Here at the Strategist, we like to think of ourselves as crazy (in the good way) about the stuff we buy, 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 products and single out the most convincing ones. (You can learn more about our rating system and how we pick each item here.)
And while we’ve written before about all sorts of stationery goods — including bullet journal supplies for beginners, colored pencils, and our editor-tested ranking of the 100 best pens — here, we’ve rounded up the best pens as praised by the most enthusiastic reviewers on Amazon.
With over 5,400 verified purchasers giving it five stars, the Pilot G2 has reviewers praising its comfortable grip, fine lines, and durability, even with a budget-friendly price. Many reviewers mention the “strong pocket clip” and quickly retractable nib that make this pen extremely portable and easy to carry around, including a teacher who writes, “I have been using the G2 gel pen for years, and wish to use none other. It opens and retracts quickly and easily, and gives a quality smooth print. I will keep using them until something better comes along at such a great price … not likely.”
More than any other feature, the G2’s “smooth as butter” ink is lauded by the pen’s devotees, one of whom says, “The ink flows flawlessly, so it’s a pleasure to write with.” Featured at spot No. 31 in our ranking of the best pens, writer Lauren Ro says, “The ink runs smoothly and there’s virtually zero smudging.” One purchaser with carpal tunnel syndrome reports preferring the G2 to traditional ballpoint pens because the G2’s gel ink requires less pressure, making for a more comfortable writing experience. “The ink just glides out of the Pilot G2 pen easily, and comfortably. No pain.” One reviewer sums it up: “I’m a writer, I evaluate pens the way a connoisseur does wines. After trying this one I came to Amazon to buy a bunch of them. They work reliably, have a comfortable grip in the hand, and, unlike a lot of other smooth-flowing pens, the ink dries quickly enough that I don’t wind up with smudges on the page and ink on my hands. As long as these are available, they’re my pick for a great general-purpose pen.”
Best-rated (less expensive) pen
At a price of $5 for 60 pens, “value” comes up in review after review — but many reviewers don’t even mention this affordable price as a reason to buy this pen, instead focusing on its dependability and smooth writing. This pen also appeared on our list of the best pens, as a classic choice for a reliable, inexpensive pen. (Author Curtis Sittenfeld happens to be a fan, too). As one reviewer puts it: “60 pens for this price — amazing! And these are great pens! I’ve bought cheap pens where the ink only comes out after you scribble frantically to get it flowing, but these things write smoothly right from the beginning. I bought a box for my friend (never can find a working pen at her house) and now she thinks I’m a goddess!” Another says, “These pens are so inexpensive that they’re practically free. My plan is to saturate the population with them so that no one ever again has to steal a pen. Who’s with me?!”
And now some micro-picks for every type of pen you might be looking for.
Best pen for bullet journal
Dozens of reviewers write about using Micron pens for bullet journaling. They like the fine lines, assorted sizes, and ink that doesn’t “bleed through” the page. “These are the best pens for journaling. Have tried several others for my bullet journal and these are perfect. Fine line and no bleeding!” Writer Liza Corsillo also mentions the “no bleed” ink in her summary of the 0.35mm Micron for our list of best pens. One reviewer especially appreciates that this set features a range of sizes. “I love that there are three sizes to this set — 0.25mm, 0.35mm, and 0.45mm — there is just enough difference in the sizes to be of good use to me.” Plus, a version of these Pigma Micron pens were recommended by a hard-core bullet journaler in our guide to the best bullet journal supplies for beginners.
Best pen for lefties
We featured the Uni-Ball Jetstream in our list of the best pens, at No. 98. While it wasn’t necessarily a huge hit with our testers, the pen has a vocal fanbase on Amazon, many of whom are lefties who appreciate its fast-drying ink that “dries almost instantly” and doesn’t smudge when they write. As one lefty says, “Being left-handed, I have always had a problem of ink smearing and making a mess, not just on me but also on the card or letter that I was writing. I also have not been able to find a pen that doesn’t skip, one that writes smoothly and just feels good using it. This pen solved all of my problems! I love using it. It puts the fun back into writing!” Another raves, “Writes really smooth and dries quickly. A must have for left-handed people!”
