The 10 Best Gel Pens of 2021
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Compared to other types of pens, gel pens have the advantage of its opaque-looking ink that pops off the page. Still, not all gel pens are created alike. Whether you use one for daily note-taking, art or journaling, here are the best gel pens for all of your needs.
The Muji Gel Ink Pen (view on Amazon) is a solid, gel ballpoint pen for everyday use. It writes smoothly and dries fairly quickly (no bleed-through), reducing the risk of any smudges. The pens also come with a 0.5 mm tip, which is a common size for pens and is relatively easy on the hands. The see-through body is also great for monitoring ink levels so you’ll know when to replace the ink.
What’s the difference between gel pens and other pens?
Gel pens are made using a water-based gel ink with powder pigments or dye, which give them their color. They usually have a thicker consistency than other inks and come in a wider range of colors, from pastel to metallic to fluorescent colors. These pens are especially useful for note-taking, as gel ink flows more smoothly (without much pressure) than other types of ink, thus reducing hand cramps.
Keep in mind that gel pens are more prone to skip and take longer to dry, so they can smudge if you’re not careful. Still, there are quick-drying and fine tip options that don’t smudge as easily.
How do you get gel pens to work?
Sometimes, you’ll need to give your gel pen a good shake and scratch it against paper to get the ink flowing. There may be instances where ink gets clogged or air bubbles occur, which will stop the pen from working. When this happens, gently tap the pen against your palm or a hard surface until the bubbles go away. Another trick is to remove the ink cartridge and add a few drops of water to the ink; you can also try soaking your pen in warm water for a couple of minutes.
How do you store gel pens?
It’s best to lay them out horizontally—if stored vertically, the ink will pool around the middle or at the bottom of the pen. Also, they must be capped when not in use or else they will dry out.
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.
The Best Fine-Tip Gel Ink Pens — Tools and Toys
Digital-shmigidal. Who doesn’t still appreciate quality analog products like a good pen? Here is a look at some of the best fine-tip gel ink pens you can buy.
The pen that launched a thousand Kickstarter Campaigns. The Pilot Hi-Tec-C is easily the most well-known fine-tip gel ink pen. But is it the right choice for you? Designers, engineers, and architects champion its fine, clean lines, and students appreciate the dozens of colors available.
When it gets writing, there is no better in my book — but that is the kicker as well. This pen is often a slow starter, taking a few scribbles to really flow properly. If you can accept that fact, you will find no better pen available in 0.25 mm, 0.3 mm, and 0.4 mm tip sizes.
Uni-ball Signo DX
I get asked all the time to recommend the best fine-tip gel ink pen. You think the Pilot Hi-Tec-C would be the easy answer, but for those just getting started in this realm the Uni-ball Signo DX is a much better choice.
The DX uses a more durable conical-shaped tip as opposed to the needle tip of the Hi-Tec-C and has a stronger, more comfortable barrel. It is also a more consistent writer. If you are looking for a pen that will make you toss out those old hotel ballpoints and never look back then the Uni-ball Signo DX 0.38 mm is for you.
Editor’s Note: The Uni-ball Signo DX is hands-down my personal favorite. And I’ve used all the pens in Brad’s list plus a few more. — S.B.
Zebra Sarasa Clip
There is a clear top two in this space, but the Zebra Sarasa Clip has one thing that the Hi-Tec-C and Signo DX do not: it’s retractable. For many people that is the only type of pen they will use for fear of losing the pen cap. Fortunately, the Sarasa Clip is an excellent writing pen, albeit with a little more scratch from the tip than the DX (some people like that, some don’t, so it is worth mentioning). Smaller ink capacity is also worth mentioning — if you write a lot you will burn through these at a faster pace. But Zebra makes up for it in price. It is the cheapest of the bunch.
Pilot G2 / Uni-ball Signo 207
Picking between the Pilot G2 and Signo 207 is like having the Coke-vs-Pepsi argument with your friends. They are both good choices and it all boils down to personal preference.
For the longest time I was firmly in the G2 camp because of the availability of the 0.38 mm tip size. Uni-ball came to their senses last year and began offering 0.38 mm in the popular 207 barrel and I made the switch. Uni-ball’s Super Ink technology also played a role, offering up ink security that Pilot cannot match. Bonus points: Both of these pens should be available in your local office supply retailer while the first three mentioned above are predominantly available only online.
Best Gel Pens for Coloring (+ must-know tips for reviving a gel pen)
It’s so frustrating to spend money on a new gel pen, only to find that the ink smears, comes out scratchy, or gets used up so fast you can’t even finish your coloring page.
Gel pens are a great way to fill out adult coloring books or add some self-expression and creativity to a daily planner, but many different pens are on the market. So, how do you know which ones are the best so you don’t waste your time and money on gel pens that aren’t good?
Luckily, you’ve discovered this guide to the best gel pens for coloring so you can stop wasting your time on pens that don’t work and find out which ones are the best!
This post includes affiliate links, which means I may earn a commission on purchases made through links at no additional cost to you.
