The Zebra Blen was our favorite pen released in 2018. It’s an emulsion ink pen with a sophisticated, thoughtful design. It’s sold in 0.5 mm and 0.7 mm sizes.
The Zebra Blen is notable for a number of reasons, but they are all a result of the pen having been designed by Nendo, a high-end Japanese design studio based in Tokyo. The team there integrated a number of clever features into the pen. For instance:
- Cool looks with an integrated clip/button
- A brass weight hidden by the tip lowers the center of gravity, aiding comfort and accuracy, and dampening vibration
- Ergonomic shape
- Rubberized grip for comfort
The pen uses Zebra’s quick-drying ink. It comes with the NC-0.5 and NC-0.7 emulsion ballpoint refills, but is compatible with the Zebra EQ-1.0 as well, if you want a bolder, 1.0 mm line.
The Blen was initially released in December 2018 with white, black, and light grey body colors. By the summer of 2019 this pen was a verified hit and had sold over 1 million units.
In August 2019 the Zebra Blen Limited Edition was released. These pens are the same, except for different body colors. The limited edition colors are: blue green, pink, violet, navy, and scarlet. All have black ink and 0.5 mm refills.
The Blen has a number of great subtle design elements, like an limited logos, no exterior stickers, a flat top button for comfortable clicks, and the tip size printed on the top of the pen, so it can be grabbed from a pen cup or holder easily (as is normally done on technical pens and pencils).
In 2021 and 2022 the Blen has been released in more colors, including in the 0.7 mm tip size.
The Blen was followed up with a 3-color multi-pen version as well as a 2+1 (2 ink colors and a mechanical pencil), which means the Blen is now a family of writing instruments, not a one-off experiment from Zebra
Zebra Blen Review
Nendo, the designer of this pen, has extensive thoughts about the Blen and its design. These are interesting from an academic standpoint but disconnected from the actually usage of the pen. Their focus is on aiding the user in drawing straight lines and maximizing control of the pen. This is done though a few design measures, most importantly the brass weight put by the tip of the pen. This reduces shake and bounce, smoothing the flow of the pen thanks to the extra weight.
They also made sure to give the pen a “chunky” shape, that is easy for everyone to hold. This takes the from of a large diameter rubberized, round grip at the bottom and an elliptical shape at the top.
Lastly Nendo focused on the internals in order order reduce shake and vibration. This was done with the addition of an extra spring inside the body, minimizing extra parts inside the pen, and finally by adding a “fixing element” around the refill. This piece keeps the refill stable and prevents tip shake and rattle.
The Blen is very comfortable, very quiet, and it’s enjoyable to use. The pen is long-lasting thanks to it’s ballpoint style ink and getting through a refill can take months.
While the standard refill is quite good, it’s also possible to swap in a Zebra EQ refill, which is super smooth and available in more sizes than then Blen refill. The EQ is also available in a 1.0 mm refill, which is a major perk if people prefer even bolder, smoother writing.
The Blen has held up well and 3+ years later it’s still one of the best pens sold. Unfortunately the quality isn’t matched in the 3-color and 2+1 pens, but that doesn’t hurt the quality of the original.
Zebra Blen Information
|Street Price||Check Price|
|Barrel Color||Grey, White, Black|
|Body Diameter (mm)||12.0|
|Grip Color||Grey, White, Black|
|Grip Diameter (mm)||10.9|
|Country of Origin||Japan|
|Length Capped / Retracted (cm)||14.3|