Five Pens to Try – October 2015

There is an updated version of this list! Click Here


Not all of these pens will be a good fit for everybody, but I think they are all at least worth considering if you’re looking to try out something new.

1. For the Pen Cup: uni-ball Signo 207 micro

uni-ball Signo 207 micro

The Signo 207 micro doesn’t only look professional, it also writes very well. And unlike most other gel ink pens, the ink practically never smears on standard papers (and I really tried hard to make it smear). This is definitely one of the best pens you can find on your average store shelf, and they’re cheap enough to lose or loan without much thought. (see full review)

2. Your “Nice” Pen: Retro 51 Tornado

Retro 1951 Tornado

I’ve never owned a pen that I like to hold as much as my Retro 51 Tornado. It’s balanced nicely, looks good, and writes great. It’s perfect for writing letters, journaling, or just making you look good in a meeting where everyone else is using pens from the supply closet. And at 20-30 dollars, it wont break the bank. (see full review)

3. An On-the-Go Pen: Tombow Airpress

Tombow Airpress Orange

Need a pen that can write at odd angles or on dirty surfaces? The Tombow Airpess has got you covered. It’s also light weight, has a good clip, and fits nicely into a pocket. On top of it all, you could probably hurl the Airpress at a brick wall without doing much damage to the pen. (see full review)

4. The Everyday Writer: Sharpie Pen

The Sharpie Pen

The Sharpie Pen writes such clean and crisp lines, it seems like everybody who uses one instantly has better-looking handwriting. It’s a great pen for making lists or writing a quick note. I personally like the original model over the retractable and titanium models, as the original is relatively inexpensive and can be found in most stores. (see full review)

5. A Pen for Your Artistic Side: Kuretake Bimoji

Kuretake Bimoji

I should be clear that I’m a very inexperienced brush pen user, but I love to pull the Bimoji out and doodle all over my notebook. It might not be a great pen for writing, but you might want to bring it along to boring meetings to keep yourself entertained. At the very least, you’ll have the most unique-looking pen in the room. (see full review)

So that’s that so far. I’ve got plenty more pens to review, so this list will likely need updating eventually. If there are any pens I’ve neglected, please let me know in the comments below. Thanks!

Colors Review: uni-ball Signo 207 Assorted Colors (Blue, Red, and Purple)

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This uni-ball Signo 207 color set is best characterized as utilitarian, meant for taking notes but probably not for drawing pictures. Along with black, the set includes three basic colors: a blue and purple, both of which have a fairly standard dark shade, and a red, which is somewhat brighter. They are comfortable to hold and don’t seem to skip or bleed, but they still don’t quite live up to the high standard set by the micro (0.5mm) version of the Signo 207.

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While this color set has reliability and comfort, the Signo 207 micro stood out for its professional look and its ability to avoid smearing. By replacing the black grip and silver accents with cheap-looking rubber and white plastic, the professional look is mostly gone. And the smearing is among the worst I’ve seen, especially the blue ink pen.

This Signo 207 color set is not an outright bad set of pens. They’re mostly a disappointment given how much I like the Signo 207 micro. Still, a color set of Sharpie Pens or Pilot G-2s are better options, no matter if you want them for work or art.

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Review: uni-ball Air, Rollerball Pen, 0.7mm

uni-ball Air

Between the name and the design of the pen, the uni-ball Air makes me feel like I’m writing with a Blackbird stealth jet. It’s a black, all-plastic rollerball pen with a faint hexagonal pattern on the barrel and a grey swoosh near the tip. It looks really cool.

uni-ball Air tip

The Air has a very interesting feel while writing.  It’s somewhat waxy on paper and is almost like writing with a crayon. The ink is very rich and dark, and it spreads out on the page so much that it feels much thicker than a 0.7mm tip. Though it doesn’t smear nearly as much as I expected, it does seem to bleed readily through paper.

One of the main advertising points of the Air is that it writes at any angle, and I think it actually produces a finer, cleaner line when writing upside down. If uni-ball offered the AIr in a smaller tip size, I’d probably jump to recommend it. At 0.7mm, however, it runs and bleeds enough that I’m inclined to pass it up.

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Review: uni-ball Signo 207 (micro), Gel Ink Pen, 0.5mm

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At first glance, the uni-ball Signo 207 looks a lot like many other gel pens you’d find on the store shelves. It’s made mostly of plastic with black accents and metal trim, and the only thing that really stands out is its uniquely shaped clip, which does make it look a bit more classy and professional. But after using it for a couple days, I would definitely rank this unassuming gel ink pen among the best that I’ve used.

The Signo 207 has the basics down: it is comfortable to write with, and it draws clean, consistent lines. More than anything else, however, I am impressed at how smear-free the ink manages to be. I really had to try hard to get it to smear on standard papers, and that’s definitely not something you can say about most gel ink pens.

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The black ink doesn’t seem quite as rich and dark as other gel pens, but If you’re willing to accept this trade-off, I imagine the Signo 207 will become an instant favorite. For lefties looking for a low-smear pen, it’s definitely worth a try. For everybody who might be looking to resupply their pen cup, you won’t go wrong with the Signo 207.

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Review: uni-ball Signo RT1, Gel Pen, 0.28mm

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Not a lot of all-plastic pens look impressive, but the uni-ball Signo RT1 manages to pull it off with its all-black “stealth” style. It also has a rubber grip section that extends all the way to the tip of the pen, making it very comfortable to hold. And I love the design of its knock retracting mechanism – it has a good thickness, and it attaches to the clip in a unique-looking way, making it really fun to “click-click-click” all day long.

Although writing with ultra-fine pens can sometimes feel like you’re about to slice through your paper, this 0.28mm tip is surprisingly smooth, consistent, and it generally performs very well. Such a fine tip also means that you’re not putting a ton of ink on the page, so smearing is a non-issue, despite the fact that the Signo RT1 uses gel ink.

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While the pen could use a stronger clip and a bit of added weight – it’s a lot lighter than it looks – the barrel design of the pen and the writing experience are top notch. Such a fine tipped pen is not ideal in many situations, but I definitely plan on grabbing this Signo RT1 next time I have to fill out the tiny boxes on a warranty card.

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