The best gel pens for coloring are gel pens with a broad tip that can quickly place a lot of color, pens that draw smoothly, and pens that don’t bleed through the paper while you’re working. There are many different gel pens available that work great with adult coloring books and other stationery projects.
Below you’ll find a look of some of the very best gel pens for coloring on the market. No matter whether you’re trying to decorate a journal or you’re filling out an adult coloring book, these gel pen sets will give you more than enough tools to work with.
In a rush? Here are the two top picks: the absolute best and the best cheap gel pens for coloring:
Best Gel Pens Best Budget Pick
How to pick gel pens for coloring
Here are some of the things you should be looking for when you look for a gel pen set for coloring:
Color: You’ll want to choose colors carefully when choosing gel pens because some gel pens, such as pastel gel pens, work much better on darker paper than they do light varieties. There are also metallic, glitter, glaze, and other ink variations that can help add detail work to your coloring.
Legibility: Things to avoid when looking for gel pens for coloring include gel pen brands with a reputation for smearing and bleeding through to the other side of the paper. These tendencies can make coloring books look messy and can make planners illegible. Look for gel pens that are good about not bleeding through the paper and drying quickly to avoid smears.
Ink flow: It’s important to look for gel pens that place color smoothly and don’t have a bad habit of drying up or getting clogged. Because gel pens can be expensive compared to other pens, you don’t want to have to throw out a gel pen just because it stops working prematurely.
Price: The price you’re willing to pay for a set of gel pens depends on how many gel pens you want and what kind of deal you can get. Some people may be fine with just a set of a dozen pens, while others will want hundreds to choose from. Gel pen sets can also be collected over time if the price is an issue. (But they usually cost far less per pen when you buy a larger set.)
Tip width: You’ll want to look at different gel pens tips depending on whether you plan on mostly writing with them or coloring with them. For gel pens used for coloring broad spaces, a wider tipped pen is a better option because it allows you to cover the paper more quickly. If you’re using gel pens for writing in a journal or planner, you’ll want to look for gel pens with a finer tip.
Variety: Some gel pen sets offer a huge variety, while others offer many repeats of the same colors in different styles, such as glitter, metallic, and neon. The type of set you buy will depend on your preference for how you like to color.
Thinking through what kind of coloring you want to do will ultimately help you decide on the best gel pen set for you.
How do you use gel pens for coloring?
Gel pens may not be the first thing that comes to mind when you’re looking for something to color with, but coloring with the right gel pen is a fantastic experience.
Here are a few ways to add gel pens to your coloring pages:
- Use them instead of markers to color an entire page. This works especially well with the richest, creamiest gel pens like Sakura Gelly Rolls. (I recommend using gel pens to color in these free printable inspirational coloring pages to make them extra special.)
- Use gel pens for highlights on top of marker or colored pencil (this would look great on these free printable unicorn coloring pages!)
- Use fine-tipped gel pens for accents in detailed coloring pages
- Add sparkly accents and doodles to your coloring and planner pages
- Color in just a few highlights, like the words on these free printable wealth affirmation coloring pages
- Add texture and depth to designs with crosshatching and stippling
There are several great videos on YouTube demonstrating coloring with gel pens and techniques, like blending with water. I like this one from Cher Kauffman demonstrating gel pen coloring techniques with a coloring book she illustrated:
Discover free printable coloring pages on The Artisan Life!
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7 Best Gel Pens for Notes Reviewed & Rated in 2021
When you’re taking down your notes, studying or working on an important document, it would be nice to have a pen that lets you write with ease while keeping the notes readable and neat.
With this in mind, some prefer gel pens because they render a smooth and effortless writing experience. Their refillable inks also make them more long-lasting than other types of pens. And if you want to embellish your work with fancy colors and complex details, these pens come in assorted colors and a wide range of tip designs.
But how do you select the best gel pens for notes? In this article, you’ll find detailed reviews and guidelines that will narrow down your choices and help you pick the perfect gel pen!
Best Gel Pen for Notes Reviews
1. PILOT 31128 G2 Premium Gel Roller
This set of G2 premium gel pens is among the favorite picks because of their high-quality 0.7-millimeter tip design that delivers fine lines.
While these gel pens provide a superb writing experience, they are also among the most efficient and longest-lasting gel pens that I’ve tried compared to other brands.
Some good quality pens initially work great when taking down notes, but problems appear when the ink starts to skip and fade out. This is where these PILOT gel pens differ in terms of ink quality because they write smoothly without leaving a messy pool of ink.
Aside from that, these pen inks are refillable. It allows you to use them for a long time while supporting your writing needs. Another thing is that each color brings every gel pen to perfection.
The ink flows seamlessly and evenly in highly vibrant colors. This enables you to add fancy details while making every word clear and readable at all times.
Each gel pen’s tip design is what makes them the most reliable writing tool. If you like to make your notes very neat and well-organized or create diagrams that require complex and precise details, you can rely on its super-fine tip.
