Pen reviews

Pens! I realized I have enough of them to put on their own page, and some of them wouldn't really be considered art supplies anyway. See art tool reviews for the rest of my art supply reviews.

All writing samples were done on 190g mixed media paper.

Table of contents

Fountain pens

Fountain pens are designed to be filled with ink. The most common mechanism for doing so is with prefilled cartridges, but some pens hold ink directly inside their bodies with different filling mechanisms.

Platinum Plaisir ($18-$20)

The Platinum Plaisir is a great pen that I would wholeheartedly recommend as a starter. The body is aluminum, with just enough heft that it doesn't feel cheap. There are also a lot of color options, although most of them are only in the fine/03 nib size.

Platinum is a Japanese brand, but their nibs use Western sizing. I like both the fine/03 and medium/05 nibs, but the medium nib is one of my favorites ever. It's on the broad size for a medium and lays down a ton of ink, so it probably won't be to your taste if you write small.

The nib slides out of the feed easily, which makes the Plaisir super easy to clean. I use it as an ink tester pen for this reason. This also means you can switch nibs between Plaisirs (and the Platinum Preppy, which has the same internal anatomy).

Platinum pens use their own proprietary cartridges and converters.

Platinum Plaisir writing sample

Platinum Preppy ($5-$7)

The Preppy is literally just the guts of the Plaisir in a plastic body, so as far as the writing experience goes, it hits far above its price point. The plastic doesn't look or feel durable at all, so you're always aware you're using a $5 pen, but... it's a $5 pen. How much more can you ask for?

Unlike the Plaisirs, Preppies come with ink that matches the body color, but you can always fill them with an ink of your choosing. There are also yearly releases of limited edition Japanese-style designs. These cost $10, but they look a bit less cheap if that's important to you.

Platinum pens use their own proprietary cartridges and converters.

Platinum Preppy writing sample

Sailor Compass 1911 ($35-$40)

You can read more about the Sailor Compass in this blog post.

Ah, the Sailor Compass, the only Sailor pen I can afford right now. I love the design of this pen: it has a nice shape, and I love the transparent plastic. It comes in a bunch of pretty colors (including olive, yay!). It's on the lighter side because it's made of plastic, but posting the cap gives it enough weight on the back to balance it out.

The writing experience wasn't the best initially. The nib is thinner than I prefer, but the main issue was that the ink skipped sometimes and didn't seem like it was coming out wet enough. I gave the nib a light pull and wiggle by hand to loosen it up and that fixed most of the issues I was having with it.

Sailor pens use their own proprietary cartridges and converters. This one comes with a color-coordinated converter, which was a pleasant surprise.

TWSBI Eco ($30-$35)

I love the TWSBI Eco for many reasons. It's very nice to hold, and, while design isn't really much of a concern for me, it is pleasant to look at. It writes a bit wetter than my other pens, which means you get a fluid writing experience in exchange for slightly longer dry times (which I haven't found to be much of an issue).

The main selling point of the Eco is its piston filling system, which means no cartridges! It's easy to use and works just as you'd expect it to. It has a clear barrel so you can watch the ink enter the pen, a feature that also tells you how much ink is left at any given time. The pen also comes with a wrench and grease for self-service.

I have the medium and stub nibs. The medium nib is a good true medium, but it might look a little broader on cheap paper. The stub nib takes a minute to get used to, but it's an amazing wet writer and perfect for showing off sheening and shimmering inks.

Waterman Laureat

The Laureat is a wonderful pen. The body is made of metal and has decent (but comfortable) weight to it. The nib is gold-plated stainless steel and has good pressure sensitivity and a little bit of tooth to it, so it feels great and the resulting writing looks great as well. The actual body design tends to be pretty polarizing nowadays, but I think it's charming and very appropriately late 80s-looking.

Laureats have been out of production for decades (they were manufactured in the 80s-90s), but you can still find them secondhand online if you're determined. These are mid-range pens and would probably cost around the low to mid $100s if they were still made today. I spent a few days cleaning and reviving mine after it was sitting and collecting dust for at least 20 years, and it works like new!

Waterman pens use standard international long cartridges.

Waterman Laureat writing sample

Dip pen nibs

Here, I'll just be discussing dip pen nibs and not holders. I use cheap Speedball holders (regular and oblique) and they work fine. Most nibs will work across holders.

Brause #29 Index Finger

This nib is great to write with, and not just because it looks like a little hand and that amuses me. It's a stiff nib with very little flex, so it's a super comfortable writer. The only complaint I have about it is that ink can get stuck in the other 3 fingers of the hand. If there's a significant amount of it stuck in there, I avoid wasting ink by syringing it out and putting it back into the container.

