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Pen Freak

NijiStylist.gifYes, I'm a pen freak. I'm that guy at the pen section, mumbling about pen tip sizes, gel inks and barrel design. It's been an addiction of mine since grade school days, when Parker Jotter retractable ball pens were all the rage.

In high school, I became a fan of Flair pens for drawing and writing. I used to eat through those pens, drawing, writing reports and for everyday use. I read somewhere that Quentin Tarantino uses Flairs to write his scripts.

In my college days, when I was introduced to fountain pens. My design and drawing instructor, Mr. Bonifay, was a total sketch freak, toting his huge 12 x 14 bound black sketchbook with hundreds of drawings in it. Odd thing was, he religiously used a simple, black Sheaffer fountain pen (something like this one, but black plastic) for sketching, which further blew me away.

I bought one of those fountain pens myself and sketched with it, and you know what? It wasn't bad at all. I adapted to the quirks of a fountain pen for sketching. The old pen is now broken (pocket clip broke) and is in need of a trip back to the factory in Iowa for lifetime warranty repairs. (Note to self: send that Sheaffer pen in!)

When I began getting back into sketching and journaling with Moleskines a few years ago, I found my interest in pens reviving. I tried the ol' Sheaffer, but the Moleskine's paper couldn't handle the scratching of a fountain pen tip, nor the ink liquidity.

Next I bought some Pilot G2s on 0.5 and 0.7 widths, as these were so often mentioned by Moleskine users. I loved the gel ink — its density and the pen shape. However, after several months of use, I began to experience some issues with the G2. I disliked that the flow was not totally smooth on my Moleskine pages. The ink would flow nicely and then abruptly, thin out on me.

I put up with this for a while, until my most recent trip to Office Max, where I bought several pens for home and work use (I do a quite bit of sketching at work). One of the pens I took a liking to was the Sanford Uniball Signo 207 gel pen. It looked and felt very much like the Pilot G2, but the ink flow was much better. I bought one and have now switched over to the Uniball.

But the story goes on — my pen freak revival brought to mind yet another über-favorite pen: the Niji Stylist 100. This unassuming black plastic pen had a smoothest tip for sketching, never skipping on me. Apparently it has a unique plastic tip construction which makes it durable. All I know is, these things rock.

This weekend I hit the local art store and found the Niji Stylist 100, and immediately appreciated the smooth flow of ink it provided. I've been enjoying it so much, I've started carrying the Stylist around everywhere, using it for work and personal sketching, notes, my diaries and more.

So what are your favorite pens? Any suggestions for this pen freak? Please feel free to leave a comment — I'm always on the lookout for great new pens to feel my addiction. :-)

Reader Comments (92)

Five days into the latest light-fade trial(leaning against GE Brightstick light), and all is going as predicted.

--> The benchmark RSVP pen is already well-faded.--> The Pilot G2 has rock-steady blackness

--> I added a uni-ball Vision Exact to the testing.It starts blacker than the Onyx, and lasts well.

Writing notes on the new pens:

The G-2 is mechanically very tight at the point,and so doesn't suffer the imprecision of other retractables like the Itoya Xenon. Line is as good as the P-500, in all ways. Feel is less scratchy. For tiny writing, the P-500 still has an edge though, due to its stylus tip.

I loved the uni-ball VISION EXACT micro (0.2) at first. It puts out a line of liquid ink same width as the P-500 0.5, at the start. But after a few days of poetry and tech. notes, the line bleeds a little, and fattens out, and gets too stainy for tiny work. Oh well. Good if your ball-speed stays moderate (no slow bits or hesitation at corners)...cursive notes, for example... not great otherwise, for me at least. Curvy drawings would go well with this, and jotted cursive memos.

So, for notes and block-lettered prose on 4-1/4 x 5-1/2 sheets of paper, the P-500 still reins supreme. My search can't go too far...too many new archival quality pens out there. The uni-ball 205 might be worth a look.

December 22, 2005 | Unregistered CommenterLeonardo Menderes
After a few days, the uni-ball Vision Exact gotwetter and ran wider....I'm dropping that.

