Ink pen recommendations?
May 25, 2013 11:28 AM   Subscribe

I'd like to replace the cupfulls of random stolen ballpoint pens in my house and at work with a smaller selection of nice pens, of the blue and red ink variety. I have an art store and the usual big box retail suspects nearby. What should I purchase?

I want something that Just Works, with smooth flowing ink that doesn't smudge or clump, and a clear, sudden failure mode rather than an extended, frustrating whimpering. I prefer a thinner point.

It's not a major concern, but if the best pen happens to be refillable and thus a little better for the environment, cool.
posted by jsturgill to Shopping (40 answers total) 30 users marked this as a favorite
I LOVE Pentel RSVP. They come in fine and medium point. I switch between the two. These pens were my standby all through college and now.

They also have a variety of colors if you need to do any marking or editing. (You should be able to find them anywhere. For more colors probably the art store.)
posted by Crystalinne at 11:36 AM on May 25, 2013 [1 favorite]

As someone who's been ordering office supplies for 15 years: Pentel R.S.V.P. is what you seek. Reliable, smudge-proof, refillable. They come in black, blue, and red; medium point is 1.0mm and fine point is 0.7mm.
posted by divined by radio at 11:36 AM on May 25, 2013 [1 favorite]

Thirding RSVP, if someone else doesn't hit "post" first.
posted by SMPA at 11:40 AM on May 25, 2013

Here's a vote for the old-fashioned Parker Jotter, which usually comes in a medium point, but it takes any Parker refill, including their fine point.

It's at a nice price-point, right in the middle between between throw-away pens, and more expensive pens that are a hardship to lose.
posted by AsYouKnow Bob at 11:43 AM on May 25, 2013 [1 favorite]

I am a big fan of the Pilot G2. I prefer gel ink to ballpoint pens. Refills can also be purchased.
posted by Tanizaki at 11:59 AM on May 25, 2013 [3 favorites]

Seconding the Pilot G2.
posted by Betelgeuse at 12:06 PM on May 25, 2013

Just in case you really really mean the fine point, the Muji Gel-Ink Ballpoint comes in 0.5 and 0.38mm, it's well-behaved about leaking and consistency and clear predictable failure, and you can get refills. This is obviously going to require a Muji branch or mail order, but they're pretty much perfect.

The Pilot G2 is too thick for me, but I like the G-Tec-C4, which might be easier to find locally. Not as satisfying as the Muji one but a pretty nice pen for tiny writers.
posted by carbide at 12:12 PM on May 25, 2013 [1 favorite]

Pilot Pen G2 Ultra Fine.
posted by aloysius on the mixing boards at 12:15 PM on May 25, 2013

I love the Pentel Energel RTX Deluxe pens. I like the rubber grip and the smooth flow of ink. I use them in black, red, and purple.
posted by michellenoel at 12:20 PM on May 25, 2013

Look, a pen is a really personal thing. This is a great question, but might as well have asked, "what music should I listen to?" or, "what should my favorite color be?" You're going to get a wide swath of answers, each with its own merits.

What you need to decide is what sort of tips you like, what thickness tips you like, what sort of ink you like, what sort of retraction / cap mechanism you like, what sort of body / grip you like...

I recommend just going and buying a bunch of pens, and like wine, compare them side by side starting with the thinnest and moving to the thickest.

My personal preferences are the Safari Yellow Lamy with Fine tip. I also have a Mont Blanc Meisterstuck ball point that I inherited, and while I disdain the overpriceiness, it is a great pen that stands up to abuse and hasn't needed a refill ever.

On a more realistic note, the Pilot G2s are a pretty good choice for your immediate need.

