Officially, the 13 Best Pens of All Time
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I can't remember the brand of the first pen I used but it was milky gel and I scribbled illegibly on black spiral notebooks. The writing was bad. So were the pens.
I am the type of writer for whom nothing is more hellish or unpleasant than the act of writing. Every single day, my life is an art of tricking myself into writing. Maybe more coffee will help. A new notebook? Fresh pens? Shopping online for seven hours? As such, I have compiled a set of tricks and tools that while do not make the torture go away, at least blunt a bit of the pain. Obviously, I type a lot. But for lists, brainstorms, and when I'm just plain stuck, a pen and holy grail notebook pull me at, least temporarily, out of the digital void and into an analog world.
Having a strong opinion about essentially inconsequential stuff is the air I breathe, and I would bet you meet few people more opinionated about pens than me. I've never understood shitty pens. The cheap, light blue plastic ball point that never works. The scratchy, clicky, branded pen someone gave you at an event. I get that along with being cheap, they are also inexpensive. But alas, there is always a price to pay. In this case, mediocre experience and a resentment of the written word.
The best part of the best pens is not only have I spent my life's work curating this list, but you actually don't have to spend any more money for an infinitely more enjoyable experience. In testing writing tools, I trick myself into actually writing. It's a procrastination salve. That is, until I spend more time thinking about the pens than the words coming out of them. But if an expert is someone who spends years delving into their craft, then pens are my art. The tips, your byproduct to keep.
G2 Gel Pens
When I was in high school, my crush told me that my handwriting looked like the Declaration of Independence, which he meant as a compliment and I took as one. I wasn't in it alone, though. I had my Pilot to thank.
Pilot's classic G2 gel pens are the best pens of all time and do not test me. They're easy to hold and to write with. As a gel pen, they are pretty inky, which means you only need to apply a light pressure for perfect form.
But with that ink comes the controversy: The writing takes a second to dry, and it smears more easily on certain types of paper. If you are left-handed or otherwise putting your hands all up in your paper's business, skip the gel.
Dr. Grip Roller Ball Gel Pen
This is, yes, the same pen. But it's bigger, easier to hold, and softer between your writing fingers. I have the regular guys stashed all over, but I keep this one for those big and important notes.
I'm not normally a ballpointee, but this Smythson is good enough to convince even the greatest skeptics. The weighted metal feels solid to hold, like you really mean whatever you're writing down. You have to apply a bit more pressure for a clean write but there's something intimate and tactile about the whole thing.
It's good for handwriting and paper constructions of every kind, and its high-quality construction makes it a perfect gift for writers, bosses, and thank you card devotees alike.
VBall Liquid Ink Rolling Ball Pens
A rolling ball pen is great if you have pretty vertical writing form or prefer writing in all caps. The roller ball takes a second to get going (you know like how roll-on deodorants need a few spins before the deodorant comes out? like that) but then once it catches, it makes a bold, inky look.
I like it for taking notes or deliberately writing in all caps to make it clear and easy to read. I would not recommend for small handwriting, where those letters could bleed together.
Arteza's rollerball pens are not as sensitive to angles and roll out ink pretty quickly. The smaller point (.5 rather than .7) makes it a little scratchier and easy to articulate your writing. If I ever did math or something that required many distinct figures, I'd use these pens for that. They're a joy.
Jetstream RT Retractable Ballpoint Pens
The thing about the best pens for everything is that this is subjective. Uni-balls are not meant for me, but they are a crowdpleaser amongst people who prefer a ballpoint pen. It is significantly less inky (hence my gripe), which is a better fit for quick writing and lefties.
AL Sport Fountain Pen
There are levels to this pen game. Levels. I'm not of the mind that these writing utensils have to be expensive to be good. But if you're looking to get something to write with that feels indulgent or special, Kaweco is a good place to start. This fountain pen is sturdy and pretty, and doesn't require any ink dipping. You load it up with an ink cartridge instead. This one comes with a pack of six.
It's honestly insane that this pen is less than $10 because it feels like... more than that. It has more weight to it than your traditional cheap pen does and writes clean. Call it an everyday luxury.
Le Pen Set
It feels like calling these "pens" is a lie because they're really more like tiny markers. The flex is in that tiny felt tip, which moves as you write. Bad for thin paper and taking notes, good for card stock and cursive writing.
Also more like a marker tip but less chaotic. This pens have a super fine tip, but they will bleed through thin paper. Use them for writing stuff in a calendar or on a to-do list. Big, blocky letters welcome.
EnerGel Deluxe RTX Liquid Gel Pen
I wonder who names versions of pens because they are increasingly insane and sound more like a car you'd race in than a pen you'd write with. Anyway, don't let the "liquid gel" part of this one's name scare you. It comes out lightly (less inky than my Pilots) and is good for quick scribbles and friendly to small handwriting.
Smooth Gel Knock Type Pens
Go to Muji for nothing, leave with 3,000 pens and a stack of T-shirts. These colored gel pens are cheap, easy, and fun to use. The colors are easily legible, but they really don't bleed the way some other brightly colored pens do. Buy a pack and stock up.
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