The Best Pens for Journaling (and Why)

The best pens for journaling don't feather, bleed, or smear because their inks are of the highest quality! This post offers our best recommendations

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Since you’re here, I’m gonna go out on a limb and claim that you’ve got high aesthetic standards for your analog legacy. And what better way to populate a new bullet journal or diary than by using the ideal types of pens?

Or, you could just be a stationery nerd and one of life’s giddinesses is finding something more exotic than a Paper Mate. For, you know, the motivation to beat this current stretch of writer’s block? That’s absolutely fine, too.

Whatever the case, by post’s end, you’ll be able to augment your collection of office supplies with a new, choice variety of pens.

What are the best pens for journaling and why? For everyday journaling, try Faber-Castells for their smooth writing experience. The best pens for art journaling have got to be the Sakura Pigma Microns. For brush lettering, the Tombow Fudenosuke Brush Pen is great. These pens all create consistent lines without skipping, smearing, feathering, or bleeding.

Why is it Important to Use a Good Pen For Journaling?

Picking the right stationery helps you to enjoy – and to maintain – a journaling habit. A good collection of pens is like a good set of golf clubs. A wide variety is needed to enjoy the game, and picking the right one depending on the situation will lead to better productivity and results. They help with function, form, and, of course, fun.

Casey and I have also found – and academics agree – that if we enjoy using our pens, we’re better focused and more motivated. This results in more meaningful writing sessions, perhaps even more beautiful bullet journal spreads.

Practically speaking, though, it sucks to mess up, especially due to things beyond our control. And this is the main reason why we – and you – need the best pens for journaling. They lessen the chances of messing up.

Common Issues Writers Have with Their Pens

The most common frustrations journal keepers have with their pens involve how the ink interacts with the paper. Namely, the ink 1) skips, creating ugly gaps within the strokes, 2) smears when accidentally touched or highlighted, 3) feathers, and 4) bleeds through underneath.

The Ink Skips

Skipping refers to when the ink leaves gaps in what otherwise should be solid, smooth strokes. Yes, very OCD-inducing. A pen tends to skip if the flow of the ink is obstructed, such as from the nib (the tip) not angled correctly against the paper, or from dryness due to a lack of use. Ballpoints are the biggest culprits, but gel pens could also skip.

The pens we recommend below produce continuously precise lines due to their smooth, acid-free inks, even if such were to flow from an extra-fine tip. As long as you take care of them, they’ll always gift you with the smoothest writing experience.

The Ink Smears

Smearing occurs when the ink on the surface of the paper hasn’t fully dried and is disturbed somehow. In the writing realm, left-handers must be on extra guard. Muddy text due to highlighting and accenting is also a pain point for novice bullet journaling enthusiasts.

The best writing pens (excluding fountain pens) contain pigment ink. This superior ink consists of pigment instead of liquid dye, so it dries in a jiffy.

The Ink Feathers

Feathering occurs when the ink absorbs too much into the paper and starts seeping away from the intended stroke. Feathered handwriting looks bloated and “furry” rather than fine and crisp. Although feathering is oftentimes a problem for fountain pens, other pens could easily create this problem if the ink quality on paper isn’t ideal.

If you’re using a decent bullet journal notebook with regular paper, then our suggested pens should rarely, if ever, feather. Their acid-free inks are of superb quality, not runny, and interact consistently with the pages.

The Ink Bleeds Through the Paper

Ink bleeding is another big pain point, especially for journaling, due to most writers wanting to use both sides of the pages. Ink will soak through the paper if it’s highly absorbant or there’s too much to handle. Think Sharpie Pen or other regular marker pens.

Although the type, quality, and amount of ink, as well as paper quality and thickness, all play a large role in stopping ink bleed, they’re not foolproof.

By default, the following pens resist bleeding, regardless of thinner or thicker paper. But that also depends on how you apply the ink. I’ll give you some pointers for reducing ink bleed when I discuss the pens, especially the colored markers.

Here Are the Best Pens For Journaling

I’m not gonna bombard you with yet another long listicle of all the POTENTIAL journaling pens you can buy and hoard. There are several great brands and you likely won’t go wrong with any of them. But you CAN’T GO WRONG with any of the following recommendations. They’re well-known, household staples, and we’ve been using them for years.

