | Smudging : 5 | Bleed-through : 5 | Feel : 4.5 | Looks : 4.9

The Kaweco Classic Sport Brass fountain pen is special. Writer André Aciman called it “the Volkswagen of pens, with a Jaguar engine.” I was worried it would be too heavy or uncomfortable due to its brass body, but it actually has just the right amount of heft. It is definitely heavier than your average pen, but I ended up enjoying the resistance from the additional weight and it helped my hand-movements feel more controlled. With its octagonal shape, compact size, and brass construction, this pen earned my highest marks on looks. It might not appeal to everyone, but it definitely has style. It also feels really solid and substantial: unscrewing the cap and sliding it on and off produces Hollywood-caliber sound effects. It’s a pen you will love fiddling with — for better or worse. There is no bleed-through. It is also one of the only fountain pens that somehow doesn’t smudge. It writes very smoothly with no skipping, but it requires a little more pressure than most fountain pens, because the ink-flow is relatively light, which could be a pro or a con depending on your preference. The only drawback is that sometimes the posted cap can loosen a bit as you write, but other than that, it’s pretty much perfect. — D.N.

4. Aurora Ipsilon — Best Fountain Pen

Aurora Ipsilon Fountain Pen

Smoothness : 5 | Smudging : 4.5 | Bleed-through : 5 | Feel : 5 | Looks : 5

The Aurora Ipsilon is about as classic as it gets. It is a very smooth writer, never skipping even when first touching down on the paper. Its ink-flow was consistent and steady throughout all of our tests. It’s quite lightweight and easy to maneuver, and the size is just right: not too big and not too small. Smudging was generally not an issue at all, but our hard-core “smudge test” did turn up some very light smudging. No bleed-through. Overall, it’s a really comfortable and easy-to-use fountain pen. It has an elegant and unassuming appearance with a vivid resin body and gold accents. A couple of small bonuses: the Aurora ink cartridges are super-sized, which comes in handy, and the the cap clicks on very securely. It’s the type of reliable pen you will find yourself reaching for. It narrowly edges out the Kaweco in terms of looks because it’s more likely to appeal to a wider group of people. — D.N.

Total Score : 4.9

3. Prismacolor Premier Fine Line — Best Felt-tip Pen

Prismacolor Premier Fine-Line Felt-Tip Pen

Smoothness : 5 | Smudging : 5 | Bleed-through : 5 | Feel : 5 | Looks : 4.5

Great pen. Of all the pens I tried, it feels the closest to an extension of my natural hand gestures and it makes my handwriting look easy-going and legible. I also love the line quality — dark, but not too thick, and subject to my control (as opposed to controlling me). It does not smudge. Zero bleed-through. This pen feels like barely anything in my hand, which is perfect. For me, looks are less important than performance here, but having said that, this pen is less attractive than many others. Maybe that’s because it is shiny rather than matte and the clip is kind of puny. — L.C.

2. OHTO Horizon Needle Point Knock — Best Ballpoint

Type: Ballpoint (Best in Category)

Smoothness : 5 | Smudging : 5 |  Bleed-through : 5 |  Feel : 5 | Looks : 5

If you’re most comfortable writing with a 0.5 mm. (or even 0.3 mm.) mechanical pencil, you will feel right at home using this Japanese needlepoint pen (though its point is actually 0.7 mm.). The ink comes out clean and even, yielding the thinnest, smoothest line; there’s no smudging or skipping. You’ll be amazed at how small you can write with this thing. The pen itself feels sturdy, but not too heavy. It somehow seems like gripping it would be slippery, but that wasn’t an issue. The cerulean blue, hexagonal-tube design is elegant, but in a retro way — it’s easy to imagine some ’60s-era person at, like, IBM or NASA tucking it into a shirt pocket. And the side-click-release is both discreet-looking and extremely satisfying. — S.K.

Total Score : 5

1. Baron Fig Squire — Best Rollerball & Best Overall

Type: Rollerball (Best in Category)

Smoothness : 5 | Smudging : 5 |  Bleed-through : 5 |  Feel : 5 | Looks : 5

I love this pen. It practically dances across the page, and the ink comes through with command and a real presence (those who prefer a thinner line may not appreciate it so much, but I generally prefer a thinner line and was so taken with the ink’s smoothness that it didn’t matter). The matte finish of the burgundy Squire I tried gave it an expensive look, and the pen has a sturdy but not heavy feeling in the hand. I was worried that the Squire would fail the smudge test, due to the heavier distribution of ink onto the page, but it passed with flying colors (I also passed it along to a lefty, who was surprised that it didn’t smear at all). A star among rollerballs, which I’m happy to report, considering its considerable price tag — I think we’ve found what may well become a very popular graduation gift. — J.C.

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Authors and editors alike say their best work comes with these 17 pens

Close-up shot of student hand holding pen and writing in notebook, working at home. E-learning

I've always loved stationery. From color-coordinated sticky notes to file desktop storage and folders for every subject, it made sense why back-to-school season was my favorite time of year growing up (and it wasn't because of school). Naturally, it came as no surprise when I started becoming increasingly passionate about pens over the past few years.

It's no secret to me that different pens impact how neat or messy my handwriting is, but while I was able to grin and bear it in the past, I've found that now I can't even do that. I've spent the better part of the past two years buying and trying pens of every tip size, ballpoint and gel style, color and brand. While I've come to a conclusion about which ones have made it into my top three favorites, I'm always on the hunt for a new one (despite the hundreds that are currently in my house...but we don't have to talk about that).

This time, instead of scouring the internet and trying my luck at finding ones with good reviews, I decided to consult the experts: writers, editors and authors! Below, find 16 different pens that are approved by the pros.

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good writing for pen

Sharpie Fine Point Permanent Marker

Fine Point Permanent Marker

Fine Point Permanent Marker

While this isn’t a traditional sort of pen that probably comes to mind, it’s a favorite of author Stephanie Garber. Before her first book was released, the “Caraval” writer was gifted a hot pink Sharpie on her birthday by her sister. She still has the same one and even says it still works.

“It might not seem like a practical pen, but I always like to have a hot pink sharpie nearby because I think it makes anything it touches a little more fun.”

Muji Smooth Gel Ink Knock Type Ballpoint Pen

Smooth Gel Ink Knock Type Ballpoint Pen

Smooth Gel Ink Knock Type Ballpoint Pen

"A good pen often stands between me and my next great idea," says Dhonielle Clayton, bestselling author of "The Marvellers." Clayton is still fond of handwriting the first draft of her novels, so using the right pen is important to her process. She says these pens help her find her creative rhythm.

"I love the thin 0.5 mm ballpoint, allowing for smooth lines, no smudging and no bleeding through the page. The grip is sleek and comfortable for long writing sessions and the color saturation is gorgeous and rich," she raves. "These pens are magic!"

Shop TODAY SEO writer Jannely Espinal is also a fan of these pens. "I love the Muji pen for its smooth touch and ability to ink words with precision," she shares. "As someone who writes cursive, this pen is excellent to craft quick notes on your agenda. It writes elegantly and the fine print won't make your letters look all cluttered."

Marvy Uchida Le Pen

Le Pen

Leigh Bardugo , New York Times-bestselling author of popular book-to-Netflix adapted series “Shadow and Bone,” loves the Le Pen from Marvy Uchida.

“I think I picked up my first Le Pen at Muji during a trip to New York City — and I still have it because they are somehow enchanted to never run out of ink. This is the pen I reach for when I’m taking notes at a meeting or on a call, or when I’m revising a new manuscript and need to map things out away from my keyboard,” she tells us. “It’s compact, writes smoothly and it has never betrayed me by exploding on an airplane.”

PaperMate InkJoy Ballpoint 300RT

InkJoy Ballpoint 300RT (Set of 8)

InkJoy Ballpoint 300RT (Set of 8)

Faridah Àbíké-Íyímídé, New York Times-bestselling author of young adult thriller "Ace of Spades," is another fan of PaperMate pens, but prefers this thicker ballpoint style.

"As a writer with dysgraphia , I struggle a lot with pens that have comfortable grips," she shares. "My favorite pen to use is the PaperMate InkJoy Ballpoint Stylo-Billie [now known as just Ballpoint] because they are bigger than the average pen and are therefore easy to hold/makes writing on paper feel really fluid."

BIC Round Stic Xtra Life Ballpoint Pen

Round Stic Xtra Life Ballpoint Pens (Set of 60)

Round Stic Xtra Life Ballpoint Pens (Set of 60)

These affordable pens ring in at less than $5 for a 60-count, and they’re a favorite of Shop TODAY production associate Jillian Ortiz who says she prefers them over any other pen she’s used before.

“It doesn’t bleed and makes it easy to write clearly and concisely. I hate pens that leak ink and then it smudges all over your hands as you write on the page. They’re so cheap and the best, in my opinion!” she raves.

Sharpie S-Gel Retractable Gel Pens

Sharpie S-Gel 4pk Gel Pens 0.7mm Medium Tip Black

S-Gel Retractable Gel Pens (Set of 4)

A favorite of Shop TODAY editorial director Adrianna Brach, she calls the Sharpie S-Gel with a 0.7mm point her everyday pen. "It glides seamlessly while I am taking tons of notes in meetings and gives off that bold, inky look without the bleeding."

Pilot Dr. Grip Limited Pen

PILOT Dr. Grip Limited Refillable & Retractable Gel Ink Rolling Ball Pen, Fine Point, Metallic Charcoal Gray Barrel, Black Ink, Single Pen (36270)

Dr. Grip Limited Pen

This has been a personal favorite of mine for the past year. It's designed with comfort in mind and was even recognized by the Arthritis Foundation . I've found that I can write with this pen for hours without experiencing any dreaded hand cramping. While it's only available in black ink, it comes in four fun shell colors.

uni-ball Vision Elite Rollerball Pen

Vision Elite Rollerball Pen (Set of 3)

Vision Elite Rollerball Pen (Set of 3)

Shop TODAY senior SEO editor Jess Bender takes after her dad and his affinity for pens. Growing up, she says she only had two types of pens in the house: pens her dad brought home from his office and these specific rollerball pens from uni-ball.

"They glide onto the page so easily, their ink lasts forever and they make my terrible handwriting look slightly more readable," she says. "I just bought a new eight-pack for the office so I can continue my pen snobbery at work!"

Pilot FriXion Clicker Erasable Pens

FriXion Clicker Erasable Pens (Set of 3)

FriXion Clicker Erasable Pens (Set of 3)

Brach isn’t a fan of pencils, so she decided to give this erasable gel pen a try and was pleasantly surprised with the results. “It really impressed me. I love being able to erase ink because I absolutely loathe pencils,” she says.

Sakura Pigma Micron Pen

Sakura Pigma Micron Pens

Pigma Micron Pens (Set of 3)

These Amazon bestselling fine point pens are a favorite of Elena Armas, author of "The Spanish Love Deception." Often used by artists for drawing, they come in several different colors but Armas is partial to the rose hue that matches her book cover.

"They write smoothly, never smudge and feel fancy even when writing a to-do list," she raves.

Pilot Frixion ColorSticks Erasable Gel Ink Pens

Pilot Frixion ColorSticks Erasable Gel Ink Pens, Fine Point (0.7mm), Assorted, 10 Count (32454)

Frixion ColorSticks Erasable Gel Ink Pens (Set of 10)

This colorful bunch is a go-to for former Shop TODAY commerce writer Hannah Baker . Described by the brand as "the first erasable fine point marker pen," with these, you no longer have to worry about carrying around a bottle of correction fluid for your ink errors.

G2 (Set of 12)

G2 (Set of 12)

Shop TODAY production associate Audrey Ekman is a fan of these pens from Pilot. “The classic Pilot G2 wins my proverbial pen bracket every time. I love how lusciously bold, inky and satisfying a G2 is to write with,” she says. “Thinner pens tend to yield illegible chicken scratch from me, but something about the smooth and broad strokes of a G2 actually improves my handwriting... magic!”

Brach is also a fan of the pens, but prefers the fine 0.7mm point over the thicker 1.0mm point.

uni-ball Jetstream RT Ballpoint Pens

Jetstream RT Ballpoint Pens (Set of 3)

Jetstream RT Ballpoint Pens (Set of 3)

Tracy Deonn, author of New York Times bestseller “Legendborn,” is a fan of uni-ball pens but specifically calls out this version. “When I’m crafting new worlds and new stories, I always have a uni-ball Jetstream nearby. I love how smooth it writes and how quickly it dries–when the ideas are coming fast, I don’t have time for smears or splotches!” she says.

PaperMate InkJoy Retractable Gel Pen

InkJoy Retractable Gel Pen (Set of 8)

InkJoy Retractable Gel Pen (Set of 8)

Kai Harris , author of "What the Fireflies Knew," is a fan of these PaperMate medium-point pens. "This has been my go-to pen for years because it's fast-drying and inexpensive (which works well for everyday use), but also writes smoothly with thin, crisp lines that are perfect for professional writing (including signing books)," she adds. "I typically use the black pen, but it's also available in a variety of colors if you want to have fun!"

Pilot Precise V5 Deco Collection Pens

PILOT Precise V5 Stick Deco Collection Liquid Ink Rolling Ball Stick Pens, Extra Fine Point (0.5mm) Assorted Ink Colors, 9-Pack (38811)

Precise V5 Deco Collection Pens (Set of 9)

These pens are a staple for Shop TODAY SEO editorial assistant Sierra Hoeger who says she's bought them every year since her first year of college. "They're simple, no frills, yet come in fun colors that make note taking even more so!"

Swarovski White Crystal Star Light Pen

White Crystal Star Light Pen

White Crystal Star Light Pen

Associate editor Allie Wise is a fan of Swarovski pens. "These Swarovski pens are totally worth the splurge! Not only do they make great gifts, but they write super smooth, and the ink lasts for a long time. Everyone needs a little sparkle in their lives, right?"

Lamy Safari Fountain Pen

Safari Fountain Pen

Safari Fountain Pen

After receiving a bright pink version of this pen as a birthday gift from her dad, Chloe Gong made it her go-to writing utensil when she "wants to feel fancy." The bestselling author of "These Violent Delights" and its sequel "Our Violent Ends" admits that even though typing is easy, "there's something especially satisfying about a smooth ink nib pulling my words out.”

good writing for pen

Kamari Stewart is an Associate SEO Editor for Shop TODAY.

The 17 Best Pens for Writing, According to Pros

These are the tools pro writers swear by.

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I'm far from the only person irrevocably bonded to their favorite pen. Writer Jeanna Kadlec exclusively uses Pilot G2s; Victoria Barrett doesn't need anything fancier than blue PaperMate ballpoints . For writer and longtime journaler Anika Fajardo , the pen is even more important than the notebook (though those are crucial , too). "Pens are the conduit from your thoughts to the page," she tells While PaperMate and Pilot pens count among the most popular brands, some people's favorites are unexpected. Entertainment writer Tamara Fuentes has used the same generic pen for note-taking and writing since finding one in her college's office of Alumni Affairs. Now, she plans to order a box set customized with her name from Pens.Com .

The below pens are some of the best for writing, but they'll also come in handy (literally) for beautifying bullet journals , taking notes in planners fast, manifesting your dreams , or looking like an executive. The vibrant (and comfortable) ones can be used for coloring books and drawing , too. We've also noted which fast-drying pens are particularly good for lefties, and included some luxurious gel picks that glide smoothly.

Pilot PILOT G2 Pens


The Pilot G2 pen has a devoted following–or, as some stationery blogs put it, a "cult" following. Enthusiastic Amazon reviewers back this up: "Why would you write with anything else?" one person wrote. The refillable pens come in Fine, Extra Fine, Bold, or Ultra Fine versions and multiple colors. 

Fisher Space Pen Fisher Space Bullet Pen

Fisher Space Bullet Pen

If you ever get a chance to send a postcard from the Moon, be sure to have the Fisher Space Pen on hand. First used on the  Apollo 7 mission in 1968 , the seemingly simple pen was designed to perform in extreme temperatures, underwater,  and  zero gravity. These qualities also make the Fisher Space Bullet Pen a favorite among left-handed people , who frequently contend with ink smudging. 

