We tested each pen for the following:
Mhelanie, also known as Lettering by Mhel in social media, is a left-handed lettering artist who loves lettering using everyday pens such as gel pens. She loves teaching people the art of lettering and suggesting the best tools to use based on her experience.
mybest US' editing team consists of experienced members who have backgrounds in writing, editing, translation, and more. We are dedicated to researching what makes a product or service the best to users in the US in order to create top-quality articles. From skincare, to kitchen appliances, and to DIY supplies, our mission is to find the best ones for you.
The experts featured in these contents reviewed the contents of the buying guide.
Products or services listed have been independently ranked by the mybest Editorial Team based on the relevant research as of 11-04-2022. Experts featured in this article did not participate in the selection and ranking process.
Gel pens are actually ballpoint pens, but with gel ink, combining the best of water-based and oil-based ballpoint pens; they don't bleed onto paper like oil-based pens, dry quickly, and like water-based ink, can be written with light pressure.
Moreover, if a gel ink uses pigments for its colorants, it has excellent water resistance, making them ideal for writing addresses on letters or postcards. However, one of the drawbacks of gel pens compared to conventional ballpoint pens is that they use more ink, running out relatively quickly.
What people consider a gel pen that's easy to hold can vary from person to person, and is dependent on variables how much pressure they apply when writing, as well as the size of their hands. To find a gel pen you can write comfortably with for hours, it’s important you pay attention to the shape and material of the grip and the overall thickness of the pen.
Pens with grips that have indentations or grooves, or even a bumpy design makes it easier for your fingers to grip the pen, and makes it less likely for the pen to slip while writing. Having a good grip on your pen can help you write neater.
Pens that lack any sort of grip, or the grip section is smooth, the pen will start moving as you hold it, forcing you to readjust your grip frequently. This can break your concentration, as well as be irritating. Additionally, you'll have to hold your pen with a firmer grip, placing additional stress on your fingers. When choosing a gel pen, be sure to check whether or not it has a good grip.
If the grip’s a good fit for your hand, you’ll be able to write for hours without feeling sore. When choosing a gel pen, you want to ask the following questions:
Are there guides for my thumb, pointer, and middle fingers? Are there grooves, bumps, and indents that make the pen easy to hold? Is the material resistant to sweat? Is the grip firm or soft enough?
Consider how comfortable the pen feels when you're holding it and if it gives you enough support. From my experience, holding a pen with very little support hurt my fingers and caused my hand to cramp.
While how comfortable a pen's thickness is in relation to the size of your hand is ultimately subjective, we recommend the following as a guide:
Using a pen that doesn't match the size of your hand means that you'll find it more difficult to hold the pen, making it more likely that your hands will cramp up.
A good grip will prevent any pain on your hand and fingers. I have also noticed that a comfortable pen improves my penmanship.
The type of tip can greatly affect how a pen feels to use. Tips of gel pens can be separated into three types: cone, pipe, and synergy.
Cone tips are best for those who write with a lot of pressure, since they are tips that are durable tips that can withstand lots of pressure and used commonly in ballpoint pens. Moreover, the tip doesn't result in blurry lines when first touching the pen to paper.
On the other hand, cone tips generate a lot of friction between the tip and paper, making them feel less smooth as other tips.
Major pens that use cone tips:
Pipe tips use a pipe with an indentation to support the ball point. Since they produce less friction, pipe tip pens often feel incredibly smooth when writing, making them best for those who prioritize smoothness.
On the other hand, pipe tips aren't as durable cone tips and are prone to bending if too much pressure is applied.
Major pens that use pipe tips:
Synergy tips are tips developed by Pilot, balancing both durability and smoothness. The base of the tip is conical, similar to cone tips, while the tip itself is narrow like pipe tips. However, these tips are limited to products manufactured by Pilot, and therefore options are limited.
Major pens that use pipe tips:
The vibrancy of the ink in Japanese gel pens depends on the manufacturer and brand. Additionally, gel pens aren't just available in basic colors like black, red, or blue, but many other colors as well. In order to make sure your writing can be read, be sure to check how vibrant the ink is.
After testing all the products, we didn't find any pens with ink that made it difficult to read. We think that it's safe to choose any pen for its ink, so long as you like the color and vibrancy of it!
As a lettering artist, I look for gel pens that are crisp and rich in color. A variety of colors are a plus too! The intensity of the ink is also an important factor as it helps you to write in small prints, as well as large prints. You also want to consider how heavy the pen feels on your hand. If a pen is too heavy, it can lead to cramping.