So, I’ll just take the liberty of robbing you of your free will and say that these pens are all you’ll need for creating those expressive lines, beautiful colors, and, of course, routine entries.

The Best Writing Pens for Your Journal

Faber-Castell Pitt Artist Set

If writing is the concrete skill in journaling, then the Faber-Castell Pitt Artist pen set would be like the rebar. This is one of the best pens for bullet journaling because it always produces bold lines. Despite being designed for illustrative uses, we tout this set as an effective everyday writer.

From the bottom up, these pens actually make writing feel like a solid and stabilizing habit that is relaxing. Transcribing your innermost thoughts is much more enjoyable without the nagging performance of a crappy pen – and these pens are NOT!

Why they’re the best: Pitt Artist pens are actually designed for the artist in mind (hence the name). That’s why the ink is archival-quality, acid-free, lightfast, and waterproof. Truly top-notch quality. Casey and I also prefer the feel of their tips on paper over the next popular choice, the Sakura Microns. We both agree the Faber-Castell Pitt Artist pens write smoother, “creamier” than the Microns.

Several other great points about these pens include

  • the ink doesn’t bleed or feather on most types of paper
  • the ink dries in about 5 or 6 seconds (less chance of smearing)
  • they all write smoothly without skipping, even the ‘S’ tip, which is only 0.3mm thick

Tips for using: The Pitt Artist’s set comes with 4 pens of varying thicknesses, Superfine (0.3mm), Fine (0.5mm), Medium (0.7mm), and Soft Brush (.5-5mm) for brush lettering. Although the differences between the finer-tipped pens are subtle, they are noticeable. We’d recommend using the Fine or Superfine tips for writing in notebooks with standard 5mm grid spacing.

Uni-ball Jetstream Retractable Ball Points

If art journaling pens aren’t your preferred tool for everyday writing, then definitely go with the Uni-ball Jetstream series. Their patented Super Ink dries fast, is lightfast, and waterproof. While not categorized among professional inking pens, Jetstreams are undoubtedly superior among ordinary writing utensils.

Tips for using: For the smoothest writing experience with these, use a soft grip and lighter pressure. Remember that the Uni-ball Jetstream pens are still classed among regular office supplies, so don’t expect yours to perform like other dedicated pens for bullet journaling.

The Best Pens for Doodling & Decorating

The Faber-Castell Pitt Artist set mentioned above is great for doodles such as line art and sketches, as well as for layouts. But we find that, for adding vibrant color, the renowned Sakura series of pens get the job done like no other.

Sakura 16-Piece Pigma Micron Assorted Colors Set

Sakura Micron pens are among the choice tools for comic artists because of their all-resistant, high-grade ink. Microns likewise don’t suffer from skipping, smearing, feathering, or bleeding, even on super thin Bible paper!

What are these best for? Since Sakura Pigma Microns use pigmented instead of dyed ink, the variety of colors are amazingly consistent. These pens are excellent for making doodles, colored texts, and any other illustration you can imagine for your bullet journal or diary.

Tips for using: The official lifespan of a Sakura Pigma Micron is supposedly 24 months. Well, mine died much sooner than that. It wasn’t due to the ink running out, but rather the delicate nib wearing down. So be sure to use little pressure and a soft grip with these art supplies. Once the nib wears down or gets pushed into its metal-clad tip, the entire pen is ruined.

Sakura Gelly Roll Pens

These are THE best (and funnest) gel pens Casey said she’s ever used. The variety within the Sakura Gelly Roll collection enables artists to add so much impact to their designs, especially in a bullet journal.

What are these best for? Gelly Roll pens’ slogan is “Ice Cream Smooth”, and it’s not referring to the appearance of the ink. You wouldn’t understand until you actually try the pens out. They truly do write with a smoothness that mimics how writing with an ice cream stylus might feel – creamy, effortless, fluid, and yet solidified.

Also, these pens come in assorted colors and textures. Aside from the Classic set, there are metallics, glitters, white (which shows crystal clear on black paper), and others. Be imaginative with them, and you can come up with some phenomenal designs!

Tips for using: Since Gelly Roll ink is runnier, it’s best to apply it and then wait a bit longer to let it fully dry.

