The Best Pens for 2023: Gel, Ballpoint, Rollerball, and Fountain Pens

The 42 Best Pens for 2023: Gel, Ballpoint, Rollerball, and Fountain Pens

The title of “The Best Pen” is a weighty one—not everyone wants the same things from their pens, and what makes for one person’s perfect pen may be intolerable to another. It’s also true that different types of pens aren’t directly comparable. The best fountain pen has different characteristics from the best gel pen, and the best pens for writing aren’t the same as the best pens for art.

To make this guide as useful as possible, we’ve limited our choices to the best pens in specific categories instead of ranking all of the pens together. We also link to more detailed guides wherever possible so that you can read more about our reasoning and see competing pens. We encourage you to explore, evaluate our picks, and draw your own conclusions—who knows, you might find your One True Pen!

How We Tested

In choosing our recommendations, we drew on the extraordinary number of tests we’ve conducted over the years for our topical guides and videos. These include full product lineups, detailed product comparisons, step-by-step how-tos, and other educational resources. The tests we use vary depending on the product type and how it’s likely to be used, but they often include qualities like smoothness, waterproofness, showthrough, vibrancy, and drying time. Click in to the guides listed below each category to see specific test results.

Test These Pens

We’ve picked what we think are the best pens for each category, but your favorites may be different depending on your particular needs and preferences. Try our JetPens Pen Samplers and Starter Kits to test a selection of our best and most popular pens so that you can pick the best pen for yourself! You can also use our Comparison Tool to take a closer look at multiple pens at once. Try comparing some of our most popular pens here.

The Best Pens for Writing

The Best Fountain Pens for Writing

Pilot Metropolitan Fountain Pens

The Pilot Metropolitan is far and away our favorite fountain pen for beginners. Its superior metal build and exceptionally smooth nib ensure that your first fountain pen is one you can be proud of. The Metropolitan also offers a variety of options to suit your personal style, with three nib sizes (fine, medium, and medium italic) and several body colors to choose from. It can be filled with ink using Pilot’s proprietary cartridges or converters, which allow you to use any bottled fountain pen ink.

For those who appreciate how the Metropolitan writes but not its body style, the Kakuno, Penmanship, and Prera all use the same swappable nibs. The Kakuno is particularly charming, with a smiley face stamped on each nib to remind you which side should face up.

Most fountain pens are filled with cartridges or converters like the Pilot Metropolitan, but some have built-in mechanisms that allow you to fill the pen barrel with ink directly. The TWSBI GO is an excellent place to start if you want to experiment with this sort of filling system. Its spring-loaded piston filling mechanism is remarkably easy to use. And if you have any tendency to place fountain pens on a special-occasions-only pedestal, the TWSBI GO’s quirky style will encourage you to treat it like the everyday writing instrument it is.

TWSBI ECO Fountain Pens

The TWSBI ECO offers phenomenal value in the under $50 bracket. Most piston-filling fountain pens cost north of $100, but with the ECO, TWSBI delivers a high-quality piston filler with a sleek, clear body that lets you see exactly how much ink you have left. It writes very well and is available in a full complement of nib sizes, from extra fine to 1.1 mm italic, so you are sure to find a size you like.

But if they’re both piston fillers, why would you choose the ECO over the TWSBI GO mentioned in the previous section? The answer comes down to ink capacity and style.

The GO’s spring-loaded piston is extra easy to use, but it leaves less space in the barrel for the ink. And although we enjoy the funky look of the spring, it’s definitely not for everyone. The ECO is a little larger and uses a more traditional screw-operated design, which allows it to hold about 0.4 milliliters more than the GO. This is helpful for those who write extensively or simply don’t want to refill their pens as often. The ECO also has broader appeal in terms of style and often comes in limited edition colors for those who want to go beyond the standard options of white, black, and clear.

We also wholeheartedly recommend the LAMY Safari, a distinctively modern fountain pen. Its triangular grip section helps guide your hand into an ergonomic tripod grip. The Safari is made of durable ABS plastic, but similar pens like the AL-Star and Lx are made of lightweight aluminum.

Kaweco AL Sport Fountain Pens

The Kaweco AL Sport is a high-quality, stylish, and classic option for anyone who is ready to venture into more interesting fountain pen styles and materials. It manages to be both vintage and modern, with an iconic octagonal body design that was first introduced in 1935 and remains immensely popular. The Kaweco Sport’s slogan—“Small in the pocket, great in the hand”—describes its appeal perfectly. Although the pen is small enough to fit easily in a pocket for everyday carry, its long cap extends it to an easily usable size when posted on the back of the pen.

The Kaweco Sport is available in cheaper plastic versions, but we like the AL Sport’s premium feel. The aluminum build gives the pen substance and durability without adding undue weight. It also feels fantastic in the hand. The Kaweco Steel Sport and Kaweco Brass Sport are good alternatives for those who prefer heavier pens.