I really love how this gel pen allows me to write down notes with ease and comfort. It also lends a comfortable grip that enhances my writing performance. More than just the best gel pens for taking notes, they are also perfect for drawing and sketching, which truly complement my art techniques.
On the other hand, the ink tends to come out thicker than expected, causing smears at times. I just gently use them when writing on thin papers to avoid this from happening.
- Longest-lasting gel pens among other brands
- Refillable gel ink
- Provides ultra-smooth and nice writing experience
- Helps produce ultra-fine lines
- Ink tends to smear sometimes
Therefore, if you want to effectively and neatly organize all of your important notes without any hassle, you better try these best gel pens for notes.
2. Paper Mate 1951636 InkJoy Gel Pens
If you want to organize your notes using colorful gel pens, you’ll find your perfect choice with this set of Paper Mate InkJoy Gel Pens. It’s available in 14 different colors for highlighting whatever projects.
The vast range of soft and vibrant shades allows you to sort out your notes accordingly. As you write down in your journal or notebook, the pens glide on effortlessly, allowing you to ramp up your writing activities and make it more enjoyable to do.
Aside from that, the ink quality of these gel pens is long-lasting and smudge-proof. After every application, the ink dries out 3 times faster than any other gel pens. You don’t need to worry about getting your notes or sketches ruined and untidy.
Its 0.7-millimeter medium tip width provides precise ink distribution. I can totally rely on these pens whenever I am writing on porous paper or creating fine details in my drawings and diagrams. I love how they keep my notes and projects clean and organized at all times.
The teal, blue, and purple colors are my favorite colors as they reveal the most vibrant colors in the set. They make every detail so noticeable while keeping the notes clear comprehensible. Even the darker colors such as red and brown also work great on paper as they do not smear and bleed.
I also love the ergonomic comfort grip that this pen delivers because it allows me to write and draw with better precision. It lends a secure and tight grip that even when I’m writing for a very long time, the pen doesn’t easily slide out of my hand.
Everything about these gel pens is truly impressive but I guess it falls short when it comes to the longevity of the ink. They aren’t that long-lasting and they tend to use an excessive amount of ink every application.
- Available in 14 vibrant colors
- Ink easily dries out every after application
- Great to use for creating fine details
- Ink is not that long-lasting
Nonetheless, these colorful gel pens are worth buying. They can help you be more organized in your work while being creative at the same time.
3. Pentel BL77BP8M Gel Pen
It’s a terrible thing to look at those untidy smears and excess ink marks on your notes. Thankfully, this set of Pentel EnerGel RTX gel pens have a quick-drying ink formula that makes them completely smudge-proof.
These high-grade gel pens are available in 8 elegant colors and all of them do not smear and bleed through the paper. Their advanced ink technology merges the gel ink and liquid best qualities to provide an extremely great writing experience. If you are a lefty, this gel pen is an ideal pick for you.
Each gel pen’s tip size is 0.7 millimeters, making them a reliable partner for taking down notes and making preliminary sketches. I really find these excellent gel pens for note-taking as they keep my list of activities so neat, skip-free, and glob-free.
Since it has advanced ink technology for a smooth and nice writing experience, it doesn’t leave any damages and holes in my notes. These gel pens help preserve the quality and neatness of each page inside my notebooks and journals.
Its grip is latex-free, making this gel pen very comfortable to use. With such a design, I notice that it lends better hand movement and control as you write or draw.
The sturdy pocket clips also add up to its convenience and portability. This allows you to hang the pen in your pocket or attach it to your organizer, journal, or book to keep them within your reach at all times.
What I also love about it is its elegant design. The style of the barrel looks cool, not to mention the metallic accents that make it look stylish.
Its disadvantage, however, is the ink’s longevity. I observed that they ran out too quickly.
- Quick-drying ink formula
- Smudge-proof and bleedproof
- Offers smooth and nice writing experience
- Keeps every paper skip-free and glob-free
Despite that small issue, these stylish gel pens can still be your ideal choice, especially if you’re into quick-drying and smudge-proof gel pens.
4. Uni-ball 33950 207 Gel Pens
These uni-ball 207 retractable gel pens highlight an innovative technology that can ward off any writing mishaps, especially when you accidentally mess it with water.
These gel pens have a water-resistant ink formulation so you won’t have to worry about leaving your writings in chaos just because they get wet. It uses a uni Super Ink technology that provides 3-way protection against water, fraud, and fading. Even if your notes get wet, the ink colors stay clear and vibrant. How amazing, isn’t it?
These unique gel pens provide a remarkable writing experience. The specially-formulated pigment-based ink creates a truly ineradicable bond with every type of paper to help produce exceptionally bright colors and extra security. It also makes every mark highly recognizable.
As for the available 12 colors, they are all bright and eye-pleasing to me. They are not that flashy, but instead, they give off a very colorful yet subtle effect on my notes.
Moreover, what makes it more functional is its 0.7-millimeter medium tip. It helps me create super fine details and ultra-vivid lines.
These amazing gel pens also work with every type of paper. All of the colors, even the dark ones, are smudge-proof, making note-taking hassle-free.
