I’ve accumulated quite a few planners for the 52 Planners in 52 Weeks challenge and the first thing I always do when I get a new planner is pen testing! 🙂
I took out all of my black pens – some I use regularly and others I don’t, but people on Instagram were asking me what pens write best in which planner so I ended up doing pen testing with all of my black planner pens – hopefully the pen you use is included in this roundup!
Ballpoint Pens versus gel pens
Most pens come in either gel pens or ballpoint pens. 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 more expensive.
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.
The only gel pens I tend to use are the PaperMate Inkjoy Gel 0.7mm
The only other gel pen I tend to use is a new addition to my pen collection: the Kaisercraft Color Glitter Gel Pens:
The paper used by these 4 popular planners is slightly different. Here they are in my order of preference:
- Limelife Planner – feels the most luxious and smooth of the 4 planners – it’s my favorite planner paper to write on.
- 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 <3
- Erin Condren – pens are prone to feathering a bit on the Erin Condren paper. I believe they’ve changed their paper for the 2017 – 2018 papers so perhaps it’s better quality.
Happy Planner Pen Testing
Erin Condren Life Planner Testing
There was really only ghosting / bleed through with the sharpie (the ultra fine also does a bit of bleed through but not as much)
Plum Paper Planner Pen Testing
Less bleed through on the Staedtler Triplus 1.0mm than the Erin Condren and most of the pens had no ghosting or bleed through at all 🙂
Limelife Planner Pen Testing
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.
And if you want more details, here’s a quick review of each pen:
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.
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!
2. Pilot Frixion Erasable
These pens also come in smaller sizes 0.38mm via Jet Pens if you prefer a thinner tip.
I only have the black version of this pen (for now – I’ve been trying to restrain from buying anymore pens but these are next on my list ?) They are a bit pricey but I’ve read nothing but rave reviews about them so I’m going to have get a rainbow colored pack to see for myself!
They’re thicker than your everyday ballpoint pen but are thinner than a Sharpie and the Staedtler Triplus Color 1.0mm). 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 will get 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. Plus I should probably stop buying pens.
5. Paper Mate Inkjoy 100 1.0M
You can pretty much never go wrong with a Paper Mate pen (except the erasable Paper Mate premium replay – that pen is not 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 colors but isn’t as readily available in Australia.
7. Staedtler Ball 432M
These tri grip pens are a dream to write with and come in lots of pretty colors. They’re also super affordable – they were only $8 (I’ve only been able to find these at Officeworks in Australia).
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.
9. Bic Atlantis
A cheap everyday ballpoint pen. They write ok, nothing flash – they only come in limited colors so I tend not to use them very often.
10. Paper Mate 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.
11. Pilot G – 2 10
People rave about these pens but they’re too inky for my liking.
12. Paper Mate Grip Roller 0.7mm
I don’t use this pen (I should really give it away) – it too inky so the words are prone to feathering and the pen itself is heavy making it more difficult to write with.
13. Artline Smoove Ballpoint Pen 1.0
This pen comes in the main colors for color coding: pink, blue, green, purple and orange, but the orange is a nasty fluro color that’s hard to read. I found these at Officeworks in a pack of 20 for less than $5. So if you’re after some cheap everyday ballpoint pens for everyday use and writing in orange doesn’t matter to you – these would be a good option.
14. Typo Smooth Operator 1.0 Gel Ink
Not sure if Typo ships outside of Australia but they have quite a few pens in store – the Typo Smooth Operator was one I purchased to try. I’d only use this pen for headings or flagging important things as the ink is quite thick. Thicker than the PaperMate Inkjoy Gel 0.7mm but not as thick as the Staedtler Triplus Color 1.0mm. The ink got thicker after the pen was more ‘broken in’ and has been using it for a while.
15. Paper Mate Profile 1.4B
Much the same as the other Paper Mate ballpoint pens described above. If you like writing with a thicker pen tip and like retractable pens, go with these instead of the PaperMate Inkjoy 100 or 300RT.
16. Kokuyo Ball 1.0
These were a recent find at Officeworks and came in a pack of for $10. I haven’t seen these pens anywhere else. They’re a nice ballpoint pen that writes smoothly – I wish it came in more colors.
17. Kikki K Write in Rainbow
These are fine tip (0.4mm) gel pens. They come in pretty rainbow colors but the tip is a little too small for me – if you write at an angle the ink ‘skips’ a bit.
18. Sharpie Fine Point
I rarely use these pens as they’re more of a marker. You can get Sharpies in the Ultra Fine (for my fellow Aussies, I’ve only seen them at Big W) but they’re pricey when purchased individually and I haven’t been able to find them in a rainbow color pack (i.e. in bulk for a discounted price). Both the Sharpie Fine and Sharpie Ultra Fine are prone to bleed through.
These pens tend to ‘feather’ the ink more than any other pen. They’re similar to the Staedtler Triplus Color 1.0mm which comes in more colors and is only $15 for a pack of 10 at Officeworks so I tend to use those instead of Sharpies. Plus Sharpies have a not to so pleasant ‘toxic’ smell.
19. KaiserCraft Kaiser Color Glitter Fwl Pn (CL106)
My sister stocks these in her planner supplies shop: Carefully Crafted. These pens write SO SMOOTH. The ink also never skips. Love love love these pens – they come in colors most people use as well as gold and silver. Plus they come with a convenient storage case with slots for each pen so they don’t move around.
They’re also reasonably priced – pack of 12 for $15 AUD. If you really love these pens they also come in a huge 48 colors pack with neon colors. The Kaiser Color neon are the only neon pens I’d ever recommend. Unlike most pen brands the neon colors are actually legible and not so bright that it’s hard to see what you’ve written.
20. Staedtler 1.6 Maxum
These are the thickest tip pens I own. At 1.6mm they’re quite wide and to be honest, I don’t write with them very much. The thick tip is a bit clunky to write with. I tend to stick to medium tip 0.7mm pens. If you have large handwriting and don’t like thin fine tip pens, these would be a good fit for you.
21. Pentel RSVP Med BK91
These are the newest pens I’ve bought so I haven’t had much of a chance to write a lot with them. They write just as nice as any other ballpoint pen and come in the same typical colors that most pens come in: black, blue, red, green, pink, orange and purple. These are hard to find and are not a standard off the shop available in any department store (I had to get my sister to order them in). So if you can’t get a hold of them, don’t fret – there are other cheaper pen options with better colors such as the Staedtler ball 432M.
So which pens should you buy?
To be honest, unless you buy really thick tip pens (which are really the only ones that bleed through the pages) that are marker style such as Sharpies, you can’t really go wrong. Choose something that’s readily available, is an affordable price, in the colors you want.
If you want to buy glossy planner stickers go with ballpoint pens as gel pens will smudge / not stick to the glossy label paper.
Found this post helpful? Pin it!
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- Favorite color coding planner supplies for less than $5
- Ultimate list of the best planner pen brands and how to choose colors for color coding
- My all time favorite planner pens: Pilot Frixion Erasable Pens Review
Is there a planner you’d want to see pen testing for? Please leave a comment below 🙂
Disclaimer: If you purchase something from Plum Paper using my referral link I’ll receive a small commission (at no extra cost to you!) I only recommend products I would recommend even if I wasn’t receiving compensation for referring you.