We also want to mention the LAMY Studio, which features the same steel nibs found on the Safari, but fitted to a solidly built metal body. The Studio’s subtle, curving design gives the pen a remarkably sophisticated look.

Pilot Vanishing Point Fountain Pens

Although there are many sophisticated pens that any executive would be proud to carry, we have to choose the Pilot Vanishing Point for the title of the best executive pen. Its simple yet elegant styling gives it the classic look of a tailored suit, while its unique retractable mechanism instantly impresses—not to mention, it is a supremely practical design for day-to-day writing and note-taking. The standard Vanishing Point is best for those with larger hands and comes in a range of finishes, from the subdued Black Matte to the stunning Raden series. The thinner and lighter Decimo is ideal for those with smaller hands or who intend to write for long periods of time.

Some writers may find that the Vanishing Point’s clip gets in the way of their fingers; others may want a more conventional pen. For an alternative that is no less luxurious, you can’t go wrong with the LAMY 2000. This fountain pen perfectly balances a striking design with an understated aesthetic. Because it’s a piston filler, it has a high ink capacity that allows you to write for pages and pages.

JetPens Beginner Fountain Pen Sampler

If you’re ready to try your first fountain pen, our Starter Kit will get you set up with the basics. It includes a pen, converter, bottled inks, and two fountain pen friendly notebooks. The Beginner Fountain Pen Sampler lets you test five popular fountain pens that are perfectly suited for newbies.

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Uni-ball Signo UM-151 Gel Pens

The title of the best gel pen is especially contentious, but we stake our flag on the Uni-ball Signo UM-151 with confidence. It writes exceptionally smoothly, from the reliable 0.5 mm size all the way down to the super-small 0.28 mm tip size that lets you write neatly in tiny planner squares. Its ink is wonderfully vibrant and comes in a beautiful array of colors. Off-black shades like lavender black and blue black are especially popular.

There’s more to the Signo’s ink than just appearances, though. Its pigment-based formulation is water resistant, archival, and resists fading from light exposure. This makes it an excellent choice for writing checks, signing important documents, and anything else you want to stand the test of time.

JetPens Black Gel Pen Sampler

Our gel pen samplers allow you to test a selection of our best gel pens in a variety of tip sizes. Choose from black, blue black, blue, green, brown, purple, and even more colors!

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Uni Jetstream Ballpoint Pens

The Uni Jetstream combines all of the benefits of writing with a ballpoint pen with specially-formulated low-viscosity ink that provides a smooth, vivid, and consistent writing experience. The Jetstream also comes in several different body styles, tip sizes, and ink colors to allow you to choose your favorite version. This includes the ergonomic Alpha Gel Grip Series as well as a super-fine 0.28 mm tip size that is unheard of among ballpoint pens.

JetPens Black Ballpoint Pen Sampler

Use our ballpoint pen samplers to test a selection of our best ballpoint pens across brands, or evaluate several different body styles of the Uni Jetstream. They include a wide range of tip sizes for you to try.

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Uni-ball Vision Elite Rollerball Pens

The humble Uni-ball Vision Elite is our top contender for the best rollerball pen. It reliably delivers a smooth, skip-free, and satisfyingly dark line that makes it a pleasure to write with. The 0.8 mm, tip size is silky smooth, while the 0.5 mm tip size has some feedback without being scratchy. The Vision Elite’s fraud-resistant and archival pigment ink is ideal for signing checks and legal documents. As a special touch, it is available in off-black colors that are unusual among rollerball pens, including blue black, purple black, and brown black.

Pilot Hi-Tec-C Gel Pens

If you want your pen to have the finest of fine tips, the Pilot Hi-Tec-C is hands down the pen for you. Its 0.25 mm tip can write neatly in the tiniest spaces, from book margins to planner squares. The Hi-Tec-C is remarkably smooth considering the fineness of its tip and comes in a wide range of vibrant colors, though we must warn writers that such fine tip sizes will feel more “scratchy” than those found on 0.38 mm or 0.5 mm pens. Additionally, we found that the 0.25 mm Hi-Tec-C can need a little priming before use: you may need to scribble on a piece of scrap paper to get the ink flowing. We find these minor quibbles a reasonable exchange for such fine lines, but the slightly broader 0.3 mm tip tends to perform more reliably.

Those who prefer ballpoint inks should reach for the Uni Jetstream Edge. It holds the title for the finest ballpoint pen available thanks to its 0.28 mm tip. As with the Hi-Tec-C, its ultra fine tip does not perform as consistently as the 0.38 mm pen, but we remain impressed by its performance.