Moreover, the newfangled ink technology prevents the ink from wearing out and fading over time, particularly when I need to write permanent signatures on important documents.
When it comes to control and precision, it also stands out with its comfortable grip that prevents your hand from aching every time you write. In terms of style, these gel pens also feature shiny and metallic barrels for a stylish design.
The downside, on the other hand, is that the ink sometimes skips. I just slightly shake it to work properly again.
- Features uni Super Ink technology for protection against fading and fraud
- Ink does not deteriorate over time
Nonetheless, these water-resistant gel pens are perfect for permanent writing. It’ll do the job, especially when you work on important documents or you need to be extra careful when writing.
5. Pentel BLN73BP3A Gel Pen
Are you looking for a gel pen that can produce ultra-fine lines? You’ll probably find your ultimate pick with these 3-pack Pentel EnerGel Retractable gel pens.
This top-grade gel pen uses a 0.3-millimeter ultra-fine needle tip to produce ultra-precise writing. It works best when you’re creating intricate lines and crisp strokes.
The first-rate features of both liquid and gel inks are combined in this ink formulation to surely provide you an excellently smooth and effortless writing experience. Hence, allowing you to write and draw with minimized discomfort.
Another important feature of it is that these gel pens are smudge-proof and bleedproof. The ink also dries out immediately right after application.
I highly recommend these pens for their impressive characteristic of being refillable. It’s nice that I can easily buy a new EnerGel refill to reload my gel pens.
When it comes to its quality, these gel pens produce dark and rich lines. The black color black gives off a classic vivid shade that looks neat and elegant every time I write in my journal or just doodle in my notebook.
Moreover, it also features a latex-free grip that delivers additional comfort and extended precision, providing a smooth and convenient writing experience.
The barrel design contains stainless steel accents, giving this gel pen a polished and gorgeous look that sets off a professional vibe.
There’s just a mild drawback in terms of its durability. You just have to be careful with the plastic parts because they seem a bit brittle.
- Produces ultra-fine lines
- Perfect for creating intricate lines and crisp strokes
- Refillable ink
- Smudge-proof and glob-free
Needless to say, this gel pen can be your ultimate pick for long writing, drawing, and journaling. The superb ink quality, comfortable grip, and elegant look make it a must-buy.
6. Crayola 58-6414 Take Note Colored Gel Pens
Do you accidentally stain your clothes with your pen while writing or drawing? Well, that’s not going to be a problem anymore with these Crayola washable gel pens.
These gel pens use an innovative ink formula that erases and removes easily from your hands and clothes. You can just wipe them off with a wet cloth or tissue and the stains will easily come off.
Another beneficial feature is that it is quick-drying, making these washable gel pens smearproof. The black, red, and blue colors are some of the darkest gel pens. I’ve used them on thin paper, but impressively, they do not bleed through.
Amazingly, this set contains 14 medium point washable pens with different vibrant colors that are enough to broaden your imagination and enhance your creativity. If you love to draw, doodle, and create artworks with different colors, you’ll probably find these gel pens enjoyable to use.
One more thing is that it can provide a super-smooth and nice writing experience with its 0.7-millimeter medium point. Not only is it reliable for taking down your notes, but also for designing stationery and any other art projects.
I also let the kids in my house use them without any worries since the ink used in these gel pens is non-toxic. It’s good to know they’re very safe to use.
All of the colors, furthermore, are flawlessly vivid but not that flashy. They’re vibrant enough to emphasize each letter or any character you write. The pink and green colors are my favorite because of their seamless texture and superb brightness.
It’s really nice how these gel pens keep everything neat and legible. Plus, they have ergonomic grips for more comfortable writing.
The only disadvantage with these gel pens is that the ink leaks if not stored properly.
- Ink can be easily removed on hands and clothes
- Available in 14 different vibrant colors
- Ink tends to leak at times
Despite that, these colored gel pens are perfect for making organized yet creative notes and designing your art projects.
7. Kaco K1017 PURE Plastic Retractable Gel Pens
These retractable gel pens from Kaco are truly a good pick when it comes to extra fine line writing. A large variety of 20 colors is already a treat but what makes it special is the ultra soft-touch matte body that promotes a comfortable writing experience.
It produces extra fine lines that can help you accentuate even the smallest letters, details, and characters you write or draw. The tip has a width of 0.5 millimeters, which I find reliable for more precise writing and intricate underlining.
In terms of their design, these beautiful gel pens have slim and soft bodies and matte textures which lend a comfortable grip. Need not worry about sore hands when writing.
The non-smearing ink gets every writing activity done while keeping the notes well-ordered and messy-free. I also use them on my adult coloring books and I never experienced any problems.
The ink quality, moreover, is also long-lasting. I really love how all of this 20-pack set of gel pens offer reliable service that renders satisfaction for various writing jobs.
As for the ink colors, they are recognizable and bright. They aren’t too flashy but rather give off a colorful but soft and subtle effect on every line you write.
