The 9 Best Journaling Pens of 2021

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The right pens can completely transform your journaling experience. Some pens are perfect for creating precise lines or writing in small spaces, while others are ideal for adding colorful details to your pages. If you like to add a bit of calligraphy to your journal pages, then brush pens are essential. And of course, you always need basic pens for your everyday journaling.

Here, you’ll find the best journaling pens for various styles, creating exciting page spreads, as well as adding decorative elements to each of your journal pages. The pens have a variety of nib sizes (the part of the pen that comes in contact with the paper) to allow you to create lines and embellishments of different thicknesses. No matter your journaling style or preference, you’ll find the best pens for your needs on this list.

Best Overall: Sakura Pigma Micron Ink Pen Set

Perfect for journaling, as well as writing and illustrating, the Sakura Micron pens are one of the most reliable and most popular drawing pens. And with good reason: the pens glide across the paper leaving smooth clean lines. These pens are rich in pigment, waterproof, fade-resistant, and do not leave smears on most types of paper. The ink stays on the top layer of the paper rather than absorbing through, which means no bleed-through. The Sakura Pigma Micron Blister Card Pen Set includes six nib sizes: 0.20, 0.25mm, 0.30mm, 0.35mm, 0.45mm, and 0.50mm. The pens are great for doing fine detailed line work where precision is important. All pens in the set have black ink.

Best Gel Pens: Papermate InkJoy Gel Retractable Pens

Create bold lines in bright, beautiful colors with the Papermate Inkjoy Gel Retractable Pens. Because the pens are retractable, you don’t have to worry about them drying out if left uncapped. The ink dries three times faster, which dramatically reduces smearing. The ergonomic comfort grip wraps around the entire pen barrel, making it easier to hold as you jot your notes, plan your schedule, or create your journal templates. The assortment of colors gives you the opportunity to add a variety of hues to your journaling pages. Pen tips can be used to create controlled and fine lines, making the gel pens great for small or large journaling projects.

Related: The Best Gel Pens

Best Colored Pens: Staedtler Triplus Fineliner Pens

If you’re looking for a set of colorful fine-liners to add to your collection of journaling pens, the 20-pack of Staedtler Triplus Fineliners are a perfect choice. The pack includes an array of colors, including yellow, orange, pinks, violet, brown, and gray. The 0.3mm tip size will allow you to write and draw fine lines with amazing precision. The inks have a great, vibrant color quality that almost pops off the page. There’s no skipping when you write and the ink dries quickly, without leaving any smears behind. You won’t have bleed-through on copy weight paper, though you may be able to see the colors from the other side of the pages on thinner types of paper. Staedtler Triplus Fineliners are ideal for writing, drawing, and sectioning pages.

Best for Everyday Use: Sharpie Fine Point Pens

Sharpie pens are the perfect mix of quality and affordability. Designed with a fine tip and soft grip, these pens will easily become your go-to for everyday journaling. Not to be confused with the markers created by the same company, your writing with Sharpie pens will be bold and smooth, but won’t bleed through to the other side of the page. The fine point allows you to create smooth sharp lines or write clearly and legibly in smaller spaces. Quick-drying ink prevents smearing and is water- and fade-resistant. All in all, these Sharpie pens are a quality writing instrument at a great price.

Best Fountain Pen: Pilot Metropolitan Collection Fountain Pen

Pilot Metropolitan Collection Fountain Pen, Black Barrel, Classic Design, Medium Nib, Black Ink (91107)
Courtesy of Amazon

If your journaling includes a lot of writing, a fountain pen is a must-have for your collection. Fountain pens provide an easier writing experience, like the Pilot Metropolitan Collection Fountain Pen. The pens are created with a durable brass barrel, premium matte finish, and have polished accents that add a bit of sophistication to your journaling experience. The pen comes with a cartridge, a converter, as well as a carrying case. If you go with a fountain pen, you’ll want to pair it with a journal that’s created with fountain-pen friendly paper to avoid bleed-through.