Paper Mate Ink Joy Pens

If you're looking for a pen that writes as quickly as your brain works, these colorful, super smooth pens, are for you. 

Stabio Stabilo Point 88 Fineliner Pens

Whether you're taking meticulous notes or writing a fast diary entry, the Stabilo Point 88 Fineliner pens, which are available in 47 colors, are a good bet. They're also great for sketching. According to Amazon reviewers , the pens don't smudge or bleed, and are more affordable than the  Staedler Triplus Fineliner pen  which is popular in the stationery community. 

Staedtler Triplus Fineliner Pens

Wedding planner Jordan Maney swears by the Staedtler Triplus Fineliner Pens—a pricier alternative to the Stabilo pens, with a slightly finer tip—for her goal-setting journal. She pairs the pens with double-sided Zebra Midiliner highlighters . 

Sharpie S-Gel

The Sharpie S-Gel is accompanied by high praise. "I first tried the Sharpie S-gel after hearing that it glides on paper as Kristy Yamaguchi glides on ice," writer Farrah Alexander tells Now, she buys the medium-point, fast-drying pens regularly, praising their reasonable price and comfortable grip. 

MUJI Aluminum Fountain Pen

Muji's sleek aluminum fountain pen comes with one ink cartridge—and a whole lot of style. "I gift them a lot to start friends on their fountain pen addictions," writer Gawain Kripke says. "I love fountain pens because they're old-timey and the ink flows wonderfully."

Lamy Safari Fountain Pen

If you've yet to venture into the world of fountain pens, this is another good entry point. The ink cartridges are sold separately.

Pilot Bottle to Pen Refillable & Retractable Rolling Ball Gel Pen

Writer Angela Lashbrook raves about this sustainably sourced pen, made from recycled bottles. "The ink is super smooth. It lasts a long time and doesn’t dry up easily," she says. 

Parker Jotter Stainless Steel Ballpoint Pen

For a classic option, turn to the Parker Jotter, a pen with over 60 years of history (and all the special editions to prove it) . The Parker Jotter combines the sturdy reliability of a ballpoint pen with a stainless steel get-up. Unsurprisingly, it's  James Bond's pen of choice , too. And since the ink cartridge is refillable, you can use your Parker Jotter for a lifetime—so long as you keep track of it. 

Uni-Ball Deluxe Rollerball Pens

For a flow that  looks  as if it were written with a fountain pen (but  wasn't ), turn to Uni-Ball 's rollerball pens. The substantial line of ink dries quickly—but the pen itself doesn't dry out. Reviewers say you can leave the cap off without fearing the pen will be ruined. 

Uni-Ball Sign Pen MYT7 N Felt-Tip Pen

Imagine a thinner Sharpie marker that doesn't bleed through the page, and you'll arrive at this hidden gem. The felt-tip pen's extra bold line is great for marking the  most important item in your to-do list. To create a set, this model also comes in blue and red. 

Uni-Ball UB-187S Vision Needle Rollerball Pen

This pen makes a strong impression without requiring much pressure—you can practically  see  the ink seeping into the paper. "It allows you to write lightly so you get less 'ghosting' when you bullet journal," writer Dorian Gittleman says, referring to ink imprints that appear on the opposite side of a written page. She also recommends the waterproof pen for people with small handwriting. 

Pilot FriXion Ball 3 Metal Pen

Thanks to this pen, your mistakes are no longer permanent: The Pilot FriXion Pen's gel ink is erasable . This particular model comes with three colors in one pen, allowing you to switch easily. Another plus? "It doesn't sink through the thinner pages on journals like normal gel or rollerball inks," writer Susie Geissler says. 

Pentel EnerGel RTX Retractable Liquid Gel Pen

If your hand often gets tired while writing, consider this liquid gel ink pen. According to Geissler, the comfortable rubberized grip helps with hand fatigue. In addition to the .7 width, it comes in a .5 mm extra fine line for detailed work.

Cross Edge Pen

Geissler calls this a "pen with purpose." The capless rollerball pen is also ideal for on-the-go use, as its spring-loaded, built-in clip makes it easy to attach the pen to a pocket, organizer, or shirt. Or, if you're in search of a gift , the impressive-looking pen would be a great addition to any present. 

Zebra Sarasa Clip 0.5

Zebra Sarasa (in .4mm, not .5) are this author's particular favorite. For a slightly bolder line, the .5 is ideal. The pens are known for their delightfully crisp writing experience. Expect no smudging or bleeding from the ink. The colors are bold, too—even the yellow. With a built-in alligator clip, the pen can be attached to notebooks or that coloring book. For more variety, try a 20-pack.  

Headshot of Elena Nicolaou

Elena Nicolaou is the former culture editor at Oprah Daily. 

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The nine best pens for writing in 2023

  • Martha Alexander

good writing for pen

Scribe, sign and scrawl in style with our pick of the best pens for writing

“You want to be a writer, but you don’t know how or when? Find a quiet place, use a humble pen.” So go the lyrics of Paul Simon’s Hurricane Eye and, despite the fact that we live in an increasingly digital world, his advice still rings true.

Even if you don’t have ambitions to be a writer, a pen is both an everyday essential and an instrument of power. Yes, we all know there’s an “an app for that”. We all have the tools to tap out lengthy emails on our laptops and create endless lists on our smartphones. Electronic communication is lightning fast and undeniably cheap.

But there remains something deeply intuitive and visceral about the physical act of putting pen to paper, whether it be to write an essay, assemble a shopping list or create a memorable two-line postcard. Writing by hand, with a pen that you love using, remains a simple and hugely underrated pleasure.

What qualities make for a great pen, however, depend largely on personal preference. Some of us take pleasure in creating slim, reedy, lines with ballpoints or gel pens. Others like the generous, full flourishes that you can only get from an elegant fountain pen.

While pens certainly can be used for drawing, our focus in this roundup is very much on those designed for writing. We’re looking for models that offer a near complete absence of smudging, as well as inspiringly smooth scribing.

Best pen for writing: At a glance

  • Best overall pen for writing: Pilot Hi-Tecpoint Rollerball Pen
  • Best fountain pen: Lamy Safari Fountain Pen
  • Best-designed pen for writing: Classic Cap Roller Pen Plus

How to choose the best pen for you

What do you want it for.

Is it for letter writing? Note taking? List making? Journalling? A pen for letter writing will need to be comfortable and non-fatiguing to use over a period of time, while a vibrant ink colour or smaller nib size might be a higher priority, especially if note-taking or list creation are your priority.

Does it write smoothly and release ink evenly?

Using a pen that doesn’t appear to want to do your bidding can be a little stressful. You shouldn’t have to push hard on a nib or drag a pen aggressively across the page to get it to write. Ink should be released evenly, without you having to exert undue pressure, and shouldn’t bleed through the paper you use.

READ NEXT:  The best colouring oencils to buy

How does it feel to hold?

Anyone who had to go through the misery of writing essays in the days before laptops became a classroom staple will absolutely testify that some pens feel more comfortable than others. Of course, “feel” is completely subjective, but pens that feature an ergonomic grip or finger pads tend to make writing that little bit easier. That said, some people value the lightness of a slimline pen over all other considerations.

Do you need a disposable, refillable or cartridge-based type?

While there are countless varieties of disposable pens, there really is something special about owning a pen that requires a degree of effort to maintain, even if relatively minor.

What should you spend?

Pens can cost less than a pound or, at the other end of the scale, hundreds, perhaps even thousands of pounds.

How we test writing pens

At Expert Reviews, we know that hands-on testing gives us the best and most complete information about a product. So we personally test all the writing pens we review. In order to standardise the testing, all of the pens are evaluated by the same person, writing on the same type of paper – in this instance we used high quality, 80gsm, lined paper from a Pukka pad.

We write for about a page, paying close attention to the comfort of the grip and the smoothness of the pen nib on paper, with a specific focus on the consistency of the ink flow. We noted drying times for the ink and any inherent smudge risk.

Finally, we considered specific details, such as the nib design and whether the pen requires cartridges, and, if so, what type.

READ NEXT: The best fountain pens to buy

The best writing pens you can buy in 2023

1. pilot hi-tecpoint rollerball pen: best overall pen for writing.

good writing for pen

Available with black, red or blue inks, the Hi-Tecpoint has long been a beloved staple of teachers and students who might need different colours for marking or notation.

But it also boasts endurance: it’s beautifully made – something of a design classic – and offers a consistent ink flow, with no danger of smudging, so is therefore the perfect choice for long handwritten letters or tackling exams.

With a precision-engineered 0.5mm tip, the pen creates notably slim 0.3mm wide lines, which help keep your writing both even and tidy.

The best news of all? It’s incredibly affordable. An out and out classic.

Key features – Nib type: Rollerball fountain; Tip width: 0.5mm Refillable: No

Image of Pilot BX V5 Hi-Tecpoint Rollerball Pen - Extra Fine 0.5mm Tip 0.3mm Line - Blue (Pack of 6)

Pilot BX V5 Hi-Tecpoint Rollerball Pen - Extra Fine 0.5mm Tip 0.3mm Line - Blue (Pack of 6)

2. lamy safari fountain pen: best fountain pen.

good writing for pen

Who said fountain pens had to be expensive? Of course, there are some that require a huge investment, but this beautiful example – with a polished steel nib and vivid red casing – is inexpensive but still boasts the quality you’d expect from one of the names in premium pens.

The ergonomically shaped grip makes this model a pleasure to grasp, even before you’ve put nib to paper. Once you get writing the ink flow proves smoothly and evenly (you’ll need to get cartridge refills), requiring only the gentlest of pressure.

The ink flow is consistent, too. You won’t find it leaving random spots on your paper, and you certainly won’t have ink-stained fingertips when you’ve finished writing. Pleasing touches include a transparent window that signals when your ink is running low, plus the ability to fit an optional adapter that allows you to use bottled ink.

Key features – Nib type: Fountain; Refillable: Yes

Buy now from Ryman

3. Manuscript Handwriting Pen: Best writing pen for grip

good writing for pen

Granted, few people write complete manuscripts with pen and ink any more but if they did, they’d probably use this one. That’s because a triangular-shaped grip above the nib makes holding it supremely comfortable, even over long periods of time.

The 0.5mm tip is fine without being scratchy and the ink distribution is completely uniform: you don’t need to push down hard. The act of writing becomes a physical pleasure with this pen and you can’t help but want to make your sentences a joy to look at, as well as read.

Key features – Nib type: Ballpoint; Refillable: No

Buy now from Hobbycraft

4. Classic Cap Roller Pen Plus: Best-designed pen for writing

good writing for pen

Given Moleskine’s track record in creating beautifully designed notebooks and diaries, it should come as no surprise that it’s nailed it with pens, too. Specifically, this is a gel rollerball with a square profile, matte ABS barrel and an ingenious patented clip, designed to attach the pen onto a notebook and stop it rolling off.

Ergonomically, it feels a bit strange at first to grip a square pen but you get used to it after a few seconds. Once you’ve acclimatised to the pen’s unusual shape, the only thing you’ll notice are the beautifully slim lines you’re creating when you write, as well the rich, matte ink you’re laying down.

Available in black, yellow and red finishes, this unique pen has a retractable 0.5mm roller tip and is refillable.

Key features – Nib type: Ballpoint; Refillable: Yes

Buy now from Moleskine

5. Pilot V-Pen: Best single-use fountain pen

good writing for pen

If you love writing with fountain pens but are the type of person who loses everything sooner or later, or can never remember when you need cartridges, then this affordable single-use fountain pen is the one for you.

The blue ink flows smoothly and, as you might expect, more freely than from a biro or ballpoint. Despite that, thanks to its quick-drying formulation and a nib designed with precision in mind, there’s no evident smudging or bleeding. A great option if you’re particularly prone to misplacing your pens.

Key features – Nib type: Fountain; Refillable: No

Buy now from Paperchase

6. Stabilo point 88 Colorparade 20 Assorted: Best pens for colour choice

good writing for pen

Just the sight of this rainbow-coloured range of pens is enough to lift anyone’s spirits. Even better is the fact that they are a joy to use when you get down to scribbling.

The slim hexagonal barrel affords a good grip while the slim fibre tip lays down a well-defined 0.4mm wide line, perfect for showcasing small, neat handwriting. This is definitely a precision writing instrument, one that’s uncommonly durable, thanks to its metal-encased tip.

That durability is evident in other areas, too. We can confirm, for instance, that the maker’s claim of a long ‘cap-off’ time is true, the pen working faultlessly even after the fibre nib has been exposed to the air for several hours. An ideal choice if precision matters.

Key features – Nib type: Fibre; Refillable: No

Buy now from Stabilo

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9 best pens to write with, from ballpoints to fountain pens

From writing the next bestseller to putting your shopping list together – we’ve got you covered, article bookmarked.

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We’ve asked the big questions – does it write smoothly, gliding across the page and releasing ink evenly? How does it feel to hold?


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There are two types of people in the world – those who think a pen is just a pen and those who know that a pen is an instrument of such power that they are fanatically particular about what they write with. The enjoyment of writing with a pen you find brilliant is one of life’s simple pleasures, particularly in a world dominated by digital life.

There is of course a certain amount of subjectivity when it comes to what makes a great pen – some people love those that create thin lines, others like the impact of a chunky felt tip or the elegance of a fountain pen.

We know that pens can be used for other things besides writing, including illustration , architecture and technical drawing. but here we are focusing on pens for handwriting .

In this round-up we’ve asked the same things of each pen: does it write smoothly, gliding across the page and releasing ink evenly? How does it feel to hold? Does the ink dry quickly? Does it bleed into the other side of the paper? What does it look like? Is it expensive? How long does it last?

How we tested

We used the same paper (85gsm) and wrote up to an A5 sheet’s worth with each pen. This, we felt, gave us ample opportunity to get to grips, literally, with what each pen offered. The tester was right-handed.

Related stories

The best pens for 2023 are:.

  • Best overall pen – Pilot hi-tecpoint: £9.59,
  • Best fountain pen – Lamy safari fountain pen: £23.99,
  • Best value pen – Manuscript handwriting pen: £3.80,
  • Best fountain pen for beginners – Pilot v-pen: £4.75,
  • Best-looking pen – Poketo prism rollerball: £5.00,

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Pilot hi-tecpoint


  • Best : Overall
  • Point type : Extra fine
  • Ink colour : Blue (available in black and red, too)

With the consistent flow of a fountain pen, but the cheapness of a biro – the Hi-Tecpoint is an absolute design classic, allowing users to write evenly and neatly with no smudge to speak of. At 0.5mm the tip results in fine lines, brilliant for small, neat handwriting: ideal for thank you notes or invitations.

Available in a handful of colours including green and red, we found this so easy to write with it became almost meditative – a smooth, relaxing process with beautiful, even results, even for those of us not blessed with a perfect hand.

Lamy safari fountain pen

Lamy Safari Fountain Pen.jpg

  • Best : Fountain pen
  • Point type : Fountain
  • Ink colour : Blue

With a polished steel nib and beautiful red casing, this is a gorgeous fountain pen that won’t break the bank.

Offering a smooth flow of ink (cartridges must be changed) and an ergonomic grip for fingers this is a pleasure to use. You just need the softest of pressure and the nib and ink takes care of themselves – gliding across the page effortlessly.

If looked after carefully, there’s no reason this pen couldn’t last years, making it a sustainable investment piece.

Manuscript handwriting pen

Manuscript Handwriting Pen 3 Pack.jpg

  • Best : Value
  • Point type : Fine
  • Ink colour : Black

With a triangular circumference for your fingers to grip as you write, these pens are really comfortable to hold. There’s also something lovely and tactile about the matt exterior of the pen, too. The 0.5mm tip is fine without being scratchy and the ink distribution is smooth and regular – you don’t need to push down hard. This all contributes to neat writing for any occasion.

