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.
“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-rated (less expensive) pen
“I just finished addressing 175 envelopes with one pen and would definitely recommend them to anyone looking to try brush calligraphy,” raves one reviewer, 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.”
And now some micro-picks for every type of pen you might be looking for.
Best smooth-writing 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?!”
Best retractable pen
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 no-bleed pen
“When Sharpie launched this pen that doesn’t bleed I did cartwheels,” says one reviewer, and nearly of a quarter of reviewers were just as excited about these no-bleed pens. “They do not smear while writing like so many other pens do,” says another. One says this claim holds up “even when using it to write on dinky recycled paper that I got from the dollar store, it doesn’t bleed out onto the pages below.” One leftie even says that they “don’t have trouble with these smudging.” Others just like the way these write. “Sharpie Pen is my go-to writing instrument for beautiful, permanent, ‘write on virtually anything’ writing needs,” one says. “Every single day. The sturdy, fine tip and smooth tip edges provide a consistently smooth, ‘get out of the way’ delivery of clean, smudge-proof penmanship.”
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!”