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Complete and honest review of the best pens for journaling
Finding the best pens for journaling that will not bleed, will write smooth, won’t cost a million dollars, or feel like fingernails on a chalkboard is a guessing game as a beginner. Shopping for journaling supplies should not induce anxiety. It seems a bit counterproductive to have so many choices when you already have anxiety when making decisions.
Over a period of about 6 months, I selectively purchased, tested, and used many different brands of pens, markers, and other journaling supplies so you will not have to sort through all of that. Journaling for mental health is supposed to be beneficial, so I am here to help take the guesswork out of which journal making supplies to buy.
What supplies do I need to start a journaling practice?
There are only 2 essentials a person needs to start a mental health or faith journaling practice: a pen and a notebook. If you are minimalist and are fine with a ballpoint pen and a spiral notebook or composition book, then that is just where you are at and that is perfectly fine.
However, when journaling for spiritual growth, self-improvement, emotional wellness, anxiety, or depression, adding your own personal touches like doodles, drawings, sketches, trackers, or calendars, will likely become part of your routine.
Therefore, at some point, you will graduate from your standard pens and notebooks to some good quality journaling pens, markers, washi tape, adhesive, rulers, and other journaling accessories. When you personalize your journal, it is much easier to stick with it when you have tools you enjoy using.
When it comes to pens and markers, we all have our favorites. I, for one, am a person who tapes her name on her favorite pens so they won’t suddenly go missing. (It is generally a natural disaster when I have fallen in love with a pen, broken it in, and feel as if I will never fall in love with it again. It is similar to a 2 year old losing his or her security blanket.)
Different Types of Pens
Why am I including terminology in an article about the best pens for journaling? Because I am a hoarder of pens and if you are like me, have sought out the best pens ever to write with. There are different types of pens and I have learned that what we write with makes a difference in our journaling journeys. All pens are not created equal. In fact, the statement, “a pen is a pen” is taboo in journaling language.
The most common different types of pens for journaling:
- Ball point pens
- Roller ball pens
- Gel pens
- Brush tip pens (or brush tip markers)
- Watercolor brush tip markers
- Multiliner pens
- Fountain pens
Best ball point pens
Ballpoint pens use a thicker, stickier, pastier type ink that is dispensed from a metal ball at the tip of the pen. Ball point pens do not bleed, most are inexpensive. I find ball point pens to be the most unpleasant to write with.
The exception to this, is Papermate Inkjoy 100ST medium ballpoint pens. They are smooth, don’t skip, and are super cheap. My skin crawls writing with any other brand.
I am not one to spend a lot of money on ballpoint pens, however, the Loom L105 by Tombow is pretty amazing. It is a heavier weight, is classy, and is smooth. The Loom 105 is an exceptional pen to use for expressive and creative journal writing.
Best roller ball pens
According to National Pen, the difference between roller ball pens and ball point pens is that ball point pens are oil based and roller ball pens are water based. Because they are water-based, they dispense more ink and, therefore, create better lines and are more vibrant than ballpoint pens.
Not only do I use these pens for expressive and creative writing, I use them at work. I have been using Pilot Precise V5 pens for years for all of my clinical documentation, Bible journaling, and prayer journaling. They are a little higher in price than the Papermate Inkjoy, but the price is great considering the quality. They are also comparable to the Sakura Pigma Micron .3 hard pen. I use these for writing in my bullet journal to save on ink because they are more cost effective to replace when the tips wear down.
Best gel ink pens that write smoothe and do not skip
As the name implies, gel ink pens are a pigmented water-based gel and come in every color you can think of. Although they come in amazing colors, writing with gel pens can be annoying because they are notorious for “skipping,” There is nothing worse than being deep in thought while writing in a journal, only for the pen to stop writing and having to retrace the words.
In my opinion, when it comes to gel pens, you get what you pay for. Although I own a large set of Color Art Gel Pens, I do not use them for anything other than coloring. These pens are not good quality but are not bad for coloring in doodles or mandalas.
Papermate Inkjoy medium point gel pens, on the other hand, are one of those pens you search high and low for and when you find it, cannot let go of. Although they don’t have a big color selection, they definitely pens you want to add to your journaling supplies collection. I use these a lot for guided journaling because my hands don’t get tired and they don’t skip.
Uniball 207 Retractable Gel pens are a favorite with a lot of people according to reviews I have seen from other people who bullet journal. I have to agree they are also comparable to a Sakura Pigma Micron however, I find these pens skip. The upside to using these gel pens for journaling is that they are made with archival ink which means the ink will not fade over time. As a journaler, this is important because you may want to save your notebooks to reflect upon years down the road. Ink that fades over time will prevent that.
