Are you looking to buy the best pens for writing?
If you’re fond of writing with pens, you know they are a key part of the writing experience.
Even in this age of tablets and phones, pens are irreplaceable, because they help writers think through their work in a way that’s not possible on screen.
Buying the best pen is fun and it can help you enjoy handwriting more.
Some people are lucky as they accidentally come across the right pen for themselves.
For other writers, it’s a little harder to find the perfect pen. Many types of writing pens are for sale, including fountain pens, ballpoint pens (or biros), gel pens and more.
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 selected some affordable and more expensive options based on the different types of pens on sale today.
If you are planning to buy a writing pen, first consider what type you want and then how you’ll use it.
This post contains affiliate links, meaning I earn a small commission if you use one. I bought each of the pens in this guide and tested them before writing my review.
- Popular Types of Best Pens for Writing
- How Do You Hold Your Pen?
- Why Do You Need a Pen?
- Is Legibility Important?
- What’s Your Writing Style?
- What Impact Does Environment Play?
- What Type of Paper Do You Use?
- How I Tested the Pens In This Guide
- Best Fountain Pens
- Best Fountain Pen for Beginners
- Best Gel Pen
- Best Rollerball Pen
- Best Ballpoint Pens
- Uni-ball Jetstream
- Parker Jotter Ballpoint
- Best Quick-Drying Pen
- Best Ergonomic Pen
- Best Erasable Pen
- Best Felt Tip Pen
- Best Pen for Note Taking
- Buying The Best Pens for Writing: Final Verdict
- Pen Buyer's Guide Resources
Popular Types of Best Pens for Writing
The way a pen delivers ink depends on how you hold it, how much pressure you apply and the type of pen. Here are some of the most popular different types of pens.
When you write with a ballpoint pen, the ball bearing in the tip of the pen rolls across the paper. Most ballpoint ink is oil-based and dries immediately. Biros are an example of popular, yet cheap, ballpoint pens.
Both ballpoint and rollerball pens tend to deliver lighter ink than fountain and gel pens. If your ballpoint doesn’t work, scribble on a piece of paper so the ink can move to the ball bearing and be delivered to the paper.
Rollerball pens also use a ball bearing to deliver ink onto the paper, but the ink is water- or gel-based. This makes the ink richer and more prominent, but it takes a while to dry.
But be careful. If your paper is too thin, the ink can spread or bleed through quickly. This pen is better for stationery cards or other thick papers. Personally, I prefer rollerball pens over ballpoints for writing notes on the go.
The air in a fountain pen flows up to the top through a small vent in the tip and causes the ink to flow out. This is why fountain pens are best for thicker paper and cards. Even the best fountain pen ink dries slower than other pen types.
To use the best fountain pens, you must change or fill the ink cartridges. Don’t worry, it’s (mostly) easy to change these. If you’re travelling or a week or two, bring pack with you.
Since writing this guide, I have begun to use fountain pens a lot more to outline story and article ideas and for journal entry ideas and for checking grammar. These pens are pleasing and tactile to use.
Felt tip pen
A lot of felt tip pens use water-based ink, but some use archival ink, which means the ink lasts a long time. The tip’s pressed fibers allow the wick to soak up a lot of ink in just one go.
Make sure to cover your felt tip pen as soon as you’re finished using it, because the ink dries quickly. I’m not a huge fan of felt tip pens, as I’m a heavy-handed writer, and the ink smudges on paper and over my hands.
These pens use a thick, water-based gel ink that tends to show more clearly on dark and smooth surfaces. Gel pens are available in different colors.
Gel pens take much longer to dry than ballpoint and rollerball pens, so try not to touch the paper right after using a gel pen on it.
The best gel pens look nice, but I don’t use them often for the reasons mentioned above.
How Do You Hold Your Pen?
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. 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.
Writers who hold their pens between their pointer and middle fingers should avoid a rollerball pen, or their hands might get messy because of the ink.
Some left-handed writers complain about ink getting on their fingers more easily than right-handed writers.
Before you choose an expensive writing pen, consider how you hold it. This way, you can buy one that’s within budget and doesn’t leave too many marks on your fingers.
(An aside for writers on a budget: if you want to save money on writing apps and tools check out my Grammarly coupon)
Why Do You Need a Pen?
Although writing notes on phones and computers is common, many writers prefer the simplicity of pens. They don’t need a better computer, Wi-Fi password, or screen protector.
