Best Ink Pens

Updated January 2021
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BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We only make money if you purchase a product through our links, and all opinions about the products are our own. Read more  
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We buy all products with our own funds, and we never accept free products from manufacturers.Read more 
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How we decided

We purchase every product we review with our own funds — we never accept anything from product manufacturers.

33 Models Considered
8 Hours Researched
2 Experts Interviewed
110 Consumers Consulted
Zero products received from manufacturers.

We purchase every product we review with our own funds — we never accept anything from product manufacturers.

Buying guide for best ink pens

Even in our increasingly digital age, you still need to sign a check, leave a quick note, or do some journaling. The ever-classic ink pen never goes out of style; a decent ink pen will work seamlessly at the bank and at your office desk, so it’s always best to keep a few in your regular bag.

Before you go down a rabbithole of pen products, there are some factors to keep in mind. What will be the primary purpose of your pen? If it’s for quick note-taking or scribbles, a ballpoint would probably suffice. But if you’re regularly signing documents or prefer to write by hand, you might look into a fancier fountain pen. 

Regardless of your pen preferences, at BestReviews we’re pleased to help inform your decision. Keep reading to find out more about the different kind of pen styles, features to keep in mind as you shop, and price ranges. 

When not in use, fountain pens should be stored upright in a cool, dry place. If it won’t be used for awhile, remove the cartridge and keep the body of the pen clean.

A brief history of the ink pen

Ink is an ancient substance, dating as far back as 2500 BC in ancient Egypt and China. Some variation of the pen has existed as long as written language has existed. An early form of the pen was a reed pen, made from a stick of reed with a sharpened, slit end. Reed pens were eventually phased out by quill pens, taken from the flight feathers of large birds. While both pens were dipped into ink, quill pens (which were created around the seventh century) were able to retain the ink better. Quills remained popular until the creation of the ink pen as we know it today. Around the late nineteenth century, the ballpoint pen was patented and has since flourished into different styles, shapes, and colors. Today’s writer has a number of pen styles to choose from. 

Types of ink pens

Ballpoint pens are ubiquitous pens. There’s a chance you have one of these somewhere at the bottom of your bag. The world’s most popular writing tool, the ballpoint pen was initially made to replace the fountain pen. Ballpoint pens have a tiny metal ball at the tip. Ink is stored in a plastic reservoir, which is protected by an outer shell made from plastic. As the ball rolls, it dispenses new ink onto a surface. There are different kinds of ballpoint pens. For example, retractable ballpoint pens have a mechanism at the top that exposes or hides the pen tip.

Fountain pens came before ballpoint pens. They were the first ink pens that didn’t require a dipping pot and the first to include an ink-releasing reservoir. Instead of the ink feeding into a rolling ball, a fountain pen has a pointed metal nib. Ink drips down the metal nib and to its point, flowing onto the paper. Though fountain pens aren’t nearly as popular as ballpoint pens, quite a few writers enjoy the experience of using them. Fountain pens have style; they have an elegant silhouette and a pleasing weight in the hand. Plus, some writers find that ink flows much more easily out of fountain pens than ballpoint pens. Fountain pens are more expensive than ballpoint pens and call for careful maintenance. 

Felt tip pens, also known as marker pens, aren’t too different from markers. As the name suggests, the tip is made from a semi-soft, porous material. Felt is a common, but so are porous ceramics. A polyester cylinder serves as an ink reservoir and is covered by a shell of plastic. Felt tip pens don’t require as much pressure as ballpoint pens. They may bleed a little on paper, but they’re less likely to smear.


Ink color

Black ink pens are universal. Dark blue ink is common, as well. Those who need ink pens for professional, formal purposes may want to stick with conventional colors. 

On the other hand, people who frequently hand edit (like teachers and copyeditors) can benefit from a plethora of ink colors. You can buy colorful pens in bulk or individually. Even if you don’t opt for a multipack, it’s good to keep a few red or green pens next to your black ones. 

Ergonomic comfort

It’s not uncommon to find ink pens with rubber or silicone padding toward the tip, meant to ease hand cramps. Ergonomic padding is found primarily on ballpoint pens, but you can also purchase pen pads separately. A pad is not a bad idea for someone who writes by hand extensively. 

Did you know?
The ink in ballpoint stick pens has a tendency to dry out, particularly if the pen hasn’t been used in a while. Try scribbling on a firm surface to get the ink rolling again.

Ink pen prices

Fortunately, quality ink pens are available in any pricing tier. That said, you could pay anywhere from $3 to $25 for an ink pen.

Inexpensive: For less than $10, you can find a number of ink pens. Some of these pens will be ballpoint, and they will mostly be sold in bulk. If you’re looking for some no-frills ballpoint pens, you can easily find a box of 60 in this price range. You can also find packs of two or three pens with generous rubber padding here.

Mid-range: For basic writing needs, there’s no need to spend more than $10 on ink pens. In the $10 to $20 range, however, you’ll have more options. This is where you’ll see colorful ink pens and felt-tip pens in packs of ten. Select fountain pens are available here, too.

Expensive: Any pen above $25 is likely a fountain pen, which can make a pleasing gift for the scribes in your life. Just don’t forget to buy an extra ink cartridge. 

"Some people still use dip pens (pens with a metal nib that require a small ink pot), particularly visual artists. "


  • Prevent your pens from drying out. You can do this by storing them with their caps on and the tips pointing downward. You may also try dipping the tips in candle wax to seal them when they’re not in use. 

  • Consider using an ink pen for artistic purposes. The versatile ballpoint pen is useful for artists of all skill levels. We recommend using a pen with ink that flows easily. 

  • Tailor your pen choice to your written language. A medium pen tip (think 1.0 to 1.2mm) is standard for writing the English language. However, if you’re writing with characters (such as in Mandarin or Japanese), a fine tip pen of 0.5 may be more suitable. 

Gravity and excessive heat can cause ballpoint and fountain pens to leak. Pens are more likely to leak if kept in a tight, enclosed place, such as your pants pocket.


Q. Is it possible to remove pen ink stains?
A. With some elbow grease, many ink stains are removable. First, blot the excess ink with a dry paper towel or napkin. Try leaving a water-based stain remover on the stain for 15 minutes. Then, blot the stain and put in a washing machine. If the stain persists once the garment is out of the wash, repeat the spot treatment until the stain fades

Q. Can ink pens freeze?
A. If the ink is water-based, then yes, ink pens can freeze in extremely cold temperatures. As long as the pen is kept in a dry, enclosed space, freezing should not be an issue

Q. How long will an ink pen last?
A. This is entirely dependent on the quality of the pen, the frequency with which it’s used, and how it’s stored. A ballpoint pen kept in a cool, dry place can last several years, provided the ink doesn’t run out. A well-kept fountain pen may last for decades.

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