I'm on the uni-ball Signo micro 207 isa nice smooth pen, if not as skip-free as theP-500. Feel is great though.

Light age testing on the Pilot G-2 (0.5), andthe Signo micro 207, and uni-ball Vision Exactconfirm: these are all quite unaffected by7 days on a fluorescent bulb, when the RSVPink has almost disappeared.

December 28, 2005 | Unregistered CommenterLeonardo Menderes
i don't know if you have ever tried the "asian" ease-ey pens. i get them from stores in chinatown. most of them are really fine tipped like 0.38 or 0.48. i am a nurse, and since i do a lot of documenting, i just love these pens. They have cartoon designs of characters of pukka or blue bear, most of the time i ask my friends who go to taiwan or korea to bring me back a grip of them. I think you could get them from "morning glory" in los angeles too. but for sketching, i think they might ruin the paper.

January 9, 2006 | Unregistered Commentermarsh
I have been a great fan of the Hi-Tec pens, butthey are so expensive in the US.

Anyone knows how the P-500 compare to saya 0.5mm Hi-Tec C?If they are close in performance the P-500 isgoing to be a great steal for me at
January 21, 2006 | Unregistered Commentervic lam
Wow - this is about the longest comment list I've seen on any blog so far. And all about pens! I thought I had a soft spot for writing equipment (currently a Cross fountain pen, a Rotring VisuPencil 0.5 and a Rotring VisuPoint fine marker)... You guys should definitely pay a visit to Paperworld in Frankfurt (Germany) when you're ever "in the neighbourhood".
January 22, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterSerge
You should try Pilot Easytouch.
January 26, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterJenna
Man...I have been thinking about starting a pen review section on my site. I'm glad I found your post.

I avidly and exclusively, for now, right in Moleskine lined journals.

The Uniball Signo Micro 207 is currently my top ranked pen. I haven't found anything that writes as smoothly and consistently. I'm glad we agree there. I used to use G2's exclusively for years. But, I've found it is far inferior to the 207. Don't get this pen confused with it's more expensive brother, the fancy gel grip Premier 207. I have had nothing but problems with this pen skipping and terrible consistency. And, why spend $8 on one pen when you can get several micro 207's for the same price.

My second contendor would have to be the Staedtler Mars Professional set with .25, .35, .5, and .7 tips. They write with great precision at any line width you might need. They are great for sketching. I got this set at Staple's for under $20. However, for everyday writing, I still don't think you can be the Signo 207.

Another absolute favorite of mine are the Staedtler Triplus Fineliners. I got a set of 10 in very vibrant colors for cheap at Staples. They are also great for sketching, drawing, color writing in the Moleskine.

The Sanford Liquid Expresso is the only felt type pen I have used, and it does an excellent job. I constantly find myself going back to it for lettering and sketching.

Fisher Space Pen--don't waste your money. They claim to write on any surface, and this is almost true. The only problem is THEY HATE MOLESKINE's!!! This thing just will not write worth a dern in my Moleskine.

I really enjoyed this post. Someone should start a good pen review website.

March 6, 2006 | Unregistered Commenterkurt
I'm journaling journals for my kids. I want it last for them of course. So I'm using acid free paper. But I'm having trouble determining what type of pen and ink to use that is "archival", won't fade, is acid free, etc.

I like the Mars pens, I just can't find any proof it has life long ink. Any ink junkies out there can give me some advice???
March 27, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterGP
I just purchased an Acme rollerball pen with the design from a woman designer (Genie Debora Jedwab), and a Pilot Vanishing Point Fountain pen. Should be arriving any day. Can't wait to use them in my Moleskines. Check out the pen at:
March 31, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterLainey
i'm with you on the uniball... this is my favorite... fits comfortably because of the grip.. is attractive... and you can buy a refill for a fraction of the pen price... and writes and draws well on a moleskin ...,2,7
April 9, 2006 | Unregistered Commentersali
Yep, fellow pen freak.. currently using the RoseArt X500 ball point pen. California price, 5 for $2.48. THEE Only pen i've used that doesn't leak, smear, smudge, you can use it to the last drop of ink, and expect the same if you buy it again. I've used every pen listed here by all those chiming in. Have too many boxes of pens from .99 cents for a hundred to one single pen for $50.00 and i've never found anything as smooth as the RoseArt. It comes in gel's but I find their gels aren't great, they don't write smoothly, the ball point is excellent, creamy thick black ink that glides, great for journaling in the thin paged moleskine without dropping through the back, Excellent pen, pick it up if you like quality. Think you'll be surprised that something as cheap in cost writes with such quality. I'll be damned if they stop making it and have stocked up. Cheers all.
April 10, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterAna
I put in a vote for the Zebra Sarasa gel pen. Smoother than the G2 or Uniball 207 and I find the colors to usually be darker and richer.