I would stay away from felt tip pens. There is a group of people who really like them, but I find them vulgar.
posted by jeffamaphone at 12:20 PM on May 25, 2013 [6 favorites]

Nthing the Pilot G2. The "fine point" is not actually that fine; I prefer the extra fine. If you can't find the exact combination of color and point you like, you can buy them directly from the Pilot website and they'll ship for free as long as you spend at least $5.
posted by Aquinas at 12:25 PM on May 25, 2013

I have to say that my Pilot G2s often clump and smudge. I used to love them, but now I'm all about the RSVP pens mentioned above.
posted by k8lin at 12:30 PM on May 25, 2013 [1 favorite]

Uni-ball signo is my favorite: it's retractable, writes very fluidly and the ink doesn't bleed one bit. Also, rubbery grip!!
posted by uauage at 12:31 PM on May 25, 2013 [3 favorites]

Oh, also, the Pen Addict blog might help you here. They do these nice testing sheets that show you how the pens look in practice.
posted by k8lin at 12:31 PM on May 25, 2013 [1 favorite]

What sort of ink/tip do you prefer? I hate ballpoints and gel pens; I like porous-point/fiber tips.

For the longest time I just used Sharpie Ultra Fine point markers and kind of dealt with the bleed-through. Then Sharpie came out with an Actual Pen.

I tend to prefer the medium point Sharpie Pen, which is somewhere between the Sharpie Ultra Fine marker and an original Paper Mate Flair. I find the fine point to be a bit too fine for me, but you may enjoy it. There are many colors and barrel styles, including this sexy stainless steel one.

They make ultra fine tip Flairs now, but I haven't tried them yet.

The Pilot V Razor is also nice if you like a fine porous-point pen.
posted by elsietheeel at 12:41 PM on May 25, 2013 [1 favorite]

i use both the pilot v razor just mentioned and the pilot precise v5 both in extra fine and they come in black, blue, red and other colors. fantastic, smooth ink pens but not refillable.
posted by wildflower at 12:50 PM on May 25, 2013 [1 favorite]

The Pilot Precise V5 RT. Great writing, thin tip and when it dies it's like flipping a switch.
posted by chisel at 12:52 PM on May 25, 2013

I like Pilot Dr. Grip and Parker Jotter.
posted by rhizome at 1:01 PM on May 25, 2013

Seconding the Uni-ball Signo! I've bought dozens for work over the years, as did my predecessor. (Red refills have been a bit scarce at times, hence why I've had to buy so many, but blue and black refills are readily available.)
posted by limeonaire at 1:09 PM on May 25, 2013

I have lived through Pilot V Razor and Uniball Signo 207 addictions in the past, but my new favorite is the TUL Retractable Gel Needle Point in medium. The blue ink color is exactly like marine blue fountain pen ink, and I really like the way the barrel feels.
posted by halfbuckaroo at 1:18 PM on May 25, 2013

I like Pilot Precise v5, but for some reason the red color has always been really sketchy for me - early, drawn-out death by restricted flow or something - while black and blue work flawlessly.
posted by LionIndex at 1:35 PM on May 25, 2013

Pilot G2 in blue.
posted by A Terrible Llama at 1:44 PM on May 25, 2013

The Pilot G2 is too thick for me, but I like the G-Tec-C4, which might be easier to find locally.

The G2 has recently become available in .38 (though I've not seen refills available in person, only online) and is comparable to the .4 G-Tec-C4. I maybe have a slight preference for the G2 (in either .38 or .5), but it probably mostly comes down to what size of barrel you prefer, though I've never seen a G-Tec-C4 refill in a shop (in the US anyway).

I agree that the .7 G2 has a tendency to be a bit globby. This propensity seems to decrease with the finer points. (Or, when you've got a .38, globby isn't really noticeable.)

I tend to be a sucker for Lamy pens in general, but when you find refills in a shop, they're expensive.
posted by hoyland at 2:14 PM on May 25, 2013 [1 favorite]

Pilot G2 fan here.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 2:19 PM on May 25, 2013

Burned through a few hundred Pilot G2.

As a smaller writer, I keep moving towards the finer grades. The 1.0 and 0.7 are excellent but entirely lacking in finesse and makes my handwriting look like an angry five year old attempting medicare fraud.