The Best Colored Marker for Filling In Areas

Crayola Super Tips Washable Markers

I saw AmandaRachLee using these. She’s one of the pioneers of the bullet journal movement. Sometimes the simplest, most obvious solution is the best. And I couldn’t agree more with using Crayola Super Tip washable markers for coloring in large swathes of paper.

Why they’re the best: Widely available, inexpensive, a full spectrum, consistent, non-bleeding ink – need I say more? Amanda’s definitely right about these. They’re all you need for starting out in journaling, especially bullet journaling.

The Best Pen for Calligraphy & Word Art

Tombow Fudenosuke Hard Tip Brush Pen

The Fudenosuke Hard Tip Brush pen follows your every lead in the intricate process of calligraphy or any other artful writing style. With well-controlled brush pressure, you can use it for extra-fine lettering or blocky text. By controlling the flexible brush tip, you can create bold strokes, medium strokes, or hairline flourishes just as you would with a real brush.

The Hard Tip “Fude Pen”, we find, is a better option for beginner calligraphy artists, as it feels more stable. Once you get used to the brush pressure, try experimenting with a differently-tipped Fudenosuke Brush Pen.

Why it’s the best: The ink is pigment-based, so you can bet it will appear consistent on the page, even within wider strokes. It’s also odorless and bleed-proof. And, after steady usage, you’ll notice the nib won’t warp or fray, but will remain elastic.

Tips for using: Calligraphy and word art are, well, an art form. So using the Tombow Fude Pen (or any flexible brush or nib, for that matter) proficiently will definitely take some devotion.

To improve at using nylon brush pens, first learn how to effectively control the pressure and angling to change the appearance of the stroke. Then, download some free PDF hand-lettering worksheets and practice using them.

A Quick Recap

It’s important to find the best pens you can use for journaling because they help you to enjoy and maintain the practice. In addition to improving focus and motivation, writing with an ideal pen could also prevent a lot of otherwise uncontrollable and frustrating problems, such as

  • skipping due to poor ink flow
  • smearing of the ink
  • feathering of the letters due to over-absorption of the ink
  • and the ink bleeding through the paper

I am confident you’ll love the recommended pens in this post. They’re assuredly worth your investment if you want to experience the long-lasting joys of journaling.

Related Questions

Are expensive pens worth it?

Well, define “expensive” and “worth it”. In my opinion, all of the journaling pens recommended in this article can be had at an affordable price. They’re not expensive, but SO worth it.

What if you’re wondering whether EXPENSIVE pens for journaling are worth it? You know, those intimidating fountain pens? I think they’re worth it if they give you a sense of prestige and boast an incredibly comfortable grip. Hey, if the stylus can make your words feel special on paper, then I think it’s worth investing in!

Something else to keep in mind: Although fountain pens may write more fluidly, they are slower than your average ball pen. Also, controlling their specialized inks requires a learning curve.

Before forking out cash for a luxurious model, I’d suggest acquainting yourself with some affordable fountain pens first as a trial, such as the asdf Lamy Safari.

Which pen is best for fast writing?

If you could care less about the aesthetics of your journal, or if you’re simply looking to take blazing-fast notes, then get one of those retractable rolling ball gel pens. They might smudge a little, especially if you’re a leftie, but they can keep up with a cheetah.

Their effortless glide across the page lessens wrist strain and muscle fatigue. Also, they’re on the pricier end for this fluidity, but not as pricy as fountain pens.

Any rollerball gel pen from a reputable brand, such as Pilot, will do. In fact, the asdf Pilot Precise V5 Stick pen is arguably the best on the market.

Leo Cai

Leo Cai

Leo Cai, the one solely responsible for the inception of this Mickey Mouse operation, has at least garnered the acceptance of Casey Cai - his wife. He used to view himself as an avid writer back in high school, with grandiose dreams of making a living using words. That never culminated because, as he himself puts it, "It's more practical to stock bakery shelves while striving to become a professional photographer".

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About Us

We’re Leo & Casey Cai, and Journaling Diaries is our outlet for sharing what we’re learning from the lightweight, nearly disaster-proof hobby of journaling. So far, we’ve found that journaling isn’t merely a shameful tool for hard times or a poor memory. It’s enriching & fun. Whatever, whichever, however – as long as it involves journaling – we’ll be covering it all here. Thanks for stopping by!

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