Uniball Signo UM-153 white gel pens are a must-have for anyone who is planning on writing in or beginning a journaling practice. I have worn mine out because I use them so much. They are not only beautiful to use for writing over black and bringing doodles to life, they are the perfect pen to use to make corrections. Care to guess why mine are worn out? That perfectionist in some of us can definitely appreciate a good correction pen. This is definitely the one.
Best brush tip pens and markers
Brush tip pens are some of the best pens for journaling, especially for hand lettering. They resemble markers, but are specially designed for hand lettering, brush script lettering, and calligraphy.
Tombow Fudenoske – hard and soft tip are the most popular and widely used pens for hand lettering. They are fabulous for beginners because they are easy to control because of the sturdiness of the tips. I am new to hand lettering and began using these and was amazed at the ease of use. I prefer the hard tip because they seem to be easier to control and I seem to apply a lot of pressure when I write. The soft tips also make beautiful letters however, as a beginner, lettering is a bit shakier than with the hard tips. After testing out several fudenoske style pens, this one is my must-have. The ink is excellent quality and unless the pen cap has been left off, they do not dry out quickly.
Tombow Dual Tip Brush pens have 2 tips: brush tip and fine line which are illustrated above. I thought that was awesome because you can use them not only for writing in different colors, but they make amazing brush lettering fonts.
They come in a variety of different colors including pastels so they are also wonderful for highlighting in bullet journals, planners, and coloring in doodles. They also are awesome for adding highlights to black lettering to give pops of fun color. The one thing I was surprised about was how LONG they are. They are so comfortable to hold and with some practice, are much easier to control than some of the other brush pens I tried out.
One thing I love about the set I purchased, is it came with a watercolor brush to use for blending and a watercolor effect. I loved the effect so much, I used the Tombow brushes for my journal, God and Me.
Reaeon Dual Tip Brush pens are inexpensive. I believe I paid about 4.99 on Amazon for them. While they do come in a variety of colors which are bold and bright, they were advertised as “high quality” and I must disagree.
I tested them on 5 different types of paper, including thick watercolor paper and high quality Rhodia paper. The best way I can describe these brush tip markers is juicy. I am thinking that because of the amount of ink they dispense, they are very liquidy, rather than the actual ink itself and bled through all but the watercolor paper.
I would have considered purchasing them again to use as watercolor markers, however, when I used a watercolor brush with them, the ink does not spread like watercolors are supposed to. I thought this was interesting since they are also advertised as watercolor ink. If you are considering purchasing these for journaling, beware that there is heavy bleeding, even on thick 120gsm paper.
Future Color Brush pens are twice the price of the Reaeon brush markers, you get half of the quantity, and they are about the same quality. I was disappointed and wanted to really love these super cute markers to use for my bullet journal. These definitely are not the best pens for journaling.
They are advertised as no bleed, however, they do bleed. It is possible on thicker paper that they will not but they even bled a bit on 120gsm paper. I also was disappointed that the pastel colors on the ends did not match the actual ink color. They are dark colors, but I did not pay attention to the images when I purchased them so that is my fault.
These markers have shorter, softer, and stubbier tips and are difficult creating the finer lines for the upstrokes when doing hand lettering.
Watercolor brush tip markers
Primrosia Dual Tip Fineliner and Watercolor Pens – I had to try these out. The beautiful round box these pens come in had me sold. I felt they were rather pricey, but they come in a package of 60 VIBRANT colors. Since these are watercolor pens, and I wanted to try something different, I also purchased some watercolor paper. Given that I am new to all of these different markers and pens, I thought these were easy to use and made gorgeous watercolor effects. I would not recommend these on any other paper other than watercolor paper or at least 160 gsm journal paper.
All purpose markers
Crayola Super Tips Washable Markers – When you are a beginner and checking out the best pens for journaling, add these to your collection. Crayola is not just for kids, that is for sure. When I was researching journaling pens and markers, I came across the Crayola Super Tips from several bullet journalers. I thought it was silly, but I bought them anyways.
These markers are the best. They do not bleed, there are so many colors to choose from, the quality of the color is wonderful, they are relatively inexpensive, and you can use them for anything including ….. get this ….. hand lettering! They are perfect for using to highlight, color, draw, or write. There is not much this perfect little journaling marker cannot do.
While paint pens are not essential, they definitely are something I have in my journaling pens collection. I had purchased the Uniball Signo white gel pen and the Uni Posca was an added bonus because they came as a set. My most common use for the paint pen is as a correction pen! It also draws well over solid black and adds different effects in my bullet journal as well as with my doodles. Adding a bit of white to colors highlights doodles and makes them more reaslistic.