JetPens Fine Tip Black Gel Pen Sampler

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Zebra Sarasa Dry Gel Pens

As its name suggests, the Sarasa Dry dries remarkably quickly—often seconds faster than we could touch it in testing, and by about five seconds in the largest and wettest tip-size tests. It puts down a wonderfully dark line, writes smoothly, and comes in 0.4 mm, 0.5 mm, and 0.7 mm tip sizes. Like many other Sarasa pens, the Sarasa Dry is equipped with a handy binder clip for fastening it to notebooks and pockets.

As with many water-based gel inks, the Sarasa Dry smears readily beneath highlighters. Color-coders should consider using a ballpoint pens like the Pilot Acro and Acroball instead. Ballpoint pens use oil-based inks that won’t react when paired with highlighters, so you can go over your notes without worrying about smudges.

Uni-ball Signo 207 Premier Gel Pens

Ergonomic pens are highly individual, with the best options depending on a host of factors from hand size and shape to medical conditions. Even so, we think the Uni-ball Signo 207 Premier is the best all-round ergonomic pen for most people. Its free-flowing ink helps you hold the pen lightly as it glides across the page. The pigmented ink is satisfyingly dark regardless of how lightly you write, but if you do still grip the pen hard, its delightfully squishy grip section will relieve your achy fingers. In addition, the 207 Premier’s light weight and low center of gravity won’t tire your hand as you write.

JetPens Ergonomic Gel Pen Sampler

Since ergonomics are so specific to each person, it makes sense to try a variety of pens before committing to just one. Our JetPens Ergonomic Pen Sampler includes five of our favorite ergonomic pens for you to test in the comfort of your home, including our recommended Uni-ball Signo 207 Premier, a Dr. Grip ballpoint pen, a Stabilo Worker rollerball pen, and even a fountain pen! If you know you prefer a specific ink type, try our Ergonomic Gel Pen Sampler or Ergonomic Ballpoint Pen Sampler for a more targeted selection of pens.

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Zebra bLen Ballpoint Pens

Most people are unaware of how visual and audio clutter can affect their mental wellbeing. If this is something you’re concerned about, the Zebra bLen was created exactly with stress-free writing in mind. The name is inspired by the Japanese word burenai, which means non-vibrating, and that’s exactly what it offers: a carefully engineered pen that eliminates all the little rattles and vibrations which can cause frustration and distract us from writing. Its minimalist design is beautiful and calming to look at, and will fit seamlessly into any aesthetic. We especially enjoy Zebra’s smooth and vibrant emulsion ballpoint ink, which is darker and smoother than regular ballpoint inks. The bLen is also available in a 3-color multi pen model.

We also like the Pentel Calme and its clicker, which makes almost no sound. Its grip section has a leather-like texture and extends from the middle to the pen down close to the tip, so your fingers have something to grip on no matter where you hold your pen. Like the bLen, the Calme is available in multi pen versions, including some with mechanical pencil components.

Pilot FriXion Gel Pens

The Pilot FriXion is the best erasable pen by far. Of all the options, this remarkable pen offers the best combination of vibrancy, consistent ink quality, and erasability. It accomplishes this with a special thermosensitive ink that writes just like any other ink, yet disappears without a trace when rubbed with the hard eraser on the end of the pen. The friction generated by this rubbing action raises the temperature of the ink and renders it invisible. The Pilot FriXion comes in several colors, tip sizes, and styles so that you can find one that fits your preferences. If gel pens aren’t your style, FriXion ink technology can be found in highlighters, markers, stamps, and more.

FriXion inks are less saturated in color than standard gel inks. This is most noticeable with the black ink, which can appear gray, especially if you tend to write quickly. The Ball Zone improves the ink’s saturation so the black ink no longer has a green tint and the colored inks are more vibrant.

It’s important to keep in mind that Pilot FriXion ink will “erase” with any heat, so we don’t recommend storing your notebooks on top of a radiator or in cars during the summer. Additionally, don’t use FriXion ink to take tests or write on important documents. If your writing disappears inadvertently, you may be able to get it to reappear by placing the paper in a freezer that reaches below 14°F, or -10°C.

Uni Jetstream Stylus Ballpoint Pens

For those who frequently switch between writing and using a touchscreen, a good stylus pen like the Uni Jetstream Stylus is a godsend. Not only can it reduce finger pain from repetitive swiping, but it lets you change work surfaces without losing track of your pen because you put it down somewhere. The Uni Jetstream Stylus comes equipped with a replaceable capacitive stylus made with silver-covered fibers. This lets it move across your screen more easily than typical rubber styli. Paired with the best ballpoint ink we know of, this pen offers a smooth writing experience on paper and on a screen.

