The 10 Best Gel Pens of 2021
For art projects and beyond
We are committed to researching, testing, and recommending the best products. We may receive commissions from purchases made after visiting links within our content. Learn more about our review process.
Compared to other types of pens, gel pens have the advantage of its opaque-looking ink that pops off the page. Still, not all gel pens are created alike. Whether you use one for daily note-taking, art or journaling, here are the best gel pens for all of your needs.
Best Overall: Muji Gel Ink Pen
Whether you’re taking notes in business meetings or simply drawing, Muji's Gel Ink Ball Point Pen is a functional, well-designed pen. The clear plastic barrel allows you to instantly monitor ink levels, so there’s minimal risk of the pen drying out. Better yet, they come in a pack of 10.
The 0.5 mm tip size is universally comfortable for most people to write with. Keep in mind that these gel pens are only available with black ink. So, while it gets the job done for most business-related tasks, they're not ideal for serious art projects.
Best Variety: Tadkin Gel Pens
The Tadkin Gel Pens set comes in a variety of shades and styles including neon, pastel, glitter, and metallic pens. Smartly packaged in an ergonomic carrying case, this pack of 100 uniquely-colored pens is perfect for sharing among you and your co-workers. Plus, they're made with acid-free ink that’s non-toxic. The pens' quick-drying ink and fine-tip also make them excellent for art projects.
Related: The Best Pens
Best for Coloring: Fiskars Multicolor Set
The Fiskars Multicolor Gel Pen Set is the best choice for coloring or drawing. With 48 different colors included, there are enough shades for illustrating nuanced shadows to bright landscapes and fashion figures.
In addition to the vast color choices, this set boasts multiple types of gel ink including 12 glitter-, 10 metallic-, nine pastel-, six neon-, six swirl-, and two black-ink pens, as well as single pens with green, blue, and red ink. Acid-free, this ink is formulated to flow easily on the page and will work on both light or dark paper. The pen's tip size also varies from 0.8 to 1.0 mm, making it easy to color in large and small spaces alike.
Best for Art: Chromatek Glitter Pens
For aspiring or professional artists, the Chromatek Glitter Pens will help you get creative. The clear barrel lets you easily monitor ink levels. Still, with 30 gel pens in 30 different colors, the included refill gives you twice as much ink as comparable sets. Some of the colors are also very similar, which makes them beneficial for shading and blending.
With airtight caps, rest assured that the archival quality, non-toxic ink is unlikely to dry out prematurely. This also means you won’t need to shake the pen or press the point to get the ink flowing. Even more, the built-in grip makes the gel pen comfortable to hold.
Related: The Best Drawing Pens
Best for Bullet Journaling: BIC Gel-Ocity
Bullet journaling is a popular method of staying organized, and the BIC Gel-Ocity pen has several advantages for this purpose. Designed to write smoothly and quickly, the pen's gel ink shouldn’t clump with regular use. It also doesn’t take a heavy hand to write with, so minimal pressure is needed.
The medium point 0.7 mm tip is suitable for creating dots, dashes, circles, and other symbols. With fast-drying ink, the page, as well as your hands, should stay clean and neat. A great value, these gel pens are available in a variety of quantities including packs of two, three, four, 12, and 48. The retractable design and clip also make it easy to attach to your bullet journal.
Related: The Best Journaling Pens
Best White Ink: Sakura Gelly Roll
White-ink pens are ideal for use on black and other dark paper colors, as well as to outline other colors—making them pop out of the page more. While white ink isn't practical for everyday use, it adds a creative touch to scrapbooks, journals, and other art projects. This pack of Sakura Gelly Roll pens comes with three white-ink pens of different tip sizes (0.5, 0.8, and 1.0 mm) for fine-, medium-, and bold-tip styles.
Best Retractable: PILOT G2 Premium
Compared to a traditional pen with a cap, retractable pens are far more convenient and less likely to leak or stain your belongings. The clip also makes it easy to attach to a spiral notebook or leave inside a planner.
The Pilot G2 Premium is one of the few retractable gel pens that’s not only refillable but also comes in a range of colors including black, red, pink, green, and turquoise. Singles and combination packs of various quantities of up to 48 pens are available. While the 0.7 mm tip is on the smaller side, it’s versatile enough for writing, drawing, and other creative projects.
Best for Ergonomics: Paper Mate InkJoy
If you have carpel tunnel, arthritis, or your hand simply gets tired after a long writing session, opt for the Paper Mate InkJoy gel pens. Each pen is fully wrapped with an ergonomically-designed comfort grip that keeps your hand pain-free.
Sold as a pack of 14 pens, the fast-drying ink is formulated to look sharp on the page with colors that include Slate Blue Spin, Charming Purple, and Teal Zeal along with standard, everyday hues like Jet Black. Each gel pen has a 0.7 mm medium tip.
Related: The Best Pens for Lefties
Best for Security: Uni-ball 207
A pen with high-quality ink is essential for signing a check, contract, or legal document. For these situations, it's best to consider a gel pen with archival quality ink, like the Uni-ball 207.
Perfect for work, the pen's ink won’t get ruined from water damage, fading, or even fraud. The comfort grip over the metallic barrel makes signing pages or taking long-form notes as pain-free as possible. Even more, the 0.7 mm tip is useful for simple edits to drawing out complex charts. Sold in packs of up to 36 gel pens, they're also available in black, blue, and red ink colors.
Best Fast Drying: Pentel EnerGel RTX
The Pentel EnerGel RTX is a great, quick-drying ink pen—meaning you won't get smears or smudges on pages or on your hands. Plus, the gel pen is even retractable. There are several ink colors available in this set including black, blue, violet, red, pink, and orange. In other words, anyone with a color-coded to-do list system will appreciate using the Pentel EnerGel RTX. The pens have a 0.7 mm medium tip.
The Muji Gel Ink Pen (view on Amazon) is a solid, gel ballpoint pen for everyday use. It writes smoothly and dries fairly quickly (no bleed-through), reducing the risk of any smudges. The pens also come with a 0.5 mm tip, which is a common size for pens and is relatively easy on the hands. The see-through body is also great for monitoring ink levels so you'll know when to replace the ink.
What's the difference between gel pens and other pens?
Gel pens are made using a water-based gel ink with powder pigments or dye, which give them their color. They usually have a thicker consistency than other inks and come in a wider range of colors, from pastel to metallic to fluorescent colors. These pens are especially useful for note-taking, as gel ink flows more smoothly (without much pressure) than other types of ink, thus reducing hand cramps.
Keep in mind that gel pens are more prone to skip and take longer to dry, so they can smudge if you’re not careful. Still, there are quick-drying and fine tip options that don’t smudge as easily.
How do you get gel pens to work?
Sometimes, you'll need to give your gel pen a good shake and scratch it against paper to get the ink flowing. There may be instances where ink gets clogged or air bubbles occur, which will stop the pen from working. When this happens, gently tap the pen against your palm or a hard surface until the bubbles go away. Another trick is to remove the ink cartridge and add a few drops of water to the ink; you can also try soaking your pen in warm water for a couple of minutes.
How do you store gel pens?
It's best to lay them out horizontally—if stored vertically, the ink will pool around the middle or at the bottom of the pen. Also, they must be capped when not in use or else they will dry out.
Meet the Expert
This roundup was written by Amanda Lauren, a lifestyle writer who covers fashion and office accessories for The Balance and The Balance Small Business.