Best multicolor pen set for adult coloring books
Almost 200 purchasers mention using this Stabilo pen set for adult coloring books. “I purchased these because my wife was frustrated that colored pencils did not have a fine enough tip for her adult coloring books,” one reviewer writes, explaining, “Most of the new adult coloring books have very small detailed patterns and these fine tip pens are perfect for that. Plus, so far the ink seems to be lasting nicely, and the color on paper is bright and rich. We have since bought several more packs of these for gifts.”
Another happy purchaser says they’re great general use pens and work well for all sorts of craft projects: “These pens are way nice than I expected. I purchased them as liner pens for some of my watercolor paintings and discovered that they’re actually water soluble/blendable on watercolor paper. I use them LOTS for scrapbooking, adult coloring books, watercolors. The colors really pop and they write very smoothly on most surfaces.” Plus, these colorful pens also made an appearance in our guide to the best bullet journal supplies.
Best 4-in-1 pen
This BIC 4-in-1 pen gets a lot of appreciation from purchasers who rely on color-coding for work and organization. As one reviewer writes, “Twenty years ago, my mother used these to highlight interesting things in our print copy of TV Guide. Today, I use them to code documents that require certain things be written in certain colors.” Another adds: “I love these pens especially for nursing work as I can color code labs/notes/to-do’s etc. There is a lot of information I put on a piece of paper and these pens do a great job helping me get everything done.” This one almost broke into the top ten in our list of the best pens, making a strong showing at No. 12. Editor Katy Schneider raved, “I love to use this for checklists — you can make the list with blue or black ink, then put little stars next to the urgent items in red ink. Do I sound crazy?”
Best fountain pen
Over 1,800 verified five-star reviewers praise the Pilot Metropolitan fountain pen — which came in the 97th spot in our list of best pens — for its smooth writing and “heft,” with many recommending it as an “entry-level” fountain pen. One fountain-pen beginner says, “I saw this referenced as a great entry-level fountain pen and gave it a shot. Love it. It has a very nice, sold, well-made feel to it. Cap comes off and posts crisply. Everything has the feel of being well engineered.” Another describes it as “better than good for the price,” adding, “It’s astonishing how much value this pen has. It writes better than pens five times its price. For less than twenty dollars you get a pen that will last you nearly a lifetime, if not more.” Many also suggest that it’s a great pen to gift: “This would make a perfect gift for all the writers in your life — the packaging is nice and presentable.”
Best fine-tip gel pen
This one made it into our roundup of the best pens, and it’s very well regarded on Amazon as well, with approximately 80 percent of reviewers giving it a five-star rating. According to one purchaser, This American Life host Ira Glass is reportedly a fan, too: “[Glass] 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. These little plastic pens are phenomenal. They produce crisp, thin, very dark lines on most paper types.” Many mention loving these pens for the “fine line” they yield. One purchaser was actually “a bit put off” by the very fine tip at first, but was quickly converted into a fan after trying them out. “They produce the smoothest lines I’ve ever seen in a pen. My handwriting looks so much neater and the effort I expend to write nicely is very much reduced.” Another writes, “These pens have this amazing, tiny point and the ink glides effortlessly. You are able to make the smallest of lines on any type of paper with amazing results. These have become my favorite pen for doodling and tiny detailed work.”