Another feature I like about these gel pens is their portability. Since they’re compact and handy, I can take them wherever I go. They’re also very easy to put away inside a pen case, pocket, or bag.
My only concern with these gel pens is that they do not work well with thin papers. Darker colors bleed through them. But if you choose to write with brighter colors, this won’t be a problem.
- Creates extra fine lines
- Very soft and matte body
- Non-smearing ink
- Long-lasting ink
- Darker colors bleed through thin papers
Even though that’s a slight issue, this set of gel pens is a good choice for a comfortable and hassle-free note-taking experience.
What to Look for When Buying Gel Pens for Notes
Tip size varies from 0.3 millimeters to as thick as 1.0. Your choice depends on the type of writing style you choose or comfortable with. The bigger the tip of the gel pen, the smoother the writing glide is. On the other hand, gel pens with finer tips deliver a more precise detail on most writing jobs or tasks.
Do you usually write small characters or draw precise details? If so, you should consider buying a gel pen with a fine tip. If you prefer large handwriting, a gel pen with a medium tip will be a perfect size. And if you like to make your notes much easier and clearer to read, a pen with a broad tip can help you.
To select the best gel pen, you need to consider the tip size so that you’ll know what can perfectly suit your preferences. In that way, you won’t be disappointed with the gel pen you’re going to buy.
Ink Quality and Line Appearance
It is very important to consider if your gel pen is smudge-proof, quick-drying, and long-lasting. Depending on the type of task, knowing these factors is crucial. There are comfortable pens that do not last long but come with refillable ink to maximize their usage.
Line appearance can be tested on the type of paper or document you wish to use. Solid lines must be consistent with the tip size and must not skip and glob while continuously writing or drawing lines.
Since there are a variety of colors, its use plays a big factor. Though the most common color used is black, there are certain colors chosen for a particular use. Aside from note-taking, some use different colors for checking, special signatures, in which case they opt for more distinct and vibrant colors for easy identification.
For example, teachers or accountants use red markers. Marketing managers, however, usually choose vibrant colors to easily identify the type of document to sign.
Comfort and Design
If you often use your gel pen, you should consider its comfort and design as well. Ergonomically-designed gel pens are comfortable to use since they are easy on the grip and do not make your hands and fingers calloused.
Finding a pen that comfortably fits your writing style and habit will do the trick, especially if you try using them for some strokes first. On the other hand, gel pen design does not focus only on comfort but mostly on its use, portability, and fashion.
There are pens with pocket clips, laces, or even tabletop holders. Whichever design you choose, it should complement your fashion sense, writing style, and regular use.
Are Gel Pens Good for Note Taking
Yes, they are. Gel pens do facilitate neatness, comfort, productivity, and creativity. Because of their smooth-ink technology, note-taking couldn’t be more convenient and enjoyable at the same time.
In a nutshell, the best gel pens for notes should be smooth and clear enough to keep your notes neat and organized. You need to make sure that the gel pen you’re going to choose is something that won’t glob, skip, smear, and is comfortable to use.
There are lots of gel pens available in every store but do know that it isn’t always about the brand reputation or the number of available colors. That’s why it is imperative to check these factors first and get more time in considering the ink quality.
Gel Ink Refill – Goldspot Pens
Gel Ink Refill – Goldspot Pens
Uniball Ballpoint Pen Refill in Blue – Bold Point for 207 Impact RT Gel Pen – Pack of 2
Cross Ion Gel Pen Refill in Midnight Blue
Cross Ion Gel Pen Refill in Nucleus Black
Uni-Ball 207 Gel Refill in Blue – Medium Point – Pack of 2
Cross Ion Gel Pen Refill in Pulsar Purple
Montblanc Gel Pen Refill in Black – Broad Point by Monteverde
Montblanc Gel Pen Refill in Blue/Black – Fine Point by Monteverde
Montblanc Gel Pen Refill in Blue Black – Broad Point by Monteverde
Montblanc Gel Refill in Blue – Broad Point by Monteverde
Montblanc Gel Pen Refill in Black – Medium Point by Monteverde
Montblanc Gel Pen Refill in Blue/Black – Medium Point by Monteverde
Monteverde Capless Parker Style Gel Pen Refill in Black – Fine Point
8 Mighty Gel Pens to Boost Your Bullet Journaling
Wondering if gel pens are the right choice for your Bullet Journal? I tested 8 popular gel pens to find out which one was best. Check out the results below!
8 Mighty Gel Pens to Boost Your Bullet Journaling + Note-taking
They say the pen is mightier than the sword. Tell this to the journaling community and they’ll ask, “Which pen?”
When it comes to supplies, two items generate more questions than any others: pens and notebooks. Periodically, I update my supply page with all my favorite things, but sometimes we need to focus on pens.
I recently shared my top 6 journaling supplies, which featured felt-tipped artist pens. I’m partial to felt pens in my journal, but it didn’t feel right to completely ignore gel pens, especially since they have a huge fan base. Gel pens have a number of pros and cons, but by the end of this post, you’ll be a bona fide gel pen aficionado!
