I am an avid doodler, a chronic planner, and a novice journaler. When it comes to writing in my notebook, I've tended to grab whatever writing utensil is within reach and go at it. More often than not, the first marker is out of ink or the initial pencil needs sharpening. Worse is when halfway through my thought, the pen runs dry and I am left floundering to finish a sentence. Being the gal who always has marks on up her right hand, I decided it was time to do a bit of research into what could improve my journaling experience.
What pens are good for planners, writers, doodlers like me?
What I found was an expansive and diverse world, full of opinions and options galore. The crummy old pen that I found in the cracks of my couch pillows didn't seem good enough anymore. I now own a variety of pens; each one has enhanced my writing, drawing, and scribbling. If you are searching for a better pen, check out the options below to find the "write" one for you and your planner or journal!
The Ballpoint Pen
This is an iconic pen. When the fountain pen fell short in writing on harder surfaces than parchment, the world looked for a new way to distribute ink. The ballpoint pen came to life and is aptly named. Ink, in the form of a paste, is distributed over a ball at the point of the pen. Despite the simplicity of its design, it took some years to perfect. Since its original creation, the ballpoint pen has been varied and is now offered in many different ways. You can find pens of this type for up to thousands of dollars when the ink glides like butter and the grip is more comfortable than your empty hand. This is a great option for the wealthier writer because you can personalize your pen. On the other end of the spectrum is the straightforward BIC Stic. If you are "balling" on a budget like me, this pen is perfect for planning or journaling.
From a young age, you probably traveled to your local store around the beginning of August to collect your fresh supplies for the upcoming school year. No doubt you picked the best polka dotted pencil holder and golden retriever covered folder. Even more surely, your mom dropped into the cart a 60 count box of these pens. For only five dollars, you were set for the next few years. Even if you lost 10, broke 5, and ran out of ink in 20 of them, you would still be good to write on for multiple semesters of school. These pens are classically reliable, stupidly affordable, and are ready to be your required blue, black, or red pen.
The biggest and most popular category of pens is gels. They are easiest to access and are offered in a wide variety of qualities, colors, and bodies. Some have a retractable tip, some have caps, and some are erasable. The diversity of the gel pen is what makes it a great option for planners and journaling. You can find the right pen for you, trying out the different types, and then easily and cheaply keep it stocked. Gel pens are sold in most stores. You can purchase them for as cheap as a few cents. Another perk of the gel pen is the vibrant effect of the ink. Going on smoothly, the gel pen provides a clear line until the day it dies. This type of pen is a great option for any writer.
When I asked around about the best pen on the market, a lot of friends mentioned the Pilot G2. It is a top-selling writing utensil for a reason. It provides a different writing experience. The Pilot G2 is unique for its wet and stark ink. It is also more pointed, so it is great for cursive, dots, and details. If you're looking for a long-lasting, sharp pen, this is the one for you.
When searching for a gel pen, you will definitely stumble upon this one. This is an amazing option. This retractable, smooth-writing pen has a full body grip, which puts less stress on your hand and makes long sessions of writing a lot less painful. The ink dries really fast to decrease smudges. And the best part is the rainbow of color options BIC offers.
InkJoy pens have always stood out to me with colorful commercials and impressively fast-drying ink. With fun colors like Wild Berry and Slate Blue Spin, this collection of gel pens by Paper Mate makes writing more fun. Another distinct characteristic of this pen is the consistent width of the grip, which is unlike the curves of other pens. This is a unique option that might be just right for you.
I was less familiar with this brand, but I am very glad I discovered this hidden gem. This pen has a large barrel that is, unlike other brands, refillable with EnerGel ink barrels. This aspect makes the cost a bit higher but seems worth it because of its quick-drying ink and sleek look.
I was pleasantly surprised by the KACO Retractable Pen. I had never heard of this brand before either, but it stood out as an aesthetically pleasing, distinctly cheap option. They look simple and do quite a fine job. The colors don't fade and the point is sharp and smooth. Try something new with these effective and beautiful pens.
