Top 10 Best Pens for Writing: Back to School Edition

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Regardless of how widespread computer or smartphone usage becomes, there will always be a need for writing utensils. For example, the desk from which I write this holds two computers and a total of five screens, including my phone and tablet. Despite all that, I also have at least two large size Post-it pads with various notes scribbled on them. Which means, of course, a mug of my favorite pens are close at hand, too.

Aside from the proven benefits of writing things out by hand (more on that in a future post), it’s hard to ignore that it can just be very satisfying to use your favorite pen to jot a quick note during a phone call or meeting. Or perhaps, in this advanced age, it’s been awhile since you considered the pen you use. Maybe you use any old pen, one you borrowed from someone and forgot to return. Pens are a dime a dozen, right?

I’m not so sure. As creative people, my wife and I each have our favorite pens that we defend (often to one another) vociferously, despite the fact that our class-based note-taking days are well behind us for now. We have a variety of hobbies — music, mixed media art, writing fiction — that are just better when we put pen to paper. And for anyone out there looking forward to the next school year, having a pen you love is a virtual necessity. The freedom granted by organizing your thoughts on paper in whatever way you see fit still reigns supreme when compared to the somewhat laborious process on machines with processors in them.

We’ve been writing by hand since about 3500 BCE, and despite our technological innovations, we’re likely to continue for some time. Not every teacher is so fond of letting their students take notes on laptops, either, so chances are good that as long as human beings go to school, pens will remain an important part of the learning experience.

Almost all of our suggestions come from the hardcore documentation world of the bullet journal community, for which BuzzFeed has a handy explainer. These are people serious about writing, with high demands for their pens. We’ve included a few specs for each so you know exactly what you’re buying and can choose according to your needs.

In preparation for the coming school year, use this list of the top ten best pens for writing to reconsider your writing implement.


1. Pilot FriXion Erasable Gel Pens

(Pilot)

Technology doesn’t just advance for, well, tech products. These FriXion pens innovated what I recall to be a very terrible invention: that of the erasable pen. In my youth, erasable pens were basically a normal stick ballpoint with what appeared to be a piece of cement affixed to the top that they called an eraser. It did erase ink, but it also erased the paper on which the ink was written. It was not an ideal scenario. These, on the other hand, are ideal. Technically, this ink isn’t erased, but rather turned transparent through the application of heat, which is provided by the friction of the durable plastic eraser (hence the name).

At the moment, there are about 50 of these pens in my house and I can attest to how fantastically they work. Erasing is every bit as easy as a high-quality no. 2 pencil, with no paper destruction required. We’re featuring the handy retractable ones, but capped versions are available here. Also available are the equally incredible FriXion markers and FriXion highlighters (yep, believe it) in both fluorescent and pastel shades.

If all that wasn’t enough, the fairly amazing Rocketbook Wave notebook, which uses a companion app to beam your notes to a variety of online platforms, was designed especially to work with these pens. When the notebook is full, microwave it to apply the necessary heat to erase it completely. Probably the best all-around note-taking scenario.

Need more options? Browse more Pilot FriXion products here.

Price: $11.72 for seven multi-color

Buy the Pilot FriXion Erasable Gel Pens here.


Specs:

  • Tip type: Rollerball
  • Preferred tip size: 0.7mm
  • Ink type: Thermo-sensitive gel
  • Grip type: Rubberized
  • Refillable?: Yes — refills here
  • Water resistant?: No

Find more Pilot FriXion Erasable Gel Pens information and reviews here.


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2. TUL GL1 Needle Point Fine Gel Pen

(TUL)

Aimed at the precision-inclined, these pens use gel ink and a fine tip for a very controllable writing experience. The build quality is excellent and they look and feel like a high-end pen. The pocket clip is made of a single piece of bent aluminum, which should resist breaking even if you fidget with it, unlike so many pens now that use plastic clips. The retraction mechanism is crisp and strong; very unlikely to wear out during the course of its life. This is especially good because these are refillable with these refills These pens would be good for those with very neat penmanship and a light touch as the fine tip can drag a bit under a heavy hand like mine. My wife loves them for her daily planner because they are ultra-quick drying and won’t smudge.

Need more options? Browse more TUL products here.

Price: $21.99 for 12 black

Buy the TUL GL1 Needle Point Fine Gel Pen here.


