Are Blue, Black and Red My Only Choices?
January 5, 2011 4:19 AM   Subscribe

I'm looking for good-quality multi-colored ink pens.

I like to color-code things in my work notebook, and I generally like to write with ball-point or roller-ball pens (felt-tip pens tend to either bleed through or I get them on my hands because I'm a bit of a pen-twirler when I'm in meetings). I've gotten a number of different sets of pens in different colored inks, but they're all of low quality. It seems that pen manufacturers only invest in good pen technology for blue or black ink.

The number of colors is helpful, as well, since I tend to use as many categories as I have colors. My "best" set (Staples "Sonix" gel pens) come in about 12 colors, so that many or more would be great. Clarity of line, resistance to dripping/glopping, and ink flow are what's missing from any pen set I've gotten so far.
posted by xingcat to Shopping (17 answers total) 13 users marked this as a favorite
Check out Pilot Hi-Tec-C Coleto pens, available via mail order (if you can't find them locally) at If you buy the refill bundle there are 10 different colors in a pack, and individually I think there are about 30 including things like a stylus and a pencil. You can get as many as 5 in a body.
posted by Runes at 5:01 AM on January 5, 2011 [2 favorites]

Stadtler Triplus Fineliners are felt-tip, but don't let that keep you from trying them in your local stationer's. I'm a pen-twirler, too, and haven't gotten ink on my hands with these.
posted by ocherdraco at 5:08 AM on January 5, 2011 [1 favorite]

In the "spendy but magnificent" category, Prismacolor makes about a billion colors of ink pen, all of 'em in your choice of nib thickness and style. Spend $30 at an artists' supply store and you could have a custom-colored assortment of heirloom-quality writin' implements.
posted by julthumbscrew at 5:52 AM on January 5, 2011

I use uni·ball 207s at work. I do a lot of editing on paper, and often have to choose a color that's different than everyone else's so my edits stand out—and any pen I use for this has to write well and fairly seamlessly/smoothly, 'cause I usually have a lot of edits to make. The 207s work very well and last a long time, in my experience. (And bonus: The ink was designed in coordination with Frank Abagnale to resist check-washing fraud. So you can sign any checks with these, too.)

The pens come in a pack of eight colors, which I've seen pretty widely available (at Target, Office Max, sometimes Walgreens, etc.). The downside is, there are no refills available for most colors, so when you want more at some point, you have to buy a whole pack. But I've found it to be worth it—and again, the ink in these lasts quite a while.
posted by limeonaire at 6:03 AM on January 5, 2011

Best answer: the way to go is sarasa! no contest.
posted by lakersfan1222 at 6:13 AM on January 5, 2011

Best answer: I think you're looking for the STABILO pointVisco. Great colours, smooth ink flow, and reliable German quality.
posted by scruss at 6:23 AM on January 5, 2011

Seconding Stabilo. I've had a nice multicolor pack of them before.
posted by cp311 at 6:30 AM on January 5, 2011

Seconding Uni•ball 207s. Available everywhere, great quality, cheap-ish. (Wait for a coupon or sale to pick 'em up by the case.) Smooth ink, available in at least two widths.
posted by Wild_Eep at 6:59 AM on January 5, 2011

I like Muji pens.
posted by elsietheeel at 7:11 AM on January 5, 2011

Pilot G2 should do the trick. Well-made pens, and I haven't found a better one for jotting down notes - a smooth, even line that dries instantly, with a bit of figuration at .7 and 1.0 thicknesses if you're into cursive. A dozen or so different colors in either .5 or .7 sizes, and four or so in .38 and 1.0mm sizes.

For something more distinctive, the Pilot Varsity is a disposable fountain pen that comes in packs of seven colors (and seven colors individually). You can actually get some nice figuration from the line these lay down, and it dries way quick for a fountain pen.
posted by Slap*Happy at 7:39 AM on January 5, 2011

No specific recommendation, but if you can find a Japanese stationary store, they have all kinds of pens in all kinds of colors -- including sparkly, iridescent, white, metallic and lots more.
posted by The Dutchman at 8:40 AM on January 5, 2011

I use either Pilot Varsity or Uniball Vision in purple, and have for 20+ years, after I gave up on actual fountain pens. Yes, I am that person who always uses a weird color of ink--does this surprise anyone?
posted by Sidhedevil at 12:15 PM on January 5, 2011

Response by poster: Thanks for all the suggestions! Those I could order on Amazon are winging their way to me with the help of Christmas gift cards, and the others, I'm checking with my local stationer's to see if I can get.

I'll report back on what I think works best, since there seem to be some people interested in this subject, as well!
posted by xingcat at 4:41 AM on January 7, 2011

Response by poster: The Sarasa gel retractable pens (10-pack) arrived today. So far, I'm impressed with the brightness of the color, even for colors that tend to be hard to read in other pen sets (orange and pink), and the line is very smooth. No clumping or choppy lines, which is the most objectionable part of oddly-colored ink pens that I've used before.
posted by xingcat at 9:17 AM on January 10, 2011

Response by poster: I got the Uni-Ball 207s today. Again, the lines are smooth (my biggest complaint about cheaper pens), so that's great. The downside (for me) is that the colors are a bit more muted, which makes sense, given that they're acceptable for signing checks.

So: probably not going to be in my bright-loving rotation that often, but of great quality.
posted by xingcat at 6:03 PM on January 11, 2011

Response by poster: And the Stabilo pointVisco came in this morning. I have to say, they're the best so far. Other than the lightness of the pens (I prefer a heavier weight to a pen, and these are very thin and weigh next to nothing), they're terrific. The ink is smoother than any other pens I've tried with multiple colors, and there's no smudging at all.

They're a bit pricier than any others, but since I use all colors all the time, it should be awhile before I need replacements.
posted by xingcat at 8:29 AM on January 19, 2011

Response by poster: The ultimate answer, after a couple of weeks on all of them is....the Stabilo pointVisco. They're wonderful pens, very smooth, and the ink flows perfectly. Pricier than any of the others, but worth it.
posted by xingcat at 2:50 PM on February 4, 2011

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