Also, if you look around, the Sakura Gelly Roll is also a nice gel pen. I use a black one with my checkbook, since they're supposed to be completely forgery proof (chemical and light resistant).
April 13, 2006 | Unregistered Commenterratan
Kurt, GP, Lainey, Sali, Ana and Ratan, thanks for the great comments! I'm jst amazed how this post has a life of its own now and seems a great resource for people looking for pens! :-)
April 15, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterMike Rohde
AT LAST!! A website where I can reveal my obessions with pens!! I cannot go into a shop without buying a pen. I currently love pens from the Uni-ball range...Visionlite, Signo, Jetstream...they write soo smoothly I have literally 100s of their pens at home. I have passed on my obsession to my sister who loves the range aswell....
June 1, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterAnne-Marie
Anne-Marie, welcome! We're glad you could join PFA, Pen Freaks Anonymous! :-)
June 1, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterMike Rohde
Forgot to mention 2 pen websites I would recommend especially for the UK are Cult Pens, and Pen Connection,
June 1, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterAnne-Marie
I thought i was the only one with a pen obsession. There must be a dozen within reach at all times or the universe isn't complete! Even though i've cheated around with others, the Niji Stylist is the one i've been turning to for the past 18 years. good call!
June 5, 2006 | Unregistered Commenterscott
Thanks Scott! I still use the Niji from time to time, though lately my passion is for the Uniball Signo RT Gel Micro (0.38mm) pens.
June 6, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterMike Rohde
I've had the chance to try the G-tec-C4, Sarasa 0.5, G2 0.5, G-tecmatic 0.5, Jetstream 0.7 all at the same time.

Suprisingly, I am able to write the smallest print with the Jetstream. The reason is because the ball is so smooth that I can write legible, crisp, and consistent lines with it. Requires a light touch. Black is smoother and more consistent than blue. It has the worst "first-touch" skip though.

The Sarasa is smoother and richer than everything else. For everyday use I pick this one. No "first-touch" skip, consistent and very quality feel.

The G2 is lighter and does not seem as consistent as the sarasa. But without a back to back comparison, no one would be able to tell the difference.

The G-tec-C4 is best for journaling. Consistent and lays down a solid thin line (not as thin as the Jetstream) with less effort than the Jetstream.

G-techmatic is the least impressive of the bunch. It has too much tip wobble, and a significant "first-touch" skip similiar to the Jetstream and other regular ballpoints.

I'll be getting some Signo 207 0.5 and Signo Gel RT 0.38 in the next week. Will post results.

Great thread! I thought I was the only pen freak in the world!
June 22, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterMikeM
Thanks for stopping MikeM!
June 29, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterMike Rohde
I'm loving the Jetstream lately and it's just come out (I found it at Staples) in a retractable version -- which I've been waiting for!!! Love them -- so far I've seen them in packs of three -- all black and one with red/black/blue. I don't hear much about Jetstream in the posts above. I do love a broad point and it seems like many others like a fine point.
July 1, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterPam
Pam I love the Jetstream too... bought one on a whim and love it for my daily journal. I need to check out the retractables! :-)
July 1, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterMike Rohde
Has anyone considered Pigma Pens? The ink is permanent and waterproof and fade proof. I tested these for use in the laboratory environment (genetic trait mapping) where the ink from Pigma pens were used to label nylon sheets for identification and withstood multiple (as many as 30 1-hour washes at 65C). I actually don't know how many total washing the ink will withstand since the labels are still intact.