Perhaps you want a smooth writing experience or maybe you want to take notes fast? Consider your needs if the pen costs more than a few dollars.
If you're in class taking notes during a lecture, you probably want a pen that's comfortable and doesn't smudge.
A fine pen is ideal for writing a thank you note.
And fountain pens are just fun to use. I use expensive pens and writing instruments at home and cheaper pens on the go in case I lose them.
Is Legibility Important?
You can write a grocery list with almost any pen, but if you’re sending a personal invitation to someone, fancier penmanship is more pleasing to read.
If you’re writing for yourself, it’s okay if your handwriting is a little messy, whereas if you’re writing for someone else, make sure your handwriting is legible.
What’s Your Writing Style?
Buying the best writing pen depends on your style.
Do you prefer writing in cursive or simple handwriting?
Do you take bullet point notes or write out longer sentences by hand? Do you like to draw multi-colored mind maps or simply record key phrases and ideas?
Cheap pens are good for fast notes, while more expensive pens are ideal for drawings and entries you’ll reread.
If you plan to write lengthy notes, look for a heavier pen with a finger grip. That said, I talked to one writer who said she has smaller hands and finds heavy pens awkward and difficult to balance.
What Impact Does Environment Play?
If you’re in a room on a rainy day writing poetry, you might prefer a flowy gel pen or highlighter pens in different colors.
If you’re in class haphazardly taking notes, you might prefer a pen that flows easily without cramping your hand.
If you’re in space, you might prefer a pen that works in zero gravity.
What Type of Paper Do You Use?
When searching for the right pen, you also need to know the kind of paper you will be writing on. Take your personal journal or notebook with you if you’re buying a pen from a shop so you can easily test the performance and flow of the pen.
The size of the paper, 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 or index cards
Stationery cards, or note cards, are thick and absorb ink really well. The best pens for stationery cards are felt tip, fountain pens and markers.
Good index cards are usually heavy and absorb ink. The cards will smudge though. I use rollerball pens and fountain pens for these, as I file and refer to my index cards. I don’t use ballpoint pens or biro when writing on these for long. It causes my hand to cramp.
How I Tested the Pens In This Guide
I bought every pen in this guide and spent a few minutes writing with each one on index cards and paper. I considered factors like the pen’s weight, price, ease of use, looks and form.
I also checked to see if the ink smudged easily and considered if I’d want to write with this pen for a few weeks or months.
I focused mostly on affordable and budget-friendly pens, assuming writers aren’t going to spend thousands to try a pen.
Best Fountain Pens
Fountain pens are pleasing to use, but it takes a little practice to avoid smudging and get comfortable writing with them.
You will also have to refill these types of writing pens regularly or purchase replacement ink cartridges.
Personally, I prefer cartridges as they are easier to change and I'm less likely to end up with black ink on my fingers.
I use fountain pens for journaling and taking longer notes, whereas I use ballpoint and gel pens when in a hurry.
Wordsworth & Black Fountain Pen
This is one of the more expensive luxury pen brands in this guide and came in a faux leather box.
I keep this pen at my desk rather than taking it out and about, as I was afraid I’d lose it.
Billed as an executive pen, it’s heavier than other fountain pens in this guide. 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.
Writing by candlelight optional.
This is my favourite writing pen in this guide.
Pilot Metropolitan Fountain Pen
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 beginners.
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 on paper 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.
TWSBI ECO Fountain Pen
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.
PARKER Vector Fountain Pen
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 fountain pens above, and the plastic barrel doesn’t feel as satisfying. Still, the “quick ink technology” produces a pleasant effect on the page, and it costs less.
Best Fountain Pen for Beginners
Lamy Safari Fountain Pen
I bought this fountain pen from Amazon because Neil Gaiman recommended it in an interview with Tim Ferriss. I’ve used it for months without issue.
It’s comparable to the Wordsworth & Black luxury pen, although it’s lighter and has a matte rather than a glossy coating. I write with this fountain pen a lot when taking notes on index cards.
If you’re new to fountain pens start with this one. I like the look and feel of it, but another writer told me it’s ugly.
Best Gel Pen
Uni-ball Signo Gel Pen
There are lots of affordable gel pens to choose from, but the Uni-ball Signo DX UM-151 is a good choice.