What is the difference between ballpoint and gel pens?
“Ballpoint” refers the the mechanism of the pen: a tiny ball in the tip transfers the ink to the paper. You probably already knew that. Every office supply closet has boxes of basic ballpoint pens. They’re utility pens. They get the job done. Good ballpoint pens write smoothly, though even the best have occasional skipping and ink globs (that’s a highly-technical term for a pen booger).
“Gel pen” refers to the type of ink inside the pen. Technically, a gel pen can also a ballpoint pen, it just doesn’t use the thick pasty ink that an ordinary ballpoint does. Gel pens contain ink suspended in a water-based gel. That’s what gives them their oh-so-enchanting smoothness as they go sliding across your page. That being said, a gel pen is only as good as its ink!
Gel pen, ballpoint, rollerball? How to you tell the difference when you’re shopping? Just know that unless it says “gel” somewhere on the package, it’s probably not a gel pen.
M’kay, that’s cleared up! Now, let’s see what these bad boys are good for, shall we?
Are gel pens good for Bullet Journaling?
In short, yes, gel pens are a great choice for most types of journaling, including Bullet Journaling. They typically create clear, sharp lines, and the marks appear much darker than those from a ballpoint pen. The strong lines of gel ink create a distinct aesthetic that has attracted quite a few fans. The Pilot G2, in particular has a strong cult following!
Keep in mind, not every gel pen is created equal. For every wonderful gel pen you try, you’ll find two more that skip, dry out, and smear like yesterday’s eyeliner. However, they do have some common pros and cons that push people to either the “Pro-Gel” or “Anti-Gel” crowds.
Pros of gel pens
- Write with very little pressure (easy on the hand)
- Don’t smear as easily as liquid rollerball pens
- Create clean, sharp lines
- Not likely to bleed through paper
Cons of gel pens
- They run out of ink quickly
- Smudge more than ballpoint or artist pens
- Ink can dry out over time
- Sometimes skip or don’t write on the first stroke
Me? I’m a peacemaker. I love all pens. That being said, I rarely use gel pens in my journals. For doodling, drawing layouts, and everyday planning, I prefer the uniformity and precision that a felt pen provides. I love my gel pens, but I love my felt tips just a smidgen more for journaling.
I do favor fountain pens and gel pens for note-taking, though. They’re fast, reliable, and easy on the hand. Depending on what I’m doing, I choose different gel pens. Here are some great choices to consider…
8 Everyday Gel Pens Reviewed
I created a test page in my journal so I could see these inks side by side. After creating the sample for each pen, I also tested them individually by free writing a half page with each pen.
Uni-ball Signo Micro 207 (0.5mm): I use a Uni-ball Signo for writing checks. Their “super ink” is more secure against check washing and other fraud methods. The lines created by this pen were mostly clean, but I did have some minor skipping while I was writing my test page. I also noticed that this pen required a decent amount of pressure to write evenly, which I suspect is true with most fine gel pens. When I ran my finger across my fresh words, the ink smeared 1 second after writing, but not after 3 seconds.
Uni-ball Signo 207 (0.7mm): This contains the same ink as the Micro 207 above, but it produces a thicker line. Overall, I was actually pretty disappointed with how this pen performed. The ink was quite clumpy when I first began writing with it. You can probably see that from the sample pictured above. I didn’t experience this with the Micro 207, so it surprised me. I thought the clumping might be due to it being a new pen, so I gave it more than the usual half-page test. The clumping improved, but it never really stopped. The ink seemed to accumulate on the tip as I wrote, so occasionally it would drop an ink glob on my page. It smeared significantly after 1 second, and slightly after 3 seconds.
Although I didn’t review it, the Uni-ball Signo 207 also comes in a bold 1.0mm tip.
Pilot G2 Ultra Fine (0.38mm): Compared to the Uni-ball Micro 207, the G2 Ultra Fine required less pressure to produce even writing. The ink flowed readily, and I didn’t experience any skipping during my half-page test. This pen produces the finest line of any I tested, and man, is it ever tiny! To be honest, it was a bit too fine for me, but if you have small handwriting, or if you love the minimalist look of thin letters, this may be the perfect pick for you. Because it’s so fine, it dries very quickly and doesn’t smear a lot. I had slight smearing after 1 second, and none after 3 seconds.
My local store was out of them, but Pilot also makes a 0.7mm G2.
Pilot G2 Bold (1.0mm): Another round with the Pilot G2, but this time, it’s a full 1mm BOLD tip! Because my medium Uni-ball Signo had so much clumping, I expected to see some from this thick G2. That wasn’t the case. The G2 didn’t have any clumping during my test at all. It skipped the crossing of one “t” throughout my test page, but other than than, I enjoyed the smooth writing experience of this pen. The ink is also extremely dark, so it really stands out from the page. On the downside, this pen smears like crazy after 1 and 3 seconds of dry time. I let it sit for more than 10 seconds and still had slight smearing. Lefties beware!
