The Best Pen

The Best Pen

Our pick

Uni-ball Jetstream

Uni-ball Jetstream

The best pen

Affordable, smooth, left-hand friendly, and filled with the best-performing ink, the Jetstream is a verified go-to pen.

Buying Options

$10 from Amazon
(pack of three)

For most people in most situations, the Uni-ball Jetstream is the best pen for the job. Its pigment-darkened ballpoint ink flows out smoothly and evenly, without skipping and with minimal pressure. The ink sinks into paper and dries quickly (which is great for lefties), and it rarely, if ever, feathers out from your lines or bleeds through good notebook paper. Available in a variety of tip widths and colors, the Jetstream is sold in office-supply stores and through online merchants. It felt reasonably good in our testers’ hands, and it has been a Wirecutter pick since 2013.

Tip width as tested: 0.7 mm
Widths available: 0.38 mm, 0.5 mm, 0.7 mm, 1.0 mm
Style: ballpoint
Ink type: hybrid (low-viscosity ballpoint ink with pigments)

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Also great

Pilot Precise V5 RT

Pilot Precise V5 RT

Grippier feel, darker ink

This pen isn’t the smoothest writing, but that slight bit of friction and its dark ink make it great for fine lettering or drawing.

Buying Options

$22* from Amazon
(pack of 12)

*At the time of publishing, the price was $20.

If you prefer a darker line than the Jetstream’s, if you write in smaller, tighter letters, or if you like a bit of resistance from the paper whether you’re writing or drawing, the Pilot Precise V5 RT is another affordable and widely available pen to consider. Some experts and testers liked that it wasn’t as smooth as the Jetstream, preferring the feel of its finer point. It has a slightly thicker grip than the Jetstream, and it has darker ink that doesn’t dry as quickly but performs well on most paper.

Tip width as tested: 0.5 mm
Widths available: 0.5 mm (V5), 0.7 mm (V7)
Style: rollerball
Ink type: liquid

Also great

Uni-ball Signo 307

Uni-ball Signo 307

The best gel pen

The Signo 307 is a smooth, quick writing tool that lays down a thick line more reliably than other popular gel pens.

Buying Options

$10 from Amazon
$18 from Amazon
(pack of twelve)

If you want broad lines and even more of a gliding stroke than the Jetstream offers, and you don’t mind some smudging, a bit of paper bleed-through, or the occasional feathering or ink pooling, the Uni-ball Signo 307 is a highly recommended gel pen. Experts and staff testers called it an upgrade in smoothness, grip, and legibility compared with the well-known Pilot G2.

Tip width as tested: 0.7 mm
Widths available: 0.38 mm, 0.5 mm, 0.7 mm
Style: rollerball
Ink type: gel

Also great

Pilot FriXion Clicker Erasable Retractable Gel Pen

Pilot FriXion Clicker Erasable Retractable Gel Pen

The best erasable pen

This pen writes like a satisfying inky gel pen but erases cleanly.

Buying Options

$6* from Target

*At the time of publishing, the price was $0.

If you love a pen but hate the commitment, an erasable pen is the way to go. The Pilot FriXion Clicker Erasable Retractable Gel Pen is our favorite because it’s satisfyingly inky, it comes in a variety of colors, and it erased just as cleanly in our testing on day five, after the ink had time to settle in, as it did on day one. Unlike with other pens, which left streaks behind when we erased their marks days later, with the Pilot FriXion you can come back and update your calendar the week after and still erase cleanly.

Tip width as tested: 0.7 mm
Widths available: 0.5, 0.7
Style: ballpoint
Ink type: erasable gel

Writing samples from our picks

  • The Uni-ball Jetstream on Field Notes paper. Writing sample: Lilly Bellman / Photo: Tim Barribeau

  • The Pilot Precise V5 RT on Field Notes paper. Writing sample: Lilly Bellman / Photo: Tim Barribeau

  • The Uni-ball Signo 307 on Field Notes paper. Writing sample: Lilly Bellman / Photo: Tim Barribeau

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Everything we recommend

Our pick

Uni-ball Jetstream

Uni-ball Jetstream

The best pen

Affordable, smooth, left-hand friendly, and filled with the best-performing ink, the Jetstream is a verified go-to pen.

Buying Options

$10 from Amazon
(pack of three)

Also great

Pilot Precise V5 RT

Pilot Precise V5 RT

Grippier feel, darker ink

This pen isn’t the smoothest writing, but that slight bit of friction and its dark ink make it great for fine lettering or drawing.

Buying Options

$22* from Amazon
(pack of 12)

*At the time of publishing, the price was $20.

Also great

Uni-ball Signo 307

Uni-ball Signo 307

The best gel pen

The Signo 307 is a smooth, quick writing tool that lays down a thick line more reliably than other popular gel pens.

Buying Options

$10 from Amazon
$18 from Amazon
(pack of twelve)

Also great

Pilot FriXion Clicker Erasable Retractable Gel Pen

Pilot FriXion Clicker Erasable Retractable Gel Pen

The best erasable pen

This pen writes like a satisfying inky gel pen but erases cleanly.

Buying Options

$6* from Target

*At the time of publishing, the price was $0.

Source: NY Times – Wirecutter

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