(Updated 9/12/2016)

I built this Top 5 Pens list originally to discuss what some of my favorite pens are in various categories. That worked well for a while, but as this page has grown I realized it was time for a change in how it is presented.

The Top 5 Pens list represents my recommendations in the categories below. That differentiates it from my personal favorites, while giving readers more clarity on products they may want to check out.

That said, just because I recommend a product doesn’t mean it is perfect for your needs. As I said previously: Use these lists as guidelines. Do your research. Ask questions. Test them out if at all possible. Only then will you find the pen that is the perfect match for you.

Aside from the lists below, here are some great places to get your research started:

JetPens Guide to Fine-Tip Gel Pens
Goldspot Guide to Perfect Pen Personalization
Goulet Pens Nib Nook
Anderson Pens Ink Comparison Tool

One of each: Pilot Custom 823, Blackwing 602, Apica CD

One of each: Pilot Custom 823, Blackwing 602, Apica CD

Top 5 Micro Gel Ink Pens

  1. Uni-Ball Signo DX 0.38 mm - The only way I see this pen being unseated is if it is discontinued. It’s really good. (Buy)
  2. Pilot Juice 0.38 mm - Please discontinue the G2 and bring the Juice to the mainstream. (Buy)
  3. Pilot Hi-Tec-C 0.3 mm - When it’s going well it’s a game changer. (Buy)
  4. Zebra Sarasa Clip 0.4 mm - Super sharp lines, great clip. Needs more love! (Buy)
  5. Uni-ball Signo RT1 - Close to the DX in performance, and retractable. (Buy)

(Just missed: The Pentel Energel Euro always delights when I use it, especially the 0.35 mm black ink model. The Pilot FriXion will likely never crack the Top 5, but it is the only choice for erasable ink, and the FriXion Ball Knock is the best of the bunch.)

Top 5 Pens In The Store

  1. Uni-ball Jetstream - Stay away from the 1.0 mm. (Buy)
  2. Uni-ball Signo 207 - "But what can I buy at Staples that is good?" This. (Buy)
  3. Uni-ball Vision Elite - I've been overlooking this one for too long. The new BLX line got me back on track. (Buy)
  4. Sharpie Pen - Would be #1 if it was more durable. (Buy)
  5. Pentel EnerGel - People swear by their EnerGels, and for good reason. Maybe the darkest and smoothest of the bunch. (Buy)

(Just missed: Now that the Uni-ball 307 is widely available in the 0.5 mm tip size it will eventually take the place of the 207 as number two on the list, and may challenge the Jetstream for number one.)

Top 5 Fountain Pens Under $50

  1. Pilot Metropolitan - The battle for the best fountain pen for beginners is over and the Pilot Metropolitan has won. (Buy)
  2. TWSBI ECO - An entry level piston-filler for the price of an entry level cartridge/converter pen. (Buy)
  3. Lamy Safari - The Safari used to top this list and is still a great choice if you are ok with the molded grip section. (Buy)
  4. Kaweco Sport - It isn't just a great portable, pocketable fountain pen. It's a great fountain pen period. (Buy)
  5. Platinum Preppy - Is there such a thing as a quality fountain pen under $5? Yes. Yes there is. (Buy)

(Just missed: If you like the feel of the Platinum Preppy, the Platinum Plaisir is an upgraded barrel model that is equally as nice. If you want a more fun Metropolitan then the Pilot Kakuno is your choice.)

Top 5 Fountain Pens $50-$100

  1. TWSBI 580AL - The same as the 580 before it, but improved with aluminum parts. (Buy)
  2. Kaweco AL Sport - The durable aluminum barrel makes this one of the best portable fountain pens on the market. (Buy)
  3. TWSBI Vac Mini - TWSBI owns this price point and the Vac Mini is one of the best of the bunch, if not the coolest. (Buy)
  4. Lamy Studio - The Studio is the perfect step up for Lamy Safari fans. The nibs are identical and the metal barrel is much nicer. (Buy)
  5. Kaweco Liliput - You think the AL Sport is small? The Liliput is about half the diameter, but all of the awesomeness. (Buy)

(Just missed: The Lamy CP1 is a good choice for those who like pens with a skinnier barrel. That’s the only thing holding it back from replacing the Studio in the list. It’s great otherwise.)