The 0.5 and 0.38 are everything I have ever wanted from a pen, although they are worthless for carbon paper forms. I have yet to have one run out of ink though, as the tiny ball in the tip gets dislodged and they begin to leak ink / go dry. Still worth it. Wish they were cheaper.
posted by hobo gitano de queretaro at 2:38 PM on May 25, 2013 [1 favorite]

This signo, you probably won't find in us stores, and there are a variety of places you can get them online. That having been said, I've been using the smallest size micron pigma black of late.
posted by oonh at 2:47 PM on May 25, 2013 [1 favorite]

This signo, you probably won't find in us stores, and there are a variety of places you can get them online. That having been said, I've been using the smallest size micron pigma black of late.

I'm pretty sure our university book store stocks the Signo, so someone is distributing them even if no one's really stocking it. I mention this because, if you've got a university nearby, the book store might not be a bad place to go looking for a good pen selection to experiment with if the art store is limited.
posted by hoyland at 2:56 PM on May 25, 2013

I love the uni-ball 207, the flow of ink is very smooth and consistent. I personally prefer them over the Pilot G2, because the uni-ball 207 have a MUCH smoother feel to them.
posted by QueenHawkeye at 3:06 PM on May 25, 2013 [2 favorites]

If you like fine pens, then I recommend the Pentel Slicci, available in a very fine (0.3) as well as others. It's also available in lots of colours.

I also like the Pilot G2 0.38 pen. A little bit more comfy for writing a lot.

Finally Pilot Frixion 0.5 that I just got is really smooth, fine and removable.
posted by knitswithcathair at 3:13 PM on May 25, 2013

I got a Seven Year pen 6 months ago, and it is still going strong. I seriously love it.
posted by natasha_k at 4:16 PM on May 25, 2013

The best places to try out a variety of pens is a good university bookstore who service students doing art, architecture and drafting. A real good art supply store is another place for pens with very fine tips and refill options.
posted by jadepearl at 7:52 PM on May 25, 2013

All three of the Seven Year pens I've owned have kicked the bucket after anywhere from three months to just shy of a year under heavy use. Their ink also smudges, and they have an annoying, protracted period just prior to death where they output just enough ink for you to write half a page before they crap out for a few hours.

Pilot G-2s smudge if you write left-handed. Pentel RSVPs and Muji pens (I have this one) die gracefully and don't smudge.
posted by topoisomerase at 7:57 PM on May 25, 2013

We've become a household of Uniball Jetstream pens (either regular or retractable) — smooth line, non-smudging, feel nice in the hand, and reasonably priced. Bonus: because they're gel ink, they're apparently resistant to check-washing.
posted by Lexica at 8:00 PM on May 25, 2013

Pentel Energel 0.5 is my go-to pen.
posted by radioamy at 8:02 PM on May 25, 2013

The Ballograf Rondo is my favorite ballpoint pen. It is refillable, writes smoothly, and lasts a long time - I had my current Ballograf for nearly ten years before I had to get a refill.

(A Lamy Safari fountain pen with a fine tip is my other pen of choice at the moment, but it's not the kind of pen to leave in a cup and available for use by all and sundry)
posted by needled at 10:26 PM on May 25, 2013

For archival, technical drawing and such- I like really good markers. Examples:
Pelikan techno-liner, Copic multiliner (aluminum, refillable), Pigma Micron, Staedtler Lumocolor.
I've used all of these- they do NOT dry out.
posted by drhydro at 10:55 PM on May 25, 2013

My favorites for all purpose work are the Zebra 301 pens.
posted by beanytacos at 6:33 AM on May 26, 2013

Pentel Energel 0.5mm for me too. I spent an hour at the stationery store a couple of years ago trying all the pen samples, and this was the best. Super smooth line, feels nice in the hand.
posted by dfan at 6:12 PM on May 26, 2013 [1 favorite]

THIS is the only pen worth a damn. Blue-black. Nothing else.
posted by ersatzkat at 8:37 AM on May 27, 2013

Just to clarify, this is the Uni-ball Signo 207 I'm talking about, the retractable kind. They're available just about everywhere (except Kmart, weirdly) in the U.S.
posted by limeonaire at 4:38 PM on May 27, 2013

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