Pen Party! Obsess with me and recommend writing & drawing implements..
February 26, 2011 12:17 AM   Subscribe

I am always and forever on the quest for better pens for writing and drawing. I'll tell y'all what I like to use now, what I've tried and kinda liked, and what I'm just not into. Then you will unleash your inky obsessions upon me, and I will have great new pens to try.

In order to steer the recommendations, my current "HELL YES" drawing pens are...

Pilot Bravo marker pen - Ohmygoodgod, I would buy EVERY SIZE of this pen and use nothing else… if only they made it in any size other than the one they make. (Which is pretty bold, slightly larger than an .08.) Super smooth, not smudgy, nice looking barrel. Plastic tip is sturdy.

Pilot Fineliner - The closest thing I've found to a finer-point Bravo. Don't love the "retro rocket ship" barrel shape, but I can deal.

Sakura Micron Pigma series - The .005 and .01 have been my usual for detail-drawing. The tips wear out faster than I'd like, though, and I'm starting to lean more on…

Pilot G-TEC series - superfine rollerballs with exceptional smoothness. Barrel could be more comfortable to hold, and I kinda hate the cap… but the performance makes it worthwhile. I like the .04 size for writing, too.

For everyday writing, I like…

Pilot Precise V5-RT retractable rollerball - Great action all around, acceptable look. This is my go-to writing pen, and I have them lying around everywhere; at home, at work, and in my pockets.

Zebra BP F-301 retractable ballpoint - I love the weight, feel, and classic look of the stainless steel body. The pocket clip is solid, and the spring action is terrific. Its actual writing performance isn't any better than any other ballpoint, but man… if I could shove ALL other pens' ink barrels and tips in a Zebra body, I would.

And I'm still a sucker for the old Bic Crystal ballpoint stick pen.

Some others that I've tried that I like okay…
Pilot Razor Point - Feels almost like Pilot's version of a Micron to me.
Sanford Uni-Ball Micro / Onyx / Vision Elite - I used these for a while for both writing and drawing, but they get kinda scratchy.
Staedtler pens in general - Pretty good, but for almost every pen they make, Pilot makes something similar that I like better.
Faber-Castell Pitt Artist Pens - fine, but nothing special.

And things that are just not for me...
Fountain (or fountain-style) pens.
Fat "Dr. Grip" pens.
Cartridge pens like Rapidograph (that I know I just will not maintain).
Anything that one would describe as "executive", or that comes in its own case.

Thanks to these three posts on AskMeFi from 2005, (and discussions in a few other forums,) I already have a short to-try list going: the Pilot G2 and Zebra Sarasa for writing; Stabilo, Niji Stylist, Pelikan Techno Liners, and Copic Multiliner for drawing.

But I want more! More, I say! Fellow pen obsessives: GO!
posted by D.Billy to Writing & Language (30 answers total) 93 users marked this as a favorite
Simple staples rollerball, with cap - for writing. That's what I liked best before going back to fountain pens. Zebra sarasa is 2nd best.
posted by rainy at 12:26 AM on February 26, 2011

Out of curiosity, what don't you like about the normal, non-retractable V5's? That's been pretty much the only kind of pen I'll use since 1995 or so. But considering our tastes seem fairly similar, I may have to look into some of these others as well.
posted by Because at 1:17 AM on February 26, 2011

The OHTO Needle Point Hex pen in 0.5 and 0.7 with a Pentel Hi-Tec-C pen for backup is all I would ever need as far as pens for drawing are concerned. Or pens for writing.
posted by jnnla at 1:51 AM on February 26, 2011

Do you have any little local art supply stores, or big box ones that leave some sample pens out that you can try? That's always helped me.
posted by NoraReed at 3:17 AM on February 26, 2011

Best answer: I don't draw, but my absolute favorite pen for writing is the uni-ball jetstream 1.0mm - I'm a big fan of the retractable version in particular. It is thicker than the others you mention, and I don't like the 0.5 and 0.7 versions as much - I think the flow and inkiness is better on the 1.0.

I have to be careful to get them back from people I lend them to - I get comments on how nice they are to write with and I've converted several people. But they're definitely for regular note-taking/writing, not for anything micro-level (like my friend who used to save paper by taking two lines of notes to each college-ruled blank).
posted by clerestory at 5:05 AM on February 26, 2011 [1 favorite]

I'm not sure if you can get them in other countries.....but I do love a good pen and MrTaff and I have just bought 20 of these. We both have adored them for years.

