Comparison of Gold Pens

Reported by Sara McKenzie

I am a huge fan of adding just a bit of gold to many of my projects, and for a long time have used one particular brand of gold pen to do just that. But I recently purchased a second brand of pen, and thought it would be worthwhile to do a comparison of them.

So I played around a bit with three different pens, and report on them here:

Krylon Gold Leaf Pen (top) and Prismacolor Gold Metallic Pen (bottom).

Zig “Painty” Gold Metallic Pen

The Krylon Gold Leaf Pen comes in a single size with a large, flat nib. The Prismacolor Metallic Pen comes in two sizes: one with a broad, rounded nib, and one with a fine point. I only had the broad tip to test. The Zip Painty Pen has a fine tip, with gold on one end and silver on the other.

Prismacolor nib on left: Krlyon nib on right.

Zig Painty Pen Gold nib.
All of these pens have a solvent or alcohol-based ink, so they are waterproof, and they work equally well on porous surfaces (paper, cardstock) and nonporous surfaces (plastic, glass). The pens also all work in the same way: you depress the nib a few times to get the ink flowing. You may have to depress it a few times during your project, depending on how much coverage you are trying to get.

Above: Krylon nib completely depressed against cardstock to start the flow of ink.

Below is a comparison of the width of each of the pen strokes:

You can use the Krylon pen in two ways, to get a slightly broader or narrower pen stroke, but I don’t find it to be particularly different. I suspect it is because the ink tends to flow a bit when you are laying it down. The nib on the Prismacolor pen yields a line about as wide as the “narrow” use of the Krylon nib.

Above, on the right, I have shown Zig “old” and “new.” The old pen is about a year old and has been used; the new pen was brand new, and the ink had not yet been brought to the tip. What you may (or may not!) be able to see is that the “old” pen did not leave a very clean line. I would not be happy trying to use an older pen to draw a fine line. And I could not get it to work any better with repeated depression to bring new ink to the tip. But the new pen is perfect for journaling or other decorative writing.

One of my favorite applications of the gold pen is to edge a piece of cardstock for a card. This provides, in my opinion, just the right amount of “bling” without having to add another layer of gold cardstock to your design. The Zig pen does not lend itself to this, and I have always used the Krylon Gold Leaf pen for this application. I tried the Prismacolor pen to see how it compared:

Hopefully you can see that the Krylon pen resulted in a straight, smooth line, whereas the Prismacolor pen, while pretty good, did not provide a straight edge. The shape of the Krylon nib lends itself best to this application.

With repeated use, though, you will see some damage ultimately done to the Krylon nib. See below for what I mean. I think that the edge of the paper (or cardstock) ends up cutting the end of the nib. It is still usable for the edging application, but it does become increasing harder to get an even edge. I always have a new pen on hand to use for only edging, and then switch it over to other applications when the nib gets too chewed up.

The nib of my well-used Krylon Gold Leaf Pen after repeated use for edging cardstock.

Below is an example of how just a bit of gold edging can dress up a card just the right amount.

Above: A Krylon Gold Leaf Pen was used to edge the white cardstock.

And below is a comparison of the Krylon Gold Leaf Pen (bottom) and the Prismacolor Gold Metallic pen (top) in covering the edge of some Clearsnap Style Stones. There is a slight difference in color, but the quality of coverage and overall metallic effect are pretty equal.

Above: Clearsnap Style Stones colored with Krylon (bottom) and Prismacolor (top).

Below is an application of the Zig Painty pen – this piece is of polymer clay, with a stamp impressed in it, colored with acrylic paint. I wanted to add just a few dots of gold- and the fine Zig tip was perfect for that.

Above: Polymer clay design with a few gold highlights added by the fine-tipped Zig Pen.
Finally, the other application that I love my Krylon pen for is to incorporate it into the “Polished Stone” technique. This is when you apply alcohol inks on a felt applicator to glossy cardstock, and pounce it around to get a beautiful mixing and mottling of the colors. You can leave little “puddles” of gold ink on the cardstock when you start (by depressing the tip and holding it down for a few seconds). Then pounce as usual, and the gold gets moved around the page with the other colors.

Above: “Polished Stone” technique, incorporating ink from my Krylon Gold Leaf Pen.

The Krylon Pens come in 18 Kt Gold, Pale Gold, Silver and Copper. I have only seen the Prismacolor pens in Silver and Gold. And I have seen only the silver and gold combination in the Zig pen.


  • The brands all worked well when new and lay down a lovely metallic gold ink.
  • The Krylon is still my favorite for edging as well as laying down larger areas of color.
  • I have had a couple of my Krylon pens for years (literally!), so they last a long time. I suspect the Prismacolor pen will as well, but I don’t have the same amount of time invested in them.
  • I was disappointed that the tip of my older Zig pen tended to skip and leave an uneven line. I would buy the fine line Prismacolor pen before I invested in another Zig painty pen.

What about you? Is there a gold pen that you love and I haven’t mentioned? Because I’m always up for exploring something new!!