Pilot v-pen


  • Best : Fountain pen for beginners

This is a single-use fountain pen – ideal for beginners to get their practice in or people who don’t want to think about cartridges. It’s just so lush to write with. The ink flows so smoothly – and yet takes almost no time to dry, it’s also absorbed easily without a heavy bleed.

Poketo prism rollerball


  • Best : Appearance
  • Ink colour : Metallic colours

Available in five different colours, these pens are so beautiful to look at – they will absolutely be a talking point at meetings and an aesthetic boon for your desk.

We loved how slim and lightweight they felt in our hands – the fine rollerball tip produces really delicate, neat handwriting in a slightly shimmery, chrome finish which will certainly jazz up any journals, letters or cards.

Papermate flair felt tips

Paper Mate Pastel Flair Felt Tip Pens 6 Pack.jpg

  • Best : Felt tip
  • Ink colour : Bright colours

Purists will probably be furious about the inclusion of felt tips in a story focused on handwriting, but there is definitely a case for this type of pen being a joy to write with. Especially these, which have thinner tips than most – these are 0.7mm which create bold but not chunky lines. Best of all, unlike most felt tips, these don’t bleed into the other side of the paper.

We loved the easy flow of these pens – a range of bright colours for those who really like to express themselves – not least because they made a satisfying squeaky sound as we wrote.

Stabilo OHP fineliner

STABILO OHP Pen Fineliner Fine Permanent.jpg

  • Best : Projectors

We didn’t realise that this fineliner is actually designed for use on glass, film and metal to work with projectors, but are happy to report that it works beautifully on paper too. Smooth, even, dense without bleeding either to the other side or outwards onto the page – we wrote neatly and easily with this. And there was no smudging to speak of, either.

Bic 4 colours shine ballpoint pen

BIC 4 Colours Shine Ballpoint Pen.jpg

  • Best : Students
  • Point type : Medium

This pen has been a pen lover’s staple since 1970 – and Bic still find ways of updating it while staying true to the elements that make it a design favourite. This still boasts four colours in one pen, each retractable, but the main body of the pen has a shimmering shiny sheen that rings the changes.

We think this is the perfect pen for note-taking, particularly for students who might need to colour code points or themes. In terms of writing, the nibs are each 1mm and write evenly with no smudging, but they are essentially simply biros so those hunting for the satisfaction of a deliciously smooth flow might be disappointed.

The verdict: Pens

We don’t think you can beat the Pilot hi-tecpoint when it comes to precision, ink flow, price, neatness and just general satisfaction when it comes to both the act of writing and the end result. But we have to say the Poketo prisms are a gorgeous revelation and the Lamy fountain pen is something lovely to keep forever.

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The Best Pens in 2023

Whether it's fountain or felt tip you fancy, here are the best pens money can buy.

some of the best pens

Every item on this page was chosen by a Town & Country editor. We may earn commission on some of the items you choose to buy.

In a digital heavy world, pen and paper have never been more important. Perhaps only a decade ago, writing handwritten notes, be it thank you cards or invitations, was the norm. Now, it's a rarity. If there's one way to make a lasting impression on someone in today's world, it's taking the time to write out your sentiments to the receiver.

But, aside from being polite, being equipped with the best set of stationary, journal, and/or pen is a game changer. Like most things, not all pens are built the same and some pens are more appropriate than others depending what they're being used for. Do you like the sheen of ink? Opt in for a gel pen. Are you someone who prefers that the pen leaves thinner marks? A fountain pen will do (this writer's favorite). Regardless of your style, a sophisticated pen is worth the investment.

And, lest we forget gifting. A beautiful writing utensil hits the trifecta of good gifting: practical, thoughtful, and aesthetically pleasing.

Below, we've rounded up some of the best pens in 2023.

Pineider Arco Fountain Pen Oak Limited Edition

 Arco Fountain Pen Oak Limited Edition

Dating back to 1774, Pineider continues to be a purveyor of fine leather goods, stationary, and pens. This fountain pen is made in resin for a smooth touch, equipped with a quill shaped clips, and finished a 14-k gold nib. Luxury in a writing utensil.

Kaweco AL Sport Anthracite Gel Rollerball

Kaweco AL Sport Anthracite Gel Rollerball

German pen company Kaweco has been making these luxe writing utensils since the 1880s and they've been dubbed the Mercedes-Benz of pens.

Parker 51

This is Queen Elizabeth's pen of choice, need I say more?

Staedtler Pigment Liner 0.5 mm

Pigment Liner 0.5 mm

For crisp lines and a smooth writing experience, look no further than this pen from Staedtler.

Skilcraft Retractable Ball Point Pen, Fine Point

Retractable Ball Point Pen, Fine Point

Skilcraft's pens are known to be reliable and built to last.

Pilot Metropolitan Collection Fountain Pen, Black Barrel, Classic Design, Medium Nib, Black Ink (91107)

Metropolitan Collection Fountain Pen, Black Barrel, Classic Design, Medium Nib, Black Ink (91107)

Fountain pens aren't for everyone, but this one from Pilot could be. It's smooth and the ink dries faster than most fountain pens, with minimal smudging.

Pilot G2 07 Black Fine Retractable Gel Ink Pen Rollerball 0.7mm

G2 07 Black Fine Retractable Gel Ink Pen Rollerball 0.7mm

You're probably familiar with these gel rollerballs, but their ubiquity is indicative of how good they are. Consistent ink flow, next to no smudging, and smooth lines. As a bonus, they're refillable.

Uni-ball Jetstream Retractable Ball Point Pens,0.7mm

Jetstream Retractable Ball Point Pens,0.7mm

The Uni-ball Jetstream has some of the fastest-drying ink on the market.

Uni-ball Signo RT1 Retractable Gel Ink Pen, Micro Point 0.38mm

Signo RT1 Retractable Gel Ink Pen, Micro Point 0.38mm

For those of us who love a good color coordination, an arsenal of colored pens is a necessity. This multi-pack contains a great selection and the pens are high quality. Win-win!

Stabilo Point 88 Fineliner

Point 88 Fineliner

For a super fine point tip—and therefore super crisp lettering—these pens from Stabilo are the way to go.

Santos de Cartier rollerball pen

Santos de Cartier rollerball pen

Plenty of people have a Cartier bracelet, but a Cartier pen? Now that's a rarity.

Muji Gel Ink Ballpoint Pens 0.7mm

Gel Ink Ballpoint Pens 0.7mm

Gel pens can be finicky with unreliable ink flow, but these ballpoints from Muji are very trustworthy and beloved by Amazon reviewers.

Parker Classic Stainless Steel Ballpoint

Classic Stainless Steel Ballpoint

From the same brand as the Queen's favorite pen, this is a more accessible, everyday option.

Paper Mate Flair Felt Tip Pens, Medium Point

Flair Felt Tip Pens, Medium Point

If a felt tip suits your fancy, Paper Mate does this style especially well. Try the colorful selection or stick with a basic blue and black pack.

Fisher Space Space AG7 Original Astronaut Space Pen

Space AG7 Original Astronaut Space Pen

What could be cooler than writing with the same pen as astronauts?

Bic Velocity Bold Retractable Ball Pen, Bold Point (1.6mm)

Velocity Bold Retractable Ball Pen, Bold Point (1.6mm)

Perhaps you don't prefer the thin fineliners. If so, Bic's bold pens are a great option.

Cross Edge Pen, 0.7 mm

Edge Pen, 0.7 mm

This option from Cross is an all-around solid pen and has a sturdy feel in hand.

Viceroy Grand Rollerball Pen

Viceroy Grand Rollerball Pen

For a touch of elegance that is no less functional, Smythson's luxurious solid silver Viceroy pen is one that you will wield proudly.

John F. Kennedy Special Edition Rollerball

John F. Kennedy Special Edition Rollerball

Channel our 35th president with a dark blue resin pen with a platinum clip. It's so stunning, you'll be sure to sign everything with it—not jut official and privileged documents.

Headshot of Meg Donohue

Meg is the Associate Fashion Commerce Editor at where she researches trends, tests products, and looks for answers to all your burning questions. She also co-writes a monthly column, Same Same But Different . Meg has previously written for Cosmopolitan and Town & Country . Her passions include travel, buffalo sauce, and sustainability. She will never stop hoping for a One Direction reunion tour.

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What Are Good Pens for Writing in 2024?

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I still write quite a bit by hand. In fact, I wrote 2 novel drafts by hand. That’s why I want a good ink pen that can withstand my tortured prose (lol). Below are good pens for writing in a variety of categories.

The magic of pens isn’t necessarily what they do—they do one thing, they write. Rather, it’s how they do it. There are hundreds of different types of pens and for good reason–writers have a variety of preferences that factor into the decision of picking a great pen. When picking the best pen, the most important thing to acknowledge is that these choices are highly personal.

Often, finding good pens for writing comes down to the answers to a few questions:

Do you prefer something smooth?

Do you like a thin line, or something with a bit more bulk to it? What thickness of paper do you prefer?

How long do you typically write for? Do you know if you’re a ballpoint vs felt-tip person? (Or, are you both? Neither?)

Through answering questions like these (and more), you can start to evaluate what type of pens will best suit your needs. Many writers find they have different pens for different purposes: they write long form with one type of pen, outline with another, journal with a third, and keep a fourth in their bag ‘just in case’. Some writers value quality and aesthetics, while others weigh affordability and practicality more heavily. 

Here are some criteria that many writers use when finding their perfect writing tool to help with your search. 

Note: Affiliate links are included in a few of the products below .

What is the smoothest pen for writing?

The Pilot Razor Point II is a felt-tip pen rated highly in its smoothness. This super fine line tip doesn’t catch and is a perfect pen for easy, everyday writing. It also dries quickly and is great for anyone worried about smudging. This smooth felt-tip is ideal for thicker paper, as some reviewers have noted it has a tendency to bleed. It is also noted to have a comfortable grip, so the Pilot Razor Point II is an ideal pen for longer writing sessions. The thin, consistent, and clean lines this pen brings make it an ideal smooth pen for writing. 

What pens do professional writers use?

Professional writers all have their own preferences when it comes to pens, with various writers preferring different types. Some love the timelessness of a fountain pen, while others gravitate towards an unfussy ballpoint or classic gel. Three favorite pens that professional writers have recommended are the Paper Mate Flair , the Sharpie Fine Point Pen , and even the simple but classic BIC Round Stic Xtra Precision .

Which cheap pen is best for writing?

A pen does not have to cost a lot in order to provide a smooth and comfortable writing experience! While it can be easy to pay a premium for a pen, there are some great affordable options. There’s a reason the BIC Clic is one of the most recognizable pens out there–besides being a classic retractable ballpoint pen it’s also incredibly affordable. If you prefer the way a gel pen writes, the Muji Gel-Ink Ball Point 0.5 mm is a great budget option. 

Is rollerball or ballpoint better?

Whether a writer enjoys a rollerball or ballpoint pen more is usually a very individual and personal decision. That being said, there are some fundamental differences between the two that can help a writer figure out their preferences. Ballpoint pens are oil-based and are known for being quick-drying and less expensive. These pens don’t smudge or bleed easily, and the ink tends to last longer. A rollerball pen is water soluble and tends to write more smoothly and doesn’t require a lot of pressure, meaning it can be more comfortable for longer periods of writing. 

What pen writes like a pencil?

There are plenty of writers who prefer the look and feel of pencil and those people also know that there are times when ink really is the best option.  The Fisher Space Pen Cap-O-Matic is a smooth pen that writes with a relatively fine line. Constructed from brass and steel, the pen has a nice weight to it while still being compact enough to carry around. Reviewers have compared the Cap-o-Matic to writing similar to writing with lead, and some went as far as to say it’s the perfect pen for those who usually prefer to write with pencil.

What is the best rollerball pen?

The Baron Fig Squire is continuously touted as the best rollerball pen for writing–and some even say it’s the best pen overall. At $59, this is definitely one of the more expensive pens on this list, but it continuously lives up to the hype and price tag. It is known to be incredibly smooth, doesn’t bleed or smudge, writes comfortably and feels great in hand. It looks stunning, is a fantastic tool for writing, and makes for a great gift. 

What are the best gel pens?

The Papermate Inkjoy is a smooth gel pen for serious writers. It’s smooth, doesn’t smudge or bleed, and produces lines that are almost objectively perfect in thickness. It also brings a bit of nostalgia to the table for those who spent the 90s writing with pastel-colored Gelly Pens (but in a practical form). Another great option is the Pilot G2 Retractable, another smooth pen that produces consistent, albeit thick, lines. 

What is the best ballpoint pen?

The OHTO Horizon Needle Point Knock is a beautiful ballpoint pen that writes smoothly and evenly, and is often referred to as the best ballpoint pen out there. It takes the familiar form factor and elevates it slightly. The OHTO writes similarly to other high-rated ballpoint pens, but absolutely knocks it out of the park when it comes to the feel. The lines are smooth and perfectly thin and consistent, and the pen itself is sturdy but still maintains a lightness. This pen is the perfect pick for the ballpoint lover who might be writing for hours on end that needs something that just feels great.  

What is the best, most expensive pen?

Pens can get expensive quickly. While there are pens that can retail for anywhere between $1,000-$50,000, most of that cost is going to brand, materials, manufacturing process, or a mix of the three. It’s hard to draw the line as to when incurring an additional cost is actually worth it, and when it’s a name or material you’re paying for.

Montblanc has been in the luxury pen business for over a century, and has become known for producing high-quality pens that are a pleasure to write with (and equally a pleasure to look at). With a selection of ballpoint, fountain, rollerball, and fineliner pens, there’s something for almost every writer at the luxury level. Overall, the Meisterstück Ballpoint Pen (available in various premium finishes, including platinum and gold), tends to be the favorite from this brand. Montblanc makes for a great gift, or a wonderful reward to yourself for hitting a writing goal. 

What is the best pen for lefties?

The Uni-ball Jetstream is consistently acknowledged as the best ballpoint pen for lefties. It’s no nonsense and no frills, and what it may lack in looks it makes up for in comfort, smoothness, and quick drying. A step above ballpoint pens you’ll find in hotel rooms and doctor’s offices, the Jetstream is so great because it takes the familiar format and elevates it just enough to be an improvement. It’s solid, unassuming, and with its soft rubber grip, is comfortable for hours of writing. 

What is the best disposable fountain pen?

The Pilot V arsity gives you the sophistication and feel of a fountain pen with the cost-effectiveness of a disposable pen. This is a great pen for someone wanting to break into the world of fountain pens without the upfront investment of dealing with having to replace the ink, and many users of the Pilot Varsity find themselves upgrading to something more permanent after they find how enjoyable and luxurious writing with a fountain pen can be. 

What is the best pen set for bullet journaling?

For bullet journaling, the best pen is one that doesn’t bleed through the pages, doesn’t smudge, and allows for a balance of creativity and agility while writing. The Sakura Pigma Micron pen is a felt tip pen that perfectly fits these parameters. These pens give off precise points and lines, and come in a wide variety of thicknesses which can really come in handy when designing various bullet journal layouts. There is no smudging or bleedthrough on these pens, ideal for writing on back-to-back pages. If you fall in love with these and want to take your bullet journaling further, the Sakura Pigma Micron comes in a 73-pen pack , featuring tons of color and pen tip options (though it will cost you quite a bit). 

For those just getting into bullet journaling, or who want to spend a lot less while still getting a high quality (and very colorful) pen set, the STABILO Point Fineliner 30-pen set comes highly recommended by bullet journalists, artists, and writers alike. 

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The 7 Best Ballpoint Pens

Write in style

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Among the different types of pens available, from fountain ink pens to gel pens, ballpoint pens continue to be one of the most popular options on the market. These oil-based ink pens work on almost every kind of paper and are fairly viscous, meaning they tend to last longer. Whether you prefer the convenience of disposable pens or investing in a quality writing instrument you can refill, we researched the top picks.