Best fine-tip ballpoint pen
“The bane of all fine-point users — finding a fine point that is dark enough to actually see — has finally been solved,” writes one reviewer, who thinks the secret is in the pen’s ink. “Pilot calls the ink ‘Advanced,’ but for me, the better word would be ‘Perfected.’ It is the darkest black ink from a fine point pen that I’ve ever seen.” Many other happy purchasers agree, saluting the Acroball’s combination of a fine tip and a winning ink formula. “The ink is always smooth, never gums up, and very fine, leaving your writing neat, precise, and clean,” says one, while another adds that the fine tip actually makes their handwriting easier to read. “My handwriting, which is cursive/chicken scratch, is more legible thanks to the ultra fine point. The ink also dries super fast with minimal smudging and glides onto the paper as smooth as butter.” And finally, many love the design of these pens, highlighting the “unique white barrel” and the “vibrant and fun” accent colors.
Best felt tip pens
The Paper Mate Flair has a lot of friends in high places. Writer Lesley Arfin, Saucony creative director Chris Mahoney, and New York’s own Jerry Saltz all told us they’re fans. We ranked them at No. 58 in our list of the best pens, and it’s a big hit with Amazon reviewers, too. As one purchaser puts it, “Who doesn’t love a rainbow of felt tip pens?” Many contrast the Paper Mate Flairs with Sharpies and say they prefer the Flairs because there’s less bleed-through and odor. “I love felt tip markers/pens, and am a big fan of using Sharpies for EVERYTHING. However, those tend to bleed through,” one writes, continuing, “Luckily, these fantastic markers have the great felt tip writing feel without the smell or bleed; they’re PERFECT for my new planner.” Another writes, “I really had zero purpose for felt tip pens except when it came to needing to draw on top of full color designs that had been printed off. And my new job just suddenly had me needing to do this constantly. Regular pens don’t show up well and Sharpies bleed through horribly. These are the perfect alternative and the color assortment made them even better.”
Best calligraphy pens
“I just finished addressing 175 envelopes with one pen and would definitely recommend them to anyone looking to try brush calligraphy,” raves one reviwer, and many others agree that this two-pack of Tombow brush pens is an excellent choice for calligraphers. One purchaser even goes as far as saying, “There honestly isn’t any competition when it comes to brush pens. These two Tombow Fudenosuke Brush Pens are all you need for calligraphy and illustration.” Many amateur and experienced calligraphers chime in to say that this set is often recommended by calligraphy experts and calligraphy-focused websites. “These are GREAT brush pens if you are a calligrapher or hand letterer. They are very popular in the lettering community and they are some of my favorite pens to use! I love that it comes in a dual pack. The hard tip is great for beginners and the soft tip has a bit more flex to it and mimics more of a brush pen.” One reviewer says this makes for a great starter set, and even offers a helpful suggestion for new calligraphers: “Highly recommend them to anyone wanting to try a brush pen. Just remember: light strokes going up and heavy going down.”
Best pen with comfortable grip
Over 200 reviewers mention how “comfortable” they find this Dr. Grip pen. In her review of the Dr. Grip in our ranking of the best pens, associate editor Katy Schneider praises the rubber grip as “squishy and comfortable.” And many reviewers on Amazon with physical conditions impacting their hands report finding relief due to the Dr. Grip’s ergonomic design. “I have Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome, and so one of my many symptoms is my hands fatiguing VERY fast. I’m talking after writing out my first name, my hand gives up and my penmanship is terrible. These have really helped me put much less pressure on my hands when writing.” Others add that it’s a great choice for anyone who does a lot of writing and needs a reliable pen that’s easier on the hands. “I love these pens. I am a clinical therapist so I am writing all day long. This is a very comfortable pen and doesn’t skip or get stuck. Very smooth and the cushion makes it comfy for all my notes.”
Best multicolor gel pen set
Eight-four percent of the over 2,500 reviewers gave the InkJoy gel pen five stars, and we thought it was the best of all the gel pens we tested (and No. 23 out of 100 overall in our ranking). One purchaser says they first tried these out on a co-worker’s recommendation, and they were “hooked within thirty seconds: First of all the ink dries quickly, so I didn’t smudge it, at all. Ever. Second, they write so smoothly. Third, the colors are vivid and bright and fourth, the pens feel nice in your hands! I have to hide these pens from everyone else because they are always trying to run off with them.” Purchasers tend to love the bright colors, the rubber grip, and the smooth quick-dry ink. “These pens have me finding excuses to write,” says one reviewer. “I generally hate gel pens because I smear them so quickly when I write, but these are amazing.”
