Owning many pens means storing many pens, which comes with choices about how and where to put them. The best pen storage furniture comes in a wide range of design though it’s up to you to design if you prefer your pens to rest right side up, upside down, or on their side.
First of all, let’s make it clear that if a pen has no ink in it, it doesn’t really matter. A cleaned fountain pen can be stored in any direction without fear of damaging the pen or disrupting the ink. But what about a fountain pen with ink in it, or a gel pen that you might not use for a few weeks?
To be clear, in this article, “facing down” means “writing tip side down.”
If I had to pick one direction in which to store pens, it would be on their side. This gives you the best visibility into the pen body, ease of access, and it keeps the ink distributed in the feed, without any downwards pressure on the ink.
That said, you don’t have to pick one way to store writing instruments, you can pick based on the specific item!
For fountain pens, I prefer to keep them stored on their side when they have ink in them. This prevents leaks, but keeps them ready to write. If a pen is stored upside down you will have a hard time starting it when it’s time to write, which is quite annoying.
For markers, highlighters, and fineliners, I keep them facing down. These marker-type writing instruments never leak, but they have a felt end that can dry out if kept facing up or even on their side. Downwards will keep the writing tip ready to go and prevent a dry out, which will ruin the marker/pen even if there is ink left inside it.
Rollerballs are best kept on their side. You can keep them downward as well, but there will sometimes been a pooling of ink at the tip. Upside down storage will cause the pen to dry out. Downward storage is OK but can cause some ink to pool at the tip, which will mean there is a little extra ink in the tip when you start writing. Some rollerballs use watery fountain pen ink and are best kept on their side, like a fountain pen.
Gel pens are best stored upside down. You can store them upside down for a few days here or there, but keeping them upside down for extended periods of time can cause the ink to migrate downwards and an air bubble to form inside the ink. If a gel pen has a less then great follower (the clear stuff at the end of the refill) tip-side up storage for a long period of time can ruin the pen. Horizontal storage is acceptable for a gel pen, but not as good over the long time span (months).
Ballpoint pens are relatively indifferent to the direction in which you store them. This is specially true of pressurized ballpoint refill like those from Fisher Space Pen. We keep them stored on their side but facing down is fine as well.
Not that you asked, but I keep pencils and anything else pointy stored tip side down or on their side. Getting poked with a sharp pencil isn’t very enjoyable. Plus it’s quite hard to differentiate one pencil from another without seeing the ferrule and eraser.
The Best Way To Store Pens
So, in summary, the best way to store your pens is horizontally (on their side). You can basically never go wrong with this, but you can optimize your storage and get extra life out of some of your stored pens with the tips above.