Brause #361 Blue Pumpkin

People go rabid for the Brause Blue Pumpkin, and for good reason! This is a really solid multipurpose nib. It has enough flex for inking and calligraphy, but it's also really comfortable to write with. It holds a surprisingly large amount of ink. And it's blue!

Brause #361 writing sample

Speedball #101 Imperial

The Speedball #101 is a textbook flex nib. The tip is really fine and sharp, but it has a lot of flex to it, so you can get a huge amount of pressure variation. It's amazing for inking and calligraphy, but it's awful for writing. Don't try to write with it. It doesn't hold a lot of ink because of how flexible it is, so expect to dip often. It also doesn't respond well to being used incorrectly and will scratch if you're not flexing the nib properly. Once you get over the learning curve, it's an excellent and versatile nib.

Speedball #101 writing sample

Speedball #512 Bowl

The Speedball #512 is a good multipurpose nib. It doesn't have the same crazy pressure variation that the #101 has, which makes it a bit easier to handle (it's certainly easier to write with), but it still flexes really nicely. The ink supply isn't anything to write home about, but it's reasonable.

Speedball #512 writing sample

Speedball #513 Globe

The Speedball #513 has the least amount of line variation of the pointed Speedball nibs I have. It's also a bit thicker than the #512 is at minimum pressure. I find it to be the most comfortable writer of the three. It's another good inking nib, especially if you're looking for smooth and consistent line widths, but not really good for calligraphy because it doesn't flex very much. As with the #512, the ink supply is fine, maybe a little more than the #512. But it's neither here nor there.

Speedball #513 writing sample

Speedball C series

The Speedball C series is entirely designed for flat/broad-nib calligraphy, and these nibs do a damn good job at it. They're really easy to control, and they hold a respectable amount of ink. They can also be used for fine inking work if desired, but I prefer to stick with them for lettering.

Speedball C-3 writing sample

Ready-to-use pens

These are pens that are ready to go out of the box, as opposed to the other pens on this page, which need to be supplied with ink.

Papermate Flair

These pens are wildly popular for being cheap and coming in a lot of colors. They're really good felt pens, with good ink flow and smooth writing. I find that the ink will usually run out before the tip starts fraying, which is both a testament to the longetivity of the tip and the fact that these don't hold a particularly large amount of ink...

Papermate Flair writing sample

Papermate Inkjoy

The Inkjoy is a fairly average gel pen. It's fine. It skips sometimes, but normally the writing is fairly smooth. I don't like the body at all, though; it's a perfect cylinder with no dedicated grip. The whole pen is covered in a thin layer of grippy material with no extra padding. They're a bit cheaper than the Pilot G2 and come in a lot of colors, so they're still pretty decent if you want to go cheaper.

Papermate Inkjoy writing sample

Pilot G2

I am yet another person who loves the Pilot G2. They've been my go-to grading pen for years. I like the color selection, and they just write so smoothly compared to other cheap office supply store pens. It also has a comfortable grip with a curved shape to it, so it's nice to hold. And they're refillable!

Pilot G2 writing sample

Sakura Gelly Roll

I fucking love Gelly Rolls and own virtually every variety of them. They're the Platonic ideal of gel pens. The classics are fantastic writing pens, but the specialty varieties really shine for art projects. The metallic pens are my favorites - they're opaque enough to show up over dark paper and paint. But the real workhorses of my collection are the white and the clear glitter stardust pens. The white is obscenely opaque, and the glitter can and should be used anywhere and everywhere. The main downside is they have a tendency to get stuck if you don't use them for a while, although that isn't uncommon for gel pens.

Gelly Roll writing sample

Sakura Pigma Graphic

The Graphic 1 is one of my favorite pens. I love felt tips, and this is one sexy felt tip! The size of it makes it good for pretty much everything. I like to use it for lining, although it's on the thicker side and doesn't really have much pressure responsiveness.

Graphic writing sample

Sakura Pigma Micron

Microns are good pens, but they're not for me because I like thicker nibs and use more pressure than the pens tend to like. I still keep them around because they're good for finer detail work, although I can't go any lower than the size 08.

Micron writing sample

Speedball Elegant Writer

The Speedball Elegant Writers are marker pens with square nibs. They can't compare to the dip pens, but the nibs are responsive enough to get good results out of and are a great starting point if you want an easy way to dip your toe into flat-nib calligraphy. They're markers, so they won't show up on dark paper and will fray with regular use.

Speedball Elegant Writer writing sample

TUL GL series

The TUL GLs are fine. They cost the same as the Pilot G2. The ink goes down a little wetter than the G2 ink does, but I find that they don't write as smoothly or consistently. I also don't think the body is very comfortable to write with, as the grip doesn't have any extra padding, which makes the pen basically just a cylinder. They're refillable, though, so there's that.

TUL GL writing sample