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15 Responses to Comparison of Gold Pens

  1. Avatar
    Louise (KardKrazy) August 21, 2009 at 7:45 am #

    Honestly, I LOVE the Krylon pen, but have been disappointed in its peformance. I have had about 10 of these in the last four years and I would say only one worked consistently. The others quit working after a short time or the nib got terribly messed up, much to my disappointment. At what you pay for them, this is not a good thing.

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    Kellie Fortin August 21, 2009 at 8:19 am #

    Sara – did you know that you can buy replacement nibs for your Krylon Pen??

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    Rachel August 21, 2009 at 8:42 am #

    In my purse right now I have the Faber-Castell PITT gold artist pen (1.5mm) I haven’t used it much yet…

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    Peggy Houston, TX August 21, 2009 at 8:56 am #

    I love my Krylon and also the copper and silver colors. Can you test out white pens next… Other than the Uniball signo, that’s the only one I found that works and I’ve probbly bought 10 different types. Thanks for this.

  5. Avatar
    Mary August 21, 2009 at 11:39 am #

    Thank you for doing this review Sara. It was very helpful.
    I have only used the Krylon pen, I have been happy with it, but the tips do seem to get messed up. I didn’t realize that you could buy replacement nibs for it(as Kellie mentioned. Thanks Kellie!)
    And the edging technique was a good reminder. I had done this in the past and then stopped for some reason,totally forgot about that as an embellishment!

    Thanks Again,

  6. Avatar
    Sonja August 21, 2009 at 12:29 pm #

    Thank you for this review, I’m just thinking about buying Krylon as I have heard it’s OK.

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    huntla1 August 21, 2009 at 1:27 pm #

    I really like the Krylon pens. I have all of them including a red shimmer that you didn’t mention. I’m not sure if that was something just available at Christmas? I too was going to mention that I have seen the replacement nibs. But honestly my nibs are still in good shape after a very long time. Thanks for the review.

  8. Avatar
    Rosa August 21, 2009 at 11:43 pm #

    I love the Krylon pen that I have. I use it *very* rarely, though. (I’m not big on metallic accents I guess.) In fact, I was surprised when I recently pulled it out of storage after four years of non-use and it still worked perfectly!

  9. Avatar
    *reyanna klein* August 22, 2009 at 1:18 am #

    This was a great review! I’ve never thought about gold pens, but now I really want that Krylon! 😀

  10. Avatar
    Scrappy Rat August 22, 2009 at 1:38 am #

    I love the Krylon and now I’m dying to find that red one Huntla1 mentioned above! I also have the Zig Writer, which I really only use for coloring in details occasionally, and I recently received as part of a kit, a Faber-Castell Pitt Artists’ Pen that’s pretty nice too, if you want something thinner that still has the consistency of the Krylon.

    In response to the person above who mentioned white pens, while I love the Uniball, the Sakura white pens tend to work in a pinch. They take a bit longer to become opaque, but they will work if needed.

  11. Avatar
    Rebecca Ednie August 22, 2009 at 2:20 am #

    I have a pilot gold pen with the same chisel nib as the krylon one. I use it for edging and coating metal bellies to make them gold. Here’s a tip I picked up that guarantees a perfect edge everytime. Use a very stiff piece of cardstock/thin chipboard to create a notch in your nib. When edging, hold the paper in your hand, put your paper in the notch and pull the paint pen across the paper. It uses less inK than placing scraps under your work and tge edge is always even. I found that after using it many times, the notch gets deeper. This results in a wider line. You can just notch the nib in another place, shallower and continue using the same pen. Or you could cut a deep notch and a shallow one in the same nib and pick which to use.

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    billiejo August 22, 2009 at 8:51 am #

    Great Review Sara! I use the same approach as Rebecca except I actually cut a slit using my craft knife. The width of my edging depends entirely upon the angle of the pen. Do not go up and down, that’s what wears out my nibs. If you miss a spot, start at the top (or bottom) and pull the entire edge again. BTW… the direction of the slit: cut a slash across the sloped side of the nib, from side to side, about half way down from the tip. Your blade should be parallel to the pen (ie: the cut is towards the pen, not at an angle that could cut the nib off. As Rebecca suggested, guide your paper into the slit and pull the pen down (or up) to the end.

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    Katherine August 22, 2009 at 9:20 am #

    I have the Krylon pens and liked them until I used the silver on the edge of glossy card stock. The next day when I pick it up the silver edge rubbed right off. Used some silver Smooch which stayed on but I couldn’t get the line as smooth.

  14. Avatar
    Rosie August 23, 2009 at 4:20 am #

    Like you, I often use my pen for edging – especially useful for larger jigsaw pieces, etc. Mine is a Signo Gold Pen – almost identical to the Krylon, but it has to be shaken to keep the ink flowing. On the plus side, the tip has never gotten to the state of yours and mine is still going strong after 2 years+… It’s available with a fine nib at most stationery stores here in the UK, you just have to look harder for the thicker tipped one!! =)
    On the downside, I had a fine silver pen which spattered paint all over me! Liking the Zig pen for finer details!

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    AimeeInOhio August 26, 2009 at 9:35 pm #

    I love my Krylons!!!