Here are the best ballpoint pens for your needs.

Best Overall: Uni-Ball Jetstream

With so many office supplies designed for right-handed people, the Uni-Ball Jetstream is a perfect alternative for lefties, though righties will find it equally comfortable to write with.

Left-handed people tend to smear ink on the page, so they need to be incredibly vigilant when taking notes or writing a check—otherwise, the page starts to look messy. But the brand's high-quality Super Ink dries quickly, allowing for smudge-free writing. Even more, the ink is water-, fraud-, and fade-resistant, which is essential for documents or paperwork. Available in black, blue, or red ink, the ballpoint pen's fine 0.7-millimeter tip also makes it a great, everyday pen.

Nib size: 0.7 millimeters | Quantity: Pack of three

Best Refillable: Pilot The Better Retractable

For those with an eco-friendly mindset , refillable pens are ideal as they’re less wasteful than disposable ones. In addition to being refillable, Pilot's The Better Ballpoint Pen is also retractable. There’s no cap and, as such, less plastic is used in the manufacturing process.

These well-priced, fine-point pens are sold as a single pack, a box of two, or in quantities of a dozen. Choose from blue, black, or red ink. The non-slip, ribbed finger grip also helps you hold the pen steady in your hand for effortless writing. And while it's hard to keep track of ink levels with refillable pens, the barrel of the Pilot ballpoint pen is clear, so it’s easy to monitor the ink supply.

Nib size: 0.7 or 1 millimeters | Quantity: Sold individually or in packs of two or 12

Best Value: Bic Cristal Xtra Bold

You can’t go wrong with the classic, Bic Cristal Ballpoint Stick Pens—the extra-bold 1.6-millimeter point is one of the largest available. It’s also disposable, inexpensive, and easy enough for most people to write with. These ballpoint pens are sold as packs of 12 or 24 pens in blue and black ink. The transparent, hexagonal barrel makes it easy to see the reservoir and keep track of ink levels, while Bic's EasyGlide ink technology offers smooth writing.

Keep in mind that while the cap of the pen has a clip, it isn’t ideal for attaching to a notebook. Still, the pens are slim enough for storing a handful in your workbag or pencil case.

Nib size: 1.6 millimeters | Quantity: Packs of 12 or 14

Related: The Best Pens for Lefties

Best Retractable: Schneider Pulse Pro

Bowdoin Store

If you tend to lose pen caps or worry about the cap falling off and the ink ruining your bag, opt for a retractable pen like the Schneider Pulse Pro Ballpoint Pen. Highly lauded by pen aficionados, these pens are easy to write with, thanks to a stainless steel, medium point tip. Better yet, the rubberized surface of the barrel feels nice on your hands, making long note-writing sessions strain-free. 

Available with black ink only, these ballpoint pens are sold individually. They're formulated using the brand’s Viscoglide technology for a smooth, high-quality writing experience. Plus, this ink is waterproof.

Nib size: Not listed | Quantity: Sold individually

Best for Drawing: Muji Gel-Ink

Known for making quality products at a reasonable price, Muji's Gel-Ink Ballpoint Pen is perfect for doodling or drawing. A great value, they're sold in a pack of 10.

Whether you're an artist by profession or just doodle as a hobby, gel pens are ideal for sketching and drawing because the ink flows easily. Gel inks also tend to be fade-proof and smudge far less often than regular ink. While the 0.38-millimeter tip is fine, it’s still sizable enough to make bold lines and shade them in, no matter what you're drawing.

Nib size: 0.38 millimeters | Quantity: Packs of 10

Related: The Best Drawing Pens

Best Mini: Paper Mate InkJoy Mini Retractable

If you’re looking for a more travel-friendly option, consider Paper Mate’s InkJoy Mini Retractable Ballpoint Pens. They’re slightly smaller than the standard ballpoint pen, which makes them convenient for carrying around in a briefcase, backpack, or even your pocket.  

The pens also come with a metal clip-on cap so you can easily fasten them to a notebook, binder, or pocket. In case you're concerned about ink getting on your stuff, the pens come in a resealable pouch. Each pack has 10 different ink colors including magenta, orange, lime, and turquoise. With a slim build, the pens feature a 1-millimeter medium ballpoint tip that'll easily fit into your palm, so there’s no catch or drag while you’re writing.

Nib size: 1 millimeter | Quantity: Packs of three, four, 10, or 16

Best Large: Kaweco Classic Sport

Although it’s on the shorter end at 4.1 inches long, this Kaweco ballpoint pen is an excellent large alternative with a chunky build. The body of the pen comes in several different colors, including this classic black option.

Despite its size, it’s light and the ballpoint tip ends in a heart-shaped curve. With a 1-millimeter point, this retractable pen is perfect for everyday writing tasks. The oil-based ink won’t disappoint, either—it has a low viscosity for smooth lines and an even flow.

Nib size: 1 millimeter | Quantity: Sold individually

Final Verdict 

As the best ballpoint pen, the Uni-Ball Jetstream Pen ( view at Amazon ) is a great, smooth-writing option that won't leave any stray streaks or smudges. The Bic Cristal Ballpoint Pens ( view at Amazon ) are also a classic pick; though simple in design, they're a lightweight writing instrument to keep handy for everyday use. Either way, both pens are reliable and affordable options.

What to Look for When Buying Ballpoint Pens 

Body design.

With a variety of sizes and shapes to choose from, it’s important to find a pen that comfortably fits your hand. A pen that is too small or too large can throw your grip off and make it uncomfortable to write for long periods of time. The same goes for lefties: the right pen should fit in the palm of your hand.

The tip of a pen determines the viscosity of the ink on paper. Smaller pen tips, or fine tips, are used for more detailed, intricate writing while medium-sized pens are better for everyday use. A good size for a ballpoint pen is between 0.7 millimeters (fine) and 1 millimeter (medium).

What type of ink can be used with ballpoint pens?

Most ballpoint pens use oil-based inks, although there are other types of ink such as gel-based ones. Though they don't come in as many colors, oil-based pens dry faster than other inks—ideal if you’re constantly using a pen. Oil-based pens also generally have a thicker consistency and lower viscosity than other inks, which means less ink is used and the pen lasts longer. 

How do I know which style of pen is best for me?

A good rule of thumb is to think about what you’ll be using it for: for college students or office workers, go for a durable pen that is good for everyday use and lengthy writing. If the bulk of your writing consists of signing documents, then you should splurge on a luxury pen that'll last for years. For artists, consider fine-tip pens.

Meet the Expert

This roundup was written by  Amanda Lauren , a lifestyle writer who covers fashion and office accessories for The Balance and The Balance Small Business. Her work has also been published in Forbes, Real Simple, Reader’s Digest, and more.

Uniball. " Jetstream RT. "

Pilot. " Better Retractable Ball Point Pen ."

Amazon. " BIC Cristal Xtra Bold Ballpoint Pen, Bold Point (1.6mm) For Vivid And Dramatic Lines ."

Amazon. " Schneider Pulse Pro Retractable Ballpoint Pens ."

Muji. " Gel Ink Cap Type Ballpoint Pen 0.38mm 10 Pieces Set ."

Paper Mate. " Paper Mate InkJoy Mini Ballpoint Pens, Medium Point ."

Amazon. " Caveco CSBP-BK Ballpoint Pen ."

Kaweco. " Kaweco Classic Sport Ballpen Black ."

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Best Pens for Writing: 14 Options to Choose From

POSTED ON Sep 20, 2022

Jackie Pearce

Written by Jackie Pearce

best pens for writing

If you’re a fellow stationary nerd, you might be wondering what the best pens for writing are on the market.

With so many to choose from, it can be hard to figure out what’s a good fit for your projects.

After all, as writers, don’t we all dream of running away to the woods with a pen and paper to write the next great book ?

Just me? Maybe. Either way, you’re probably also a pen fan like I am.

It’s never a good time when you’re trying to write something important and your pen keeps failing you.

With all of that in mind, we’re going to deep dive some of the best pens out there for what kind of writing you like to do and materials you prefer to write on.

It won’t cover every single option out there, but it will at least get you started in the right direction.

Here’s our round up of 14 of the best pens for writing available now:

Pens based on what you write on.

One of the top things you need to keep in mind about selecting a pen, is that you’re going to have to figure out what you need based on what kind of materials you write on.

The pens you’re going to pick for a basic bullet journal are different from the ones you’re going to pick for a leather-bound journal with rougher paper.

There are so many different pens from fountain pens to ballpoint pens, and each one will write on your paper differently.

Some will smudge while others might bleed through, so you’ll need to keep in mind your favorite kind of paper to write on. Is it a journal with thick pages, a legal pad, or a standard composition book?

You might also have a personal preference for what kind of pen you use. Personally, I love ballpoint pens on any kind of paper for fast notes, but I love gel pens for my bullet journal. I’ll use a fountain pen for journaling every once in awhile because it simply feels old-school.

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Factors to consider

Before you pick out a pen, you’re going to need to list out a few things.

First, what notebooks do you want to write in most?

If you already know the types of notebooks you write in on a regular basis, you can take a look at their paper thickness and quality to get an idea of what kind of pens will work. For example, you might have a Leuchtturm1917 with 120gsm paper. That kind of paper can hold up to most pens.

On the flip side, if you use a Hobonichi Techo that uses 8mm thickness for its paper, you’re not going to want a pen that bleeds a lot.

You’ll also need to consider if you need any hand or grip support in a pen. Some people need the extra support or have arthritis. There are pens designed with extra support in mind.

One last factor you’ll want to consider is portability. If you have a pen with a pen loop, you’ll want to pick one that is a size that can fit in there. Some pens are heavier than others and not always easy to carry around all the time.

Some of the above factors may matter more than others, so you’ll just need to know what you care most about.

There are a wide variety of pen types, but there a few basic types you should know.

  • Ballpoint pens – Most common type of pen out there. The ink is built to dry quick
  • Rollerball pens – The ink doesn’t dry as fast but it’s water-based ink
  • Gel pens – These contain water-based ink, which can make it thicker than other types of ink
  • Fountain pens – These are the old-school pens you most likely know as a writer. You’ll want to pair these strictly with thicker paper
  • Felt-tip pens – Have a felt tip that give a different writing style and experience

Multi-Purpose Pens

If you simply want a solid pen that can work on almost any surface, this is the list you want.

The Uni-ball Jetstream RT

This Uni-ball pen has the best of both worlds: the ability to write quick, like gel pens do, but without the smudges.

Fisher Space Pen

The Fisher Space pen not only has quality writing ability, but it also has a cool look to it. It’s a perfect pen to carry on the go, so if you were looking for a smaller pen.

It’s known for being able to write anywhere, even in zero gravity.

Uni-ball Vision Elite Rollerball Pens

The Uni-ball vision elite pens are great for quick writing on the go. With the 0.8mm tip, you’re going to get thicker writing than in some other pens, but that’s perfect if that’s what you need in a pen.

Sakura Pigma 30068 Micron Pen

Micron pens are known for their quality, especially when it comes to creating specific, tiny designs. While they’re commonly used for art, they’re a great choice for writers as well, or anyone who needs to draw in their journals as they write.

They come in a wide variety of colors and tip sizes, so you can use them for designs and added colors.

Parker Jotter Ballpoint Pen

Parker is one of the more well-known pen brands. They have a sleek style and are often built to hold up over years of writing.

Pentel Gel Ink Pen

The Pentel gel ink pen is one of the best gel ink pens on the market. Gel pens are known for smudging, but these are built to dry fast.

PILOT G2 Gel Pens

The Pilot G2 pens have been a staple for writers for a long time. They come in a ton of colors and can be found at most major stores. People who bullet journal or use those types of journals mention this as a popular choice.

MUJI Gel Pens

MUJI pens aren’t for everyone, but they’re a great choice if you need a solid pen that won’t break the bank.

Paper Mate Gel Pens

While the Paper Mate gel pens aren’t the fanciest pens on the market, there’s something to be said for a cheap pen that holds up over time. These also can be found at most major stores.

Best Pens for People That Need Hand Support

Another factor to consider when choosing a pen is if you need grip support with your writing. Here are some of the best if you do.

PILOT Dr. Grip Center of Gravity Ballpoint Pen

This PILOT ballpoint pen is designed to keep your hand supported while you write.

This pen is also recommended by the Arthritis Foundation and as an added bonus is refillable so you can keep using it over time.

The Best Pens for Writing: High-End Options

If you are looking for a great gift option or are willing to spend more than usual on a pen, we have some of the best options.

Scriveiner Black Lacquer Rollerball Pen

This Scriveiner pen makes a beautiful gift along with being a great writing tool. It has a jet-black finish with 24 karat gold and comes in a beautiful box, which makes it a perfect desk accessory.

Montblanc Meisterstuck Black Pen

Montblanc is one of the most well-known pen companies out there, and their prices reflect it. This Montblanc pen is stunning and writes like a dream.

As a company, they have a ton of options to choose from so you can find the perfect fit for you.

Caran D’Ache Retro Fountain Pen

For those who prefer fountain pens, you can’t go wrong with the Caran d’Ache fountain pen . It has a stylish look and smooth writing.

PILOT Namiki Vanishing Point Collection Refillable & Retractable Fountain Pen

The PILOT Namiki pen includes an elegant gift box. They have been making pens for over 100 years so these are not pens that are going to let you down.

Hopefully, you have a better idea of the best pens on the market to help you in your writing. Picking the right pen won’t make or break your writing, but it sure can help the words flow when you know you’ve found “the one.”

Jackie Pearce

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18 Best Writing Pens: A Buyer’s Guide (2024)

Are you looking to buy the best writing pens ? Whether you love fountain pens or ballpoint pens, we’ve compiled a list of the best of each to help you decide.

If you’re the kind of person who prefers to jot your thoughts down in a notebook, you know finding the best writing pens is what makes the writing experience so satisfying. Even in this age of tablets and phones, pens are irreplaceable.

There is something more organic about writing things down by hand. It sets a relaxed pace, giving you time to consider your thoughts and ideas, and for me is a reminder of the power of the written word.

Research presented by Daniel Oppenheimer from the University of California in 2013 revealed that handwritten notes aid memory and information recall , improving the learning process. It is also a form of art and becomes an aspect of your creative output.

“ Calligraphy — the dance, on a tiny stage, of the living, speaking hand. ” Robert Bringhurst

With thousands of pens to choose from, most writers lack the time or budget to try them all. Generally, people prefer to buy cheaper pens in bulk, whereas the best pens for writing can cost hundreds, even thousands of dollars.

For this guide, I’ve selected some affordable and more expensive options based on the different types of pens on sale today. If the pen is mightier than the keyboard for you, check out our list below, and you may also enjoy our roundup of the smoothest pens to write with .

This post contains affiliate links, meaning I earn a small commission if you use one.

Uni-ball Signo DX UM-151 Gel Ink Pen – 0.38 mm – Black (Set of 2)

Factors To Consider When Choosing A Pen

How do you hold your pen, 1. notebook paper, 2. legal pad, 3. printer paper, 4. stationery or index cards, maintenance, 1. wordsworth & black fountain pen, 2. pilot metropolitan fountain pen, 3. twsbi eco fountain pen, 4. parker vector fountain pen, 5. lamy safari fountain pen, 6. uni-ball signo gel pen, 7. uni-ball vision elite rollerball pen, 8. uni-ball jetstream ballpoint pen, 9. parker jotter ballpoint pen, 10. bastion ballpoint pen, 11. zebra sarasa dry gel pen, 12. uni-ball signo premier gel pen, 13. pilot frixon gel pen, 14. sakura pigma micron pen, 15. zebra sarasa mark on gel pen, 16. papermate inkjoy, 17. pentel energel xm bl77, 18. pilot g2 premium refillable & retractable rolling ball gel pens, what pens are best for lefties, selection criteria, why you can trust me, what is the best pen for exams, what are the best pens for note-taking, pen buyer’s guide resources.