Related: The Best Fountain Ink Pens

Best for Bible Journaling: Pigma Micron Bible Study Kit

The Pigma Micron Bible Study Kit is a perfect set of pens for those who enjoy taking a fresh and creative approach to Bible journaling. The set includes a total of eight pens: Sakura’s 05 Pigma Microns and 01 Pigma Micron. The Micron 05 colors include blue, light green, orange, pink, violet, and yellow; and the Micron 01 note pen colors include black and red. The colors offer great contrast, allowing you to highlight the most meaningful passages in the Bible text. The pens are great for detailed lettering and offer minimal to no bleed-through, even on lightweight Bible pages.

Best for Sketching: Copic Marker Gasenfude Nylon Brush Pen

The Gasenfude Nylon Brush Pen has a narrow and flexible synthetic brush that you can use to sketch. The nib features a super fine point for creating thin lines and details. Or, if you press down on the brush, you can create the broad strong strokes that make up dramatic lettering. The brush pen is perfect for creating page and section headers and other dramatic effects in your journal. The rich, solid black ink is also perfect for creating shading effects and bold lines on your pages. The ink is bleed- and smear-resistant and can be used with other Copic markers to bring life and creativity to your journal entries.

Related: The Best Drawing Pens

Best for Brush Lettering: Tombow Dual Brush Pen Set

Brush pens are great for brush letters, faux calligraphy, illustrations, watercolor illustrations, and journaling. The Tombow Dual Brush Pen Set in Grayscale includes 10 pens in varying shades of gray for a monotone look. The brushes are made from smooth and resilient fibers, can take on pressure, and maintain their original shape even after use. The ink is water-based and blendable. No worries if you like to mix colors–the tips are self-cleaning, so the markers won’t be permanently stained when you mix colors. You can clean the tips by simply brushing them across a piece of scrap paper. The pens can be used on regular paper with normal writing, but drawing or painting on cardstock is ideal to avoid bleed-through.

Related: The Best Calligraphy Pens

Runner-Up, Best Colored Pens: Stabilo Point 88 Fineliner Pens

Another excellent colored fine-liner option, this Stabilo Point 88 pen set comes in 30 various colors at a low price. A staple since 1977, these iconic pens are known for its hexagonal body to ensure a comfortable, yet sturdy grip. The pen tip's 0.4mm line width means precise lettering, drawing, or coloring, also allowing you to underline text, make detailed illustrations, and use with rulers and stencils. With color options suited for a range of styles, these Stabilo pens will add fun creativity to any journaling activity.

Final Verdict

Choosing a set of pens with an array of nib sizes is a great way to experiment with your journaling. The affordable Sakura Micron Pen Set (view on Amazon) is a durable and bleed-free choice that will last for years. If you'd like to brighten up your pages with pops of color and illustrations, add on a set of colored pens, too. You can’t go wrong with the Papermate Inkjoy Gel Pens (view on Amazon) thanks to their comfortable grip and lovely hues.

What to Look for in Journaling Pens

Smooth Lines

There’s nothing worse than ending up with smears of ink across the page while writing. When you journal, you’ll want to look for pens that are smooth and controlled, don’t bleed, and allow you to clearly sketch even the smallest details.


Pen Type

Rollerball pens, colored gel pens, fountain pens, brush pens, and markers—these can all be used when journaling, but it really is a matter of preference. Most people who love to journal use a variety of pens and switch between them depending on if they’re extensively writing, doodling, or want to use lots of colors for illustrations. 

Nib Size

Ranging from 0.2mm to 1mm, the nib size of your pen is another matter of preference. Generally, if you write small or want to sketch something detailed, you’ll want to go for a finer tip. (To give you an idea, the most common ballpoint pens are usually 1mm.) Whereas for coloring or if you’re illustrating large headers, a higher point size will serve you well. 


Grip

A journaling pen needs to be comfortable in your hand, so think about the thickness that feels best for you. Some pens also have ergonomic or comfort grips, which can help prevent hand soreness from long writing sessions.

Meet the Expert

This roundup was updated by Dawn Papandrea, a personal finance reporter who covers small business topics and loves shopping for “old-school” writing supplies. She is a full-time freelancer with two decades of writing experience.