I’ve accumulated quite a few planners over the years – the first thing I always do when I get a new planner is pen testing! 🙂
I thought it would be helpful to include a pen test for 4 of the most popular planners in the one post so here we go…
The paper used by these 4 popular planners is slightly different. Here they are in my order of preference:
- Happy Planner – the paper feels thicker than the other planners so pens are less prone to bleed through
- Plum Paper – as always, good quality and a good price! Paper is smooth to write on but can be prone to ghosting
- Limelife Planner – feels the most luxious and smoothest of the 4 planners – it’s my favorite planner paper to write on however it is prone to ghosting
- Erin Condren – For all the hype about their ‘upgraded’ Mohawk paper, it’s still very prone to ghosting
Before I show the pen test photos I just want to make a note about different types of pens.
Whenever I do a pen test I use a variety of ballpoint, gel, dual tip (marker and fine tip), fine tip, erasable pens plus stamps and highlighters. Most of the time ballpoint pens will have no ghosting, gel pens do occasionally and marker pens almost always have bad ghosting or bleed through.
Gel pens write really smoothly and are less prone to ‘skipping’ (leaving small white gaps in the pen ink), but can be prone to smudging. They’re also usually the most expensive type of pen.
Ballpoint pens write well on any type of paper. They’re cheap, readily available and usually come in lots of colors. So if you’re not sure what planner pens to buy or you want to buy pens that will work with any planner paper without worrying about ghosting and bleed through, then I recommend choosing ballpoint pens.
Fine tip pens are somewhere in between ballpoint and gel – if the pen tip is fat enough it can be prone to ghosting. I sometimes use these but not as often, because the tip tends to be needle point and will rip white out tape when you write over the top if you want to cover up a mistake. However the colors on fine tip pens tend to be the best (most vibrant, no ink skipping).
Happy Planner Pen Testing
The Happy Planner has one of the thickest (best) papers I’ve come across. There is really only ghosting (and a little bit of bleed through) for the marker pens.
Pen test in 2019
No bleed through and only minor ghosting of the highlighters.
Erin Condren Life Planner Testing
The pen test in the 2016 version resulted in some feathering of the pen ink – particularly marker pens.
For all the hype surrounding the new and ‘improved’ Mohawk paper they introduced around 2017 / 2018 (I cannot remember exactly when it was), the paper is still prone to ghosting.
Erin Condren Personalised Notebook pen test (2020)
Erin Condren softbound dot grid notebook (2020)
Plum Paper Planner Pen Testing
Pen test in 2018
Less bleed through on the Staedtler Triplus 1.0mm than the Erin Condren and most of the pens had some ghosting.
Pen test in 2019
Still some ghosting for most pens with heavy ghosting for marker pens.
Limelife Planner Pen Testing
Pen test in 2018
I forgot to take a picture but it’s the same story – a bit of bleed through on the sharpie, otherwise no bleed on all the other pens but there was some ghosting.
Pen test in 2020
Not much ghosting for ballpoint and gel pens, a little bit for the fine tip and a lot of ghosting for marker pens.
And if you want more details, here’s a quick review of the pens I tend to use when I do pen tests:
1. Staedtler Triplus color 1.0mm
These pens are a bit too thick for everyday planning – I like using these for headings such as to do lists – the thick tip of the pen is bold and makes the title stand out. They’re not quite as fat as Sharpie Fine Points and don’t bleed through the page as much (they are prone to heavy ghosting though).
These pens are ideal for color coding in the 0.3mm very fine tip pen style as they come in bigger packs with lots of different colors!
My all time favorite erasable pen and the pen I almost exclusively use for bullet journaling. These pens also come in smaller sizes 0.38mm via Jet Pens if you prefer a thinner tip.
The colors of these pens are really nice and different to most (has mint, different shades of blue and pink than you would typically find). They are a bit pricey but they’re very smooth to write with. They’ve consistently proven that they don’t bleed through and don’t smear.
4. Uniball Signo Gel Grip 0.7
This pen writes very smoothly with no skipping. It feels like one of those pens that gets a bit inky after you use it for a bit though. I like how this pen writes and it does come in lots of colors, but these pens are a bit expensive and are hard to find in Australia.
5. Papermate Inkjoy 100 1.0M
You can pretty much never go wrong with a Papermate pen (except the erasable Paper Mate premium replay – that pen isn’t that erasable). They write smoothly, all their pens come in plenty of colors including the main ones for color coding, plus they have a variety of sizes and are readily available.
These ballpoint pens are cheap (was only $4 for a pack of 10 or so) and great for everyday planning.
6. Paper Mate Inkjoy 300 RT 1.0M
Writes much the same as the Inkjoy 100 except it’s the clicker style retractable pen. It also comes in lots of colorss.
7. Staedtler Ball 432M
I used to like these tri grip pens but don’t really use them anymore. They’re very cheap (a few dollar more than the Papermate ballpoint pens), but the more I used them the more the ink started skipping (or maybe the pen just dries out quickly).
8. Stabilo Point 88 Fine 0.4
If these pens came in a thicker tip they would be right up there at the top of my list of favorite pens. These pens never skip no matter what planner paper I write on and they come in tons of colors. Most office supply stores (especially online) will let you buy these individually for around $1.50. And if you’re super obsessed with them, they come in huge 20+ color packs.
10. Papermate Inkjoy Gel
If you’re a blog subscriber these pens need no introduction! The Paper Mate Inkjoy gel are my favorite pens for color coding.
- Favorite black pens for planner addicts
- Planning 101: Need versus want versus wish list planner supplies
- Planner Organization: How to color-code your planner (so you’ll actually use it effectively)
- Ultimate list of the best planner pen brands and how to choose colors for color coding
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