The Best Pens for Left-Handed Writers

Pentel EnerGel Gel Pens

The Pentel EnerGel is well-known as a left-handed favorite, and for good reason. It dispenses beautifully vibrant ink that glides smoothly across the page yet dries quickly for a smudge-free writing experience. It comes in many different designs to suit your personal style, from the super-cute EnerGel Clena to the businesslike EnerGel Philography, and is available in several ink colors and tip sizes.

Pilot Multi Ball Rollerball Pens

It may not look like much, but the Pilot Multi Ball is a fantastic rollerball pen for left-handed writers. The medium tip size dried within four seconds on Rhodia paper in testing, while the fine tip size dried in only two. To make it even more useful than most pens, the Multi Ball will write on glass, ceramic, plastic, and almost anything else. The fine tip size is perfect for signing the backs of credit cards without smears. You may think that there must be a tradeoff to achieve this multi-surface marvel, but Pilot didn’t sacrifice any writing quality. It’s delightfully smooth on paper and produces a deep, dark line every time.

Uni Propus Window Q-Dry Double-Sided Highlighters

Highlighters are often prone to smudging due to their extra-wet ink, but the Uni Propus Window Q-Dry is a notable exception. It dried within a single second on Rhodia paper in our testing, so you can highlight your pages without the risk of smears. This quick-drying highlighter has a chisel tip with an embedded window that lets you see what you’re highlighting as well as a fine bullet tip for more precise marks. It comes in five bright colors.

JetPens Black Pen Sampler for the Left-Handed

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The Best Pens for Journaling and Planning

Zebra Sarasa Clip Gel Pens

Just about any pen can work well for journaling, but we’re especially fond of the Zebra Sarasa Clip. Its vibrant pigment ink is smooth to write with and both water and fade resistant. This helps your writing last through time, exposure to light, and the kind of unfortunate beverage accidents that go along with a daily journaling habit. If you keep a Leuchtturm1917 Bullet Journal that you update with quick notations throughout the day, the Sarasa’s fast-drying ink will help prevent smudges. What really sets the Sarasa Clip apart, though, is its namesake binder clip. This lets you securely fasten a pen to a notebook so you’ll always be ready to make a new entry.

The Clip comes in a wide variety of hues for color-coding as well as tip sizes from 0.3 mm to 1.0 mm to suit anyone’s preferences. Those who appreciate fine tip sizes should consider trying the Sarasa Nano. It uses an internal spring that allows the tip to retract slightly into the pen, reducing sideways force and preventing the tip from wiggling undesirably.

Pilot Hi-Tec-C Coleto Multi Pen Body Components

The Coleto is the multi pen version of the Pilot Hi-Tec-C. It features the same vibrant water-based ink for color-coding entries and precise needle tip that allows you to write clearly in tight spaces. The Coleto is a customizable multi pen, which means that instead of coming with pre-selected refills, you order the exact tip sizes and colors you want separately from the pen body. This lets you mix and match refills and pen bodies to build your ultimate planner pen. For example, you can combine a five-component body with three 0.3 mm refills for writing in planner squares and two 0.5 mm refills for notes or bolder headers. Or, swap one or two ink refills out for mechanical pencil and eraser components. Coleto refills are available in a variety of colors for extensive color coding.

Kuretake ZIG Clean Color Dot Double-Sided Markers

These Kuretake Zig Clean Color Dot Markers are such fun and versatile additions to any pen case. We’re big fans of the double-sided version, which features a 0.5 mm hard plastic tip on one end and a deliciously squishy dot tip on the other. Depending on the pressure you use, the dot tip can make marks from 1 to 5 millimeters wide, though we should warn that pressing so hard puts a lot of ink on the page and can cause bleedthrough. You can even make expressive brush-like strokes with the dot tip by varying the pressure as you draw! It’s easy to make quick flowers and other fun doodles, or for a more practical use case, to highlight important dates in your planner or calendar. The single-sided pens are shorter, so they’re more portable. No matter which you choose, the ZIG Clean Color Dot Markers come in a variety of vibrant and pastel colors.

Kokuyo Mark+ 2 Way Gray Type Marker Pens

While most double-sided markers contain only one ink color, Kokuyo’s Gray Type Mark+ 2 Way Marker Pen features a colored highlighter on one end and a tinted gray fineliner on the other. The highlighter end has a 4.0 mm chisel tip with soft but punchy colors, perfect for highlighting important lines without overpowering the text. The 0.3 mm fineliner’s light gray ink is dark enough to stand out even when highlighted over, allowing you to use the same pen to write and highlight notes or your schedule.

The Mark+ 2 Way Marker Pen is also available in a Color Type version, which replaces the gray fineliner with a brighter version of the highlighter color.