Best erasable pen
“The last time I tried to use an erasable ink pen, back in high school (we will not discuss how long ago that was), I was quite unimpressed. It took a lot of erasing to get the ink to kind of go away; it never vanished anywhere near as much as pencil did,” writes one reviewer. “But boy, these FriXion pens are a whole new deal I cannot believe how well they work.” This sort of surprise came up time and time again in the reviews, with many newly minted erasable pen converts taking it upon themselves to say that these are much better than earlier generations of erasable pens. As one purchaser writes, “These are nothing like the miserable erasable pens they had when I was younger. I am an engineer in graduate school, and I have actually stopped using pencils (except when fine lines are needed) because I find that these pens erase more cleanly.” Another calls out a simple feature that makes a big difference: “Having the eraser a constant on top and making the retractable piece the clicker is genius and overall the selling point for me with these quality pens.”
Best erasable stick pens
Reviewers say this set offers the same high-level performance as the retractable FriXion pen above, but in a set of ten stick pens in assorted colors. One teacher says these are a go-to for grading papers: “They write smoothly in bright colors and I can easily erase any mistakes I make. I have several teacher friends who also loves these pens. My kids use them all the time, too. They’re good for any middle school or high school kids who need to write in pen, but still wants the ability to erase!” Many also say these are great for color-coding calendars and planners. “In the past, if an appointment time or date changed, I’d have to cross out the old or, worse yet, write them in pencil (one color for everything) and hope for the best. With these erasable gel pens, I don’t have to worry about changes that may come up. My planner and calendars stay neat and up-to-date and the color-coding keeps my head from hurting.”
Best stick ballpoint pen
At under $7 for a pack of 12, the Pentel R.S.V.P. ballpoint pen is a great value. It’s also, as over 150 reviewers highlight, distinctly “smooth.” One writes, “These have been my favorite pens for years. Smooth writing with excellent control and no trailing.” Another adds, “The only thing I can say is that this is like the Cadillac of clear, smooth writing stick pens!” And while many like the more readily available medium-point 1.0mm model, the fine-point 0.7mm earns the most enthusiastic endorsements. “I’ve had other fine point pens that were hard to read due to skips and thinness in the printing, but none of that with these. Just sharp and strong, and the fine lines look tidier when writing small.”
Best retractable ballpoint pen
Reviewers laud the Zebra Z-Grip for its fast-drying smooth ink, comfortable grip, and great value. “I use these pens every day,” writes one purchaser, who explains, “I wanted a pen that was nice, but not too nice to replace without guilt. If I ever need more pens (and I surely will), I’ll just buy a gigantic pack of these, no more shopping around. That’s pretty much the highest praise I can give.” The Z-Grip’s reliability and low-price — under $8 for a pack of 24 — mean that lots of reviewers buy them in bulk, like one who writes, “I was introduced to these pens at work. I work in a hospital. I loved them so much that I bought them in bulk for home and school. I have never sought out pens in bulk before so that is saying a lot.” Additionally, many mention loving the pen’s ink, regardless of price: “The highlight of these Zebra Z-Grip pens is definitely the quality of the ink. Surprisingly so smooth and after writing I swiped my finger across the ink and it was already dry.”
Best jelly roll pens
Coming in at No. 82 in our ranking of the best pens, the Sakura Gelly Roll is also a favorite of Cupcakes and Cashmere blogger Emily Schulman, who told told us, “They’re the only pens I use.” And the reviewers online do not hold back their enthusiasm; many proudly describe themselves as “obsessed” with all the different colors and options. “I can’t just pick one because I want ALL of them,” writes one Gelly Roll fanatic. This Moonlight set is particularly beloved by Gelly Roll newbies and collectors owing to how well they “pop off the page,” especially when used with black paper. “The colors seem to come to life against the black background of the pages,” raves one reviewer. “Sakura pens may cost a few dollars more, but the results they create are nothing short of amazing. I enjoy coloring with these so much, before I realize it hours have passed by and I have a beautiful picture suitable for framing and display.” As one self-proclaimed “’90s kid” puts it: “I love these pens! I’ve been a long time customer of Gelly Roll pens and these did not disappoint as an adult.”