Specs:

  • Tip type: Rollerball
  • Preferred tip size: 0.5mm needle point
  • Ink type: Gel
  • Grip type: Rubberized
  • Refillable?: Yes — refills here
  • Water resistant?: No

Find more TUL GL1 Needle Point Fine Gel Pen information and reviews here.


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3. Faber-Castell Pitt Artist Pens — Four Size Wallet

(Faber-Castell)

Although these are technically meant for drawing, the responsiveness of the nib tip and richness of the India ink make them excellent for writing, as well. They excel at being smudge-free and are also water resistant, so don’t worry too much if you should spill a little water on your notes. This particular pack comes with four different tip widths: S – 0.3mm, F – 0.5mm, M – 0.7mm, and B – brush width. My favorite of these is the Medium tip, which you can buy separately here, if you prefer. Also, if you decide you love them, there’s a set of eight sizes here.

Need more options? Browse more Faber-Castell Pitt pens here.

Price: $9.42 for four black (14 percent off MSRP)

Buy the Faber-Castell Pitt Artist Pens — Four Size Wallet here.


Specs:

  • Tip type: Nib
  • Preferred tip size: 0.7mm (M)
  • Ink type: India
  • Grip type: No grip
  • Refillable?: No
  • Water resistant?: Yes

Find more Faber-Castell Pitt Artist Pens — Four Size Wallet information and reviews here.


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4. Zebra Sarasa Rapid Dry Ink Gel Retractable Pen

(Zebra)

The left handed among us need all the same things righties do in looking for a pen: smooth writing, sharp lines, durability, and comfort. Lefties also need one additional quality right-handed writers may overlook: extremely fast drying. Smudged writing is familiar to all left handed folks, so Zebra set out to develop gel ink that dries as fast as possible to help avoid this. We’ve featured here the utilitarian black ink, but these also come in blue, red, violet, light green, forest, navy, mahogany, fuchsia, and cobalt, both individually and in the “Fashion Assorted” pack. You can choose among packs ranging from two pends to 18 to address all your writing needs.

Need more options? Browse more Zebra Sarasa products here.

Price: $9.09 for 10 black (52 percent off MSRP)

Buy the Zebra Sarasa Rapid Dry Ink Gel Retractable Pen here.


Specs:

  • Tip type: Rollerball
  • Preferred tip size: 0.7mm
  • Ink type: Gel
  • Grip type: Grooved rubber
  • Refillable?: Yes — refills here
  • Water resistant?:

Find more Zebra Sarasa Rapid Dry Ink Gel Retractable Pen information and reviews here.


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5. Staedtler Triplus Fineliner

(Staedtler)

This unassuming-looking pen hides a couple of relatively advanced features not seen elsewhere. First of all, while there’s no proper grip to speak of, the pen barrel itself is shaped into a rounded triangle, which makes them ultra comfortable and reduces writing fatigue over long periods. Second, it uses a special “Dry Safe” ink that prevents it from drying out if the cap is left off for several days. That can help if the cap falls off in your bag, or if you leave for class in a hurry. Porous point pens can drag just a bit compared to rollerball, but they make up for it with free-flowing ink. In addition to this standard black, these come in many colors, as seen in this 20 pack. The cover of the case folds back to become a stand so you can have all colors at the ready without them rolling all over the place. I also quite like the Blackbox, which includes a mix of fineliner, highlighter, ballpoint, and rollerball pens.

Need more options? Browse more Staedtler Triplus products here.

Price: $7.39 for six black

Buy the Staedtler Triplus Fineliner here.


Specs:

  • Tip type: Porous point
  • Preferred tip size: 0.3mm
  • Ink type: Water-based
  • Grip type: Triangular barrel
  • Refillable?: No
  • Water resistant?: No

Find more Staedtler Triplus Fineliner information and reviews here.


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6. Marvy Uchida LePen

(Marvy Uchida)

Perhaps you should approach these with caution. These unassuming-looking pens have garnered a rabid online following amongst the journaling community. The ultra-fine plastic point makes for a very smooth writing experience, which is aided by the excellent flow of the smudge-proof ink. With a variety of uses, you, too, may become as obsessed as the previously converted. These come in 18 different colors, which an enterprising seller has taken it upon themselves to package together here.

Need more options? Browse more Marvy Uchida LePen products here.

Price: $16.99 for 12 black

Buy the Marvy Uchida LePen here.