The Best Pens for School

Zebra Sarasa Mark On Gel Pens

If you write with gel pens and highlight your notes at all, the Sarasa Mark On is a revelation. Although it features the same strong binder clip as the popular Sarasa Clip, its ink is in is in a league of its own. It is specially formulated for a much greater degree of water resistance and bonding to the paper than most gel pens. This means that it almost never smears when highlighted—even the Zebra Mildliner, which is notorious for smearing gel ink, barely budged in our testing.

Zebra Justfit Mojini Line Highlighters

The Zebra Justfit Mojini Line is the most versatile highlighter pen we’ve tested. It’s a solidly smear-free choice regardless of whether you write with a ballpoint, rollerball, gel pen, fountain pen, pencil, or need to highlight inkjet-printed handouts. One caveat: we used specific pens and inks for our testing. Since pens’ ink formulas vary significantly even if they are in the same general category, we recommend testing any new highlighter with your pens before you do extensive highlighting.

The Justfit Mojini Line comes in five vibrant colors and has a flexible chisel tip that lets you neatly highlight curved book pages. As the name says, it just fits!

Iconic 2 Way Marker Pens

Although it’s marketed as a marker rather than a highlighter, the Iconic 2 Way Marker Pen is the best pastel highlighter pen we’ve encountered. It was the only pastel highlighter to not smear anything in testing, including inkjet printing and ballpoint, rollerball, gel, and fountain pen ink. The Iconic 2 Way has the same double-sided design as other popular highlighters and comes in five soft colors.

JetPens Rainbow Highlighter Sampler

Our Rainbow Highlighter Sampler lets you test some of our best and most interesting highlighter pens in the comfort of your home, including the unique Kokuyo Beetle Tip Dual Color, erasable Pilot FriXion Light, retractable Zebra Optex Care, and sparkly Zebra Kirarich. It also offers wonderful color variety so that you can color code and see which hues you like best.

If you already have a favorite highlighter color, check out the rest of our highlighter samplers for great picks in lovely shades of blue green, blush, and more.

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Pilot Board Master Dry Erase Markers

The Pilot Board Master is the king of dry-erase markers. Its highly pigmented ink delivers intense color that is easy to read from across the room, and its thick tip forms easy-to-control lines. Best of all, the Board Master never falls victim to anemic, dried out colors when it’s running low on ink. This is due to an ingenious twin pipe feeder system that equalizes the pressure inside and outside the marker so that its lines remain crisp, vibrant, and consistent down to the last drop of ink. And once the marker does run dry, you can refill it, cutting down on waste. Even the tips are replaceable!

The Best EDC Pens

Fisher Space Pen Bullet Ballpoint Pens

The best pen for your everyday carry (EDC) kit varies depending on your personal philosophy, but we have to put in a plug for the Fisher Space Pen. Its pressurized ink can write underwater, over grease, and in extreme temperatures. Go with the sleek Fisher Space Pen Bullet if you prefer your EDC kit to be as stylish as possible. This pen measures in at under four inches when closed, making it painless to slip into a pocket or tuck into a bag. With the cap posted on the back of the barrel, the pen extends to a comfortable writing size. While the pen doesn’t come with a clip, you can purchase one separately to make it even more portable. Those who don’t want to have to think about their pen at all should choose the Fisher Space Pen Backpacker. Its attached key ring and small size lets it live on your keychain, always ready for use.


We had to pick the BIGiDESIGN Ti Arto EDC as the best metal pen for its extraordinary durability and versatility. This machined pen is made from solid titanium, a phenomenally strong material that can easily withstand the knocks of daily carry. More importantly, the Ti Arto EDC can use almost any refill you care to try. An adjustable clutch mechanism in the front of the pen securely holds refills in place, with no tip wiggle to distract from your writing experience. The Ti Arto EDC also features a telescoping barrel that lets you adjust the length of the pen to match the refill inside. If you use a shorter refill, you can shorten the pen to fit more easily into your pocket.

If you like the Ti Arto EDC but want slightly different features, BIGiDESIGN makes several other great pens. The Ti Click EDC has a similarly telescoping barrel with a handy click retraction mechanism for quick notes, while the Ti Ultra can be converted to a fountain pen with a quick swap of the grip section.

The Best Pens for Hand Lettering

Tombow Fudenosuke Hard Brush Pens

The hard-tip Tombow Fudenosuke is our all-round favorite for brush lettering beginners. Its special elastomer tip is easy to control yet still yields crisp hairlines and luscious downstrokes with variations in pressure. This brush pen comes in an array of vibrant colors. The standard pens contain water- and light-resistant pigment ink that is perfect for making long-lasting lettering pieces. The neon pens pop on the page, though their inks are not water- or light-resistant.

Experienced calligraphers can reach for the Soft Fudenosuke. They’re more responsive and produce slightly thicker lines with pressure.