Best colored pens for artists
“As close to a brush as you can get,” writes one reviewer, who along with many other purchasers compares these Tombow dual brush pens to watercolors. “Oh my goodness. I’m in love,” adds another. “Really, these are so easy and great to use, giving the effect of watercolor but with much easier control.” Many artists single out the included clear “blender pen” that helps them achieve a paintlike effect, while others skip that step entirely and use the water-soluble ink the way they would with more traditional watercolors. “I like to put a little in a dish and add a few drops of water then dip my brush, using it to create watercolor art from the pens. I use this method along with my watercolor pencils, sharpies and a white gel pen for a mixed media type of art. I wish I had every color!”
Best quick-dry gel pen
“These pens have solved my most frequent problem when using gel pens … Smudges. The grip is comfortable. The ink is perfectly black with no blobs to deal with. This box will last me a while, but I will buy them again when they run out,” says one satisfied reviewer, and many happy purchasers describe the BIC Gel-ocity as somehow achieving the smooth and distinct lines of a gel pen without the smudges and mess. In her writeup for our own list of the best pens, writer Karen Iorio Adelson calls it “exceptionally smooth.” Another Amazon reviewer writes, “They dry on contact. No bleeding. When I make copies from this pen, it comes out clear. At work, I have customers sign in with the pen because it given them good penmanship and I can read their name. I call it the ‘magic pen.’”
Best gel pen with metal tip
This set of gel pens is popular with reviewers looking for a smooth-writing gel pen in assorted color options. One teacher says, “These are my go-to teacher pens. I use them for grading papers, writing notes, and pretty much everything I do in the classroom on a daily basis. I love these pens and I’m so grateful they come in so many great colors.” Another reviewer writes that they’re great for note-taking or for organizing categories in a planner: “I LOVE these pens so much. They write very smoothly and do not smear. I like to use them for note-taking (and document-filling, with the more ‘professional’ colors) at work and school.” They add, “Love, love, love, and I’ll be using all of these until the very last drop of ink — then I’ll buy more!”
Best compact pen
Nearly 100 reviewers on Amazon praise the Fischer Bullet Space Pen’s “compact” build. One purchaser says, “I was amazed by how small this pen is when it’s closed. I mean, it’s quite literally something you can stuff in your pocket and for that it’s there.” And while many mention buying this because they wanted a small “pocket-sized” pen, they also appreciate that they can attach the cap to the opposite end, “extending the length of the pen to make it comfortable [to hold] while signing a document.” One particular review seems to sum up what so many appreciate about this pen: “The real reason to this pen is durability and portability. If you just want a pen for your office, get a box of Precise V5’s. If you want a pen to carry around, get this.”
Best rollerball pen
“Not really sure what to say other than I write all the time by hand, and these babies just glide. Makes my skin crawl to think of using something else,” says a happy reviewer. Another reviewer, an architect, writes, “These are the only pens I use on a daily basis. I have many technical pens that I use when drawing in ink, but for my day to day needs, I love the Vision series rollerballs. The thicker 0.7mm size is great for sketching on trace as well.” Dozens describe its “smooth” writing style as “gliding” across the paper, including one who says, “Easy to hold, they seem to ‘glide’ over the paper, making them perfect to write with, and the price is right.” Illustrator Joanna Avillez told us that she’s tried out all sorts of pens, but she keeps coming back to this one: “It is reliable. It is disposable. It is trustworthy.” It’s also in our list of the best pens.
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