While it’s easier than ever to digitally take notes and send messages on your smartphone, the art of physically writing is still very much alive. Pens can be a great tool for everyday use, whether for signing a receipt, making a grocery list, working on an art project, studying for an exam, or leaving a note for a loved one. And since we still often find ourselves using pens on a daily basis, it makes sense to use a writing instrument that you love.
The best pens have a few things in common: a comfortable grip, smooth ink transfer and long-lasting construction. And while there are some exceptions, most of our favorite pens have a 0.5mm to 1.0mm tip, which is small enough for precision but large enough to read easily.
You might find that writing by hand can be a pretty soothing activity, but it also has benefits that you may not notice. Writing your notes by hand instead of typing them can actually help with memory retention and recall, which is why it’s great to write in a notebook if you’re studying. Plus, handwriting helps eliminate distractions. If you’re in a meeting, writing in a notebook will indicate to others that, at the very least, you’re not playing a game on your phone.
Writing with a pen is more reliable and legible than writing with a pencil, which tends to be fainter. Plus, you can’t sign any documents with a pencil. But there’s a lot to consider when it comes to this seemingly simple writing utensil. Of course, a lot of it comes down to preference. Some prefer gel and others swear by ballpoints. But whatever kind of pen you choose, it should write smoothly, be comfortable in the hand and last a long time.
We’ve rounded up some of the best pens on Amazon.
1. BIC Atlantis Retractable Ballpoint Pen
No list of pens would be complete without the Notorious BIC. And while BIC has a huge selection of pens, the BIC Atlantis is our absolute favorite by a mile. The Atlantis is a smooth-writing retractable pen that improves on some of the features of the Round Stic by adding a comfortable textured grip. The pen also smoothly retracts using the satisfying clicker. It’s a ballpoint pen that’s designed to write as smoothly as a gel pen. It’s also a great value — four pens are included in this pack. The medium-thickness 1.0mm tip is ideal for everyday use.
Pros: Super comfortable textured grip. Writes as smoothly as a gel pen. Reliable ink transfer and spring.
Cons: Metal clip isn’t especially functional. Medium thickness is better for everyday writing than sketching.
2. PILOT G2 Rolling Ball Gel Pens, 12 Count
If you prefer gel pens, then this pack from Pilot is a great option. Twelve blue gel pens are included in this pack. The pens write finely, smoothly and last a long time. These pens also have a comfortable, ergonomic grip. Plus, unlike some other options, these pens are refillable. Most pen tips come in either 0.5mm or 1.0mm, but these gel pens come in a mid-range 0.7mm.
Pros: Smooth and fine gel pen. Comfortable ergonomic grip. Refillable. Value pack of 12.
Cons: Ink sometimes dries slowly on the page, which can result in smearing.
3. Parker Jotter Ballpoint Pen
If you wanted a pen that you could actually give someone as a gift, the Parker Jotter is a stylish and sleek option with a legendary pedigree. The Jotter, in production since 1954, is made from stainless steel. Of course, it’s not all looks. It writes smoothly and precisely. This option has a click top that clicks up and down with a satisfying sound. This option is a ballpoint, but since these pens are refillable, you can replace it with a gel if desired.
Pros: Sleek steel design, refillable. Writes smoothly.
Cons: Pen is thin and may be somewhat hard to grip for some. A premium pen that may not be ideal for everyday office or school use.
4. uni-ball Roller Pens
If you prefer pens with caps to clickers, Uni-Ball makes some of the best options. These pens have a stylish matte black outer and a cap with a metal clip. Uni-Ball pens can have a reputation for being smudgy, but these 0.5 mm micro point roller balls write smoothly and finely. The ink is resistant to water and fading, making it a good option for legal documents to prevent fraud. This box includes 12 pens.
Pros: Value 12-pack. Writes finely. Ink resists water and fading. Pens are made from recycled electronics.
Cons: Rollerball can occasionally skip.
5. Zebra Pen Z-Grip Retractable Ballpoint Pen
Zebra’s ballpoint pens have a comfortable textured grip, a clicker and a convenient metal pocket clip. The transparent plastic case shows how much ink is left, and the ink itself is low viscosity and designed to resist skipping. The 1.0 mm pen is good for everyday use. Various package sizes are included, and the price shown is for the 24 pack.
Pros: Good value, 24 pens included. Transparent casing to see ink level. Comfortable rubberized grip.
6. BIC Round Stic Xtra Life Ballpoint Pens
Do you need to buy a large number of cheap pens for work, school or the home? Then you can’t go wrong with these Xtra Life Ballpoint Pens from BIC. Sixty pens come with each order, and each individual pen will last for days, weeks or months depending on how often you use them. The 1.0mm medium point creates smooth and clear lines on the page, and we haven’t had any issues with reliability. The translucent sides let you see at a glance how much ink is left.
Pros: Affordable, bulk pens. Long-lasting ink cartridges. Creates smooth medium-sized lines. Little to no smudging on the page.
Cons: Pen caps can easily be misplaced. May present minor choking hazard for very small children.
7. Arteza Rollerball Pens, Pack of 20
Arteza makes the best pens for journaling, sketching and drawing, and this product includes 20 of the brand’s fine tip pens in blue or black. The fine 0.5mm pen tip is ideal for artists and anyone with small handwriting. The premium ink and pen design will last a long time, and you can trust these pens to transfer ink smoothly and with precision. The acid-free ink is resistant to fading.
Pros: Premium pens with fade-resistant ink. Fine 0.5mm tip.
Cons: Ink takes several seconds to dry, which can result in smudging. Ink will soak through thin paper. More expensive than our other picks for the best pens.
8. Paper Mate Profile Retractable Ballpoint Pens
The best pens for everyday use tend to have tips in the 0.5mm to 1.0mm range. However, this can be too small for people with larger handwriting, which is why we like these retractable ballpoint pens from Paper Mate. The vivid black ink transfers smoothly to the page, and the 1.4mm tip creates thick and smooth lines that are easy to read. The large cushioned grip prevents your hand from tiring out with long-term use.
Pros: Comfortable grip pens with retractable tip. Produces thick, legible lines.
Cons: Tip and grip may be too large. Not ideal for fine lines.