As days get shorter and temperatures cool, it’s also time (eek) to start thinking about going back to school. To help you get a jump on the best school (and school-related) supplies to buy for fall, we’re running a series called Cool School Stuff, in which we’ll sniff out the best backpacks, best dorm décor, and best bento boxes, among many, many other things.
Here at the Strategist, we like to think of ourselves as crazy (in the good way) about the stuff we buy (like pillows), but as much as we’d like to, we can’t try everything. Which is why we have People’s Choice, in which we find the best-reviewed (that’s four-to-five-star reviews and lots of ‘em) products and single out the most convincing. We’ve written about some of the best pens before — see those stories here and here — but this time we turned to the people to find the best-reviewed ballpoint, roller-ball, and felt-tip pens for writing, doodling, and sketching on Amazon. (Note that reviews have been edited for length and clarity.)
Best Superfine 0.2mm Pens
4.5 stars, 164 reviews
“This was my first time trying a marker pen, and I’m very satisfied. Unlike what another review states, these are indeed a box of 12 pens. I’ve gone through many favorite pens over the years and had finally settled on Uni-ball Vision Needle pens, but these have now replaced those. The writing is smooth and even. They feel good in my hand, and encourage me to use a light touch, which lessens cramping after long writing sessions.”
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Best 0.5mm Pens
4.8 stars, 923 reviews
“I have been using the Pilot Precise pens for a few years, and they are my favorite. As another reviewer said, I really hope they never discontinue this line because I don’t want to have to stock up. I like the extra-fine point, and am impressed that it still creates a strong, uninterrupted line without requiring the user to use extra pressure. I don’t feel like the thin tip will bend or break (which has happened to me with other pens). This pen doesn’t skip and dries very quickly, so smudging isn’t an issue, either. I like the retractable aspect, since I tend to misplace pen caps. I like the way these feel in my hand, and I like the colors available. Additionally, the ink never seems to run out (I’m sure it does eventually, but the pens are loved by everyone I encounter, so they end up in someone else’s possession quite regularly). I simply cannot think of a negative thing to say about these!”
Best 0.7mm Pens
4.7 stars, 409 reviews
“I’m an attorney, so my staff and I spend a lot of time writing, editing, and working with A LOT of paper. You don’t really know how much you can love a pen until you’ve bought this specific pen. Nothing compares. It’s perfect. When I let a colleague, client, or friend borrow my pen(s), they consistently comment on how awesome it is — and several immediately stocked up for themselves. I’m telling you, it’s the little things in life.”
Best 1.0mm Ballpoint Pens
4.7 stars, 639 reviews
“This is my favorite pen of all time. I’d order more if my wife would let me. I always carry one in my pocket, and I love the fact that because of the cap (instead of a push-button), it will never open in my pocket and leak or stab me. I prefer the fine-point blue now, though I used to carry a 1mm-tipped black version for years. Writes well and dries fast on more stuff than you’d expect (not everything, but definitely better than most pens). I’m not left-handed — apparently lefties smudge ink a lot when writing, and this one helps avoid that — but I just enjoy writing things and not having to worry about smudging like I would with a gel pen, though it writes about as smooth as one.”
Best Brass Pens
4.6 stars, 119 reviews
“This pen is amazing!!!! Yes, it does have a good reputation with the G2 ink cartridge as the true workhorse, but the physical structure is what is truly amazing. It has a good balance of weight, length, barrel diameter, and style. Weight: The weight is equally distributed throughout the body, which is good because (at least in my case) your hand doesn’t get tired from writing all day. Length: With the cap screwed onto the back, the pen is the perfect length for my hand; with it removed, it’s slightly awkward, but not much. Barrel diameter: Some pens are too fat or too skinny, but the Machine Era pen is what Goldilocks would describe as ‘just right.’ My wife has commented on this, too, and her thoughts are that the pen’s diameter is very comfortable. The diameter makes it easy to handle and work with; it feels good in the hand. Style: It’s brass, which is beautiful; out of the package, it’s all shiny and new, but after a while the patina sets in and make this pen pop.”
