A beginner’s guide to pens


I have always loved pens. It’s something I probably inherited from my mom; she can’t pass up a free pen, no matter what is on it. When I was little, the desks in our home office were home to plastic cups (again, these were free and had random sayings on them) full of markers, pens and pencils from banks, churches, stores and every other location you could possibly think of. 

My personal passion for not just regular pens but good pens began when my eighth grade art teacher introduced me to calligraphy and sparked my interest in hand-lettering. Over the past four years, my pen collecting has gone from minimal to worrisome. Because of the large sum of money I have spent on pens, I do happen to know a thing or two about which pens are the best bang for your buck. Below is a guide to my favorite pens, split into categories by purpose and for your convenience.


MUJI Gel Ink Ballpoint (0.38 mm) – $1.49 

Though I only first found this pen last June, it is both the cheapest option and the best fine tipped pen I have ever used. It glides over paper. Though there are 0.5 and 0.7 mm options, the 0.38 mm makes perfectly thin and clean lines. The weight of this pen is also pretty light, so it doesn’t weigh down your hand.

Pigma Micron 005 (0.2 mm) – $3.79

For artists, the micron pen is a holy grail. For writing, it does the job just like any other pen, but isn’t my first choice, as it is heavier and looks heavier on the paper as well. The best thing about this pen is the magical smear-proofness of it.

Pilot G-2 (0.38 mm) – 5 for $6.99

These are my favorite daily use pens and are fairly accessible, unlike the MUJI pens, which can only be bought at MUJI or Amazon. I really like these for school, and they are good for anyone who isn’t looking to do any journaling or hand-lettering and are practical to any pen beginner.

Staedtler Triplus Fineliner (0.3 mm) – $14.89

These were my first fineliners that I bought for the purpose of hand-lettering, so I’m partial to them. I don’t carry them around because the case is a little wide to constantly have on me, but when I dedicate myself to sit down and journal, these are so nice. They write like a mix between the MUJI pens and microns, but come in a variety of colors that add more to a basic pen.

Brush Pens

MUJI Soft Calligraphy Pen – $2.99

Unlike the other three in this section, I exclusively use this pen for medieval or older calligraphy, which I don’t do this as much. When I do, this pen is really fun to play with but harder to control. I recommend it for people looking to do more official calligraphy with some experience.

Tombow Dual Brush Pen – $3.19

These pens changed my life. These are my favorite daily brush pens to use for calligraphy, and they come in 108 stunning colors but are easy to buy in packs. Most times Michaels runs sales on them, so keep your eyes out if you are looking to purchase them. They are double-sided, and though they are a nuisance to carry around, they are hands down the best pens for basic brush calligraphy.

Tombow Fudenosuke – $3.49

Like the dual brush pens, Tombow has hit the nail on the head with these. The two pack is my favorite and comes with one hard-tip and one soft-tip pen that are good for small brush calligraphy. I use these every day at school and home, and if you’re just looking to buy one calligraphy pen, I suggest this one. 

Ecoline Liquid Watercolor Brush Pen – $4.99

These are recent investments, but I am really happy with how these write. They glide very easily, and I enjoy using them like the Tombow Dual Brush pens. These are a more high end pen and are watery, unlike the Tombows which write like markers. If you are more advanced at calligraphy and are looking for a nicer pen, these would be a good investment.


Stabilo Boss Original – $1.99

These can be bought individually and come in so many fun colors. They are like the mildliners but just in the form of a highlighter. I don’t use these as much because I have the mildliners, but for colors that are missing out of my collection, these are good. I use these for studying and when I just need to bring one highlighter along with me instead of a whole pack.

Crayola Supertips – 50 for $6.99

These are the ultimate beginner’s calligraphy marker. You can’t beat the deal, and they are great for experiment with styles and figuring out how to write in calligraphy-type styles, where upstrokes are thin and downstrokes are thicker. Once you get them, I would write with each pen for a bit to bend the tip flatter so that it mimics calligraphy pens. They come in every color you can think of and are great for playing around, coloring or even highlighting notes.

Zebra Mildliner – 15 for $16.99

My first investment in a pack of higher quality highlighters, the mildliners are perfect for someone who is looking for fun colors to letter with or spice up their notes. The 15 pack is great and can be found at many places. These are also double-sided, which is great for both writing and highlighting.

Staedtler Double Ended Fiber Tip Markers – 36 for $25.99

These pens are kind of like a higher end version of the Crayola Supertips. I don’t use them very often, but they’re nice when I want to experiment with new styles without wasting my Tombows. I enjoy how these write, and they’re a bit lighter than other pens which makes them nice for color variation in pages of my journal that have a certain color scheme. They are also at Michaels, so they can often be found on sale and you can get a pretty good deal.


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