I personally have tended to stay away from erasable pens because my history with them is one of stubborn ink and regret. But I figured I would give them another go for the purpose of research and fairness. I am happy to report I found the ParKoo Retractable Erasable Gel Pen. The pen's eraser is a clear rubber securely attached to the end of the barrel. The ink is thermosensitive, so it works utilizing friction to erase any mistake. Unlike other erasable pens, this one works and it works well.
Felt Tip Pens
Also called Marker Pens, this category of pen is known for its intense color, mark, and smell. Essentially, these pens are more pointy markers. The differentiating factor from a gel or ballpoint pen is the replacement of the barrel with a filling from which the ink comes directly. This creates a thicker and more potent line. For that reason, they are great for coloring, doodling, making strong marks, or creating calligraphy. Within this type of pen, there are varying widths of nibs (or tips) and grips. All of them are great for creating your ideal journal, planner, or notebook.
I don't know about y'all, but these pens were the talk of the town when I was in middle school. And yes, I'll admit that the trends of tweens aren't always the most quality, but these Paper Mate Flair Felt Tip Pens are! My experience with them has been great. They rapidly dry to prevent smudging. They also tend to provide a thicker, more vibrant line than gel pens. Due to that, they are best for doodling in larger spaces, but can definitely be used for any writing purpose under the sun.
If I were to rank the pens in this list, I would place STABILO Fineliner Pens near the top. They create a distinct writing experience that I personally love. With these pens, you are able to get the color effect of a felt tip pen with the sharp line of a ballpoint pen. They are thin and easy to hold, as well as easy to use. All you have to do is attach the cap to the back of the pen and you are off, ready to write clearly and creatively.
Brush Tip Pens
Brush Tip Pens are very similar to felt tips--the difference being the tip of the pen. Where felt tips tend to be as pointy as possible, brush tips mimic the line of a paintbrush (hence the name). The effect of this is a thicker line that is more suited for decorative fonts or curly details. In addition, the color appears the most vivid of all the pens. Most calligraphy pens fall under this category. I find this classification of pen to be the best option for doodlers and designers.
I am so glad I discovered Sharpie's newest release: their Brush Tip Pen. I have been a fan of the permanence and saturation of Sharpie's markers for awhile now, but they aren't always the best option when it comes to thin lines or paper in a journal or planner. This brush pen does not bleed and is especially good for hand lettering. It combines the greatness of a Sharpie marker with the point of a pen.
As calligraphy has become a hobby for the masses, I have remained uninvolved. I stepped into the world when I started to research pens. There are multiple styles of calligraphy; the pen you use is determined by your style. Since I am an extreme novice, I found a pen generally agreed upon by the calligraphy community. The Kuretake Bimoji Felt Tip Brush Pen is excellent, functioning for beginners and advanced calligraphers. It draws a solid line in beautiful black ink. If you're looking to get into calligraphy, try this pen to step up your handwriting in any journal or planner.
A Simple Pencil
I know this article is about pens, but I have a soft spot in my heart for my first and forever writing utensil. A pencil may not have the everlasting effect of most pens, but it creates a softer, more natural line that is great for any journal entry or coffee date on the calendar.
This pencil is a classic and underrated utensil. When sharpened, it goes on better than a pen at times. Undoubtedly, it erases better than a pen. I am a fan of the pencil, not just for crossword puzzles and standardized tests, but for any piece of paper ready to be filled with words or drawings.
Now go pick your pen
As you can see, there are so many options from which to choose. I presented my favorites for planners and journaling, and yet, there are still so many more pen possibilities. The best part is that you cannot go wrong. Just as your journal is unique, your writing utensil is a special and personal choice. Whether you like the simplicity of a pencil, the impact of a Sharpie, or the class of a black ballpoint pen, you're going to have a great journal experience because, at the end of the day, you are taking the time to put your thoughts to paper, to bring your imaginations to life, to make your day a little less chaotic with a bit of planning. Really the most important part of picking a pen is that you use it.