Specs:

  • Tip type: Plastic nib
  • Preferred tip size: 0.3mm
  • Ink type: Water-based
  • Grip type: No grip
  • Refillable?: No
  • Water resistant?: No

Find more Marvy Uchida LePen information and reviews here.


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7. uni-ball Signo 207 Retractable Gel Pens

(uni-ball)

The uni-ball Signo line is expansive and covers an awful lot of ground. If you want to read all about it, you can check out this JetPens.com article that gives the full rundown. We’ve chosen to go with the 207 option because of its history of being used in demonstrations of thwarting check washing, the process by which someone removes the details written on a check to illegally fill in their own. The nature of the 207 ink makes this virtually impossible as the special formula embeds pigment into the fibers of the paper. Aside from that, it’s a fine-looking implement with an excellent grip. Available in black, blue, purple, and red in a variety of pack sizes. One word of caution: these can take a little bit to get going, so be patient when you first start writing with a new one.

Need more options? Browse more uni-ball Signo products here.

Price: $12.62 for 12 black

Buy the uni-ball Signo 207 Retractable Gel Pens here.


Specs:

  • Tip type: Conical
  • Preferred tip size: 0.7mm
  • Ink type: Gel
  • Grip type: Textured rubber
  • Refillable?: Yes — refills here
  • Water resistant?: Yes

Find more uni-ball Signo 207 Retractable Gel Pens information and reviews here.


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8. Sakura Gelly Roll Gel Ink Pen

(Sakura)

Yep, believe it. The originators of the gel pen genre, Sakura continue to crank out Gelly Roll pens over 30 years later. Originally created to eliminate smudging, bleed, and to facilitate easier writing, these are the pens that ignited the gel pen revolution. These days, they support the market by providing a huge line of colors beyond the standard black, blue, red, green, brown, purple, orange, royal blue, pink, and burgundy. Palettes like Metallic and Moonlight, for example. They also make one of the all-time great white pens for use on dark paper, if you should need such a thing. Leaving aside the gimmicks, these really are among the smoothest writing pens out there, so consider giving them a whirl.

Need more options? Browse more Sakura Gelly Roll products here.

Price: $15.96 for 10 multi-color

Buy the Sakura Gelly Roll Gel Ink Pen here.


Specs:

  • Tip type: Rollerball
  • Preferred tip size: 0.8mm
  • Ink type: Gel
  • Grip type: No grip
  • Refillable?: No
  • Water resistant?: Yes

Find more Sakura Gelly Roll Gel Ink Pen information and reviews here.


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9. Sharpie Fine Point Pen

(Sharpie)

Ever wish you could take all your notes in a good old-fashioned Sharpie, the world’s most ubiquitous marker? Doing so would result in a lot of bleed and destroy many pages unnecessarily. Sharpie noted the problem and created these pens that are designed specifically to avoid that problem. Retaining that marker-like ink density and boldness, these pens write very smoothly despite their nib/porous tip. It nearly rivals the smoothness of an especially nice ballpoint. My wife prefers these capped ones, but I like the retractable version, which also includes a grip.

Need more options? Browse more Sharpie products here.

Price: $13.80 for 12 multi-colored

Buy the Sharpie Fine Point Pen here.


Specs:

  • Tip type: Nib
  • Preferred tip size: 0.8mm
  • Ink type: Water-based
  • Grip type: No grip
  • Refillable?: No
  • Water resistant?: Yes

Find more Sharpie Fine Point Pen information and reviews here.


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10. Sakura Pigma Micron Ink Pen

(Sakura)

Sakura clearly had their finger on the pulse of writing implements in the 80s. The Micron continues to enjoy widespread popularity today for everything from precise technical notation to free-hand drawing. These pens excel at any task to which they are assigned and will make excellent writing utensils for any school application. This assorted pack includes tip sizes from 0.2 to 0.5 millimeters, so you’ll be covered. Ultimately, these are probably most similar to the TUL above, but with decades of pedigree behind them.

Need more options? Browse more Sakura Micron products here.

Price: $9.19 for six black in assorted sizes

Buy the Sakura Pigma Micron Ink Pen here.


Specs:

  • Tip type: Nib
  • Preferred tip size: 0.45mm
  • Ink type: Pigment
  • Grip type: No grip
  • Refillable?: No
  • Water resistant?: Yes

Find more Sakura Pigma Micron Ink Pen information and reviews here.


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