For the average person, there isn’t much to consider when you buy a pen; you just need something that works well enough for you to jot down a note here and there. For professional writers or students looking for school supplies, choosing a writing instrument is a bigger deal and requires some thought.

How you hold your pen matters quite a lot when choosing a pen. For example, if you’re heavy-handed, holding the pen perpendicular to the paper results in a dragged and scratchy experience, and the tip of the pen expires faster.

People who hold their pens delicately might prefer ballpoints because all they need is gentle pressure to write. 

Left-handed writers and those who hold their pens between their pointer and middle fingers should avoid a rollerball pen, as their writing hand can become messy from the ink. 

(An aside for writers on a budget: if you want to save money on writing apps and tools, check out my Grammarly coupon )

Consider The Paper

When searching for the right pen, you also need to know the kind of paper you will be writing on. Take your journal or notebook with you if you’re buying a pen from a shop so you can test the performance and flow of the pen. 

The paper’s thickness, texture, color, and what is under the paper will affect your pen’s performance. Here is a list of the most common paper media and the best pens for them:

This thin paper has a matte surface. A ballpoint or gel pen is perfect for this type of paper. You can also use a felt tip pen if you write with a light hand.

This padded paper is thin, but not as thin as notebook paper, with a sheen on the surface. It is usually yellow but is available in other colors.

The cardboard backing can range from flexible to rigid. The best pen to use on this paper is a rollerball or ballpoint pen. Heavier ink and fountain pens tend to bleed through paper on a legal pad.

This paper is much thicker than the first two and has a sheen like the legal pad. The best pen to write on this paper is a felt-tip or ballpoint pen. Fountain pens smudge easily on this paper.

Stationery cards, or note cards, are thick and absorb ink really well. The best pens for stationery cards are felt tips, fountain pens, and markers.

Some pens require care.

Fountain pens are pleasing to use, but you will have to refill them regularly or purchase replacement ink cartridges.

Also, consider how your pen will age. If you get scented gel pens, they might smell great when you first open them, but this quickly fades, especially if you don’t close the cap after use.

Best Writing Pens

Wordsworth & Black is one of the more expensive luxury pen brands in this guide and comes in a faux leather box. Billed as an executive pen, it’s heavier than other fountain pens. It feels solid, looks expensive, and writes smoothly. 

The pen comes with six free ink cartridges and a lifetime warranty. Writers can use it with a converter, which allows any bottled fountain pen ink for fountain pens.

  • Feels natural when writing
  • Wide range of colors & nib sizes
  • Aesthetically pleasing
  • Comes with ink cartridges

Wordsworth & Black Fountain Pen Set

Check out our guide on fancy pens you’ll love writing with. You might also be wondering why is the Montblanc ballpoint pen expensive .

The Pilot Metropolitan pen is a good fountain pen for beginners. It has a superior metal build for a comfortable grip. It also has an exceptionally smooth nib, which is perfect for novices.

This pen is available in a variety of color options. It has three nib sizes—fine, medium, and medium italic—and can be easily filled with ink using cartridges.

Most people prefer the medium nib version. It glides smoothly when writing and doesn’t make a mess on the paper or your hand. You can easily draw a fine line with it.

If you’ve wondered how to use a fountain pen, start with this model, as it’s affordable and comes with a travel case.

  • Ideal for beginners
  • The cap tends to fall off the barrel
  • Black Barrel
  • Classic Design

The TWSBI ECO is a cool pen that looks futuristic and comes in a clear plastic case.

Besides a high- quality piston filler, this fountain pen has a sleek, clear body that reveals how much ink remains in the pen. It writes exceptionally well and comes in different nib sizes ranging from extra fine to 1.1mm italic. 

The TWSBI ECO fountain pen requires more time to master than other pens. I had to watch a 10-minute YouTube video to figure out how to fill and clean it. Refills require an ink bottle, so the pen is more suited for home use than on the go.

This luxury pen would make a nice present for a writer.

  • Fine tip pen
  • Easy to use
  • Unique design
  • Some customers noted ink fluidity issues
  • Learning curve for maintenance

TWSBI ECO Fountain Pen Black F Nib

Parker makes nice, elegant pens that most people can afford. This no-nonsense fountain pen is suitable for an office and is refillable. 

It’s not quite as pleasing to write with as the other fountain pens mentioned above, and the plastic barrel doesn’t feel as satisfying. Still, the “quick ink technology” produces a pleasant effect on the page.

  • Good ink flow
  • Some components are plastic
  • Less enjoyable to write with

Given that the Lamy Safari fountain pen was recommended by acclaimed authors such as Neil Gaiman, you would be right in assuming it’s a quality writing instrument. It’s comparable to the Wordsworth & Black luxury pen, although it’s lighter and has a matte rather than a glossy coating.

It’s light and durable but by no means flimsy. The ink cartridges last a long time and don’t dry out. Since there’s a window on the pen that allows you to see it, you can order a new cartridge before the ink runs out.

  • Easy to hold
  • Doesn’t smudge
  • Doesn’t come with extras
  • 5 Black Ink Cartridges
  • Z28 Converter and Wipe

Lamy Safari Fountain Pen

There are lots of affordable gel pens to choose from, but the Uni-ball Signo gel pen is a good choice. 

It glides on all types of paper, has a large 0.7mm nib size, and offers a variety of color options, including metallic, sparkling, and pastel. Nib sizes vary from 0.7mm to 0.28mm.

If you prefer bold colors, go for the metallic option, but if you want something light, try pastel colors. Both ink types are vibrant. Its pigment-based formula is waterproof and unaffected by too much exposure to light.

  • Easy to write with
  • Has a finger grip
  • Ink smudges
  • Can be scratchy
  • 0.38 mm tip

Uni-ball Signo Um-151 Gel Ink Pen

You might also be interested in our guide on how to GTD a Moleskine notebook .

The Uni-ball Vision Elite is a best-selling rollerball pen. It glides smoothly on the paper and feels sturdy. Unlike fountain pens, you don’t need to worry about an inconsistent ink flow.

This retractable pen comes with two tip options, 0.8mm and 0.5mm. The 0.8mm tip is silky smooth, and the 0.5mm option makes sure your pen never scratches the paper. 

The Uni-ball Vision Elite’s pen’s Super Ink is resistant to fading and water. Since this can prevent fraud, it’s often used to write checks and sign legal documents. 

It comes in different color variations such as blue, black, brown-black, and purple-black.

This pen doesn’t include a finger grip and is heavier than other Uni-ball pens in this guide.

  • Smooth ink flow
  • No finger grip
  • 0.5mm Fine Point Micro Tip

Uni-ball Vision Elite Rollerball Pens

With the Uni-ball Jetstream ballpoint pen, you side-step the rollerball vs. ballpoint debate because of Uni’s proprietary ink. It uses Uni-ball’s famous Super Ink, which is resistant to fading due to exposure to light or water. 

This pen provides all the benefits of writing with a ballpoint pen. Besides giving the user a smooth glide on all kinds of paper—whether a legal pad or stationery cards—the Uni-ball Jetstream ballpoint pen is available in several colors and tip sizes, so you can easily choose your favorite pen.  

It also has a fine point at just 0.38mm.

This is a good, lightweight pen to keep in your bag or use on the go. It’s also not so expensive that losing it will annoy you.

  • Ink doesn’t drip
  • Ink may run out quicker than expected
  • 1.0mm bold point
  • Medium Black Pens
  • Quick drying Super Ink

Uni-ball Jetstream Stick Pen

Parker is known for making luxury pens. The Jotter ballpoint balances appearance with affordability. It looks smart and isn’t too big or heavy. You can insert your ink cartridge of choice into the pen.

This clickable stainless steel pen allows you to write fast and easily. It doesn’t come with a cap, which some writers prefer. Pressing the thrust device on the top before you start writing is satisfying. 

  • Sleek design
  • Lightweight
  • Stainless Steel with Chrome Trim
  • Medium Point Blue Ink
  •  Made of 77% recycled materials (excluding refill)
  • Signature Retractable Design
  • Fitted with Quinkflow Ballpoint Refill

Bastion sells a collection of ballpoint and fountain pens. The ballpoint pens are particularly impressive. They come in a range of colors with a keep-safe box. Some even have a rough grip along the body if you need the support.

These pens are pleasing to write with. Since it’s a premium pen, it is a little heavy but not to the extent of being difficult to write with. 

Given the high price point, you’ll be pleased to know that they’re durable enough to last a long time as they’re made from titanium.

  • Comes in a range of ink colors
  • Retractable

BASTION Grey Titanium Bolt Action Pen

The Zebra Sarasa dry gel pen dries pretty quickly as compared to other gel pens. It has a large tip and is great for thick papers like stationery cards. The ink has a consistency similar to gel, which is why writes smoothly. It comes in 0.4mm, 0.5mm, and 0.7mm tip sizes. 

The Zebra Sarasa also comes with a clip that lets you easily attach it to your notebooks or even your pocket, so it’s a great pen for students and writers on the go. It’s a cheap, cheerful, and affordable writing pen.

  • Fast-drying ink
  • Smooth-writing experience
  • Not durable
  • Low viscosity gel-like ink

Zebra Sarasa Dry Gel Ink Pen

The Uni-ball Signo 207 Premier gel pen bills itself as the best ergonomic pen on the market. It has free-flowing ink, meaning you can hold the pen lightly or heavily, and it will still glide over your paper. Even if you have a light hand, you’re writing will be bold and legible.

This pen is heavier than other models in this guide, but the large gel strip on the side means you won’t hurt your fingers. It’s ideal for writers who take notes in class or write a lot on paper in the office.

Like other Uni models, it also uses the brand’s reliable Super Ink.

  • Finger grip can be sticky
  • 0.5mm Micro Point
  • Textured Grip
  • Uni Super ink

Uni-Ball Signo 207 Retractable Gel Pen

The Pilot FriXion gel pen is a fun erasable pen. It has a special thermo-sensitive ink, which disappears easily when you rub it with the eraser on top of the pen. 

Don’t let the cheap packaging fool you; the pen works great. The Pilot FriXion gel pen comes in different colors, tip sizes, and styles.

  • May run dry quicker than expected
  • Colours Blue/Black/Pink/Light Blue/Purple
  • Erasable Refillable Gel Rollerball Pen
  • Retractable Mechanism
  • Thermosensitive Ink

PILOT FriXion ClickerGel Rollerball Pen

The Sakura Pigma felt tip pen is suitable for writing letters. The tip of the pen is gentle and allows the user to make precise markings. It is a good option if you want to experiment with drawing fonts. 

The ink is pigment-based, which means the color is very strong. It uses water-proof archival ink. This ink is resistant to fading with age, meaning you should be able to revisit your writing in an old journal years later and find it as legible as the day you wrote it.

The Sakura Pigma felt tip pen comes in 15 colors and different sizes, ranging from 0.15mm to 0.5mm.

  • Comfortable to hold
  • Smudge-free
  • More suited for drawing than writing
  • Point sizes 0.20mm, 0.25mm, 0.30mm, 0.35mm, 0.45mm & 0.50mm

Sakura Pigma Micron Assorted Pens

If you use pens to write or highlight notes, consider the Zebra Sarasa gel pen. This cheap and cheerful pen is water-resistant and rarely smears, unlike other gel pens.

It comes with a clip, so you can easily attach it to your notebook or pocket. The ink dries quickly on both card and paper. You’ll notice the ink is heavier and more solid than other pens. 

The clickable pen is lightweight and features a finger rest near the nib, so you’re unlikely to get finger pain while writing quickly.

  • Quick drying ink
  • Clip may break without care
  • 5 Black,1 Blue,1 Red
  • Water-resistant ink
  • Quick drying

Zebra Sarasa Mark On Gel Ink Ballpoint Pens

Papermate is one of the best-known gel pen brands for good reason. Despite the low price point, these pens are quick drying to prevent smearing. The ink flows well, making for a smooth writing experience.

Keep in mind that if you’re writing on thin paper, it won’t bleed through, but you will be able to see the writing on the other side. You can choose from standard black pens or go for colored ones. Either way, the pigment is vivid.

  • Vivid pigment
  • Shows through the back of thin paper
  • Medium Point
  • Ergonomic comfort grip

Paper Mate InkJoy Gel Pens

Pentel is best known for its special EnerGel ink, which offers a smooth writing experience with a quick drying time to prevent smudges. The ink flow is consistent enough that you can write clearly without having to use much pressure. To make it even more seamless, the pens have a finger grip to help with comfort and control.

For those concerned about the environmental impact of their writing utensils, these pens are made from more than 50% recycled materials.

  • Classic retro-look
  • Smudge-resistant
  • Retractable Liquid Gel Ink Pen
  • 54% Recycled

Pentel EnerGel XM BL77 Gel Ink Pen

The Pilot G2 pens are another great choice for eco-conscious writers as they are refillable. With more than 100 years in the business, the brand is one of the most recognizable when it comes to gathering office supplies or preparing to go back to school.

You can choose from ultra-fine, extra fine, fine, and bold point pens, depending on your needs and writing style. The G2 pens write smoothly and dry quickly. Despite the cheap price point, they’re excellent value for money as the ink lasts a long time. 

  • Long-lasting
  • Isn’t smooth on all kinds of paper
  • Can smudge a little
  • Fine Point, Black

PILOT G2 Rolling Ball Gel Pens

Check out our guide on the best roller ball pens for more options.

Left-handed writers need quick-drying ink to prevent smudges on their paper and fingers. The best choices are pigment liners and ballpoint pens. Keep in mind that oil-based inks tend to dry quicker but don’t write as smoothly as water-based inks. Lefties are better off using oil-based ink.

I chose a wide range of pens for this list so there would be something for everyone. Only pens with good reviews were considered, and they had to be durable and comfortable to hold for long periods of time. They also needed to be able to write on more than one type of paper.

I bought almost every pen in this guide and spent a few minutes writing with each one on index cards and paper. I also looked at what other writers thought to determine if there was anything I missed.

Best Writing Pens: FAQs

A Uni-Ball 0.8mm pen is ideal for students who need to write quickly during an exam, as it’s comfortable to hold and doesn’t smudge. It also comes in a variety of colors.

If you like to read and review your notes often, use a fountain pen. It’s fun to use and looks great on paper. The Pilot Metropolitan Fountain pen is a good choice.

Rollerball Vs Ballpoint Pens

Fancy Pens You’ll Love Writing With

Why Is The Montblanc Ballpoint Pen So Expensive?

Best Gel Roller Pens

What Is The Smoothest Pen to Write With?

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Aisling is an Irish journalist and content creator with a BA in Journalism & New Media. She has bylines in OK! Magazine, Metro, The Inquistr, and the Irish Examiner. She loves to read horror and YA. Find Aisling on LinkedIn .

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Home » Gel Pens

The 19 Best Gel Pens

December 7, 2022

G el pens offer a very satisfying writing experience because they write so smoothly across the page, it’s no surprise they’ve been a writer’s favorite for decades. We tested over a dozen sizes and designs to determine the best gel pen for various writing jobs.

Our top pick is the Pentel – EnerGel Pearl in .7 mm size because it was comfortable to grip and offered the smoothest writing experience. We like the Zebra – Sarasa Mark On if you like precise, thin lines that don’t skip on the page. The Zebra – Sarasa Dry is our pick for left-handed writers because it dries fast and hardly smudges. If you don’t like the commitment of ink, but like writing with gel pens, we recommend the Pilot – FriXion Synergy Clicker because it’s comfortable and erases cleanly.

Our Top Choices

good writing for pen

Best gel pen

EnerGel Pearl Gel Pen 0.7 mm

good writing for pen

Sarasa Mark On Gel Pen 0.4 mm

good writing for pen

Best fast drying gel pen

Sarasa Dry Gel Pen 0.5 mm

good writing for pen

Best erasable gel pen

FriXion Ball Clicker Erasable 0.5 mm

The 19 gel pens we tested

Important features to consider.

