The title of “The Best Pen” is a weighty one—not everyone wants the same things from their pens, and what makes for one person’s perfect pen may be intolerable to another. It’s also true that different types of pens aren’t directly comparable. The best fountain pen has different characteristics from the best gel pen, and the best pens for writing aren’t the same as the best pens for art.
To make this guide as useful as possible, we’ve limited our choices to the best pens in specific categories instead of ranking all of the pens together. We also link to more detailed guides wherever possible so that you can read more about our reasoning and see competing pens. We encourage you to explore, evaluate our picks, and draw your own conclusions—who knows, you might find your One True Pen!
How We Tested
In choosing our recommendations, we drew on the extraordinary number of tests we’ve conducted over the years for our topical guides and videos. These include full product lineups, detailed product comparisons, step-by-step how-tos, and other educational resources. The tests we use vary depending on the product type and how it’s likely to be used, but they often include qualities like smoothness, waterproofness, showthrough, vibrancy, and drying time. Click in to the guides listed below each category to see specific test results.
Test These Pens
We’ve picked what we think are the best pens for each category, but your favorites may be different depending on your particular needs and preferences. Try our JetPens Pen Samplers and Starter Kits to test a selection of our best and most popular pens so that you can pick the best pen for yourself!
Best Pens for Writing
Best Fountain Pens
The Pilot Metropolitan is far and away our favorite fountain pen for beginners. Its superior metal build and exceptionally smooth nib ensure that your first fountain pen is one whose looks and quality you can be proud of. The Metropolitan also offers a good amount of variety to suit your personal style, with three nib sizes (fine, medium, and medium italic) and several body colors that range from fun to classic. It can be filled with ink using Pilot’s proprietary cartridges or converters, which allow you to use any bottled fountain pen ink.
For those who appreciate how the Pilot Metropolitan writes but not its body style, the Pilot Kakuno, Pilot Penmanship, Pilot Plumix, and Pilot Prera all use the same nib. The Pilot Kakuno is particularly charming, with a smiley face stamped on each nib to remind you which side should face up.
Most fountain pens are filled with cartridges or converters like the Pilot Metropolitan, but some have built-in mechanisms that allow you to fill the pen barrel directly. The TWSBI GO is an excellent place to start if you want to experiment with this sort of filling system. Its spring-loaded piston filling mechanism is remarkably easy to use. And if you have any tendency to place fountain pens on a special-occasions-only pedestal, the TWSBI GO’s quirky style will encourage you to treat it like the everyday writing instrument it is.
The TWSBI ECO offers phenomenal value in the under $50 bracket. Most piston-filling fountain pens cost north of $100, but with the ECO, TWSBI delivers a high-quality piston filler with a sleek, clear body that lets you see exactly how much ink you have left. It writes very well and is available in a full complement of nib sizes, from extra fine to 1.1 mm italic, so you are sure to find a size you like.
But if they’re both piston fillers, why would you choose the ECO over the TWSBI GO mentioned in the previous section? The answer comes down to ink capacity and style. The GO’s spring-loaded piston is extra-easy to use, but it leaves less space in the barrel for the ink. And although we enjoy the funky look of the spring, it’s definitely not for everyone. The ECO is a little larger and uses a more traditional screw-operated design, which allows it to hold about three times as much as a typical converter-filled pen. This is helpful for those who write extensively or simply don’t want to refill their pens as often. The ECO also has broader appeal in terms of style and often comes in limited edition colors for those who want to go beyond the standard options of white, black, and clear.
The Kaweco AL Sport is a high-quality, stylish, and classic option for anyone who is ready to venture into more interesting fountain pen styles and materials. It manages to be both vintage and modern, with an iconic octagonal body design that was first introduced in 1935 and remains immensely popular. The Kaweco Sport’s slogan, “Small in the pocket, great in the hand” describes its appeal perfectly—although the pen is small enough to fit easily in a pocket for everyday carry, its long cap extends it to an easily usable size when posted on the back of the pen.
The Kaweco Sport is available in cheaper plastic versions, but we like AL Sport’s premium feel. The aluminum build gives the pen substance and durability without adding undue weight. It also feels fantastic in the hand. The Kaweco Steel Sport and Kaweco Brass Sport are good alternatives for those who prefer heavier pens.
