Ask The Desk: Entry Level Gel Pens


Jennifer asks:

I am completely ignorant in regards to gel pens. But my daughter (who is in 6th grade) is only asking for 3 things for Christmas and one of them is gel pens. Since she is not asking for much I wanted to get her some really great ones, but I quickly got overwhelmed. I think she is wanting them to take cool notes with at school alternating colors and to do basic fun doodle drawing etc… What would you recommend for me to buy?

I guess, at heart, I will always be a 6th grader because I love this question and it is probably one that many of my readers will also delight int thinking about as well. Wouldn’t we all love to open a big package of bright colored gel pens on Christmas morning?

First, I recommend choosing good quality gel pens and those are definitely Japanese brands. I’ve seen some huge sets in warehouse stores but they are not branded and look like they could be leaky nightmares. I would be disinclined to risk it despite the rock bottom prices and the revolving carousels.

Depending on the size of your daughter’s penmanship, I would probably recommend an 0.5mm size (which is kind of the middle of the range of tip sizes). The wider 0.7mm and wider tend to get a bit gloopy and will take longer to dry which can cause smudging. Anything smaller might be a bit too fine if she’s still mastering fine motor skills. If she has small, neat handwriting, though, she might like the 0.4mm or 0.38mm. I wouldn’t recommend going any smaller than that for the tip sizes though as they can feel a bit scratchy on the paper.

Sakura Ballsign 0.4 pen color sample

At the moment, my favorite gel pens are the Sakura Ballsign Knock Gel 0.4. They are  available in 0.5mm in a 10-color set  $27 and are water resistant so she could use highlighters and markers with them and they will not bleed. The Sakura Ballsigns are also available in neon colors, metallics, glitters and pastels which are not water resistant but are super-cool and are available in 0.6mm and 0.8mm (specifically the glitter) which are still  fine for writing. Despite their dopey name, I have ended up loving these pens.

A big favorite are the Pilot Hi-Tec C Maica sets. The 12-color set is $29.50. These are not water-resistant but they are capped pens and have jewels on the caps which might be a big hit with the pre-teen set. I have a set of these on my desk at work because they look nice in a pen cup. I told you I’m a 6th grader at heart.

Zebra Sarasa Clips are excellent gel pens. They write great, have big clips that hold well onto notebooks and binders but are kind of average looking. Luckily, they have a line of Chupa Chups scented pens out right now that might be just what a 6th grader might appreciate.

The Pilot Juice line is also excellent. Great writers, super comfortable to hold and great color range. Again, pretty average looking pens but they can be purchased in up to a 36-color set range for $59.40. That’s a pretty big gift for a kid but probably much better for their creativity than an X-Box.

And the Uni-Ball Signo DX line is also excellent. These are the plainest in terms of looks but have a wide color range and tip size. Oh, there are some Hello Kitty versions of some of the Uni-Ball Signo DX pens. Not all the colors are available with Hello Kitty though. Have you outgrown Hello Kitty by the 6th grade or is she ironically cool by then?

Is that enough options? I think any of these would give your daughter a great jump start into the wonderful world of gel pens.

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6 comments / Add your comment below

    1. For the intermediate gel user, I’d definitely recommend the Uniball Signo DX line for the range of tip sizes and colors. But I think all of these are great options for adults and teens. Though some adults might prefer the models without the lollipop scents or the jewel caps, but I won’t judge. 🙂

  1. Great review and excellent advise given.
    I use and like the Uni- Ball Signo DX line myself. BTW…stay young heart.☺

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