If you are looking for the too-long-didn’t-read version of Unsharpen.com then you’ve found it. This is a brief list of the best of the best — the top pens from the major categories. We do the work so you can cut through the details and get the best supplies. And then if you want to dive deep into the specifications, dimensions, history, and other details… we have that too.
Any time you are saying “best” you have to decide whether you mean the best pen or the best ink, since so often you can just get your favorite ink and put it in any pen. For this list we’ll be talking about the best pen, unless otherwise mentioned!
Please note that the pens in each list are in no particular order. Pens are either in the Top List or they aren’t! Also, pens are broken down by ink type. You can learn more about that in our ink type guide.
Best Ballpoint Pens
Unsharpen.com defines a ballpoint as a pen with oil-based ink with a classic feel to it. Many pen manufacturers, particularly those based in Japan, will include hybrid ink pens in their “ballpoint” category, but this site differentiates between the two.
These pens above are our favorite ballpoints — you’ll notice a number of them are in fact classics, pens that have been for sale for decades but that have stood the test of time. Ballpoints pens like these are super long-lasting and versatile, but they lack the smoothness of a rollerball, fountain, or even gel pen. The main strengths of these pens in 2020 are their versatility — a good ballpoint can write on masking type, glossy magazine covers, and all sorts of other materials that other pens just can’t handle.
Best Hybrid Pens
Hybrid ink is ink whose composition combines that of ballpoints (oil-based) and gel (water-based). This is a huge category of pens with intense competition because it’s an area of active development by modern pen companies.
The two main lines in this category are Pilot’s Acro and Uni’s (aka Uni-ball or Mitsubishi Pencil) Jetstream. The Jetstream line is super robust with multi-pens, executive pens, limited editions, and much more. Pilot’s Acro ink has many of the same qualities as the Jetstream but has a much more limited set of pen bodies available.
The Acro 300 and standard Jetstream are our top pens, but if you prefer other options there are many. For example the Acro 1000 and Jetstream Prime Single (Twist or Click) are fantastic options that use the same ink as the more affordable versions.
Best Gel Pens
- Uni Jetstream Slim Multi-pen
- Pilot Hi-Tec-C Coleto
Best Parker-style G2 Pens
These are pens that use the Parker-style G2 refill, which is an ISO standard pen refill that almost every manufacturer uses in some of its pens.
This is a huge category of pens, so picking any number is a challenge.
Best Entry-level Fountain Pens
Best Entry-level Gold Nib Fountain Pens
Best Erasable Pen
Best Lamy Pens
Best Wood Pens and Pencils
Wood is not as popular a material for making writing instruments as it once was, but there are still some excellent products available. Interestingly, they are generally more expensive than metal pens, presumably because manufacturing with natural materials presents many more problems then with something predictable, like brass or plastic.