Top 5 Fountain Pens $100-$200

  1. Lamy 2000 - One of the most beautiful fountain pens ever designed and the perfect entry point into gold nib pens. (Buy)
  2. Pilot Custom 92 - There aren’t many colors available in the US, but with the recent price drop, the Custom 92 is a no-brainer. Piston fill > cartridge/converter every time. (Buy)
  3. Franklin-Christoph Model 20 Marietta - New in 2015, the Marietta is a great all-around pen with tons of options, including the option to turn it into an eyedropper. (Buy)
  4. Pilot Vanishing Point - An engineering marvel, the Vanishing Point is as fascinating to use as it is to look at. (Buy)
  5. Pilot Custom 74 - Pilot's gold nibs are the best on the market for the price. Add in a slick barrel like on the 74 and you have a real winner. (Buy)

(Just missed: The Pelikan M205 is a perennial just missed, only because the price point runs a bit high compared to its peers. The quality and performance are there though.)

Top 5 Fountain Pens $200-$500

  1. Pilot Custom 823 - This is the best pen I purchased this year, and it has quickly become an all-time favorite. I was late to the party. (Buy
  2. Sailor Professional Gear - That the Pro Gear comes in so many colors and nib options makes it a great choice for many people. (Buy)
  3. Pilot Custom 912 - This is a workhorse of a pen. And like the Pro Gear, it has a wide variety of nibs available, including the Falcon. (Buy)
  4. Aurora Optima - These last two on the list are this low because they are on the upper end of this wide price range. The Optima is a new pen to me and I have been very impressed so far. (Buy)
  5. Pelikan Souveran 600 - The sweet spot for many in Pelikan’s lineup, the 600 series is just the right size all the way around with wonderful gold nibs. (Buy)

(Just missed: Two side-project Sailor’s, The Black Luster and Imperial Black are personal favorites.)

Top 5 Fountain Pen Ink Brands

  1. Pilot Iroshizuku - If you are going to pay for a premium ink, make sure it is one that performs as well as the inks in the Iroshizuku line. (Buy)
  2. Sailor - The perfect mid-range ink. The colors pop and it behaves wonderfully. (Buy)
  3. P.W. Akkerman - As its popularity rises its availability increases, making it a great choice for any fountain pen user. The beautiful bottles are an added bonus. (Buy)
  4. Pelikan Edelstein - The German Iroshizuku? Yeah, I guess so. Great colors and at least one limited release per year. (Buy)
  5. Montblanc - High quality and great performance for cheaper than you think. (Buy)

(Just missed: It is hard to rank basic ink lines when there is more variety in the premium lines, but stock Pilot and Lamy inks see a lot of use for me.)

Top 5 Plastic Tip Pens

  1. Kuretake Zig Cartoonist Mangaka - One of the biggest surprises I have tested. Makes up for lack of colors in feel and performance. (Buy)
  2. Sakura Pigma Micron - The ubiquitous art pen. Everyone can, and does, use Microns. (Buy)
  3. Staedtler Pigment Liner - I was late to the game on this one but it has proven excellent do far. (Buy)
  4. Copic Multiliner SP - Beautiful and refillable...and expensive. (Buy)
  5. Sharpie Pen - Readily available and solid choice. (Buy)

(Just missed: The Uni Pin has been on and off this list for ages. Good quality and value.)

Top 5 Paper Brands

  1. Rhodia - The best all around writing paper in nearly every format you can imagine. (Buy)
  2. Maruman - Slightly more expensive than Rhodia and slightly fewer options, but the quality is elite. (Buy)
  3. Midori - The Travelers Notebook has shown people what good paper should feel like. Midori offers many other sizes and formats as well. (Buy)
  4. Apica - This brand keeps moving up the charts and I find myself reaching for it constantly. (Buy)
  5. Tomoe River - Finally easier to get a hold of in various products. Amazing for fountain pens and sheen, minus the long dry time. (Buy)

(Just missed: Leuchtturm 1917 should always be on a list somewhere.)