The tip thickness or size of a pen is an essential feature because it affects the user experience, handwriting style, and quick drying time. The gel pens we tested come in various sizes ranging from 0.28 to 1 millimeter thick. Thickness also affects the amount of ink that comes out of the pen. We experienced that the thinner pen sizes produced thinner lines and less ink, which made them dry more quickly. However, the thickness also affected the darkness and vibrancy of the colors.

Comfort / Design

The design of a pen affects how comfortable it is to hold for short or extended periods. Keep in mind that how someone holds their writing utensil also affects their comfort level. With this in mind, comfort level could completely depend on each person, but certain designs help support your fingers and hands during writing.

For example, some pens have silicone or rubber bands to contour to your grip. Pens with rubber or silicone grips were easier to use because they felt more secure in our hands. A well-balanced pen also alleviates muscle cramping, or lighter pens could help with extended periods of writing. Try to find pens with bodies that are appropriate for the size of your hands; if you have bigger hands, it will be difficult to continuously grip a super slim pen and vice versa.

If you’re a lefty or have quirky-styled penmanship that ends up in lots of smudges, having a gel pen that is made for quick-drying will help with any potential ink accidents. Gel pens can be a little tricky with drying time because they’re often more watery; this also depends on the thickness of the tip and the amount of ink that comes out. However, there are now gel pen brands that formulate an ink with faster drying times and they actually work!

Other features

Gel pens also have other features to look for, like color options, erasability, or being able to buy refills. Different colors are important for people who like different options (or use color to organize). If the permanence of pens troubles you, there are also erasable gel pens with ink removable with friction and heat. Lastly, if you want to produce less waste, try to find a pen that you can refill in the future.

How we selected

We selected 19 gel pens from smaller and well-known brands, with varying line thicknesses, designs, and other features like erasability and the option to refill the ink. These gel pens are all under $8 per piece, with many pens under $5.

How we tested

testing gel pens

We tested each pen over two months on different paper and materials, in varying lengths (like to-do’s, journals, instructions, and letters), and evaluated each pen’s user experience with different writers. During these tests, writers noted each pen’s comfort level, ink smudge tests, and smoothness.

Bleeding, feathering, and smudge tests

For each pen, we performed a smudge test to see how long the ink takes to dry. We used a timeline from 0-30 seconds. Pens ranked between 0-10 depending on their drying time (instantaneous is 10/10 and longer than 30 seconds is 0/10). We also observed if there was any feathering or bleeding on the paper during these tests.

Comfort tests

We tested each pen on different writers and noted the comfort level based on their design.

(need photos of different hands holding pens?)

Smoothness tests

We tested the gel pens on different paper types to see how smooth each pen wrote on each surface. We noted if there was any friction or skipping by both writing words and using lines across the page. Pens that moved effortlessly while writing were ranked 10/10, while some pens like the Muji gel pen had too much friction and some skipping was ranked 2/10.

Pentel - EnerGel Pearl Gel Pen 0.7 mm

Pentel Energel 0.7mm pen

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The Pentel – EnerGel Pearl was a top pick for us because it glides effortlessly across the page, has a comfortable grip design, and has an effortless retractable clicker. We liked our writing experience with this pen because it writes smoothly with thick dark ink on different paper surfaces.

Compared to other thicker gel pens, the Pentel – EnerGel Pearl ink dries fairly quickly, meaning there is less potential for smudging. There was also no amount of feathering we experienced while writing with this pen, so all of our notations were precise and clear. We also like that you can see how much ink is left through the transparent body and refill this pen when it runs out of ink. We recommend this pen to anyone who wants a comfortable gel pen that writes smoothly and dries fast.

Zebra - Sarasa Mark On Gel Pen 0.4 mm

Zebra - Sarasa Mark On Gel Pen 0.4 mm

The Zebra – Sarasa Mark On Gel Pen is our runner-up because its rubber grip makes it comfortable to use for long periods, dries very quickly, and writes smoothly for a thinner tip size. A retractable top button makes this pen easy to use, and a large clip lets you attach this to journals, pockets, or papers.

It’s made with water-resistant ink that is quick to dry and holds up against accidental spills. This pen is great to use if you are a student and have lots of notations and highlighting needed because the pen dries so fast. The Zebra – Sarasa Mark On Gel Pen comes in black, blue, and red colors, is easy to refill, and is very affordable at around $2 per pen.

Zebra - Sarasa Dry Gel Pen 0.5 mm

Zebra - Sarasa Dry Gel Pen 0.5 mm

The Zebra – Sarasa Dry gel pen is our favorite for left-handers or someone who wants clean, precise lines with no room for smudging. One simple detail we like about this pen is the easy retractable clicker that’s also a clip. Even though there’s a slight friction when writing, there was no puddling or feathering. This is a retractable pen with a stiff clip, opaque body, and rubber grip. It’s very comfortable to hold when writing and balanced well. This pen is helpful if you’re lefty because it dries faster than other gel pens.

Pilot - FriXion Ball Clicker Erasable 0.5 mm

Pilot Frixion clicker erasable 0.5mm pen

If you are anxious about using permanent gel pens, then the Pilot – FriXion Ball Clicker is our favorite erasable gel pen. This pen is made with thermosensitive ink that allows you to remove mistakes cleanly by using its included eraser. The rubber grip also makes it comfortable, and the retractable clip makes it easy to use. We noticed some friction on the pen’s tip while writing, but our writing experience was still fairly smooth.

Compared to other gel pens we tested, the ink from both of the FriXion series came out lighter than permanent inks, so this is something that you should take into account. However, we liked that the ink reserve was much larger than the Pilot – FriXion Ball Slim pen and lasted longer before needing to be replaced. Read more…

One thing to keep in mind when using thermosensitive inks is that they will disappear at temperatures above 140 ℉, so try to keep them away from heat. We didn’t have much issue with this, but the ink should reappear below 14 F in a freezer. Regardless of these potential heat issues, we tend to grab this pen daily due to its clean erasability.

Paper Mate - InkJoy Gel Pen 0.7 mm

Paper Mate - InkJoy Gel Pen 0.7 mm

The Paper Mate – InkJoy is a staple for many writers because you can find it in many local stores like Staples or Target, it’s affordable, and the writing experience is as expected (smooth and easy). While testing the InkJoy, we found that this gel pen writes smoothly and flows easily across various paper types.

Our main issue was the comfort level of the grip. The body is made with a rubberized material to help grip the pen easier; however, we found that the material felt too hard against our fingers and had the beginnings of calluses after writing with the pen. And while it is affordable, Paper Mate does not offer refills for purchase, so you will need to buy new pens when they run out.

Pilot - FriXion Ball Slim Gel Pen 0.38 mm

Pilot - FriXion Ball Slim Gel Pen 0.38 mm

We use the Pilot – FriXion Ball Slim gel pen often because you get the confidence of using a pen but the comfort of using an eraser if you make a mistake. The FriXion Ball Slim is a thinner cousin of the FriXion Ball Clicker and works similarly using thermosensitive ink that disappears with the friction of the eraser.

If you’ve got smaller hands or want a lightweight gel pen, the FriXion Ball Slim is a good option because it only weighs .25 oz. However, if you’ve got larger hands, using a super slim pen might be difficult for extended notetaking. Also, remember that it also has a smaller amount of ink; therefore, you will need to refill it more often than larger pens. Read more…

Since the ink is thermosensitive, you shouldn’t leave papers written with the FriXion Ball Slim in the heat because it will disappear. However, if you leave the paper in the freezer for ten minutes, it should reappear. Its ultra-thin tip measures .38 mm, and combined with the thermosensitive ink; you will find it’s lighter than other gel pens. This pen also comes in an array of colors, which makes it so much fun to use.

Pilot - G2 Gel Pen 0.38 mm

Pilot G2 0.38mm gel pen

The Pilot – G2 .38 mm is the thinnest version of this Pilot series and has the same retractable clicker design with a durable clip, transparent body, and rubber grip. We’ve used Pilot – G2 gel pens for years, but it wasn’t until recently we knew about this thin size because it’s not as readily available as the other sizes (.5, .7, or 1 mm).

What we like about this pen is that it dries fairly quicker than other Pilot – G2 gel pens, so there’s less opportunity for smudging. Unlike the other Pilot – G2 gel pen sizes, this pen doesn’t have any noise while writing, so it’s a more pleasant writing experience. When you’re writing, there is minimal friction from the ball tip on the paper’s surface, so it’s also smoother than other Pilot – G2 pens, and we would recommend this size if you want to use one from this series.

Pilot - G2 Gel Pen 0.5 mm

Pilot - G2 Gel Pen 0.5 mm

The Pilot – G2 .5 mm gel pen used to be our staple pen growing up because it was easily accessible, affordable, and had a thin sharp tip. After testing, we found that the G2 .5 mm didn’t hold up to other similarly sized gel pens. The G2 .5 mm didn’t glide as smoothly on paper as other brands like Pentel – EnerGel Pearl, and we noticed some friction during writing. We heard a weird clicking noise on the paper as we were writing. We deduced this was the ball tip moving around and producing ink.

We also didn’t like slight smudging due to the longer drying period with the G2 ink. We wouldn’t recommend this pen for lefties because it might be messier while writing or taking notes. However, we do like that it’s affordable and easy to refill.

Zebra - Sarasa Clip Gel Pen 0.4 mm

Zebra - Sarasa Clip Gel Pen 0.4 mm

The Sarasa Clip gel pen is another great pen from Zebra because it comes in multiple colors and sizes and offers a very smooth writing experience. Not that this pen takes about 30 seconds to completely dry, so it’s not a good pen for left handers.

While it takes longer to dry than other Zebra gel pens we tested, we still like using this pen because the lines are super crisp, and there isn’t any feathering or bleeding. This retractable pen is made with a comfortable rubber grip and transparent body that lets you see when it needs to be replaced. It also has a strong clip that attaches to many surfaces.

Uni-ball - Signo RT1 UMN-155 Gel Pen 0.28 mm

Uni-ball - Signo RT1 UMN-155 Gel Pen 0.28 mm

The Uni-ball – Signo RT1 UMN-155 has a minimalist design with a comfortable rubber grip near the tip. We like writing with this pen because of the rounded and edgeless tip; this makes writing more comfortable when you grip the pen. Even though it takes about half a minute to fully dry, there isn’t too much smudging due to the thin tip and less amount of ink produced. This is optimum gel pen if you prefer precise, thin lines for notes or other writing jobs where you need to write smaller.

Uni - Style Fit Single Color Slim Gel Pen 0.28 mm

Uni - Style Fit Single Color Slim Gel Pen 0.28 mm

Uni – Style Fit Single Color Slim Gel Pen 0.28 mmThe Uni – Style Fit Single Color Slim gel pen is great for those who prefer very thin and precise lines and different colors besides your typical black, red, and blue inks. Like the Pilot – FriXion Ball Slim, this pen comes in a very thin and lightweight body. It has a minimal retractable design with a clear top portion of a body to see the ink levels.

Our writing experience with this pen was pleasant. This gel pen is a comfortable option if you’ve got smaller hands. While we like that it’s super compact and small, it may be difficult to continuously write with if you have larger-sized hands because its thinner width may be harder to grip. Even though it’s one of the thinnest tip sizes we tested, it wrote smoothly without skipping. Unfortunately, the ink does take about 30 seconds to dry completely.

Pilot - G2 Gel Pen 0.7 mm

Pilot - G2 Gel Pen 0.7 mm

Our experience with the Pilot – G2 .7 mm gel pen was similar to the .5 mm, where there was some friction when writing and a scratching noise as we wrote on the paper. Also similar is the dry time–it took longer than other gel pens and caused smudging if we moved too quickly or highlighted the notes too fast.

Regarding comfort level, it’s similar to the Pilot – G2 .38 mm pen and was comfortable to use and grip while writing. The retractable clicker is durable, and the clip is sturdy enough to attach to a binder without breaking. We also like that you can find these pens in everyday stores like Target or Staples, and whenever you run out of ink, you can buy refills.

Pilot - G2 Gel Pen 1.0 mm

Pilot - G2 Gel Pen 1.0 mm

This is the largest size of the Pilot – G2 gel pens at 1 mm thick, and it’s also the smoothest to write with on paper. It’s got the same body as the other sizes–a retractable pen with a clicker on top, curved clip, transparent body, and rubber grip with rounded edges. We all love the Pilot – G2 pens bodies because they’re comfortable to hold.

Due to the thicker tip, the 1 mm gel pen glides effortlessly without friction or skipping. However, we noticed pooling as we stopped on each word and smudging if we wrote too quickly. There was also visible feathering around each of the letters. Due to this messiness, this is our least favorite Pilot – G2 gel pen.

Uni-ball - Signo 207 Gel Pen 0.7 mm (not recommended)

Uni-ball - Signo 207 Bold Gel Pen 0.7 mm

Testing the Uni-ball – Signo 207 Retractable was an average experience using a gel pen because it skipped a few times when we first started writing and eventually smoothed out later on, but it was uncomfortable to use for long periods.

This retractable pen has a transparent body and a rigid rubber grip with small bumps at the top portion of the body. We assume these bumps are supposed to help with better grip; however, it was too hard against our hands. The rubber also felt slightly slippery compared to other brands with rubberized grips like Pentel gel pens. Even though the ink flowed well, we wouldn’t recommend this pen.

Sakura - Gelly Roll Classic Gel Pen 0.6 mm (not recommended)

Sakura Gelly Roll 0.6mm pen

It’s no wonder that Sakura is a famous brand because they were the ones that created the first gel pen back in the 1980s. We’ve used Sakura – Gelly Roll Classic gel pens since grade school, and the experience is similar to this day. They come in various colors and textures (like solid or glitter colors) and have a simple cap cover with a transparent body. Read more…

The .6 mm tip size glides effortlessly across the paper and shows up easily on colored paper. There is a lot of smudging since the ink takes a while to dry and we wouldn’t recommend it for lefties. While we like the transparent body to see how much ink is left, we don’t like the thin clip attached to the cap because you can’t attach it to more than a few papers. Lastly, holding onto this pen wasn’t entirely comfortable due to the sharp edge on the body. This is a classic gel pen, but we like other gel pens better at the same price point and quality.

Uni-ball - Signo 207 Bold Gel Pen 1.0 mm (not recommended)

Uni-ball - Signo 207 Bold Gel Pen 1.0 mm

We didn’t like using the Uni-ball – Signo 207 RT gel pen because it had an uncomfortable grip and an inconsistent writing experience. Not only did this pen have friction when writing, but it also feathered on the page, making our writing look messy.

Its body is similar to the Uni-ball – Signo 207 with a semi-transparent body, retractable button, and bumpy grip–we didn’t like holding this pen. We wouldn’t recommend this pen because it was uncomfortable, skipped when writing, and smudged.

Sakura - Gelly Roll Classic Gel Pen 1.0 mm (not recommended)

Sakura Gelly Roll 1mm pen

The white Sakura – Gelly Roll Classic gel pen at 1 mm is another popular pen for writing on colored or black paper. This larger-sized pen glides smoothly across any type of paper; however, there was a lot of feathering and smudging due to the long drying time.

Similar to the other Sakura – Gelly Roll Classic pen in black that we tested, this has a non-refillable, transparent body and cap with a thin clip that’s almost useless. The comfort level is also the same due to the sharp edges near the pen’s tip. We wouldn’t recommend this pen because it made a mess while writing.

Muji - Gel Ink Cap Type Ballpoint Pen 0.38mm (not recommended)

Muji - Gel Ink Cap Type Ballpoint Pen 0.38mm

Although the Muji – Gel Ink Cap Type Ballpoint Pen has a large following, we found our writing experience with this pen annoying. One of the most significant issues was the design of the tip. The tip and area to grip the pen are full of sharp corners and edges, making it uncomfortable to hold for any period.

During writing, there was a lot of smudging and puddling from an overabundance of ink coming through the pen. While we liked that writing with the pen provided smooth lines, we couldn’t get passed how difficult it was to continue to write due to the sharp edges and potential mess due to puddling.