(I hope this link works, it's for the white and blue ball pen 045 carbure)

We're in India at this very moment...visiting family and buying pens. Swoon....
posted by taff at 5:26 AM on February 26, 2011

I was going to suggest the G2, but it seems to already be on your radar screen. And for double the fun, make sure to do the easy DIY trick and try out a Montblanc refill in one of those pens.
posted by Forktine at 5:31 AM on February 26, 2011 [5 favorites]

I too love a good pen, and right now I'm all about the shaprie pen. Solid line, doesn't smudge or require a lot of pressure to write, looks crisp and clean. The colored versions are vibrant, the black is medium-dark. Not fancy, but a great every-day pen.
posted by danielle the bee at 6:08 AM on February 26, 2011

I like the Uni-ball Signo RT UM-138 0.38 mm retractable pen in blue-black for writing.
posted by onegoodthing at 6:33 AM on February 26, 2011 [2 favorites]

I was going to suggest Rapidiographs, which I agree are a pain to clean, but the quality of line (in a variety of sizes) as well as the depth and permanence of the black ink for them is unsurpassed in my experience. For me, at least, all their good points outweigh the maintenance overhead.  
posted by safetyfork at 6:52 AM on February 26, 2011

Of the Stabilo stable, the new(ish) Point Visco — which wouldn't have been in the 2005 posts — is by far my favourite.
posted by scruss at 7:05 AM on February 26, 2011

Yeah, for writing, I'll pretty much only use the Uni-ball Signo line.
posted by limeonaire at 7:37 AM on February 26, 2011 [1 favorite]

Zebra gr8roller. but its like out of print. its my favorite pen. fine tip but fat pen, very ergonomic!

its not as sexy as the pens you into but it really is great!
posted by goneill at 7:38 AM on February 26, 2011

Best answer: I love, love, love the Jetstream that clerestory mentions - although I've never used the retractable version. The capped version is awesome - great look, really consistent line/inkflow, and as a lefty I really appreciate that it doesn't smudge either on my hand or on the paper as I write.
posted by pdb at 8:09 AM on February 26, 2011

OK, that Mont Blanc hack just made me 100 pounds of happy. Thank you, thank you, thank you...
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 8:39 AM on February 26, 2011 [1 favorite]

Well you said no fountain pens, that's all I use.

However, do try this website for shopping, they have some fantastic pens that aren't readily avaible in stores state-side.

posted by Upal at 8:46 AM on February 26, 2011 [1 favorite]

OK, that Mont Blanc hack just made me 100 pounds of happy. Thank you, thank you, thank you...

It is like the easiest thing in the world, and they really do write well. I heard about it here on MeFi originally, I think.
posted by Forktine at 8:46 AM on February 26, 2011

One comment on Sharpies, please don't use them for any purpose where the writing/drawing may be regularly exposed to even indirect UV light (such as a drawing that may be framed and hanging on a wall.) I work in a museum and we are always thinking about long term preservation about everything, including the inks we use, for obvious reasons, and are always in quest of ink with the best fade resistance. Sharpies, at least the black and red ones that we have tried, fade pretty easily.

The Sakura Pigma Micron pens test well for permanence. You can also try out any of the pens in the Uni-ball line where the ink is identified as "Uni Super Ink".

Believe it or not, for everyday writing I quite like these Skilcraft AbilityOne Rubberized Retractable Ballpoint pens.
posted by gudrun at 9:05 AM on February 26, 2011 [2 favorites]

One comment on Sharpies, please don't use them for any purpose where the writing/drawing may be regularly exposed to even indirect UV light (such as a drawing that may be framed and hanging on a wall.) I work in a museum and we are always thinking about long term preservation about everything, including the inks we use, for obvious reasons, and are always in quest of ink with the best fade resistance. Sharpies, at least the black and red ones that we have tried, fade pretty easily.

I used to swear by the Stylist until I looked at some of my old sketches - the lines get kind of blurry over time and if you're drawing in a sketchbook the facing page will get yellow markings where it is in contact with stylist ink.

Otherwise, I generally use the Pilot V5 for sketching and a Uni-Ball Vision for writing. I do agree that the Vision can get scratchy before its time, but I've also had that problem with the V5, although only with the red color. An old office I worked for stocked some sort of red Uni-Ball (not vision) that didn't have that problem, but I can't remember what it was.
posted by LionIndex at 9:43 AM on February 26, 2011

Best answer: I'm similarly pen-obsessed (and inks and papers too). One of my favorite resources is Biffy Beans' website. She's also really choosy and does excellent reviews with nice color pictures of the pens, inks and papers she's tried.