It’s true that more expensive pens tend to be better designed, but that doesn’t mean that cheap pens are all lacking in the looks department. Pay attention to the fine details, and soon, even the smallest gel pen will start revealing the intent and character of its designer.
The pen design is also an important aspect. Pens that are well-designed provide a wow factor. I often find myself interested in pens that I can use every day and those that also provide an elegant design for special occasions.
You can get quite creative with gel pens which makes it a great tool for lettering. I love exploring a gel pen's variety of colors and thickness.
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A Pen That Has an Addictively Light Feel and Naturally Fits in the Hand
EnerGel Infree BLN75TL-A
The Smoothest Gel Pen That Writes Easily With Minimal Pressure
A Light and Smooth Feel With Great Visibility
Energizer Cap Type BLN55-A
Great for Writing and Scribbling! The One You Should Carry with Your Notebook
SARASA Clip JJ15-BK
Clear Writing With Minimal Pressure Required
Uni-ball Signo RT1
Smooth Uniform Shape That Fits Comfortably in the Hand
Sarasa Dry JJS31-BK
A Great Pen for Business That Is Resistant to Smudging and Dries Fast
Smooth Writing Gel Pen Knock Type 2794118
Smooth Writing With a Nicely Designed Grip
Uni-ball Signo 307UMN-307-05
Fell of the Grained Grip is Nice and Easy to Move the Pen
Vivid Colors Makes This Pen Great for Illustrations
Pentel's EnerGel is part of the brand's EnerGel series and is actually the pen that started it all. This product was developed with smoothness in mind, featuring an ink that dries quickly and has a vivid color.
The grip of this pen goes all the way to the tip and is integrated into the body in a way that allows for an ergonomic grip. The barrel is round and smooth, so even those that like to hold pens way down low will have no issues. The wavy, anti-slip finish of the grip is not too firm and has a comfortable feel.
Writing is very smooth, probably due to the piped tip that minimizes friction on paper. It was also great that the nib didn’t shake when pressure was applied.
The ink barely smudged and dried quickly, which also helped it earn high scores. The black color is dark, crisp, and clear, making it an ideal pen for a wide range of situations, from business to everyday use.
Pentel's EnerGel Infree is part of the Energizer series that has a simple design with a clear barrel. 5 new colors were released in February 2021 for a total of 10 colors available.
Although it has a rubber grip, the smooth, thin material has a nice feel. The wavy finish of the grip also supports writing by allowing your fingers to grip the pen well.
The nib has a piped tip that minimizes friction with paper for smooth writing. Even when applying very light pressure when writing, the ink didn't smear. At just 0.45 ounces, the pen is also incredibly lightweight, meaning your hand won't get cramped or tired after writing for extended periods.
Furthermore, the ink dried quickly and rarely smudged. The black is also crisp and vivid on paper, making it easy to use. We recommend this pen to those who want to keep their notebooks and journals neat and tidy.
Pentel's EnerGel-S is the basic model of the EnerGel series, which was developed with the concept of creating pens that are easy to use and quick to dry. It still maintains the same features as other advanced models in the series, but at a more affordable price.
The lineup's signature wavy grip fits nicely in the hand and enhances the grip. It is slightly lighter than other pens from their series, making it easy to write. However, we felt that the lighter weight of the body required a little more pressure when writing.
Writing is smooth and the tapered piped tip felt light on paper while transferring plenty of ink to paper without smudging, making it great for fine writing. The ink also dries very quickly, making this pen perfect for quickly jotting down notes or journaling.
Pentel's EnerGel Cap Type is a pen from the EnerGel series with a cap but still offers the same writing feel and smudge resistance as the other EnerGel series. The nib has a piped tip that works well for fine writing.
The wavy grip easily fits your fingers and prevents slipping. However, the length of the grip is slightly too short, making it difficult to adjust your hand position, losing points in the grip test.
The piped tip reduces friction between the pen and the paper, offering a smooth feel but with a comfortable resistance that helps feel like you're actually writing with a pen. Since the pen has a cap, the nib also felt tight and secure, with minimal shaking when writing.
The lines barely smudged even when we were writing fast, and the ink dried very quickly, making it great for writing in journals or for jotting down quick notes. If you're looking for a gel pen with a cap, this should be a very strong contender.
Zebra's Sarasa Clip uses water-resistant water-based ink with excellent smudge resistance and crisp, rich color. The product is available in 20 different colors, with limited edition colors regularly released as well.
The rubber used for the grip had a great stickiness to it, working well to prevent slippage. Another plus in terms of the fit was how the thicker barrel allowed the pen to fit naturally in the hand.