JetPens Brush Lettering Pen Sampler

If you’d like to compare the hard-tip Tombow Fudenosuke with several other phenomenal brush pens, you can’t go wrong with any of our Brush Pen Samplers. Our Brush Lettering Pen Sampler includes six brush pens chosen especially for lettering, including the Kuretake Cocoiro, Pentel Pocket, and fan-favorite Tombow Dual Brush. Other samplers let you pit various Tombow brush pens against each other and test different mixes of our most popular brush pens for lettering and art.

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Sakura Pigma Micron Pens

The Sakura Pigma Micron is our favorite fineliner for lettering. Its precise tip allows hand letterers to make precise, consistent marks for drawing monoline styles and elaborate letterforms. In addition, its rich, pigment-based ink delivers vivid color that is archival quality and waterproof to help your lettering last for years. This well-known pen comes in several colors and sizes ranging from 003 (0.15 mm) for the most intricate of embellishments to the broad 12 (0.7 mm).

Product Name Tip Sizes Add to Cart
Sakura Pigma Pens 0.15 mm, 0.2 mm, 0.25 mm, 0.3 mm, 0.35 mm, 0.4 mm, 0.45 mm, 0.5 mm, 0.6 mm, 0.7 mm, 1.0 mm, 2.0 mm, 3.0 mm Add Items to Cart
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JetPens Black Fineliner Pen Sampler

Our Fineliner Pen Samplers let you test our best needle-point markers for lettering, journaling, and doodling. The Black Fineliner Pen Sampler is a great place to start—it includes lettering favorites like the Sakura Pigma Micron, Marvy Le Pen, and Stabilo Point 88 in basic black for all sorts of lettering projects and styles.

If you’re ready to branch out into other colors, check out our other fineliner samplers in colors like blue green, as well as mixed-color samplers in pretty pastels.

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Rohrer & Klingner Glass Pens

Rohrer & Klingner Glass Pens are works of art and beautiful writing tools at the same time. A glass pen is characterized by its tip, which has spiraling grooves that act as reservoirs. As you write, ink travels down the grooves to the tip of the pen. When the tip feels like it’s running dry, turn the pen in your hand to allow ink from another groove to flow to the tip. Glass nibs will never rust, so they can last a lifetime as long as they’re cleaned of ink residue and stored in a stable area, like a pen cup or tray.

If the designs offered by Rohrer & Klingner don’t strike your fancy, browse the different glass pen colors offered by J. Herbin.

Since glass dip pens are made of a fragile material, some calligraphers may feel anxious about accidentally damaging them. Pilot Iro-Utsushi Dip Pens have barrels made out of plastic or wood. The nibs are made of stainless steel and have rounded tips similar to that of fountain pens, so they’re less ”sharp” than typical dip pen nibs and feel smoother on paper. You should still be careful not to drop the pen on its nib, but you won’t have to worry about glass shards if a mishap occurs.

Brause 361 Steno Blue Pumpkin Calligraphy Pen Nib and Tachikawa Model 25 Comic Pen Nib Holder

To create letters with line variation—such as those found in modern calligraphy or Spencerian script—you’ll need a calligraphy pen that can flex. The best option is a versatile, modular combination of a nib and nib holder. One of our favorite calligraphy nibs is the Brause 361 Steno Blue Pumpkin. It’s capable of thin lines and has an amazing amount of flex. Beginners will likely find that the Brause 361 too flexible to control, though. Instead, those who are new to calligraphy should try the firmer Zebra G Nib.

Unlike glass pens, calligraphy nibs will wear down, becoming “softer” and more expressive over time. However, keep an eye out for too-thick upstrokes or smudges of rust. Dip pen nibs are meant to be replaced, and those are good signs to retire your current nib.

You can use the same nib holder with different nibs, and the Tachikawa Model 25 is our favorite nib holder for general use. Its double rubber rings can hold a wide variety of nibs securely in place. Calligraphers who want assistance in achieving the line slant found in Copperplate and other scripts should consider Ziller Oblique Wood Nib Holders.

JetPens Modern Calligraphy Starter Kit

If you want to try pointed pen calligraphy but aren’t sure if you have everything you need, start with our Modern Calligraphy Starter Kit. It includes paper, ink, and three nibs and nib holders to get you up to speed. The Calligraphy Nib Sampler is a great option for those who want to test out a variety of nibs. It includes seven of the best pointed pen nibs for calligraphy for you to try, including the Nikko G-nib, the Brause 361 Steno Blue Pumpkin, and Leonardt EF Principal.

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Pilot Parallel Calligraphy Pens

For broad edge calligraphy styles like italic, you can’t beat the Pilot Parallel. This unique calligraphy pen features a nib made of two metal plates laid parallel to each other rather than the traditional design of a nib with one or two slits through it. This allows the ink to flow evenly along the entire width of the nib for a remarkably juicy and consistent line. Its cartridge-fill design makes the Pilot Parallel particularly easy to use, and its mixable ink allows for fun gradation effects. This pen comes in six nib sizes for projects of all sizes.