Pentel EnerGel (0.7mm): The Pentel EnerGel is one of my old favorites. I stumbled on this pen about a year ago thanks to a reader. It requires almost no pressure to write, so I find I can write for longer sessions without my hand getting tired. During my test page, I saw no skipping and no ink clumping. This is definitely one of the smoothest writing experiences of these gel pens. If I had to find a weakness, I’d say the grip doesn’t feel quite right in my small hand. Still, I use this pen all the time and enjoy it very much. My test ink smeared after 1 second, but hardly at all after 3 seconds.
Papermate Ink Joy Gel (0.7mm): Ah, Ink Joy! Even the name makes me happy. Papermate knew what they were doing when they made these pens. For the sake of uniformity, I only tested the black ink, but these come in a whole rainbow of colors. The black is incredibly dark (comparable to the G2), and it’s incredibly smooth to write with. Considering how buttery the writing experience is, I was prepared for a lot of smearing. Actually, it dried very quickly. I did get some smearing after 1 second, but almost none after 3 seconds.
Bic Gelocity (0.7mm): Gelocity is Bic’s answer to Papermate Ink Joys. They also come in a variety of colors, but again, I chose to focus on black so I wouldn’t be swayed by my favorite colors. I had never tried the Gelocity before this test, so I was excited to take it for a spin. Online reviews of this pen are pretty mixed, so I was prepared for it to disappoint. I can’t speak for what the other reviewers experienced, but I thoroughly enjoyed this pen. The ink goes down quickly and smoothy, even with minimal pressure. I had one very minor instance of clumping during my test, but I had to look pretty closely to find it. Regardless of which angle I held the pen or how quickly I wrote, I couldn’t get it to skip, and the ink was dark and crisp. As for smearing, it was abut the same as the Ink Joy. The Gelocity wasn’t quite as natural in my hand as the Ink Joy, but it’s a nice gel pen, all around.
Pilot FriXion Erasable (0.7mm): Compared to the other gel pens here, the Pilot FriXion is a different beast altogether. I wrote a full review on FriXion gel pens a little while back, and I encourage you to read it. FriXion ink has some unique properties that make it awesome (it erases!), but you need to understand how it works (especially if exposed to extreme heat or extreme cold). As for the black FriXion gel pen, I wish the ink were a little darker. I put my pen in the freezer to make the ink as dark as possible, but it still looks more charcoal than black. I had to use more pressure and experienced more skipping with this pen than most of the others listed here. Honestly, this will probably not be your favorite note-taking pen. Still, it has some great uses. I regularly use my FriXions to write appointments in my journal; they give me the flexibility to change things later.
Which gel pens were the best for Bullet Journaling and note-taking?
My pick for journaling: For smooth, precision writing, doodling, and list-making, my favorite is the Papermate Ink Joy. The fact that they come in a huge variety of colors only makes me love them more.
My pick for note-taking: Either the Gelocity or Pentel EnerGel. As much as I love the G2, I imagine lefties would struggle with how much the ink smears.
My pick for perfectionists: When it comes to pure writing experience, the Pilot FriXion has some room for improvement. However, those who worry about making mistakes may benefit from being able to erase their work.
What’s your all-time favorite pen for journaling? Do you use different pens for journaling versus note-taking? Comment below with your picks!
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Writer & Creative Blogger
Megan Rutell is the blogger behind Page Flutter. She’s also a writer, stationery lover, Air Force veteran, and homesick Colorado girl. She currently lives in Japan with her husband, 3 boys, and a fat cat who rules them all.
The 8 Best Pens for Writing in 2020
Though ultimately the judgement of a pen’s performance is somewhat subjective, it’s important to understand the difference between the five most prominent pen categories and their respective ink types, so that you know which ones are most compatible with your writing style.
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, but they all contain slightly different types of ink.
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. This type of pen can be troublesome for left-handed people to use, however, since the ink is slower to dry and has the tendency to smudge.
Gel pens also contain a 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 can also be found in a rainbow spectrum of colors. Cheap gel pens are prone to clumping and drying out, so this category of pen 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 a 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 in 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. 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.
Ballpoint and gel pens – what is the practical difference
The real revolutionary breakthrough in the field of writing instruments was the appearance on the market of ballpoint pens. This happened in the middle of the last century, when their production became massive and cheap. Fountain pens, inkpots and ink quickly lost their relevance. The ballpoint pens were comfortable, compact, and did not pollute the surrounding objects.
Design features of products
The design of the ballpoint pen is simple.It is a housing with a closing cap, inside of which a tube or rod with a ball assembly is inserted. The tube is filled with a special ink paste, which, falling on the nib, leaves a mark on the surface. There is a small gap between the walls of the ink tank and the ball, allowing the ball to rotate easily. As it rotates, it is wetted by a continuous flow of ink, which allows the pen to be used until the container is empty. The filling paste for the rod is made on an oil basis.
The gel pen is structurally similar to the ballpoint pen, but with minor modifications to the writing unit.