MISULOVE - White Gel Pen 0.8 mm (not recommended)

MISULOVE - White Gel Pen 0.8 mm

We wouldn’t recommend the MISULOVE – White gel pen if you need a white pen for colored paper or highlight art pieces because there it skipped a lot while writing, smudged when the ink would flow, and it was also uncomfortable to hold.

As we wrote over the paper, we also noticed that the pen would spray over the paper causing tiny white dots and a mess. Lastly, we didn’t like the pen’s design because the cap was very difficult to remove and place back on. This could be a dealbreaker for some writers or artists with grip issues. We wouldn’t recommend this gel pen because it made more of a mess when writing.

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  • The Scientist University

The Fundamentals of Academic Science Writing

Writing is an essential skill for scientists, and learning how to write effectively starts with good fundamentals and lots of practice..

Nathan Ni, PhD Headshot

Nathan Ni holds a PhD from Queens University. He is a science editor for The Scientist’s Creative Services Team who strives to better understand and communicate the relationships between health and disease.

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Learn about our editorial policies.

A person sitting in a laboratory writing notes with a pen in a notebook.

Writing is a big part of being a scientist, whether in the form of manuscripts, grants, reports, protocols, presentations, or even emails. However, many people look at writing as separate from science—a scientist writes, but scientists are not regarded as writers. 1 This outdated assertion means that writing and communication has been historically marginalized when it comes to training and educating new scientists. In truth, being a professional writer is part of being a scientist . 1 In today’s hypercompetitive academic environment, scientists need to be as proficient with the pen as they are with the pipette in order to showcase their work. 

Using the Active Voice

Stereotypical academic writing is rigid, dry, and mechanical, delivering prose that evokes memories of high school and undergraduate laboratory reports. The hallmark of this stereotype is passive voice overuse. In writing, the passive voice is when the action comes at the end of a clause—for example, “the book was opened”. In scientific writing, it is particularly prevalent when detailing methodologies and results. How many times have we seen something like “citric acid was added to the solution, resulting in a two-fold reduction in pH” rather than “adding citric acid to the solution reduced the pH two-fold”?

Scientists should write in the active voice as much as possible. However, the active voice tends to place much more onus on the writer’s perspective, something that scientists have historically been instructed to stay away from. For example, “we treated the cells with phenylephrine” places much more emphasis on the operator than “the cells were treated with phenylephrine.” Furthermore, pronoun usage in academic writing is traditionally discouraged, but it is much harder, especially for those with non-native English proficiency, to properly use active voice without them. 

Things are changing though, and scientists are recognizing the importance of giving themselves credit. Many major journals, including Nature , Science , PLoS One , and PNAS allow pronouns in their manuscripts, and prominent style guides such as APA even recommend using first-person pronouns, as traditional third-person writing can be ambiguous. 2 It is vital that a manuscript clearly and definitively highlights and states what the authors specifically did that was so important or novel, in contrast to what was already known. A simple “we found…” statement in the abstract and the introduction goes a long way towards giving readers the hook that they need to read further.

Keeping Sentences Simple

Writing in the active voice also makes it easier to organize manuscripts and construct arguments. Active voice uses fewer words than passive voice to explain the same concept. It also introduces argument components sequentially—subject, claim, and then evidence—whereas passive voice introduces claim and evidence before the subject. Compare, for example, “T cell abundance did not differ between wildtype and mutant mice” versus “there was no difference between wildtype and mutant mice in terms of T cell abundance.” T cell abundance, as the measured parameter, is the most important part of the sentence, but it is only introduced at the very end of the latter example.

The sequential nature of active voice therefore makes it easier to not get bogged down in overloading the reader with clauses and adhering to a general principle of “one sentence, one concept (or idea, or argument).” Consider the following sentence: 

Research on CysLT 2 R , expressed in humans in umbilical vein endothelial cells, macrophages, platelets, the cardiac Purkinje system, and coronary endothelial cells , had been hampered by a lack of selective pharmacological agents , the majority of work instead using the nonselective cysLT antagonist/partial agonist Bay-u9773 or genetic models of CysLT 2 R expression modulation) .

The core message of this sentence is that CysLT 2 R research is hampered by a lack of selective pharmacological agents, but that message is muddled by the presence of two other major pieces of information: where CysLT 2 R is expressed and what researchers used to study CysLT 2 R instead of selective pharmacological agents. Because this sentence contains three main pieces of information, it is better to break it up into three separate sentences for clarity.

In humans, CysLT 2 R is expressed in umbilical vein endothelial cells, macrophages, platelets, the cardiac Purkinje system, and coronary endothelial cells . CysLT 2 R research has been hampered by a lack of selective pharmacological agents . Instead, the majority of work investigating the receptor has used either the nonselective cysLT antagonist/partial agonist Bay-u9773 or genetic models of CysLT 2 R expression modulation.

The Right Way to Apply Jargon

There is another key advantage to organizing sentences in this simple manner: it lets scientists manage how jargon is introduced to the reader. Jargon—special words used within a specific field or on a specific topic—is necessary in scientific writing. It is critical for succinctly describing key elements and explaining key concepts. But too much jargon can make a manuscript unreadable, either because the reader does not understand the terminology or because they are bogged down in reading all of the definitions. 

The key to using jargon is to make it as easy as possible for the audience. General guidelines instruct writers to define new terms only when they are first used. However, it is cumbersome for a reader to backtrack considerable distances in a manuscript to look up a definition. If a term is first introduced in the introduction but not mentioned again until the discussion, the writer should re-define the term in a more casual manner. For example: “PI3K can be reversibly inhibited by LY294002 and irreversibly inhibited by wortmannin” in the introduction, accompanied by “when we applied the PI3K inhibitor LY294002” for the discussion. This not only makes things easier for the reader, but it also re-emphasizes what the scientist did and the results they obtained.

Practice Makes Better

Finally, the most important fundamental for science writing is to not treat it like a chore or a nuisance. Just as a scientist optimizes a bench assay through repeated trial and error, combined with literature reviews on what steps others have implemented, a scientist should practice, nurture, and hone their writing skills through repeated drafting, editing, and consultation. Do not be afraid to write. Putting pen to paper can help organize one’s thoughts, expose next steps for exploration, or even highlight additional experiments required to patch knowledge or logic gaps in existing studies. 

Looking for more information on scientific writing? Check out The Scientist’s TS SciComm  section. Looking for some help putting together a manuscript, a figure, a poster, or anything else? The Scientist’s Scientific Services  may have the professional help that you need.

  • Schimel J. Writing Science: How to Write Papers That Get Cited And Proposals That Get Funded . Oxford University Press; 2012.
  • First-person pronouns. American Psychological Association. Updated July 2022. Accessed March 2024.  

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Working With Your Hands Is Good for Your Brain

Activities like writing, gardening and knitting can improve your cognition and mood. Tapping, typing and scrolling? Less so.

good writing for pen

By Markham Heid

The human hand is a marvel of nature. No other creature on Earth, not even our closest primate relatives , has hands structured quite like ours, capable of such precise grasping and manipulation.

But we’re doing less intricate hands-on work than we used to. A lot of modern life involves simple movements, such as tapping screens and pushing buttons, and some experts believe our shift away from more complex hand activities could have consequences for how we think and feel.

“When you look at the brain’s real estate — how it’s divided up, and where its resources are invested — a huge portion of it is devoted to movement, and especially to voluntary movement of the hands,” said Kelly Lambert, a professor of behavioral neuroscience at the University of Richmond in Virginia.

Dr. Lambert, who studies effort-based rewards, said that she is interested in “the connection between the effort we put into something and the reward we get from it” and that she believes working with our hands might be uniquely gratifying.

In some of her research on animals , Dr. Lambert and her colleagues found that rats that used their paws to dig up food had healthier stress hormone profiles and were better at problem solving compared with rats that were given food without having to dig.

She sees some similarities in studies on people, which have found that a whole range of hands-on activities — such as knitting , gardening and coloring — are associated with cognitive and emotional benefits, including improvements in memory and attention, as well as reductions in anxiety and depression symptoms.

These studies haven’t determined that hand involvement, specifically, deserves the credit. The researchers who looked at coloring, for example, speculated that it might promote mindfulness, which could be beneficial for mental health. Those who have studied knitting said something similar. “The rhythm and repetition of knitting a familiar or established pattern was calming, like meditation,” said Catherine Backman, a professor emeritus of occupational therapy at the University of British Columbia in Canada who has examined the link between knitting and well-being.

However, Dr. Backman said the idea that working with one’s hands could benefit a person’s mind and wellness seems plausible. Hands-on tasks that fully engage our attention — and even mildly challenge us — can support learning, she added.

Dr. Lambert has another hypothesis. “With depression, people experience something called learned helplessness, where they feel like it doesn’t matter what they do, nothing ever works,” she said. She believes that working with one’s hands is stimulating to the brain, and that it could even help counteract this learned helplessness. “When you put in effort and can see the product of that, like a scarf you knitted, I think that builds up a sense of accomplishment and control over your world,” she said.

Some researchers have zeroed in on the possible repercussions of replacing relatively complicated hand tasks with more basic ones.

In a small study of university students published in January, Norwegian researchers compared the neurological effects of writing by hand with typing on a keyboard. Handwriting was associated with “far more elaborate” brain activity than keyboard writing, the researchers found.

“With handwriting, you have to form these intricate letters by making finely controlled hand and finger movements,” said Audrey van der Meer, one of the authors of that study and a professor of psychology at the Norwegian University of Science and Technology. Each letter is different, she explained, and requires a different hand action.

Dr. Van der Meer said that the act of forming a letter activates distinctive memories and brain pathways tied to what that letter represents (such as the sound it makes and the words that include it). “But when you type, every letter is produced by the same very simple finger movement, and as a result you use your whole brain much less than when writing by hand,” she added.

Dr. Van der Meer’s study is the latest in a series of research efforts in which she and her colleagues have found that writing and drawing seem to engage and exercise the brain more than typing on a keyboard. “Skills involving fine motor control of the hands are excellent training and superstimulation for the brain,” she said. “The brain is like a muscle, and if we continue to take away these complex movements from our daily lives — especially fine motor movements — I think that muscle will weaken.” While more research is needed, Dr. Van der Meer posits that understimulation of the brain could ultimately lead to deficits in attention, memory formation and problem solving.

But as with knitting and coloring, some experts question the underlying mechanisms at play.

“With some of this research, I think it’s hard to dissociate whether it’s the physical movement of the hands that’s producing a benefit, or whether it’s the concentration or novelty or cognitive challenge involved,” said Rusty Gage, a professor at the Salk Institute for Biological Studies in San Diego.

Dr. Gage studies how certain activities can stimulate the growth of new cells in the brain. “I think if you’re doing complex work that involves making decisions and planning, that may matter more than whether you’re using your hands,” he said.

That said, the benefits of many hands-on activities aren’t in doubt. Along with gardening and handicrafts, research has found that pursuits like making art and playing a musical instrument also seem to do us some good.

“You know, we evolved in a three-dimensional world, and we evolved to interact with that world through our hands,” Dr. Lambert said. “I think there are a lot of reasons why working with our hands may be prosperous for our brains.”

Yanko Design - Modern Industrial Design News

This fountain pen makes creation flow on the writing surface, comes with turbo ink filling mechanism

Pens as a writing instrument have stood the test of time and they’ll be timeless accessories for eternity. Those who cherish the joy of writing down stuff with their fountain or rollerball pen always appreciate the idea of investing in a quality option. The unique writing experience these writing instruments offer is unmatchable, making them a must-have everyday carry.

If you also love keeping a fountain pen handy, the Submarine Collection by TaG will interest you. The submarine-shaped fountain pen edition is developed in collaboration with Hou Xin-Yong, a highly experienced calligrapher with over 2 decades of expertise, and Lee Tai-Ying, the founder of a fountain pen club in Taiwan.

Click Here to Buy Now: $100 $145 ($45 off) Hurry! Only 10 Days Left. Raised over $130,000

good writing for pen

The heart of the solid brass fountain pen is its ink-filling mechanism which is second to none. Simply dip the pen’s tailormade black PVD stainless steel nib from Schmidt (you can also choose the gold-plated nib version) into the ink bottle and turn the knob at the top, it’s as easy as that. The weight balance of the writing instrument makes it a treat to use for long writing sessions and ensures natural movement of the hand across the paper. This is attributed to the anti-slip tapered fiber grooves around the pen for a secure grip and tactile dimension to the whole writing experience.

To make sure, there is no ink leakage like other conventional friction-free converter structures, the pen has an internal treaded structure between the converter and the pen’s outer shell. At the top of the writing instrument, the turbine-inspired cap element complements the streamlined design aesthetics of the pen. According to TaG, the fountain pen is crafted with precision as every detail right from “the choice of premium materials to the aesthetic appeal, has been thoroughly considered for a creation that is functionally and visually pleasing at the same time.”

good writing for pen

If you are more oriented toward the rollerball pen option, the makers have a compelling option for you. The Submarine Rollerball Pen has the same sleek design and the signature turbo-filling mechanism. It comes with a Schmidt rollerball tip that moves on the writing surface like butter. Both these writing instruments are in a league of their own with massive crowdfunding already, surpassing the goal by a humongous margin. If you already fancy the idea of buying one you can pledge the fountain pen for $109 and the ballpoint pen for $100.

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Artists, scientists, engineers, and even parents often have to write on non-paper media; to do so, they use pens that write on multiple surfaces, also known as multi-surface pens . We put our multi-surface pens to the test on four common surfaces: glass, plastic, metal, and cloth. The best pens of the bunch are gathered in the recommendation sections below—most of them work well on the tested surfaces, with the exception of cloth, which has one standout pen. Read on to see the different applications and recommendations for multi-surface pens.

good writing for pen

Product used: Uni Posca Paint Markers

good writing for pen

Product used: Pilot Multi Ball Roller Ball Pens

good writing for pen

Product used: Zebra Mackee Care Refillable Double-Sided Markers

good writing for pen

The recommendations are separated into two overall groups—color ink pens and black ink pens. All of the pens featured in both sections write well on the nonporous surfaces (glass, plastic, and metal), but for cloth, the Zebra Onamae name marker is particularly good.

good writing for pen

With an impressive range of vibrant colors, this is the ultimate pen for crafters and scrapbookers. The pen has both a fine and extra fine tip, which adds to its versatility. It won't bleed through paper, but be careful when using it with cloth as it bleeds through slightly. It's rub-proof on most surfaces, but water can take it off metal and glass.

good writing for pen

Similar to the Pilot Twin Marker, the Mackee Care marker features a fine and extra fine tip and a multitude of gorgeous colors. We found this marker to be more water-resistant than the Pilot Twin Marker, though alcohol will erase the ink from nonporous surfaces. The ink is also not as vibrant as the Pilot on nonporous surfaces, but performs just as well on paper.

good writing for pen

Not only does this marker write well on virtually any surface, it will stay put. Highly resistant to water, the ink only comes off if vigorously scrubbed with alcohol on nonporous surfaces. This ink is pigmented and wet, which causes it to bleed through porous media, such as paper and cloth. Upon first opening, the pen has to be prepped before it will write. Simply push the tip into the pen body until there's a soft pop from the cartridge being punctured. Shake well and press the tip onto the surface until the tip is saturated with ink.

good writing for pen

Uni Posca Paint Markers write beautifully and vibrantly on various surfaces. As water-based inks, they're perfect for temporary glass signs since the inks are removable with water. The markers are permanent on porous surfaces, such as paper and cloth. A great choice for glass applications, it's perfect for writing displays for window storefronts!

good writing for pen

Where oil-based ink can often bleed through paper, the water-based pigment ink of the Multi Ball moves seamlessly between paper and other surfaces. When writing on non-paper surfaces, the pen may have to be primed on paper first to get the ink flowing. The ink is removed easily with water within the first six hours, but becomes semi-permanent afterward (a good scouring with alcohol should still remove it from nonporous surfaces). This is a favorite among lab researchers who need to switch between their notebooks and plastic or glass samples.

good writing for pen

The richly pigmented oil-based ink in the Uni Pin Pen writes exceptionally well on different surfaces. Once the ink sets on the desired surface, it won't rub off except with alcohol. The Pin does particularly well on metal, and it is also beautiful on paper—artists also love to use these fine tipped pens for technical drawings or other sketches. Johanna Basford, the illustrator behind the popular Secret Garden adult coloring book, often uses the water-based version of the Pin pen for precise, detailed work.

good writing for pen

Another oil-based drawing pen pick, this line from Pilot features a larger range of tip sizes than its Uni Pin counterpart. The versatility of the different tip sizes makes them a favorite among artists who use paper, but others can take advantage of this reliable ink to mark glass, plastic, metal, and more. It comes off more easily from nonporous surfaces than the Uni Pin (water is able to remove it from glass and metal).

good writing for pen

Made for writing on Japanese school uniforms, shoes, and bicycles, this double-sided pen writes effortlessly on everything, but we recommend it especially for cloth as it doesn't bleed through. The ink stands up to laundering, difficult weather conditions, and more. It can be removed from nonporous surfaces with a healthy dose of alcohol, but will hold up to water even on glass and metal.

good writing for pen

Like the Zebra Onamae Mackee marker, this name marker features a rich black ink. It is also double-sided with fine and extra fine tips. The fine tip is bolder than the Zebra marker's fine tip, which is preferable for those who need a thicker line. It's not as suitable for glass and cloth—the ink comes off easily with water, and it also bleeds a bit through cloth.

good writing for pen

There's magic in this ink indeed—similar to other name markers, the ink in this pen was formulated to be able to write on different surfaces. We found that it doesn't do as well on cloth as the name markers mentioned earlier, but it performs exceptionally well with different types of plastic, including sports equipment and beach toys.