They come in a variety of colors and line widths. The lab use was only with black ink.

July 2, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterKirayn
Oh, by the way, I love my Namiki Vanishing Point (EX Fine) too, though I am on my second because the first finally started leaking after several years of abuse.

I treat this one a bit better and it has been going strong for 5 years.
July 2, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterKirayn
Mike -- I know I just said (above) I liked the broad point better -- BUT -- at Staples today, I bought what might be my new favorite pen. Uniball signo bit .7 -- it's a small, thin pen -- not quite 5.5 inches long. It comes in I think 8 different colors. At Staples you could buy them separately or in a rainbow pack!! Thin point for me but smooooooooth and compact pen -- feels good in the hand. Don't know about fading, etc. as it's brand new! Try it out! Pam
July 3, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterPam
I am a Namiki (Pilot) Vanishing Point fountain Pen user for 13 + years. One reason is fountain pens force you to write with less pressure and that is helpful for arthritis/lupus patients. But since I found the Uniball 207 micro Black, I am in love again, only to have my hopes dashed since there are no refills made yet. Have you found any refills for black micros? How much fun to talk to other pen freaks! Penny
July 4, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterPenny
I'll check it out Pam, thanks!

Penny, I think depending on the Uniball signo, refills are out there, sometimes online... but you might have to dig a bit. :-)

Thanks for stoppung by and leaving comments!
July 5, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterMike Rohde
Just curious, does anyone know how to clean a pen tip? I mean i have had a ton of these Uni-ball vision pen tips just stop working eventhough they have a lot of ink still left in them.

I'm an artist and i like the fine line this pen gives (its the .5mm ones i think, its been a while). Does anyone have any good tips on cleaning pen tips(heads)?

My email is:, if you could kindly email me some tips, i would really appreciate it.

I'm a pen freak, i have over 5,000 pens (yes i like pens).
July 5, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterViren
Viren � not sure how to clean those guys out except maybe if you could locate a ultrsonic pen cleaner (check an art store) that might shake loose the goop in the tips.

What about alcohol?

Seems like you need something to break up the clog and then suck it out... what about a little heat on the tip (candle?) and then drawing with the pen while warm?
July 6, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterMike Rohde
No kidding, I was googling for some neet-o pens (still inspired by the moleskine thing) and ended up here earlier. I just now realized it was the same site.

Ok, I've really got to find a new hobby ;) Glas to know I'm not the only organized/pen freak out there.
July 11, 2006 | Unregistered Commentermegan
MikeHere is the Pigma Pen Source I use:

The tip sizes range from o.2 mm line (Pigma 005) to 0.5 mm line (Pigma 08), and 8 colors with Pigma 005 to 15 colors with Pigma 05

July 11, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterKiryan
So I recieved the Signo 207 0.5 and 0.7, the Uniball gel RT 0.38, and the Gel Impact 1.0 Here are my impressions:

Signo: these pens are SMOOTH. Even the 0.5mm version. It lays down a solid line that doesnt feather at all! Nice grip and looks cool as well. However, the blue colour is too "girly" - not as dark a blue as I"d like. Of course, that is a personal preference.

Gel RT: It is slightly finer then the G-tec-C4, tho barely. I use it in my moleskine, works great. The rubber grip design gives much better leverage when writing small. Wicked pen, I wish I have more colours!

Gel Impact RT: ok obvisouly this is a THICK pen. 1mm ball writes very very large prints. But the smoothness is out of this world. The black is very dark and solid. Also uses up the ink FAST because it lays down so much.

Pilot multiball: very useful pen if you write on objects other than paper. The medium version writes fairly thick lines, and once it gets going it lays a very consistent and solid line.
July 12, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterMikeM


*I got email asking about where the RoseArt X500(premium ballpoint) could be found. It faded fromWalMart in the middle of a signo vs. G-2shelf-war. But I have found it (07/2006) atWalgreens Drug Stores.

Signo and G-2 Bargain hunters:: keep your eyesout at WalMart: if if there is a war forming,and mas quantities, and they appear to priceyfor the back-to-school set, there couldbe some price-slashing sometime soon.They were on a dozen pegs apiece, and extraswere lying in the floor bin/shelf! Good cutson G-2 already. The signo might follow suit.