The Best Art Pens

Copic Multiliner Pens

Copic Multiliners are our preferred waterproof pens for art. Their archival-safe pigment ink dries very quickly. We were able to paint over them with watercolors immediately after drawing with no bleeding whatsoever. And since they are made by Copic, Multiliners are entirely resistant to Copic Markers. Multiliners have precise needle-point tips and come in sizes ranging from the super-delicate 0.03 mm to the bold 1.0 mm for drawing every kind of line. They come in 10 colors. Artists who do a great deal of inking should consider the Multiliner SP. They require a higher up-front investment than their disposable siblings, but they’re refillable and their tips can be replaced.

Product Name Tip Sizes Add to Cart
Copic Multiliner Pens 0.03 mm, 0.05 mm, 0.1 mm, 0.3 mm, 0.5 mm, 0.8 mm. 1.0 mm Add Items to Cart
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Copic Multiliner SP Pens 0.03 mm, 0.05 mm, 0.1 mm, 0.2 mm, 0.25 mm, 0.3 mm, 0.35 mm, 0.5 mm, 0.7 mm Add Items to Cart
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JetPens Waterproof Drawing Pen Sampler

Our Waterproof Drawing Pen Sampler lets you try 10 of the best waterproof pens available in a variety of widths, including the Copic Multiliner, Sakura Pigma Micron, and even a Uni Posca Paint Marker.

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Ohto Graphic Liner Needle Point Drawing Pens

Technical pens can be tricky to use, but the Ohto Graphic Liner is a notable exception. Unlike traditional metal-tip drawing pens that must be held vertically, the Graphic Liner’s rollerball tip allows it to be used at natural drawing angles. Since it is made of metal rather than felt or plastic, the tip still delivers consistent lines without fraying or flexing. This makes it an especially accessible drawing pen for beginners, but even experienced artists can appreciate its natural feel and waterproof, Copic-proof, and archival pigment ink.

JetPens Medium Tip Drawing Pen Sampler

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Nikko G Model Comic Pen Nibs and Tachikawa Model 40 Comic Pen Nib Holders

To achieve the art style that so wholly defines manga, mangakas reach for G nibs. These nibs have sharp tips and are flexible, creating both broad and thin lines that are ideal for defining facial features, evoking movement, and more. We recommend that beginners start with the Nikko G Nib because it has a satisfying amount of flex, but its relative firmness makes it easy to control. For consistent and precise lines, try Nikko’s Maru nibs. They’re very firm and do not flex.

Comic pen nibs can’t be used on their own and must be paired with a nib holder. The Tachikawa Model 40 is our favorite nib holder for general use. Its double rubber rings can hold a wide variety of nibs securely in place, and its rubber grip makes it comfortable to hold. It even comes with a plastic cap to protect nibs during transport.

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Pentel Pocket Brush Pens

The Pentel Pocket is a fantastic all-around brush pen for art. Its rich ink—available in black, gray, and sepia—and sensitive bristle tip can make make wonderfully expressive lines in the hands of an experienced artist. It delivers thick strokes and fine details with subtle changes in pressure and can even produce beautiful brush effects. It also contains waterproof, Copic-proof, and lightfast pigment ink, which makes it a great choice for long-lasting art and multi-media work.

JetPens Waterproof Brush Pen Sampler

The Pentel Pocket features in several of our Brush Pen Samplers—it’s just that good. Test it against other waterproof options like the Faber-Castell PITT Artist B and Sakura Pigma Brush Pen in our Waterproof Brush Pen Sampler, or compare it more favorites for art and lettering in our other samplers.

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Faber-Castell PITT Artist Pens

As its name suggests, the Faber-Castell PITT Artist Pen is perfect for art. This pigmented felt tip marker delivers the permanence and vibrancy of India ink in a portable, no-maintenance form that’s much more convenient to use than a traditional dip pen and bottled ink. The PITT Artist Pen is also highly lightfast. Many inks fade when exposed to light, but the PITT Artist Pen resists this effect so that you can confidently display your art. Faber-Castell offers PITT pens in marker and brush pen forms.

Because some colors are more lightfast than others, Faber-Castell prints individual ratings on the barrel of each pen to help you choose the right hues. As a bonus, PITT Pens are color-matched with other Faber-Castell products for consistency in multi-media compositions. These include Polychromos Colored Pencils, and Albrecht Dürer Watercolor Pencils.

