Many times in life we find ourselves needing a writing implement to write with. Whether it’s for a brief note, some scribbles to jog your memory at a late date, a letter to a family member, a formal business letter, or perhaps even a letter of thanks or appreciation to someone who has done something special for you. Regardless of the instance, you will need something that caters to what you are doing.
While you can really use a standard pencil or rollerball pen for most instances, I find that is really does make a difference in appearance for your writing when you use a pen that has the characteristics of the work you’re trying to accomplish. Not only does it look more intricate, but the level of professionalism is heightened when you’re writing by hand with something that cannot be corrected after a mistake. A pen shows that you are studied and prepared for what you are doing- whereas a pencil may show more of an off-the-cuff nature.
First, we’ll look at the pencil. Versatile, inexpensive, and easy to find, pencils come in a large variety of shapes, sizes, hardness variants, and lead widths. Quite possibly the first real writing tool we’re ever introduced to in school (save perhaps the almighty crayon), it is a staple of writing. Since pens are also equipped with erasers, it makes it easy to remove erroneous figures or wayward markings on whatever we’re working on.
While some pencils are standard wooden pencils with a once-and-done effect, other pencils are made in refillable varieties such as the mechanical pencil. Mechanical pencils can be in a large variety of lead widths (0.3, 0.5, 0.7, 0.9, etc.) for various tasks. Some of the highest quality mechanical pencils are drafting pencils– which are used by various artists and many other professions when attention to detail is essential. In addition to being able to restock your lead you are often able to replace erasers on these pencils as well. However in more professional fields you’ll often have a dedicated eraser aside from the one on your pencil.
Ballpoint Pens are some of the most standard pens you can buy. Equipped with a reservoir of oil-based ink (called a magazine or cartridge) and a rotating ball at the point of the pen, it is able to create smooth markings as ink recoats the ball as it rolls along the paper you’re writing on. Ballpoint pens are efficient, typically inexpensive, and have been used for many years as a reliable pen source. One bonus to ballpoint pens is that the ink dries almost immediately, which helps it not to run or be smudged as you are writing. I find these pens work better for printing than they do for cursive, but to each their own.
Gel pens popular choice for students in school due to their variety of colors and styles (metallic looking ink, neon colors, etc.). These pens range in price, but are typically affordable and often come in themed packs- making them irresistible to many students. The gel pen is not only for younger users, however, and are also commonly available at purveyors of office materials such as Staples or Office Max in the standards of industry- Red, Blue, and Black.
The gel pen differs from a standard ballpoint pen by not using oil-based ink, but instead using a water-based gel in which which the pigments are suspended. Since the ink is thicker and more opaque, it is easier to read it on darker colored stationary or other paper mediums. Another benefit to gel pens is that they are archival-safe due to being acid free; which means your writing will last as long as the paper it is written on. The pens are smooth and do not blot/blob. If you’re looking for a more colorful expression for your writing, this is likely your best option.
For indeed the pen is mightier than the sword, the fountain pen offers an immaculate writing experience- one that is soaked into the history of penmanship and our minds alike from historical documentaries and professionalism alike. The fountain pen is made for the most astute writers and those who wish for seamlessly flowing cursive or calligraphy alike (though there are also specialty pens for calligraphy such as the brush pen).
The fountain pen features a nib and a reservoir that holds its ink. Perhaps the most important feature of the fountain pen is that its cartridge can be a refillable one. The cartridge has a screw-top or pull-top style plunger system that allows it to be filled with additional ink at a moments notice if it is running low or has run dry completely. Fountain pens allow for a massive number of ink colors and styles, not unlike the gel pen, but the fountain pen uses oil-based inks. These inks can be acid free, though not all are.
Inks for your Fountain Pen
The ink for a fountain pen is as unique as the individual quilling its ink. It can be various viscosities and it can also be made in just about any color imaginable. There’s lots of companies that make great quality inks such as Waterman, Noodlers, and LAMY to name a few. Some inkbottles are made for appearance, while others are made for their function. A neat feature of the Waterman ink series is that the bottle can be turned over to its side as you use ink to make sure that you can get the most out of your refillable cartridges.
Side by Side Comparison
For a basic idea of the differences in appearances between the various writing implements mentioned above, here’s a quick demonstration of each with the pen or pencil used for each written beside it.
Now that you’ve seen some different writing tools, get out there and try them for yourselves! Do you have a favorite pen maker that wasn’t covered in the article or do you have a suggestion for a pen you’d like us to try? Feel free to mention them in the comments below.