My Favorite Pens

Sometimes, a notebook is only as good as what you write in it with. A notebook can have the best paper in the world, but it still won’t be enjoyable to use with a crappy pen. Over the years, I’ve tried many different pens, but I’ve finally narrowed my choices down to a few favorites, all gel ink rollerball pens:

Uniball Signo RT 0.38

This is my #1 pen for daily use, and you’ll usually see it as the first thing I try in a notebook I’m reviewing. I love the fine, smooth, opaque line and I have found these pens extremely reliable– they don’t get blobby or scratchy, they don’t skip, and though the bodies and mechanism are lightweight plastic, I’ve never had one break. The body color matches the ink, and it has a rubbery part toward the tip so it’s comfortable to hold. You can even buy refills in a few colors in order not to have to throw out the bodies when the ink is gone. They come in a great range of colors– my favorites are black, blue-black, and lavender-black. (The black and blue-black are available in refills, but for lavender-black, you have to buy a whole pen.) The refills are $1.35 and whole pens are $1.65. There’s also an 8-color set available for $13.00. There’s nothing fancy or flashy about these pens– they just do their job quietly, simply and beautifully.

Uniball Signo MF3 Multi-pen

I definitely have a soft spot for multi-pens. I love the idea of being able to keep multiple ink colors and a pencil with me at all times without having lots of extra pens floating around in my bag. This is probably the best all-around multi-pen I’ve used. This pen includes black and red ink in a 0.5 width, plus a pencil. The thing that really distinguishes it from other multi-pens is the mechanism– you twist the barrel to rotate between the inks. When the pencil is selected, you push down on the cap to advance the lead. There’s an eraser under the cap. I like the twist mechanism because you never have to worry about accidentally retracting the ink you’re writing with if you bump the button that selects another color– some multi-pens can have a hair trigger in this regard. The body is comfortable to write with, with a non-slip rubbery surface at the tip. Though I often prefer the 0.38 width to 0.5, the line this pen gives is also a nice weight, and I always find it writes very smoothly and evenly, with a clean, dark line. The body comes in various colors. The pens are $6.75, and refills are $1.00.

Uniball Style-Fit Multi-pen

Yes, I like the minimalism of carrying one pen, but I also like to maximize my color and line weight choices, which is why I love this pen. This is the Build-a-Bear of multi-pens: you pick the empty pen body , which comes in a variety of colors, and then pick 5 refills to insert, including various ink colors and widths, and a mechanical pencil option. (A slimmer 3-color version is also available.) The first one I bought was a silver body and when I opened the package, I couldn’t help saying “OOOH!” because it looked like a sleek little rocket! About 2/3 of the body length is silver, and then the tip is a clear plastic so you can see the ink colors. (This makes it a wee bit less comfortable to use than the MF3, as you don’t have the softer rubbery surface.) The pen inserts give the same smooth, fine writing experience as the other Uni-ball pens mentioned above, with .28, .38, .5, and .7 weights available. The mechanism for this pen is 5 separate buttons to select the different inks, the clip being one of the 5. If you use the pencil insert, it has to be inserted corresponding to the clip, as an extra push a bit further is what advances the lead. The buttons are sensitive– if you hit one without pushing it down all the way, you’ll retract the ink you’re using. The body is light-weight, and the only concern I’ve had about durability is that with one of these pens, I must have tightened it a bit too much after replacing an ink, and a crack developed. (I have two– the other pen has been opened and screwed closed quite a few times with no cracks.) The empty body is $4.25, ink refills are $1.35-$1.65, the pencil component is $3.00. (There’s also a “Mystar” body for $8.25 which looks a little different, but I haven’t tried one of those… yet!)

Zebra Sarasa 3+S Multi-pen

Most of my pen faves have been Uni-ball, but I also like the Zebra Sarasa pens I’ve tried. This is another multi-pen, this time with black, blue and red inks in a .5 weight, plus a mechanical pencil. It’s very sturdy, and the inks are nice and smooth. One distinguishing feature is that the clip opens wider than most other pens. Again, the buttons are a bit sensitive, perhaps a little more so than on the Style-Fit. But it’s nice that the buttons are the color of the ink within, so it’s easier to see what you’re selecting, and the body has the comfortable soft rubber coating around the tip. The filled body is $10.00 and refills are $1.10. Various body colors are available.


I bought all of these at JetPens, where they have lots of other delectable goodies for pen and notebook lovers. For full disclosure, I have to say JetPens have given me some free pen and notebook samples to review, but I am also a frequent paying customer. Their $25 minimum for free shipping makes it pretty hard to stay away!

How about you? What are your favorite pens?

7 thoughts on “My Favorite Pens”

  1. Zebra F-301. Love the slim steel barrel and fine line, perfect for either writing or impromptu sketches. I don’t like pens/pencils with rubber grips that get worn and grimy with use- that’s never a problem with the F-301. And now they come in different colors, too. They’re the perfect companion to the Pentel P205 and your Moleskine.

  2. My favourite is the Rotring Artgraph – a rare pen in my experience. But I have used Rotring Artpens for nearly 30 years. Then by accident I found this Artgraphs and I have only 2 of them in different nibs. This is a variant, the same body as the Artpen but with a version of the Radipograph or Isograph mechamism. The Fine nib is wonderful, and it is my main pen for writing and drawing.

  3. Pentel’s black, fin- point RSVP pens. I loves them. Writes smoothly and clearly, which is good for when I lapse into my tiny, tiny handwriting.

  4. I also love the the lavender-black Uni-Ball Signo RT, probably at least partly because it’s one of the more unique colours out there but doesn’t draw too much attention to itself. My main favourites are two Pentel pens – the 0.3mm Slicci for small, precise writing, and the 0.5mm needlepoint EnerGel, which is a good basic pen and writes incredibly smoothly in vibrant colours.

  5. Mine are of the ballpoint variety, mostly.

    -Bic Ultra (green & blue ones, I had purple but they all dried out :( )
    -Bic Round Stic
    -Bic Crystal (blue & red)
    -Bic Four color (the blue barrel one)
    -Pentel EnerGel (red & purple)
    -Medium Sharpies (I won a sharpie contest last year so I have soo many sharpies now, I just make a collage on the next page when I write with them).

  6. Good review on the pens. I don’t like multi-pens, I’ve always had bad experiences with them. To me they been the novelty part of the pen company but to each his own. I have not had the luxury of owning a multi-pen for many years as I do tend to revolve around the fountain pen world now, but from time to time a ballpoint will come in handy in a pinch. I always leave at least one in my car for immediate use.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.