It glides on all types of paper, and it has a large 0.7mm nib size, which comes in metallic and pastel options. Nib sizes vary from 0.7mm to 0.28mm. As a heavy-handed writer, I prefer large nibs.
If you prefer bold colors, go for the metallic option, but if you want something light, try pastel colors. Both ink types are vibrant.
The Uni-ball Signo gel pen offers more than various nibs and colours. Its pigment-based formula is waterproof and unaffected by too much exposure to light. The ink smudged a little when I tested it on a Moleskine notebook, but that’s par for the course with gel pens.
The pen includes a finger grip.
Best Rollerball Pen
Uni-ball Vision Elite Rollerball Pen
The Uni-ball Vision Elite is a best-selling rollerball pen that you’ve probably used before. It glides smoothly on the paper and feels sturdy. Unlike fountain pens, you don't need to worry about 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 pen is fraud-resistant, so you can use it to write checks and sign legal documents.
It comes in different variations of black, such as blue, black, brown black and purple black, which gives more choices.
This pen doesn’t include a finger grip and is heavier than other Uni-ball pens in this guide.
Best Ballpoint Pens
With the Uni-ball Jetstream ballpoint pen, you side-step the rollerball vs. ballpoint debate because of Uni’s proprietary ink.
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 colours and tip sizes. You can simply choose your favorite one.
It also has a 0.38mm tip size.
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.
Parker Jotter Ballpoint
Parker is known for making luxury pens.
I’ve bought this ballpoint pen several times over the past few years, because it balances looks with affordability. The Jotter 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’s never leaked on me either. The pen’s bottom comes in multiple colours (Red is my favourite.), although the paint on the case will scratch with heavy use.
Best Quick-Drying Pen
Zebra Sarasa Dry Gel 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. It writes smoothly and 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.
It’s another cheap, cheerful and affordable writing pen.
Best Ergonomic Pen
Uni-ball Signo Premier Gel Pen
This is an ergonomic pen for heavy-handed writers like me and those worried about hand size or RSI. (I get repetitive strain injury when using smaller pens or devices like a mini-mouse for extended periods)
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.
The pigmented ink is dark, no matter how much pressure you apply.
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.
Best Erasable Pen
Pilot Frixon 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 colours, tip sizes and styles.
Fun fact: The ink from this pen will disappear if the page gets too hot. If that happens, keep the paper or the notepad in the freezer with a temperature below 10 degrees.
Best Felt Tip Pen
Sakura Pigma Micron Pen
Personally, I find felt tip pens difficult to write with, because I lean heavily on the page and my writing smudges easily.
Sure they're great for lettering but they are slower and harder to write with.
That said, your writing style might vary.
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 is also archival, so it will last for a long time. The ink is also waterproof.
The Sakura Pigma felt tip pen comes in 15 colours and different sizes, ranging from 0.15mm to 0.5mm. I bought the .25mm pack, which contained six pens. If I were buying this pen again, I’d opt for a larger nib.
Best Pen for Note Taking
Zebra Sarasa Mark On Gel Pen
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 Zebra Sarasa pen is great for people who write a lot.
I bought a five-pack of these and received a bag of about twenty pens! They’re usually sold as packs of five.
The ink dries quickly on both card and paper. The ink also looks heavier and more solid than other pens I tested in this guide.
The clickable pen is lightweight and ideal for note-taking, as it doesn't smudge. The pen features a finger rest near the nib so you’re unlikely to get finger pain while writing quickly.
Buying The Best Pens for Writing: Final Verdict
Much like with writing desks, anyone looking to buy the best pen, a luxury pen or just an affordable pen has lots of options.
No matter your budget or what you use pens for, there’s a choice available today that’s pleasing to use when you write.
What is the best pen for writing quickly on an exam?
A Uni-Ball 0.8mm pen is ideal for an exam as it's comfortable to hold, doesn't smudge and is quick to write with. It also comes in a variety of colors. The Parker Jotter Ballpoint pens are also a good choice.
What are the best gel pens for writing ?
A Uni-Ball retractable gel pen is a good choice as it's affordable, quick-drying and comfortable to hold. The Parker Jotter Ballpoint pens are also popular with writers.
What are the best pens for writing notes?
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.
What are the best pens for writing in books?
A Parker Jotter Ballpoint pen is a good choice. I'd avoid a fountain pen as the ink will smudge on the page of your book.
Pen Buyer's Guide Resources
What Is The Smoothest Pen to Write With?
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