Moleskine notebooks are excellent and easy to find, but they have notoriously lightweight paper. The company doesn’t say exactly what the weight is, but give most premium notebooks (Clairefontaine, etc.) are in the 90 grams per square meter (gsm) range, Moleskine feels to be about 70 gsm. This number might not feel too light, but it’s under a critical number at which many fountain pens and broad — often even medium — rollerballs will bleed through.
So, with that lightweight, possibly uncoated, paper in mind, what are the best pens for using in Moleskine Classic notebooks?
The Challenges of the Moleskine
Generally speaking Moleskines are not our favorite notebooks, but they are reliable and easy to find, plus they are often given out for free at corporate events so many of us have them. When pen should you use with a Moleskine?
We have some recommendations based on some very practical qualities for use with a Moleskine notebook. We are looking for pens with little bleed-through or show-through on thin Moleskine paper, quick drying, a thin writing tip, smooth writing, and no feathering on the paper. Added perks are pens with archival quality, acid-free ink, since many people close up their Moleskine journals and store them for years.
With those conditions noted, here are some of the best pens for a Moleskine Classic hardcover notebook (there are many Moleskines, but this is the one we get the most questions about).
Rules For Choosing A Moleskine Pen
Here’s what you should be looking for in a pen for your Moleskine:
- Not too wide: Moleskine’s lined paper has a very small rule (6 mm), so look for a 0.5 mm or under pen
- Not too much ink: The paper is relatively thin and its optimized for quick drying, not ink resistance so ink will flow through
- Not too pointy: The paper tends get raised where you wrote on the the opposite side, so sharper tips will cause issues
Uni-ball Signo DX UM-151
The Signo DX (UM-151) is a great starting point for a Moleskine because it’s affordable, it writes well, it’s sold in many colors, it’s writes well in 0.25 mm and especially well in 0.38 mm, and its ink is both archival quality and acid-free. These are excellent pens with limited show-through so you can make use of both sides of your Moleskine pages.
If you want a retractable pen with the same qualities, try the Signo RT1.
Any 0.38 mm or 0.5 mm Jetstream will be a great option as well. These are smooth writers that are called ballpoints by Uniball, but are generally accepted to be hybrid pens. Their use of of oil-based ink keeps the writing more on the paper than in it (like a gel or rollerball), but the lubricated ink means smoother writing than a traditional ballpoint.
One of our favorite Jetstreams is the Slim Compact 3-Color, but a Jetstream 3 or Jetstream Prime would as well.
Hi-Tec-C pens are solid picks for a Moleskine because they are fine-tipped needlepoint pens that let out limited quantities of ink. They are also archival quality. So as long as you don’t let ink pile up on the tip and pool at stopping points a Hi-Tec C or Coleto is a top pick. Try the 0.4 mm size, instead of the 0.5 mm or the scratchy 0.25 mm.
If you want a retractable pen in this class, try the Pilot Juice-up 0.3 mm.
The Blen is another hybrid writer, like the Jetstream, but we’ve found that it performs well on this paper, especially in the 0.5 mm black ink. This is a great pen to write with, it’s comfortable to hold for long stretches, and it has excellent ink.
Note: The Blen is one of our all-time best pens.
Pilot Acro 300
Simply put, the Acro 300 is Pilot’s competitor to the Jetstream. Both are excellent but some people will prefer one will some prefer the other. If you can’t find an Acro 300 or the metal-bodied Acro 1000, then you can pickup an Acroball.
Sharpie Pen and Fineliners
It’s hard to believe, but a thinner fineliner will work well on the Moleskine. These tend to bleed through, but if you get a thinner, drier fineliner this isn’t an issue. The Sharpie Pen is a great option, but you could also try a Staedtler Triplus Fineliner or any number of others.
What About Ballpoints?
You might have noticed that this list is short on traditional ballpoint pens (“traditional” because Uniball would say that the Jetstream is a ballpoint). That’s largely due to the fact that ballpoint pens tend to have larger tips so working with the 6 mm rule on the Moleskine paper is a major challenge.
In the video we did test the Bic Ultra Fine ballpoint, which didn’t do too poorly, but it runs into the other problem with the Moleskine: weak paper. This means that the ballpoint, which requires a lot of pressure to write, has raised letters on the other side of the paper. The raised lettering is quite annoying and makes writing on that other side a less pleasant experience and not something we’d want from a premium notebook.
Moleskine Pen Takeaways
Generally speaking, the best ways to deal with thin paper is by using limited ink and trying to keep the ink on top of the paper, not being absorbed into it. That can lead to smearing, which is a problem for lefties as well as if you are closing the notebook before pages are fully dried.
This means the takeaway here is that Moleskine users should be searching for ballpoint and hybrid pens, as well as thinner gel pens. Each of these has their strengths and weaknesses, so you’ll have to choose what’s best for your writing style.