Whether you're an artist or scientist, crafter or parent, these pens can help organize your supplies or spruce up your projects. Have you tried writing on non-paper surfaces before? Let us know what your favorite multi-surface pens are in the comments below!

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25 Best Gifts for the Writer in Your Life

Short of gluing them to the chair or getting another pen, they could really use these.

Headshot of Christine Flammia

For many writers, unless I am indeed projecting, writing is less of a job and more a form of psychological torture. I read on the internet once that there shouldn't be "writer's block" the way that someone's dad never had "driver's block." Point taken. Still, that does little to ease the mental bloodbath I enter every morning to do the job I signed up to do. (Not looking for solutions here. I just want to feel heard.)

They won't teach you this in an MFA program, but the first step to writing well is the vibes. How could anyone reasonably expect you to write well if the vibes are off? You can't. A high-functioning noise machine with a ton of sound options, noise-cancelling headphones , and a book-inspired candle will do the trick.

Writers are often caffeine addicts (among other things), so a coffee subscription and self-heating mug are right on the money. For some more practical writing support, a Scrivener writing subscription, digital notebook, or distraction-free word processor are creative, thoughtful, and perhaps rude if they weren't really looking for solutions , either . The best gifts for your favorite writer, here.

Twelve South Curve Flex

Curve Flex

Twelve South makes some of the smartest tech accessories around, and this laptop stand folds down to make an easy transition to their favorite coffee shop.

Steelcase Solo Sit-to-Stand Desk

Solo Sit-to-Stand Desk

If they're own space is more their vibe, a well-made standing desk is hard to beat for those constantly hunched over a computer.

Nuphy Air96 V2 Wireless Mechanical Keyboard

Air96 V2 Wireless Mechanical Keyboard

A pretty, tactile keyboard won't type the words for them but they will make the process feel a little soother.

Scrivener Subscription


Scrivener is the best writing software on the market, designed by and for writers. It has formats to fit their preferred format, from book manuscripts to dissertations.

Byredo Bibliothèque Candle

Bibliothèque Candle

A candle that gives literary genius with notes of plum, leather, and vanilla.

LectroFan Sound Machine

Sound Machine

The best review I can give you for this noise machine is that my neighbors are still alive.


For the caffeine-addicted writer, Ember's mug keeps drinks warm (and at their preferred temperature) for hours. Just long enough to power them through a morning of writing, or avoiding.

Erica Coven Not My Type Art Print

Not My Type Art Print

A little writer art for making their workspace feel purposeful.

Bose QuietComfort Ultra Headphones

QuietComfort Ultra Headphones

Every single sound in the world is a distraction for some writers, even when they also can't possibly sit in a space by themselves. Bose's QuietComfort over-ear headphones let them sit near people, but exist only in the world of their making.

Buffy Wiggle Pillow

Wiggle Pillow

For writers who get into all sorts of weird contorted positions while working, Buffy's wiggle pillow offers some comfortable support in even the strangest positions. (Looking at me, writing this lying face down on the carpet.)

reMarkable 2

reMarkable 2

The reMarkable tablet is a great way to feel like you're disconnecting from the world without having to later transcribe it. It's satisfying to write on and a great alternative to a classic notebook.

Smythson Evergreen Ludlow Refillable Notebook

Evergreen Ludlow Refillable Notebook

Smythson's leather notebooks are great gifts, but it's also very sad to retire a notebook this nice. This one is refillable, though, so you never have to get to the sad part.

Jose Cardona and Luke Gray Literary Clock

Literary Clock

Finally, a clock for people who can read words but can't read an analogue clock. This one is a fun gift: It pulls a quote from a book that matches the time that it is.

Verilux HappyLight Duo

HappyLight Duo

I'm not saying that all writers are sad but I am saying that they could benefit from more sunlight than they're probably getting now. This Verilux lamp is both a happy light and a task light for mimicking sunlight in their glazed-over eyes.

Logitech Casa Pop-up Desk

Casa Pop-up Desk

Logitech's pop-up desk is great for writers who prefer nomadic working. A laptop stand, track pad, and keyboard fold up into a laptop-sized box for easy transport.

Paradise Wall Art Store Book Set Minimalist Line Art

Book Set Minimalist Line Art

Some cool line art is a great decor gift option, if you want to contribute to their vibe-setting quest.

Juniper Books James Baldwin Book Set

James Baldwin Book Set

Their favorite writer's most famous books done up in a covers that belong right on display.

Freewrite Traveler


This gift is pricey but it's worth it for a Big Gift kind of occasion. It's a portable word processor they can write on without distraction. It uses an easy-to-see e-ink screen and backs up your work to your cloud of choice.

Puransen Bookend Vase

Bookend Vase

This is a bookend, a vase, and also the shape of a book. It's a thoughtful, budget-friendly gift.

Hyperice Normatec Go

Normatec Go

The writing life does not exactly make for the best posture of all time, with the weeping at your keyboard the whole day and all that. The Hypersphere does well to soften tight shoulders.

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15 Best Pens for Back-to-School and Beyond, According to Reviewers

Don't worry, lefties: These pens won't smudge on you!

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We've been independently researching and testing products for over 120 years. If you buy through our links, we may earn a commission. Learn more about our review process.

When judging a pen's performance, you probably judge ink drying time, whether or not the ink bleeds through paper, the comfort level when holding the pen, and price. Before you shop, it might help to learn about the basic types of pens to help better understand exactly what you're looking for:

  • Ballpoint pen: If you're looking for an everyday carry pen, then this is it. These reliable, oil-based ink pens dry faster and distribute less ink as you write.
  • Rollerball pen: These pens use water-based ink and are better for long writing. They write smoother and produce dark, clean lines.
  • Gel pen: A popular pen choice for middle schoolers because of the color variety, thanks to the pen's pigment formula. These pens use water-based gel ink that writes smooth but takes a longer time to dry. But once completely dry, the ink won't budge.
  • Marker pen : For ultimate, dark lines, markers pens are the way to go. They use water, oil, pigment, and alcohol-based inks and often promise a permanent or waterproof finish. Because they're darker, they might be more prone to bleed through thin paper.

Whether you're a parent trying to check off your child's school supply shopping list or you're a working professional, here are the best pens of 2020:

BIC Round Stic Xtra Life Ballpoint Pen

Round Stic Xtra Life Ballpoint Pen

If you just need a pen that works and want a lot of them, BIC is a household name for affordable pens that both students and working professionals can rely on. This item is an Amazon best-seller and makes a great affordable option — you receive 60 lightweight, ballpoint medium pens in one box, so it's not the biggest problem if you lose one or two. Additionally, you'll never be surprised when you run out of ink thanks to the translucent barrel that shows the ink level.  

Paper Mate InkJoy Gel Pens

InkJoy Gel Pens

This is the set to buy if your daughter has been talking about  bullet journaling all summer. It boasts a bright range of colors that reviewers say dry quickly — which comes in handy for a fast writers or doodlers. Note that while several reviewers agree on the comfortable grip and hold, some disagree on the claims that the pens do not smear. The set includes colors like Pure Blue Joy and Luscious Green, but also features a black pen for more regular use. 

Muji Gel Ink Ballpoint Pen

Gel Ink Ballpoint Pen

Muji is a Japanese brand that sells high quality, minimalist-style home products and stationary, like this best-selling gel pen. Unlike traditional gel pens, reviewers say the ink of this Muji pen won't smudge. They like that the gel pen dries as you write, plus the fact that it features a finer tip point compared to competing models.  The brand carries a few sizes of the pen, but 0.38 millimeters, the size featured here, is most popular. 

Montblanc PIX Black Rollerball

PIX Black Rollerball

Montblanc is a luxury pick for sure, but it's a top-searched brand and known for producing an ultra-clean finish and optimal neatness.  The brand holds a lot of history behind its name ( its first fountain pens date back to the early 1900s ), plus the design features a signature silhouette, real gold trimmings, and diamond accents on some styles. In terms of writing performance, online reviewers have called it "the Rolex" of the pen world, while some users say cheaper pens perform just as well. Still, when it comes to creating clean, pristine script, Montblanc is usually deemed the cream of the crop.

Pilot Dr. Grip Ballpoint Pen

Dr. Grip Ballpoint Pen

Thanks to this pen's double layer  cushy grip , users feel less pressure on their hands while writing. According to Pilot, the Dr. Grip is recommended by the Arthritis Foundation , and according to online reviewers, it's the best "handwriting solution for those with hand problems." One reviewer says though his hands usually experience fatigue while writing, this pen gives him a much easier time. 

Sharpie Fine Point Pen

Fine Point Pen

It's like Sharpie took the qualities of their classic permanent marker and made a pen. The brand says that the pen's quality ink won't smudge or fade. Several reviewers agree with the brand's main claim that the ink won't bleed through paper. One reviewer explains, "It feels like you're writing with a felt tip pen, but much finer." The results are dark, crisp, and clean.

Pilot Precise V5 RT

Precise V5 RT

The Pilot Precise V5 RT is a popular pick across the web, probably because it lives up to its name of making clean marks with its precise, 0.5 millimeter needle point technology. According to the brand, the retractable pen is designed to withstand high air pressures during flight use and writes on an even ink flow. Nearly 2,000 Amazon buyers rated the pen a perfect five-star rating, with reviewers saying they see "little to no smudging" and mark it an excellent choice for lefties.

PILOT G2 Rolling Ball Gel Pen

G2 Rolling Ball Gel Pen

Amazon reviewers love the "smooth and clean writing," comfortable hold, and the fact that this pen can be used for drawing and writing. The brand says that the G2 is " proven to be the longest writing gel ink pen among top brands ," and online reviews agree that this is a pen that can be used for all needs. This pack of 12 comes at about $1 a piece, but note that according to one reviewer, the refills cost just as much as the pens.

Uni-ball Jetstream Ballpoint Pen

Jetstream Ballpoint Pen

Online reviewers love this pen for its clean writing and long ink life. The brand claims that it writes just as crisp and clean as a gel pen, but dries instantly. One reviewer says he carries the Jetstream around as his everyday pen and appreciates the cap to prevent from leaking. Other reviewers agree with the brand claims about the pen being smudge-free and say even left-handed users wouldn't have a problem with smearing. 

SAKURA Micron Blister Card Ink Pen Set

Micron Blister Card Ink Pen Set

This 6-piece set includes a pen of each size, from 0.20 millimeters to .50 millimeters, great for artists and illustrators who wish to perfect every fine detail. The special Pigma ink is apparently waterproof and won't bleed if liquids spill on it. Reviewer say the pens last a long time before they run out of ink and can be used to draw and write on paper or fabrics. Some caution, however, to be gentle with the pens since the tips of the pens are fragile — while this can create cool art effects, too much pressure can cause leaking or damage. 

Parker Jotter Special Edition Ballpoint Pen

Jotter Special Edition Ballpoint Pen

Parker pens have been been known to deliver quality writing performance for decades, but the brand came out with this special edition ballpoint pen that makes the perfect gift for a pen snob. Though it's constructed with stainless steel, the retractable pen is ultra lightweight and easy to carry around. It features what Parker calls QuinkFlow technology for a smooth and sharp. The ballpoint pen is etched with famous British landmarks, which reviewers say actually helps for a comfortable grip. 

Pentel EnerGel Gel Ink Pen

EnerGel Gel Ink Pen

If you need ink that dries in seconds, online reviewers swear by this pack of pens. The set comes with black, red, blue, green, and purple, so it can be used for anything from taking notes to quickly filling out a planner. Keep in mind that some reviewers report slight bleeding when used on thinner notebook paper, but several reviews agree that the pen draws little to no smudging.

Zebra F-301 Ballpoint Pen

F-301 Ballpoint Pen

Fast writers give this pen a high rating because it dries quickly and won't leak. Plus, the stainless steel provides a nice "unique, luxury feel" — even when you're getting 12 pens for under $20. The pen design also includes a non-slip grip that comes in handy for jotting down notes or speeding through an exam. Reviewers note that the pen doesn't deliver the thickest ink, so keep this in mind if the ink quality is a dealbreaker for you.

STABILO Point 88 Fineliner Pens Color Wallet Set

Point 88 Fineliner Pens Color Wallet Set

Many articles point to Stabilo when it comes to finding the best-performing pens for coloring books, especially adult coloring pages with tighter spaces.  Online reviewers say that the 0.4 millimeter point tip offers more control and precision. They also take note that since the marker pens are water-based, overuse in smaller areas can cause the paper to tear. This particular set offers a wide color range of 30 shades, but you can also purchase the  pack of 40 for more variation.   

Tombow Fudenosuke Brush Pens (2-Pack)

Fudenosuke Brush Pens (2-Pack)

This set is favored by calligraphy artists because it features both a soft and hard tip pen — the flexibility makes for achieving various lettering techniques.  Reviewers like that you can create extra fine or medium strokes with just a change of pressure, and that the ink delivers the blackest output. A couple reviewers also pointed out that the ink won't bleed even when met with liquids. 

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Is the stock market open or closed on Good Friday 2024? See full holiday schedule

good writing for pen

United States stock markets will be closed on Friday, March 29 in observance of Good Friday , the day in which those who follow the Christian faith commemorate the crucifixion and death of Jesus Christ.

The  Nasdaq  and  New York Stock Exchange  will be closed Friday and reopen Monday, April 1. The U.S. bond market will close at 2 p.m. ET Thursday and will also be closed Friday, according to the  Securities Industry and Financial Markets Association .

After shuttering for Good Friday, it will be business as usual on Wall Street until late May. The next scheduled stock market closure is on Monday, May 27, 2024 in observance of Memorial Day.

What is Good Friday?: What the holy day means for Christians around the world

United States stock market 2024 holiday schedule

Markets will be closed for the following holidays:

  • Good Friday: Friday, March 29
  • Memorial Day: Monday, May 27
  • Juneteenth: Wednesday, June 19
  • Independence Day: Thursday, July 4
  • Labor Day: Monday, Sept. 2
  • Thanksgiving: Thursday, Nov. 28
  • Christmas: Wednesday, Dec. 25

Gabe Hauari is a national trending news reporter at USA TODAY. You can follow him on X  @GabeHauari  or email him at [email protected].


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