If you have ever written on a receipt you’ll know that it’s a particularly annoying surface. Receipts have a combination in slippery paper and a small surface area that is quite a challenge. In fact many pen types will completely unacceptable with receipt paper. So what pen should you get for filling out your tip, total, and signature?
What’s Special About Receipt Paper?
Receipt paper is the main challenge here. Also known as thermal printer paper — because receipts are usually created with thermal printers — receipts are slippery, use very thin paper, and tear easily.
Thermal paper responds to changes in temperature instead of having ink printed directly on it, so the paper is designed for the absorption of ink. The paper is very thin because it’s shipped on very small rolls and then it’s has a heavy coating of a dye, sensitizers, and other chemicals that enable the printed matter to appear.
To add to the no-so-great situation, some thermal papers use bisphenol A (BPA) and/or bisphenol S (BPS) which are known to be endocrine disruptors in humans. So while ink-less printing is a great advance the paper is generally problematic.
Receipt papers, sales slips, and other similar papers are so bad with pens because of these coatings, some of which act to protect the paper from grease/oils as well as make the paper slide past the print head more easily. The downside of this is that pen ink can also slide right off or your pen, which you know to be working, will just not write on the smooth surface.
Best Pens For Receipts
Generally speaking, you’re going to want a ballpoint pen. It’s not that a fountain pen can’t write on a receipt, but the chance of smearing and other problems is increased dramatically with a wet, water-based ink. It’s better to go with something that is wet and writes dry.
Fisher Space Pen
If you want the combination of a great pen with a traditional ballpoint ink, the Space Pen is a great bet. Lots of pens use the standard Fisher Space Pen PR4 refill, so you can get a standard Fisher AG7, the more affordable Fisher CH4, or something else that simply used the refill.
Pilot Acro Ink
Pilot Acro ink does really well on receipts. This hybrid ink is a like a modern ballpoint and, for whatever reason, it seems to cope really well with slippery, coated paper. Acro ink is often compared to Uniball’s Jetstream ink, which makes a lot of sense, but the Acro tends to work out a bit better on receipts and is better writer at 0.5 mm.
One of the nice things about the Acro ink is that it’s available in a range of pens. Unsharpen.com’s favorite is the Acro 300, but you could go high-end with the Acro 1000 or go with something more common in the Acroball. Acro ink is available in multi-pens as well, like the Acro 4.
Caran d’Ache 825
The Caran d’Ache 825 is a disposable version of the company’s famous 849 ballpoint pen. It actually uses a cheaper refill than the 849, so it’s not technically the same pen in a different body, but it’s close enough. This is essentially an old school ballpoint in a slightly cooler-than-usual body, but it seems to work well on receipts.
Mitsubishi Pen Co. Limex
The Limex, and the Boxy, are get pens for writing on receipts. They are cheap, light, and have a ballpoint ink that seems to just always be read for some awful receipt paper.
The Ballsign is a weird little pen that not many people have heard of, but its gel ink does quite well on receipt paper. Like the other pens we prefer for receipt writing, it’s small, cheap, and light, but this one has a bit of extra flair thanks for a cool design with a fat front section and a shortened clip.
And more coming soon! We’re continuously testing so send in your suggestions and we’ll try them out.