Top 5 Multi Pens

  1. Pilot Hi-Tec-C Coleto - So many options and a great refill makes it tough to beat. (Buy)
  2. Uni Style Fit - Late to the game but compares well to the Coleto. (Buy)
  3. Zebra Sharbo X - Only cost (initial and ongoing) keeps this from being #1. (Buy)
  4. Lamy 2000 - For some reason I didn’t know this pen existed until last year. D1 refill compatible. (Buy)
  5. Uni-ball Jetstream - The best ballpoint multi pen option by far. (Buy)

(Just missed: Nothing of note. Anything by Pilot, Uni-ball, or Zebra in this category is a good choice.)

Top 5 Ballpoint Pens

  1. Uni-ball Jetstream 0.7 mm - Sharp, fine and solid lines. Elite, but not for everyone. (Buy)
  2. Pilot Acroball 0.7 mm - More like a 1A with the Jetstream. (Buy)
  3. Lamy 2000 - If you are looking for a cheap ballpoint, look elsewhere. The 2000 model is all over this list for a reason. (Buy)
  4. Parker Jotter - Pocketable, durable, and classically styled.(Buy)
  5. Pentel Vicuna 0.7 mm - A big surprise with its pitch black ink. (Buy)

(Just missed: The Bic Crystal should make the list on historical greatness alone.)

Top 5 Liquid Ink (aka Roller Ball) Pens

  1. Retro 51 Tornado - This may be the most recommended pen on this entire page. (Buy)
  2. Ohto Graphic Liner - Somewhat of an outlier compared to the rest, but really great. (Buy)
  3. Morning Glory Mach 3 - Extremely underrated pen. In fact, I need to stock up on a few more. (Buy)
  4. Uni-ball Vision Elite - A great writer with an impressive feature set. (Buy)
  5. Lamy Tipo - Surprisingly good stock refill, also swappable for G2 compatible refills. (Buy)

(Just missed: Most of Pilot’s V-Series should be on the list, as they are all tried and true writers and easy to get. The Precise is at the top of that list.)

Top 5 Machined Pens

  1. Ti2 TechLiner - It’s the ugly duckling that turns into the beautiful swan when you actually use it. (Buy)
  2. Sunderland mk1 - I really love this pen, especially as one of the few machined pens designed to post properly. (Buy)
  3. Tactile Turn Mover - A complete surprise, and an amazing grip. Also Juice compatible. (Buy)
  4. Schon DSGN 01A - I use this pen all the time when I just want to grab and go. (Buy)
  5. Ajoto The Pen - This is such a well-made product it delights every time I use it. Only downside is the price. (Buy)

(Just missed: The Pen Type-B is my personal favorite, and look for the Tactile Turn Gist fountain pen to make the list soon.)

Top 5 Mechanical Pencils

  1. Rotring 600 - The mechanical pencil all others are measured by. And none have been able to topple it yet. (Buy)
  2. Uni-ball Kuru Toga - The most unique pencil on the list is also one of the best. Not a gimmick either. It actually works. (Buy)
  3. Pentel Graph Gear 1000 - From a technical pencil perspective, the Graph Gear compares well to the Rotring 600. (Buy)
  4. Pentel Sharp Kerry - Before the Kuru Toga, the Sharp Kerry was the cool kid on the block. Now it’s the cool old guy with the sweet whiskey collection. (Buy)
  5. Pentel Sharp Drafting Pencil - Speaking of classic, this one goes way back. Pentel has mixed in a few modern paint jobs in the last few years so keep your eyes open for them. (Buy)

(Just missed: The Uni Shift-Pipe Lock is an awesome pencil that probably belongs on this list. I need to do a big comparison soon.)

Top 5 Wooden Pencils

  1. Blackwing 602 - A revelation, and I believe the reason why wooden pencils are seeing a resurgence. (Buy)
  2. Tombow Mono 100 - Really awesome point retention with the mid-grade cores, and as beautiful to look at as it is to hold. (Buy)
  3. Caran D’Ache Swiss Wood - The most expensive wood pencil you will own, but damn it is good. (Buy)
  4. Tombow 2558 HB - For a basic everyday pencil the 2558 fits the bill. Traditional paint job with the best eraser of the bunch. (Buy)
  5. Staedtler Mars Lumograph - My grandfather used these pencils, and they are as popular today as they were decades ago. (Buy)

(Just missed: This will be a long list once I get more pencils tested. The Caran d’Ache Natura School Pencil is a standout so far.)