Other good opinion sites: The Fountain Pen Network, The Pen Review, Pen Addict, and Pens 'n Paper.
posted by LuckySeven~ at 10:21 AM on February 26, 2011 [5 favorites]

Best answer: I'd guess I'm only about an 8 on a 10-scale of pen-persnickety-ness, but I've been totally delighted with the Tul fine ballpoints, to the point of ordering them by the dozen. Wonderfully smooth and very nicely fine; closest thing I've ever found to a Rapidograph in the pocket.
posted by dpcoffin at 11:07 AM on February 26, 2011

What is it that you dislike about fountain pens? I love my Lamy Safari. It's a lovely fountain pen, and a cheerful color, but since it's plastic and affordable I don't stress about losing it. And it's wonderfully leak-proof!

I bought an ink converter, so that I can use whatever ink I like. But if you don't want the mess of refilling the ink yourself, the cartridges are pretty nice. Just snap 'em in, no messy fingers.

For ink sketching, I go with the old standard, the Crow Quill with a 512 nib.
posted by ErikaB at 12:28 PM on February 26, 2011

Since no one's yet mentioned them, I'd like to recommend Cult Pens -- I've found them to be very helpful, and their website is quite informative.
posted by davemack at 12:59 PM on February 26, 2011

I have been known to partake in the pleasure of a good pen's company. My preferred instrument is a uni-ball Impact RT, when I can afford them. They are quite inky but have a deep, smooth stroke. Not very lefty-friendly but I don't let that stop me. The nice thing about the retractable is the pocket clip also functions as a clicker, so a quick lift of the clip provides hours of clicky distraction. It works the same way going back into your pocket too, but being prone to inkiness I wouldn't do it without a pocket protector (which you are already wearing, natch).
posted by therewolf at 1:26 PM on February 26, 2011

ahhh, this post is making me drool. My favorite writing pen is the Pilot VBall Liquid Ink Roller. I got hooked on them when I was a student and still ask for shipments via a current student from the bookstore there (20 years after college). The only problem is that they tend to leak towards the end of their life. That makes me sad.

I also second the Stabilo. They have many different widths and you can get many different shades of the same color.
posted by dawkins_7 at 7:51 PM on February 26, 2011

Cool Papa Bell: "15OK, that Mont Blanc hack just made me 100 pounds of happy. Thank you, thank you, thank you.."

Just FYI: if you're going to do the Mont Blanc hack to the Pilot G2, be aware that the Mont Blanc refill will dry out if you don't find a way to keep the pen capped. (at least, that was my experience.)
posted by namewithoutwords at 6:09 AM on February 27, 2011

Best answer: Lately I'm a fan of the uniball jetstream line, particularly because when I write on a page, it doesn't seem to "leak" through as much to the other side. Then I can take notes on both sides of the page without too much of an issue.

They also claim not to smear as much due to fast drying--which I believe is why they don't leak to the other side of the page like oh-so-many many rollerball pens.
posted by djpyk at 1:08 PM on February 27, 2011

I'm amazed that no one has mentioned my current favorite for writing: Pentel EnerGel retractable metal tips (0.7 mm). They have a nice weight to them that I like better than the plastic Sarasas or Uniballs. The ink flows elegantly and dries nicely, with very little smear. And they come in good colors--I use the violet as a nice change from black.
posted by dlugoczaj at 12:44 PM on February 28, 2011

OH--make that DELUXE retractable metal tips (the link above is correct, it's just my phrasing that wasn't). Apparently just the plain RMT is something else and I don't know how good that is.
posted by dlugoczaj at 12:49 PM on February 28, 2011

Best answer: I sort of went on a pen-buying extravaganza this morning, and I'm pretty happy with the sticks I came home with. They're all stainless-steel Zebras, and given your statements regarding the F-301 above I'll go ahead and report on 'em for you:

The F-301 – a long-time favorite, I picked up a four pack with two blacks, a blue, and a red included. I agree totally with your assessment of this pen; the body, clip, and click action are all excellent, and the ink is... meh. These are my 'hand to someone to sign something' pen.

The G-301 – Hoo boy, this is EXACTLY LIKE the F-301 except it has super-smooth, slightly smeary gel ink instead of the bog-standard F-series ink. It takes a totally different ink cartridge, so even though the outside of the pen is nearly identical to the F-301 (save the branding/decals) you can't get the G series gel cartridges and put them in your F body. I don't think you can, at least. The springs are on opposite ends of the pen, so... This pen will easily replace my fetish for the G2. If you wanted your F-301 with better/different ink, this is the pen for you.

The F-701 – This is my new favorite pen. It's much weightier than the 301 with no plastic on the body except for a bit around the click action. The clip is slightly different too, attached by a ring to the body of the pen instead of sliding into a plastic component. It uses the same meh F series ink, but the delivery seems smoother somehow. Maybe it's just my biased love for the body of this pen. It feels machined and hefty and permanent, but is cheap enough that I won't cry when it's gone.
posted by carsonb at 6:34 PM on March 16, 2011 [1 favorite]

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