I like pens. It’s become somewhat of an addiction over the past couple of years… So after having tried many pens – is there really a difference between cheap and expensive pens?
Cheap versus expensive pens
Cheap pens – the ‘definition’ of a cheap pen will vary depending on who you talk to. In my opinon it’s a pen that costs less than $1
There is most no difference when it comes to black – some cheap ballpoint pens are prone to skipping though (leaving white patches in the letters).
When it comes to different pen brands and the same color it does make a difference. With more expensive pens you’re likely to actually be able to see the yellow ink.
There doesn’t tend to be much difference between the pink, orange and purple ink of cheap and expensive pens.
For green and blue the colors are either very bright or very dark – the shades can vary quite a bit.
Overall cheaper pens tend to have more dull color inks, especially ballpoint pens.
Paper Mate Inkjoy Medium Point 1.0mm (an average ballpoint pen, writes ok but nothing special)
Artline Smoove (from Officeworks) – the colors are too bright. The black, however, is one of my all time favorite ballpoint pens – lasts a long time and writes really smoothly
Triplus Color 1.0mm (my favorite pen for writing headings)
Target metallic (was less than $1 each – the colors are actually quite bright!)
Smiggle – love the tri grip and range of colors. If only the green wasn’t quite so dark!
Staedtler Ball 432M – nice colors, writes well, has a tri grip – one of my favorite ballpoint pens! They’re eerily similar to Smiggle (and the pack is a few dollars cheaper)
Bic Atlantis – cheap ballpoint pen, comes in limited colors so I don’t recommend it for color coding, ink is prone to skipping
Milan P1 Touch – these were from Officeworks (worked out around $1.50 each). The pens themselves look nice, but they don’t write well. I can’t remember the last time I used them. The ink skips and you have to push down really hard when writing
Kokoyu Ball 1.0mm – another Officeworks find – they’re a basic ballpoint pen, nothing flash. I don’t use these very often as I don’t like that that green is a dark green instead of a nice bright green
Kikki k – very fine tip, have to push down hard to see the ink, come in a nice pack with rainbow colors but not the best to write with. They’re not too expensive though at $1.50/pen
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Paper Mate Inkjoy (I prefer the 0.7mm) – these pens are my favorite (after the Frixion Erasable) – they write so smoothly and come in such pretty colors (that are almost an exact match for the colors of my stickers<3) they also have a teal pen which is hard to come by
Typo – $3 each – overpriced for a basic gel pen – nothing special
Sakura Aqualip – this is my least favorite pen – ever. The ink is like liquid making it difficult to write with, the letters end up looking ‘blobby’ – definitely don’t recommend
Pilot Hi-Tec Maica C (was about $4 each – over-priced, the needle tip is difficult to write with – I never use these pens
Zebra Sarasa – these pens are worth it, they write very smoothly and come in a pack with lots of other pretty rainbow colored pens. There’s no purple in the pack but you can buy them individually
Sakura ballsign – expensive (and hard to find here in Australia I had to buy them from the USA) – nice colors but there are cheaper pens that write just as well, the green is too dark
Frixion erasable (about $3 – $4 per pen but definitely worth it). They come in all the colors you need for color coding – these are my all time favorite pens and they’re erasable!
Read / watch my review of these pens here: My all time favorite planner pens: Pilot Frixion Erasable Pens Review
Uniball signo – very expensive, usually $4 per pen, they’re a rather inky gel pen that’s prone to smudging but come in nice colors, the ink never skips and the colors always look vibrant
Sharpie Ultra Fine – expensive but the rainbow colors are so nice. Warning though: these pens tend to bleed through the page
Staedtler Triplus Fineliner – these 0.3mm pens are a bit too fine tip for my liking but they do come in the best range of colors with multiple shades of pink, purple, green and blue
Paper Mate flair (Candy Pop) – the flairs come in a few different color ranges – the Candy Pop is my fave (although Tropical is a close second). Be sure to check the packaging before buying these as they come in Ultra Fine and Medium. I prefer the Ultra Fine (which has the letters UF on the pens) they seem to have less resistance when writing.
Kaisercraft – one of my all time favorite gel pens – these write really smoothly. I prefer the metallic (shown below) but they also come in pastel. You can actually see the yellow ink!
Are expensive pens worth it?
If you’re going to be doing a lot of writing and colors are important to you, I do think it’s worth it to pay for more expensive pens. Most expensive pens are gel pens which have a denser ink so the ink rarely skips when writing. Expensive pens tend to have more vibrant colors, come in bigger packs with more colors to choose from, as well as colors that are harder to find (like a decent yellow you can actually see, as well as teal and mint).
My all time favorite pen brands are the Frixion erasable, Papermate Inkjoy Gel 0.7mm and Kaisercraft Metallic gel pens.
The Staedtler Triplus come in the best range of colors although the 0.3mm tip is a bit too small for my liking!
My favorite cheap pen brands
Cheaper pens tend to be ballpoint pens. The ink can skip and the colors are usually less vibrant. The really cheap ballpoint pens usually require a fair bit of pressure to get the ink on the page. They’re also more prone to drying out. However, if you just need a black pen that you use with highlighters, there’s no need to go all out and buy an expensive pen (unless you’re like me and have no self control when it comes to pens!)
Ballpoint pens tend to write better on glossy label paper and don’t smudge so if you like planning with stickers, go for a ballpoint pen.
My favorite cheap pen brands are the Staedtler ball 432M, Artline Smoove (in black) and Smiggle.
Found this post helpful? Pin it!
- My all time favorite planner pens: Pilot Frixion Erasable Pens Review
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- Highlighters vs. Highlighter Pencils: Are they worth the cost?