This pen felt incredibly smooth, with hardly any friction felt when writing on paper. The pen releases a lot of ink, allowing you to write thick lines with just a small amount of pressure. The color of the ink is also vibrant and sharp, making this pen great for those who want a pen that has a smooth feel and great visibility.
Mitsubishi Pencil's Uni-ball Signo RT1 claims to reduce frictional resistance by minimizing edges on the nib tip. The wide rubber grip of this pen goes all the way to the tip, making it great to hold.
The pen has a straight, uniform shape with no bumps between the grip and body, making the pen fit nicely in your hand. The wide rubber grip is easy to hold and allows you to hold the pen in your preferred position, whether it be near the tip or more towards the middle of the pen.
Writing felt smooth and flowy, but the ink struggled to come out when too much pressure was applied, but as long as you don't apply excessive pressure, this shouldn't be a problem. Finally, while the ink was neither too dark nor too light, we liked how it dries quickly.
Zebra's Sarasa Dry is a product that features ink with a new formula to enhance its quick-drying properties. This product has the same smooth writing experience found in other products in the Sarasa lineup but has faster-drying ink.
The wide rubber grip and sticky feel of the grip material felt secure in the hand. However, while the thickness of the pen made it easy to hold, the pen has a long clip that tended to hit the side of the hand, which some might find annoying.
The pen was light and delicate with little to no friction felt when putting the pen to paper. It transfers ink well and has a vibrant color, making it easy to read even when written by someone who doesn't apply that much pressure when writing. This pen didn't smudge or trail off when jotting down notes quickly, making it a great pen for business use or for students who need to take lots of notes.
Muji's Smooth Writing Gel Pen Knock Type is a gel pen with a translucent design. The grip of this pen goes all the way to the nib.
While the smooth texture of the entire body was comfortable to hold, we also felt that the smooth grip was slippery and needs some improvement. However, the lightweight body and the slim shape of the barrel is great for carrying around.
Although the pen overall felt smooth to write with, it occasionally felt a little rough. However, even when quickly scribbling down notes, it produced neat lines and was easy to read. The simple design also makes it easy to use in a wide range of situations. The color is vibrant and dries quickly.
Mitsubishi Pencil's Uni Ball Signo 307 uses a new material to achieve smooth writing that does not smear even when you write quickly. The manufacturer claims that the viscosity of the ink changes when writing, making it difficult for the ink to bleed out.
The grainy finish of the rubber grip provides an excellent non-slip grip that firmly clings to your fingers. The clip was designed to be in a position where it does not touch the hand when the pen is held, but the unique feel of the grip might not be to everyone's liking.
Writing with the pen felt light and required little pressure. In addition, the thick grip made it easy to control the pen. Although the lines rarely smeared and the color was vivid, we unfortunately felt that the ink transferred unevenly onto paper.
Pilot's Juice pens contain plenty of ingredients that prevent the nib from drying out to maintain smooth writing. It is available in many colors, including pastel, metallic, and fluorescent colors, which can be handy when writing on black paper and photographs.
The wide and sticky rubber grip allows for those with an unconventional grip to be able to hold the pen where it is most comfortable for them. On the other hand, the barrel is a bit narrow, so if you have large hands or write with a lot of pressure you may find it difficult to hold the pen.
Writing feels a little hard and heavy, and we felt a lot of friction. However, the ink transfer is excellent, and there is no smudging on paper. The ink is also vivid and comes in a wide variety of colors, making it a great choice for sketches.
Now to introduce the 10 most popular Japanese gel pens that we ordered and the process by which we tested them.
We tested each gel pen for the following:
First, we tested the most important factor of how a pen feels in your hand: grip.
We gathered five members from mybest's Japanese editorial team and asked them to evaluate each pen comprehensively on the design of the grip, as well as the thickness and weight of the pen. We then graded the pens on a scale from 1.0 to 5.0.
Next, we tested how each pen felt to actually write with.
We asked our Japanese testers to write with the pens to give an overall grade on how each pen felt by checking for how easy it was to handle the pen, how stable it was, and how it felt writing on paper.
Third, we tested how smooth the pens were.
We evaluated the pens by quickly drawing circles in a 5 x 15 cm area and checked to see if the pens skipped or felt scratchy when writing.
Next, we tested how quickly the ink dried on paper.
We had our testers write on a piece of paper, then after three seconds, had them rub their handwriting to see how well the ink dried.
Finally, we tested how well we could actually read our handwriting, in terms of how well the ink transferred onto the paper.
We had our five Japanese testers write with all the pens we gathered, then had them evaluate each pen for how intense the ink was.
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