JetPens Water-Based Fineliner Pen Sampler

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Royal Talens Ecoline Watercolor Brush Pens

The Royal Talens Ecoline is our absolute favorite watercolor brush pen. It is a joy to use, with a soft felt tip that lays down swaths of bright, juicy color with each stroke. This softness means that it takes some practice to learn how to control the Ecoline, but it makes such wonderfully fat and thin lines that it’s worth it. The Ecoline contains highly water-soluble ink that blends easily and can continue to be layered and blended after it dries. It comes in 30 vibrant colors.

Uni Posca Markers

The Uni Posca is consistently our most popular paint pen, and for good reason. Its opaque water-based ink writes easily on a wide variety of surfaces, including paper, plastic, photographs, glass, wood, and metal. This marker has an intense color payoff and is easy to remove from non-porous surfaces like glass, which makes it great for window signs. It comes in several different tip sizes from extra fine to broad, and even includes a brush version for lettering and art.

Stabilo Point 88 Fineliner Pens

The Stabilo Point 88 Fineliner is our favorite colored pen for drawing and coloring. Its 0.4 mm tip is great for drawing fine outlines and filling in details with bright, even color. It comes in over fifty vibrant hues, so it also works very well for journaling and taking color-coded notes. Its water-based ink is specially formulated to resist drying out when left uncapped, so it won’t dry out while you’re thinking about what to do next. The Stabilo Point 88’s metal-reinforced tip resists wear and works especially well with straightedges. If you’re less concerned about details than applying color more quickly, try the bullet-tipped Stabilo Pen 68 Marker. Brush versions with flexible felt tips are also available.

We also want to shine a spotlight on Zebra Clickart Knock Sign Pens, which have conveniently retractable tips! They don’t come in as many colors as the Stabilo Point 88, but any artist can appreciate the Clickart’s variety of hues and shades.

JetPens Purple Pen Sampler

If you’re particular about a specific color, try our Colored Pen Samplers. They let you test the same color across multiple pen brands and types so that you can find the best options. You can also try mixed color samplers in sophisticated off black and pastel shades.

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Uni-ball One Gel Pens

The Uni-ball Signo took our top spot for the Best Gel Pen, but their latest gel pen release, the retractable Uni-ball One, is not to be underestimated. Its fast-drying, bleed-resistant ink is specially formulated with large pigment particles that stay on the surface of the paper instead of getting absorbed into it, making dark inks darker and bright inks brighter. When compared with the Signo, we found this to be the case across all the colors except for blue, making it especially suited for coloring. While it doesn’t offer as many colors as the Signo, we think the vibrancy of the ink makes up for it. It comes in 0.38 and 0.5 mm sizes; both are smooth to draw with, so you’ll have a pleasant time coloring. We also enjoy its minimalist look and sturdy wire clip.

JetPens Turquoise Gel Pen Sampler

Our gel pen samplers allow you to test a selection of our best gel pens in a variety of tip sizes so that you can find your favorite. Choose from a variety of fun colors!

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Uni-ball Signo Broad White Gel Pen

It’s hard to find a white gel pen that really stands out, but the Uni-ball Signo Broad fits the bill. Its ink is smooth, bold, and truly opaque, so it’s great for writing and drawing on dark paper. Like other Signo pens, the Signo Broad’s ink is waterproof and archival-safe for long-lasting art.

Signo white ink is also available in a 0.7 mm tip size, but we recommend the White Sakura Gelly Roll Gel Pens for finer lines. The 0.8 mm tip size is more opaque than the 0.7 mm Signo gel pen. The 0.5 mm, though a little more “watery” in appearance, is hard to find elsewhere.

JetPens White Ink Pen Sampler

The Signo Broad is our pick for the best white gel pen, but what about other kinds of pens—and even other gel pens? Our White Ink Pen Sampler lets you compare apples to oranges to find the best white pen for your needs, including the Uni Posca, Sharpie Water-Based Paint Marker, Sakura Gelly Roll, and more.

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Pentel Hybrid Dual Metallic Gel Pens

The Pentel Hybrid Dual Metallic is by far our favorite glitter gel pen. It’s available in a variety of dual color and glitter combinations like violet and metallic blue, as well as simple gold and silver. With its bold 1.0 mm tip, it provides buttery smooth writing and well-dispersed glitter in every stroke. The ink shows up well on both light and dark colored papers, making it suitable for paper crafts as well as fancy notes. Depending on the paper and angle you view it at, the color of the ink and glitter changes, allowing you to enjoy different variations each time you look at the writing.

JetPens Copper Pen Sampler

If you’re interested in trying different glitter or metallic pens, check out our Mixed Pen Samplers in Copper, Gold, and Silver. You can test the same color across multiple pen brands and types to find the finish you like, whether that’s glitter or metallic.

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We hope you’ve enjoyed this roundup of the best pens for 2023! If you liked this guide, subscribe to our newsletter to see new and updated guides and videos, as well as fantastic new products every week.

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