* I've settled on the G-2 .05 now. Almost as tinywriting as the P-500, and the retractable is nice.The uniball signo micro is smoother feeling, butskips on paper at work. Something in the airmaybe. For tiny writing, more that ball sizeeffects it: the ink cueing-distance is key.

Did a fade-test on the BIC Cristal for fun.It does write smoothly, but it faded mostlyaway (the black) after 10 days on thefluorescent bulb. A bit better resistance thanRSVP however.

I'm really getting into my note-pockets.I make them out of thin binder plastic andelectrician's tape. 1/8 sheets and 1/4sheets of paper are stacked inside the pocket.It bends smoothly and fits in your pocket,is tough, and you can insert and pull pageswith not tearing out: it's a stack.The paper is all protected, with a littlefinger-pull cutaway in the middle. Greatnotepad/book/archive. With different colortape you can categorize pockets.

I really want to fade-test the Easy-Touch.Sorry I havn't done it yet...too many pensabout the house still, lol..

July 31, 2006 | Unregistered Commenterleonardo menderes
Nakimi (Pilot) Vanishing Point- great pen and you can interchange nibs I store my extra nibs with pieces of plastic drinking straw over the business end in a resealable plastic bag-I'm awaiting delivery of my first Moleskine Large Sketch-Oh- Richard Binder ( has custom ground nibs for the VP. I bought his "ItaliFine" gives me .9mm Cursive italic AND a Fine point in ONE nib!Also have a plain Fine and Medium nib- as well as another .7mm Cursive Italic Oblique..... I figure if the wider (more ink) of the Cursive is too much for the Moleskine, I can switch to the Fine nib and be ok....
August 6, 2006 | Unregistered Commenterbob Keene
Oh yes, one other note- I fill my Vanishing Point with Noodler's "BulletProof" or "Eternal" inks- these inks wil NOT run even if submersed in water! Handy in case your out in 'weather'...
August 6, 2006 | Unregistered Commenterbob Keene

I finally fade-tested the Pilot Easy Touch!

(24hr x 10days touching a GE BrightStik bulb)

It is a regular ballpoint, and thus not asdense as the gel pens, but it lays down acrisp black line, and has quicker start-upand finer cornering than the X500. Very smooth.But, about the fading: after the full 10-dayexposure, the ink was slightly faded, butalmost as strong as when written.I'll keep testing it for extra time, but itis clearly a fade-resistant pen with verynice characteristics. The X500 and ItoyaXenon are denser and have wide bodies, butthe EasyTouch is great for note-jotting, ifyou want to trade off initial density forthe long mileage of a ballpoint, and reducedprice. A very nice pen for a ballpoint!

August 19, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterLeonardo Menderes
Leonardo, thanks for the update. Next time I'm at the store I may check this one out.
August 19, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterMike Rohde
I have all but given up on the Pilot pens despite a huge stack of refills. It was the endless splodges and their inability to dry quickly enough.

Try the Parker gel refills. Brilliant in my Parker Vector XL. A really black black! The ink dries really quick and the price for the refills on eBay is very reasonable.

Alternately I am now using a Lamy Safari with Noodlers black. The blackest ink I have come across in a fountain pen.

My Fisher Space Pen might look stylish, but I just hate the ink and the way that it writes.
August 28, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterAndy

Mike, have you ever tried the Pigma Micron 08 (0.5mm) Black pen from Sakura? It is archival ink and quick drying. I am starting out with these for Sketchnoting but wonder if I should use something else. I am trying to get a feel for the thickness because I am not used to that thick of a line for notes nor drawing, but I find that my hand doesn't cramp as much with the thicker line. :)

February 12, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterBill

I've not tried those - please keep me posted!

February 23, 2013 | Registered CommenterMike Rohde


Are you still a fan of the Niji Stylist 100? It's been quite awhile since this post and wanted to know if you have found something that you like better?


September 3, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterStewart

Stewart - I'm now using Pentel Energel 0.7s pretty much exclusively.

September 4, 2013 | Registered CommenterMike Rohde

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