Main differences 2:
Another type of rod filler is gel. The consistency of the gel is harder and more viscous compared to the ball paste. Basically, gels are produced on a water basis, but oil gels are also produced that perfectly tolerate negative temperatures.
The nib of the gel pen does not end with a ball, but with a pointed tip that allows you to reproduce fine, clear lines.In this case, the ball remains on the inside.
Gel pen advantages
Ink in both types of pens is supplied automatically, starting from the moment of operation, when the process of rotation of the ball starts. Ink leakage can only be observed in products from the very low-cost segment, which is most typical for ball-point. Due to the less viscous consistency of the core filler, partial leakage is sometimes possible.
Writing with a gel pen is easier, since no special pressure is required. The slightest effort – and a perfect contrast line appears on the sheet.
The lines produced by writing from a gel pen are sharper and smoother. The trace from the ballpoint is sometimes vague, in addition, an indentation (groove) forms on the surface of the paper from pressure.
The color range of gel pens is more extensive. The main colors remain blue and black, but there are also many sets of different color shades available.Traces of helium ink on paper will last much longer.
Advantages of ballpoint pens
The nib is stronger and more reliable for ballpoint pens. It allows for stronger pressure, therefore, in schools, children are recommended to use them.
Ballpoint ink smudges less. They dry almost immediately, and helium takes some time to dry.
In total, ballpoint pens are cheaper.
With all the generalized advantages and disadvantages, the main quality characteristics still depend on the manufacturer of the stationery. If the body of the pen is made of low quality plastic, with burrs and cracks, then the nib of such a pen is probably not of the highest quality and will not last long.
Ballpoint or gel pens – which is better?
– BAB MAN, HERE IS EVERYONE IS BETTER: SKIER OR SNOWBOARDER?
– I HAD ONE SKIER … HE COULD BE BETTER …
– WHAT IS BETTER A SNOWBOARD?
– BETTER MY GRANDFATHER, GOD FORGIVE!
Film “Christmas Trees”
At first glance, these writing utensils look very similar.At the heart of both is a rod with a spherical tip, enclosed in a body. As the firstborn, ballpoint pens got their name from the ball at the base of the nib. The ink in these pens was oil-based. They are still used today in ballpoint pens. And in other types of pens – gel-based ink, respectively, they were called so – gel. You can only feel the difference in action, in writing.
Have you tried to write something with a ballpoint pen, leaning a sheet of paper against a vertical surface, for example, against a wall? Or lying down to solve a crossword puzzle.Surely, such attempts were not always crowned with success. At this angle, the ballpoint pen quickly stops writing. Another thing is a gel pen, this is unlikely to happen to it. It’s all about the viscosity of the ink. In the former, they are thicker, in the latter, they are more fluid.
The same property can play a cruel joke, especially at altitude with a pressure drop. A gel pen without a cap, but in a pocket of a white shirt, on board an airplane … .. Draw in your imagination what might happen. To prevent such a nuisance from happening, some manufacturers produce “airplane-compatible” pens, on their packaging you can find the inscription: “won’t leak in flight” (will not leak in flight).
The viscosity of the ink also affects the pressure level in calligraphy. In gel pens, the smoother ink flow speeds up writing, while ballpoint pens require more pressure. This causes hand fatigue with prolonged work. Remember, in childhood, after removing the sticks – the hooks, they did exercises: “We wrote, we wrote, our fingers were tired, ……….” And then we wrote with ballpoint pens!
Although even now at school, my daughter is not recommended to write with gel pens in notebooks due to the fact that ink can seep onto the other side of a thin sheet, and even smudge, again due to the low viscosity of the ink.For the same reason, gel pens are less suitable for left-handers because of the high probability of smudging what you have just written.
Since we are talking about school, we must pay tribute to the gel ink pens. Only with a black gel pen, due to clearer and brighter lines, can you fill out forms for Olympiads, USE, test papers, which are scanned and recognized by a computer. Some stationery suppliers did not hesitate to seize the opportunity in this regard to bring to the market a new brand – a pen for the exam.But you and I understand that this is a cunning marketing ploy. Any black ink gel pen will work.
And in contrast to a clear copy of the scanned text, written in a gel pen, there is an instruction to use only a blue ballpoint pen for signing documents, government papers. This is done in order to easily distinguish an original document from a copy. A photocopy of paper signed with a ballpoint pen with blue ink cannot be confused with the original. The signature will be faint and barely visible.
The advantages of gel pens can also be attributed to the color variety of ink. On sale you can see sets of 12, 18, 24 colors. The writing line of gel pens is thinner and sharper due to the lightness and fluidity of the ink. They have found greater application in children’s creativity.
The advantage of ballpoint pens is the high frost resistance of the writing paste due to the oil base.Gel freezes faster in cold weather.
Knowing this, if you need to make notes in the cold, stock up on ballpoint pens.
I hope the comparative analysis of gel and ballpoint pens will help you make the right choice when buying them.
And here are some drawings made with pens, which are difficult to distinguish from a photograph.
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More articles about stationery
More about household goods
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A little about consumables
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