Best Felt-tip Pens
4.6 stars, 120 reviews
“These felt-tip pens have dual tips. One end is a 1mm-thick tip and the other end has a 0.5mm fine tip. Each pen is individually wrapped inside of the box. The fine tip glides easily, making it a great script pen. It’s also great for fine work when sketching pictures or tracing detailed pictures. The wider tip is still a fine felt tip, which is also nice for tracing thicker, heavier lines or filling in small areas. When tracing, they didn’t dry out quickly like some other markers do when used for an extended period of time.”
Best Cheap Pens
4.6 stars, 1,791 reviews
“I’m persnickety about my pens. No, really. They need to write smoothly, and not be so thick when on paper. Enter Pentel R.S.V.P. pens … cue the choir music. These came in different colors, and I am still that nerd in class when surrounded by people on their MacBooks, I’m sitting there like … ‘Look at the different color pens I have!’ They help my notes stay neat, and I can work on graphs and diagrams by using the different colors. Also, this is CRAZY cheap on Amazon. Can’t beat that.”
Best Durable Pens
4.6 stars, 1,931 reviews
“I’ve been carrying a Fisher Bullet for 20 years. Great performer. This is NOT necessarily a pen that will make you love writing. The ink flow is mildly inconsistent and doesn’t just lie down beautifully on the page. For me, the Fisher Bullet is about the small form factor, the durability, and the ability to write whenever you need to write … wherever you need to write. I’ve used it on lumber, on wet items, on greasy items, on glossy items. It’s been through the washer and the dryer. It’s been dropped and abused. I can’t remember a single failure to perform. All metal with rubber O-rings to seal it and to keep the cap on. If you need a great, reliable pen in a small package, you can’t beat it. Don’t expect it to be a Montblanc fountain pen and it will never disappoint you.”
Best Soft-Grip Pens
4.6 stars, 562 reviews
“I’m a great fan of these pens. They have a comfortable grip and are weighted to sit well in my hand. More expensive than the regular (non-center-of-gravity) Dr. Grip pen, but well worth it in my opinion. I love that the ink is also smooth and free-flowing, which means I get solid lines while applying very little pressure. I have issues with both carpal and cubital tunnel syndrome, so a comfortable pen is a must for me. I can literally write for an hour without discomfort. I also like that the ink doesn’t clump up or require me to shake or stop writing to scribble so the ink will run again.”
Best Multicolored Pens
4.7 stars, 1,897 reviews
“These are the best pens I’ve ever owned. They write smoothly; the colors are great. They don’t leak or smear like other pens I’ve owned. The yellow is way too light for regular writing, so I’ve been using that one in my adult coloring book. I make sure I bring one with me to work every day, and hide it when I go on break because I know someone will steal it. I love the rubberized grip and feel of the pen. If it is possible to fall in love with a pen, I’ve done it. No other pens for me ever again. If Paper Mate ever stops making this pen, I will cry.”
Best Gel Pens
4.7 stars, 267 reviews
“Ira Glass from “This American Life” mentioned these and since I’m a fan of the show and a bit of a pen nerd, I thought I’d give them a try. I am not disappointed. Actually, I’m thrilled. These little plastic pens are phenomenal. They produce crisp, thin, very dark lines on most paper types. The tip glides smoothly and the ink dries fast. The barrel is a typical diameter, and the length is compact, which is nice. They come in a ten-pack, which means they are very inexpensive. Nothing fancy here. Just a serious workhorse of a pen that you won’t be afraid to lose.”
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The Strategist is designed to surface the most useful, expert recommendations for things to buy across the vast e-commerce landscape. Some of our latest conquests include the best women’s jeans, rolling luggage, pillows for side sleepers, ultra-flattering pants, and bath towels. We update links when possible, but note that deals can expire and all prices are subject to change.
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