I think they work just as well as the white gel pens, but are a bit brighter white. I was a little suprised that when the ink dries, the white fades somewhat and I had to go over the white areas again. In addition, I recommend that after shaking it up and priming the pen, use it on a separate piece of paper before using it on your project; it has a tendency to blob out ink if it is primed too much. This way, you will not make a mess on your project. Overall, I love these pens and think it is fun trying out different things with my doodles in my journals.
Multiliners and fineliners
Multiliners and fineliners are the best pens for journaling, in my honest opinion. However they are not all created equal.
The first set of fineliners I ever used were Tao Tree fineliners. I used them in my Leutchtturm Bullet Journal notebook and there was some bleed. I would give these pens a fair rating. They come in a variety of colors and are nice to have on hand when I need some finer details in a specific color. I do not particularly like writing with them.
Best pens for journaling, outlining, and versatility
The Sakura Pigma Micron is hands down the most versatile, longest lasting, and one of the best pens for journaling in my opinion. There is a reason this is the most recommended for bullet journals, drawing, and journaling in general. These pens are so amazing that I used them for the cover of my journal, ME: A Self Awareness Journal for Women. (I also, believe it or not, used Crayola Super Tips for the color!).
Sakura Pigma Micron also come in a variety of different sizes and colors. I, personally prefer the .3 and .5 tip sizes best. I also use .8 when creating bolder lines which I used for my journal cover.
Sakura Pigma Micron
- No feathering and smooth to write with
- Sturdy hard tips (note: purchase the HARD tip)
- No bleed on any type of paper (I tested these even on thin paper)
- No skipping
- Come in variety of different colors
- Beautiful, dark black ink that is legible
- Does not smear on paper
- Dries quickly
- Archival ink
- Can get damaged running pen across metal rulers
- Wear down when using them for everyday writing
- Color selection is limited
- Drawing calendars
- Bible journaling
- Simple journal entries
- Block lettering
Best paper and journal notebooks for Sakura Pigma Micron:
- I tested these on all paper and they worked great on all but watercolor paper. They work well however, the paper is too rough and will fray or tear the tips.
Best pens for sketching, drawing, and creating line art
Copic Multiliner B-2
These pens took me a little while to get used to. Initially, when writing with them, I was having some sensory issues to say the least. When running them across paper, I got the same sensation as running my fingernails across a chalkboard. It took me some time to learn the type of paper they are used on made a drastic difference with my writing experience.
However, I discovered that these archival multiliner pens are AMAZING for drawing line art. After using them for about 3 months, I broadened the creativity in my bullet journal doodles. I cherish these pens and they are absolutely the best for sketching and creating line art.
- Excellent for creating a variety of lines and details
- Come in different sizes that create texture and depth
- Do not smear or smudge while drawing
- Create precise and detailed lines
- Hours of doodles and drawing
- Can color in one spot without bleeding
- Archival ink
- Finer tips are difficult to tolerate the scratchiness when writing on textured paper including copy paper
Best paper for using Copic Multiliner pens:
Related article: Review of the Best Bullet Journals for Beginners
Finding the best pens for journaling is like finding a needle in a haystack. Some things to keep in mind when finding the best pens for your journaling practice:
- What type of paper will I be using?
- What thickness is the paper?
- Does the paper have texture and, if so, will it damage my pens?
- Will they bleed?
- Will they skip when writing?
- Am I going to be doing a lot of doodles, line art or sketching?
- Do the pens have archival ink?
- If I am a beginner, which are going to be the best pens for journaling for me?
Which pens, markers, and supplies for your own personal journaling experiences are going to be personal preference. However, the ones I tested and reviewed come highly recommended not only by experienced journalers but also by professional calligraphers. I am not one to always follow what others think is best, but these truly are the best pens for journaling:
- Best multipurpose pens for journaling – Sakura Pigma Micron, .3, .5 and .8
- Best pens for sketching, doodling, and for fine details – Copic Multiliner
- Best dual brush pens and markers – Tombow Dual Brush Tip
- Best multipurpose markers – Crayola Super Tips
Poorest quality pens and markers:
- Reaeon Dual Tip Brush pens – heavy bleed, tips too soft
- Future color Brush pens – heavy bleed, tips too soft and short
- Ball point pens (with the exception of Inkjoy)
I hope this review helps you find the right journaling supplies for your journey! Let me know which ones you try out, or if you have other favorites let me know! I would love to try them out.
And what better way to try out all of these great journaling pens, than in a FREE journal …..
XOXOX – Nancy