Latest Update: Added our Lamy 2000 review. Related Pages: Mechanical Pencils, Pens That Are Art. There's almost no end to the variety of different types of pens available. Most people are familiar enough with ballpoints, rollerballs, gel pens and marker…

There’s almost no end to the variety of different types of pens available. Most people are familiar enough with ballpoints, rollerballs, gel pens and marker pens, and at least know about fountain pens and dipping pens. If you want to know a bit more about what the differences really are between those types, see our article on Pen Types.

On with the pens…

Pens by Type


A paste of ink, using dye for colouring.

  • Rotring Quattro Data Pen: four ‘pens’ in one. The individual tips can be changed, but can include different colour ballpoints, highlighters, PDA styluses, and a .5mm mechanical pencil.


Similar to a ballpoint, but using liquid ink. Flows more smoothly, but slower to dry.

  • Frixion Erasable Rollerball: Have Pilot finally cracked the challenge of a pen you can erase? Plenty of others have failed, and even Pilot have had at least one poor attempt at this before.

Gel Ink Pens

Pigment ink in a water-based gel. Usually good strong colours (can even draw light colours on black surfaces), and available in metallic and even glitter ink varieties.

  • Pilot G-Tec C4: a needlepoint gel pen, good for drawing very thin lines. Popular with people who like to write small, especially when trying to cram a lot into small bits of paper.

  • Cross Ion: a dumpy little gel pen, with an unusual design. Nice and short when closed, but extends when opened.

Marker Pens

Also known as felt tips, a fibrous tip sticks out of the pen at one end, and dips in the ink at the other.

  • Sanford Sharpie: The classic marker for celebrities everywhere – will let you sign autographs on just about anything – including body parts. If you need them, your agent will get you some. (Actually, they’re great marker pens that draw on any surface, with quite a good solid black.)

Fountain Pens

Liquid ink in a tube inside the pen feeds to the nib, and flows down a crack to the tip. Bad fountain pens can be quite awful, but a good fountain pen is a wonderful thing to use. If you’re thinking about it, we have some advice on choosing a fountain pen, and we also have a page on fountain pen maintenance and repair.

  • Lamy 2000: minimalist Bauhaus design German piston filler.
  • Lamy Safari: not the prettiest fountain pen around, but I like the simplicity of it, and it works amazingly well. One of the best ways to get into fountain pens – if you find anything cheaper, it won’t write as well.
  • Parker 45: first sold in 1960, the Parker 45 has only gone out of production in 2006 – not a bad history for a pen. Is it really that good?
  • Pilot Birdie: The fountain pen that fits in a Filofax pen loop – surprisingly cheap, too.
  • Pilot Capless and Capless Decimo: Known as the Vanishing Point in America, these are the only retractable fountain pens around – just click the button on top, like a ballpoint. Very good quality pens, too, with great nibs.
  • Pilot Parallel Pen: like a fountain pen, but the ink flows between two plates rather than down a split nib. Good for very thick lines – extra-wide calligraphy. Can even mix colours.
  • Pilot V4: a disposable fountain pen. Not great, but not bad at all, and certainly cheap enough.
  • Rotring Skynn: one of the strangest looking fountain pens around, but it’s a great nib, and a comfortable grip.

We also have a page on fountain pen inks.

Technical Drawing Pens

A slightly different category to fountain pens – they’re almost the same, but the tip is a round tube, not a split nib.

  • Rotring Isograph: Probably the all-time classic tech-drawing pen. Very precise, and nice to use, but the ink tends to feather unless the paper is right, and it’s not the easiest pen to look after. Not cheap, either. Still, it produces the most perfect black lines of any pen I’ve used.
  • Rotring Rapidoliner: Now out of production, the Rapidoliner was line an Isograph without the work. The only problem was that you had to replace almost the entire pen when refilling – the only part that made it non-disposable was a plastic sleeve the slid over the refill, and the cap.

Technical pens need careful cleaning every now and then – scripto continua has written a bit about it, which may help: Technical Pens and Cleanliness is Next to Rapidographness.

Dipping Pens

Just a nib that you dip in a bottle of ink. Not much use in day-to-day life, but enables artists to use types of ink that can’t flow through a fountain pen.


  • Fountain Pens: A Place to Start: Fron Metropolitan at D*I*Y Planner. Nice article for anyone new to FPs.
  • A site dedicated to reviews of pens. Read the reviews, add comments, and even add your own reviews. You can earn points for reviews and comments, and the first user to reach 100 points wins a Montblanc ballpoint. One small point – they claim copyright of anything you submit, all rights reserved – not much of an issue for comments, but it would put me off writing any reviews.
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