Reported by Cassandra Darwin
I love pens. Always have. Probably always will. And after buying hundreds of different kinds I know that some are (much) better than others. Here is a quick comparison of just a few that I happened to have handy – I tried to narrow the selection down to dark colors with pigment ink. First I’ll do a quick review of each pen, then describe a water test I conducted, and finish with summary of all the important facts.
Starting from the top of the picture:
- Acid-free and archival pigment ink
- Available in 10 colors
- 0.5 mm fine tip for writing and drawing
- Easy to hold, smooth writing, and color coded on both ends of the pen. Have not had any problems with bleeding on different paper media.
- Pigment ink that is waterproof and compatible with Copic markers
- 4 nib sizes for colors and 7 nib sizes plus two brush sizes in black (0.05 black was tested)
- Available in 6 colors
- This is like the Rolls Royce of pigment pens. Compatible with every medium, writes smoothly and easily. I plan to get more sizes and may look into buying the more expensive refillable version.
- Pigment ink is acid free, archival, waterproof, and fade proof
- 6 nib sizes (black 0.45 and 0.5 mm sizes were tested – although my chart below has the wrong sizes listed)
- 15 colors available
- This has been go-to pen for a long time. I have even been using some of the same pens intermittently for 10+ years without any sign of drying out. My biggest complaint is that the nib sizing numbers don’t correspond with the nib size – size 08 is actually a 0.5 mm nib.
- Archival ink that is waterproof and fade resistant (not pigment ink)
- The Classic Gelly Roll (solid cap) comes in two nib sizes and 11 colors
- The five other varieties of Gelly Roll (clear and glitter caps) are avilable in 40+ colors with a variety of metallic and pearl finishes
- $1.39 – $1.69
- These are certainly the most affordable option in my comparison, and maybe even the easiest to find in stores. But the roller ball gel ink does require steady pressure to get an even writing line. And the Metallic Gelly Roll did not survive my water brush test (below).
Pigment Pro from American Crafts
- Acid-free archival pigment ink
- This pen has been discontinued, but I wanted to include it because this was my first time using it. I’m not sure if it had been sitting at the store for too long, or what the story was. But I pulled it out to use it for the first time and it was all dried up!
Click the image below to enlarge see writing examples for each of the pens.
I figured it would be a good idea to test with a wet paintbrush to see which pens can be used with watercolors and markers. Below is a writing sample for each pen on watercolor paper.
Then I used the water pen to get each line of writing thoroughly wet. All of the pigment pens passed with flying colors. But of the Gelly Roll pens, only the Classic version resisted the water – the other metallic varieties had a little to a lot of smearing from the paintbrush.