I have a secret weakness for multipens. I love the idea of having several colors of ink, maybe a pencil, even a tiny eraser — in one pen barrel. Some of the Japanese multipens do all that, some allow for other types of refills.
The other reason I like multipens is that when I run out of ink, I can just replace the refill, not the whole pen. So, like my fountain pen habit, I like the reusability.
I have three Japanese multipens to discuss:
- Pilot Hi-Tec C Coleto 4 ($3.55 for 4-refill body, $1.80 for pen refill, $3 for pencil, $4.50 for eraser)
- Zebra Sarasa Select($4.20 for body, $1.95 for pen refills, $3 for pencil)
- Pentel i+ ($2.55 for body, $1.65 per pen refill, $3 for pencil)
The Pilot Hi-Tec C Coleto 4
The Pilot Hi-Tec C Coleto is a wide 4-refill plastic barrel. The end is translucent to see the moving components and check the ink levels of the refills.
The top of the pen barrel hinges open and the refills are slid down into the spring-loaded channels. The plastic knobs that stick out from each refill become the knock mechanism that is pushed down in the channel to reveal the tip at the other end. To retract, just pull down on any other refill and the exposed refill will spring back up. If you continue to push on it, the newly selected refill will click into place. I find it a bit easier to retract one refill before pushing down to reveal the next. (The other Japanese multipens work similarly once a refill is installed).
As is apparent from the name, the Coleto uses Hi-Tec C gel ink in its pen refills ranging in size from 0.3, 0.4 and 0.5. There are also metallic, pastel and fluorescent colors available. I tend to have less issues with ink drying out in the Coleto than I’ve had in the regular single-use Hi-Tec C pens so, of all the Hi-Tec C products, the Coleto multipen is one of my favorites.
The Zebra Sarasa Select
The Zebra Sarasa Select is available in 3-refill or 5-refill options. The Select is a slim design but the color options definitely skew a bit more … flamboyant? The plastic barrels are printed with shimmer metallic paint in bright reds, pinks or white (shown here) which gold metallic vine around the uppermost window through which to see the refill status. This pen also does not include a clip.
Not to throw gender into the mix but I’m going to assume that a clipless multipen in pinks, corals and pearl were probably designed to appeal more to women. I know not all women like these colors but most women I know don’t clip pens into their shirt pockets. As such, I recommend that the Select line continue but that Zebra introduce some other colors: plum, forest green, a deep teal?
If this design is not as understated as you would prefer, I recommend looking at the standard Zebra Sarasa multipen line. The same refill options are available but the color range is a bit more varied and models with clips are available.
The Sarasa Select opens at the grip section (like the Pentel i+ shown below) and the refills are slotted into holes in the top of the barrel. There is one knock that is bigger and translucent that is designated for a pencil refill should you choose to use one. This is the only slot to put a mechanical pencil refill since its the only knock that still sticks out after its depressed down so that its possible to advance pencil lead.
The Zebra Sarasa multipens use Zebra Sarasa gel ink and there are few gel pen fans I’ve met who do not find the Sarasa to be one of the nicest writing gel inks. With the Sarasa multipen, there are gel refills in sizes 0.3, 0.4 and 0.5, Surari ballpoint pen refills, pencil refills. There are also five metallic gel colors available. The addition of the ballpoint refill (should you need to fill out forms or need ink that stands up to lots of surfaces) makes the Sarasa multipen a great option for someone needing a gel pen, ballpoint pen and a pencil all in one barrel.
The Pentel i+ (Slicci compatible)
The Pentel i+ series, despite the vague name, is one of my favorite multipens. I love the Pentel Slicci refills but the single-use pens are very narrow and are becoming harder and harder to find. The bright, glossy plastic barrel (available in a variety of non-gender biased colors) allow most people to find a barrel color that appeals to them. I love the bright yellow-green myself (I know, big surprise.). The glossy white or black put all the focus on the clear grip area where ink levels and color selection can be viewed.
The i+ designs allows for pencil, gel pen and Vicuna ballpoint refills to be used. Gel pen refills are available in 0.3, 0.4 and 0.5mm. The Slicci gel refills are not available in any metallic inks at present.
The clip is streamlined and acts as one of the knock mechanisms. When adding a pencil component, its recommended to add it in the slot activated by the clip since, like the Sarasa Select, the other knock mechanisms slide flush with the body when depressed.
Aesthetically, the Pentel i+ is pleasantly understated. It offers an array of refill options though not as many as the PIlot Hi-Tec C. The refills for the Pentel i+ are slightly less expensive overall though making this multipen a great option for someone looking for variety on a budget.
While I have not attempted hacking one refill to fit into another multipen, the size and shapes of all three multipen refills are relatively similar. The plastic caps in the end of the Hi-Tec C Coleto refills can be popped out easily and the refills have been modified to fit other pens so it’s not out of the realm of possibility that, with some trimming, these refills might be somewhat interchangeable in some pen bodies. THIS HAS NOT BEEN TESTED. PROCEED WITH CAUTION.
The Lamy 2000 Multipen
Finally, the Lamy 2000 is both in a class by itself and comparable to the previously mentioned Japanese multipens. Pricewise, I could rebuy all three multipens and the necessary refills twice and probably just reach the price of the Lamy 2000 multipen, it’s also the most durable, solid-feeling pen in the lot. As it should be. It’s metal, not plastic. Fancy brushed metal finish to boot.
The seam in the grip area where the Lamy 2000 is unscrewed is virtually invisible creating a smooth, uninterrupted design. Why is that seam not where the silver meets the black metal? Good question. I have no answer. I suspect being further back on the barrel makes it easier to align the refills with the holes inside the pen and align with the color tabs ringed just under the clip.
Inserting the refills take a bit more force than with the plastic Japanese pens but once the refills are in place, the colors are selected by simply turning the pen so the color you’ve selected is facing upwards and pushing the knock down. It’s kind of magical.
While Lamy insists on its own proprietary refills, a standard D1 refill fits into the Lamy 2ooo easily. In fact, the first thing I did was swap out the stock refills with Zebra D1 gel refills. Because of the red, green, blue, black color marks and the limited variety of colors available in D1 gel ink (or any D1 style refill) the Lamy 2000 doesn’t have the option for lots of different color refills or swapping in a pencil component. So, what you get in design and durability you lose in options.
All the gel inks perform as anticipated. For an in-depth analysis on standard black gel ink, check out our previous post. The performance, legibility and usefulness of the wide variety of colored gel ink is largely a matter of preference. Lighter colors tend to work better in wider tip sizes than the extra, extra fine tips I tend to gravitate towards.
Above is a close-up of the eraser component in action in the Hi-Tec C Coleto model. It wouldn’t be useful for covering large areas but it’s great for erasing a letter or a bit of detail from a drawing.
Above is a close-up of the metallic gold (0.5mm) refill in the Zebra Sarasa Select. When placed properly in the slots, the point size will be visible in the clear grip area of the pen body.
So, what should you glean from this post?
If you haven’t tried a multipen yet, there is one out there for you. If you are looking for the largest selection of gel ink colors, I recommend the Hi-Tec C Coleto. If you want to be able to have a ballpoint refill as well as gel ink and maybe a pencil, then go with the Pentel i+ or Zebra Sarasa Select (or regular multipen). If cost is not an issue and you just want some standard colors, then the Lamy 2000 multipen is a solid choice.
Why should you trust me?
This is a photo of my box of pen refills. I have an equally large box of pencil refills. There’s a reason everyone messages me with refill questions.