If you’re ready to try your first fountain pen but aren’t sure if you have everything you need, our Fountain Pen Starter Kits will get you set up with the basics: pen, paper, and ink. Starter Kit 1 includes a Platinum Preppy, which is an inexpensive yet high-quality pen, while Starter Kit 2 includes both a Pilot Metropolitan and a Pilot Plumix. If you want to test several beginner-friendly fountain pens without extra supplies, try our Beginner Fountain Pen Sampler. It comes with six fountain pens for you to try at home.
The title of the best gel pen is especially contentious, but we stake our flag on the Uni-ball Signo UM-151 with confidence. It writes exceptionally smoothly, from the reliable 0.5 mm size all the way down to the super-small 0.28 mm tip size that lets you write neatly in tiny planner squares. Its ink is wonderfully vibrant and comes in a beautiful array of colors. Off-black shades like lavender black and blue black are especially popular. There’s more to the Signo’s ink than just appearances, though.
Its pigment-based formulation is waterproof, archival, and resists fading from light exposure. This makes it an excellent choice for writing checks, signing important documents, and anything else you want to stand the test of time.
The humble Uni-ball Vision Elite is our top contender for the best rollerball pen. It reliably delivers a smooth, skip-free, and satisfyingly dark line that makes it a pleasure to write with. The 0.8 mm, tip size is silky smooth, while the 0.5 mm tip size has some feedback without being scratchy. The Vision Elite’s fraud-resistant and archival pigment ink is ideal for signing checks and legal documents. As a special touch, it is available in off-black colors that are unusual among rollerball pens, including blue black, purple black, and brown black.
The Uni Jetstream combines all of the benefits of writing with a ballpoint pen with specially-formulated low-viscosity ink that provides a smooth, vivid, and consistent writing experience. The Jetstream also comes in several different body styles, tip sizes, and ink colors to allow you to choose your favorite version. This includes the ergonomic Alpha Gel Grip Series as well as a super-fine 0.38 mm tip size that is almost unheard of among ballpoints.
If you want your pen to have the finest of fine tips, the Pilot Hi-Tec-C is hands down the pen for you. Its 0.25 mm tip can write neatly in the tiniest spaces, from book margins to planner squares. The fact that it has a needle tip rather than a conical tip makes it that much more precise, since it’s easier to see what you’re writing. The Hi-Tec-C is remarkably smooth considering the fineness of its tip and comes in a wide range of vibrant colors.
As its name suggests, the Sarasa Dry dries remarkably quickly—often faster than we could touch it in testing, and by about five seconds in the largest and wettest tip-size tests. It puts down a wonderfully dark line, writes smoothly, and comes in 0.4 mm, 0.5 mm, and 0.7 mm tip sizes. Like many other Sarasa pens, the Sarasa Dry is equipped with a handy binder clip for fastening it to notebooks and pockets.
Ergonomic pens are highly individual, with the best options depending on a host of factors from hand size and shape to medical conditions. Even so, we think the Uni-ball Signo 207 Premier is the best all-round ergonomic pen for most people. Its free-flowing ink helps you hold the pen lightly as it glides across the page. The pigmented ink is satisfyingly dark regardless of how lightly you write, but if you do still grip the pen hard, its delightfully squishy grip section will relieve your achy fingers. In addition, the 207 Premier’s light weight and low center of gravity won’t tire your hand as you write.
Since ergonomics are so specific to each person, it makes sense to try a variety of pens before committing to just one. Our JetPens Ergonomic Pen Sampler includes five of our favorite ergonomic pens for you to test in the comfort of your home, including our recommended Uni-ball Signo 207 Premier, a Dr. Grip ballpoint pen, a Stabilo Worker rollerball pen, and even a fountain pen! If you know you prefer a specific ink type, try our Ergonomic Gel Pen Sampler or Ergonomic Ballpoint Pen Sampler for a more targeted selection of pens.
Most people are unaware of how visual and audio clutter can affect their mental wellbeing. If this is something you’re concerned about, the Zebra bLen was created exactly with stress-free writing in mind. The name is inspired by the Japanese word burenai, which means non-vibrating, and that’s exactly what it offers: a carefully engineered pen that eliminates all the little rattles and vibrations which can cause frustration and distract us from writing. Its minimalist design is beautiful and calming to look at, and will fit seamlessly into any aesthetic. We especially enjoy Zebra’s smooth and vibrant emulsion ballpoint ink, which is darker and smoother than regular ballpoint inks. The bLen is also available in a 3-color multi pen model.