The only thing I like talking about more than bullet journaling is what pens I use when I’m bullet journaling. If you’re anything like me you probably have a whole stash of pens. But finding the right pen for the right notebook can be tricky.
Has anyone else been in a situation where you think you’ve found the perfect pen for bullet journaling. But when the time comes to use the pen it turns out not to be everything you ever wanted. Maybe the ink bleeds, or the pen feels cheap. There have been times where I’ve bought myself a new pen for it to not work at all.
So today I thought I would give you the rundown on which pens I think are the best when it comes to bullet journaling. All the pens I mention in this post are ones I own and have used in my bullet journal. So you can be sure that these recommendations come from someone who will tell you the truth on which pens are best.
My Favourite Pens For Bullet Journaling
TYPES OF PAPER/ BLEED THROUGH
But first I just need to talk a little about paper. I have tested all these pens on the most common types of paper you will come across in bullet journaling. Those being the Moleskine, Leuchtturm and Rhodia papers.
There are also a few other types of paper that I’ve tried these pens on. Those being the Mossery notebook paper and the MD Paper notebook. For these specific papers, I’ve had no problems with ink bleeding through the page, causing ghosting or feathering.
But I would always recommend you try pens on the specific paper you’re using on to see how they work. This is especially necessary if you’re bullet journaling with a notebook I haven’t mentioned above. But even if you are it’s still a good idea to check how the ink works with the paper.
In the past I’ve used pens in a Moleskine notebook, pens which I know worked fine in previous notebooks but didn’t in newer ones. It transpired that Moleskine had changed the paper they used in their notebooks. This reduction in paper quality meant the ink would now bleed through the page. So learn from my mistakes and always test your pens before using them.
If you want to get into fountain pens the Lamy Safari is a good place to start. At around £20 this is on the cheaper side when it comes to fountain pens. The Lamy Safari features a plastic body and comes in many different colours. The thicker barrel of these fountain pens makes it very comfortable to hold.
This is an advantage if you do a lot of writing in your bullet journal. The Lamy pens also come with changeable nibs in three different sizes: fine, medium and broad. These nibs are easy to replace and simply slide off the pen.
With fountain pens, you buy the body of the pen. Then have several different options when it comes to ink. You can buy the standard LAMY ink, which comes in many different colours. You should note if you buy a Lamy pen it will come with a blue ink cartridge as standard. If you want a different colour you need to buy it separately.
You can also buy a refillable cartridge for your Lamy Safari fountain pen. This means you have a much greater choice of ink to use with the pen. I’ve tried the Lamy ink with most common notebooks and not had a problem. But if you start to look into more obscure inks it’s a good idea to test them out before trying to write.
You don’t want to be caught out with ink that bleeds through the page. I know that’s happened to me in the past and I wasn’t happy about it.
The Kaweco Sport fountain pen is another good choice for beginners. This is a lightweight pen with a plastic shell. One advantage of the Kaweco pen is its size. It’s very small and ideal for bringing on the go with you.
If you use your bullet journal while out and about this is a good pen to keep with it. At first glance, the Kaweco pen seems extremely small. The cap of the fountain pen also doubles as part of the body when you are writing. This makes it a very comfortable pen to write with. The octagonal design of the body means that the pen won’t roll away when placed on a surface.
You can buy standard ink cartridge refills for the Kaweco. But similar to the Lamy Safari it is also possible to buy Kaweco’s version of a converter. This means you can use whatever ink you choose with the fountain pen.
The Kawecos cheap price and small size make this a great fountain pen to bullet journal with. Especially if you’re the sort who likes to take your bullet journal everywhere you go.
INK / NIB
If you want to go really old school with your bullet journal you might want to look into writing with a dip pen. I love dip pens because of how customizable they can be. All you need to do is buy a nib holder, then choose what nib you want to write with. There are hundreds of different nibs to choose from.
From pointed nibs like the Zebra G and Nikko. These are great if you want to try a modern calligraphy style. There are also square nibs if you want to try out copperplate calligraphy. This can be paired with all sorts of inks. The Higgins eternal is a great choice for beginners. But if you want to go wild with colours you can also look at the Dr PH Martin range of calligraphy inks and the Finetec Mica paints.
You probably don’t want to use calligraphy for all aspects of your bullet journal. I know I don’t have the time for it. But if you’re setting up a new year or month in your bullet journal you can always add something special by writing your headings using calligraphy. I did this when I set my bullet journal up for 2019. Though I used a very minimal planning style the calligraphy added something very special.
I can’t talk about pens for bullet journaling without mentioning the Muji Gel pen. These are one of my most used pens. The Muji pens come in four different sizes: 0.25, 0.38, 0.5 and 0.7mm. They come in several different colours, not just black, blue and red.
I prefer the 0.38mm nib, I find that the 0.5 is just slightly too thick for my taste. It’s a nice pen to write with, the ink goes down smooth and it’s easy to write quickly. I think some would say it’s a comfortable pen to hold. I have problems with my hands which make it a pain to use after long periods. This is why you’ll see the grip on my Muji pens.
The Muji pens work great with bullet journaling because they are cheap to buy and write nicely on most common types of notebook paper. They can be slightly tricky to find if you don’t live close to a Muji store. Though one thing I love about Muji is that they sell refills for all of their pens and pencils. If you’re ever in a Muji store you only need to buy a single pen and a handful of ink refills. This should last you a good long while.
One thing which should be noted about the Muji gel pen is if you’re using it with the Mildliner highlighters. The highlighter will smear the Muji ink if you try to write over it with the highlighter. So it’s best to put the highlighter down first then write over with the Muji pen.
ZEBRA SARASA MARK ON PEN
If you think you will be using highlighters in your bullet journal and don’t want to worry about smeared ink then you might want to take a look at the Zebra Sarasa mark on pen. This is a pen I originally came across in a stationery subscription box. Before that, I had no idea something like it even existed.
The Zebra Sarasa mark on pen has been specially designed for people who want to use highlighters with a gel pen. Like I mentioned above, gel pens are notorious for smearing if used with highlighters. With the Zebra Sarasa pen you don’t need to worry about this. Of course, you still need to be careful. You have to let the ink dry for 5 to 10 seconds before adding the highlighter. But this solves the highlighter and Muji gel pen problem.
It helps that the Zebra Sarasa pen is also a nice pen to write with. The barrel of the pen is slightly thicker, making it more comfortable to write with. The nib is also slightly thicker than the Muji, at 0.4 compared to 0.38mm.
One problem, however, is that the ink isn’t quite as dark compared to the Muji ink. The Sarasa ink is more of a dark grey compared to the black of the Muji. Though this is only a slight issue and for most won’t be a problem at all.
If you’re likely to make a mistake when bullet journaling the Frixion Ball is one to take a look at. This is an erasable pen. I’m sure many people like myself tried out erasable pens while at school and they were almost always terrible. I’m pleased to say technology has come on quite a bit since then and the Frixion Ball is a very good pen.
If you’re likely to mess something up in your bullet journal this is something to take a look at. Before now if I was creating spreads I would use a pencil for anything which could go wrong. My year at a glance and monthly pages always have the dates pencilled in because I’m guaranteed to make a mistake.
Fortunately, this isn’t a problem anymore because of the Frixion Ball. The ink goes down very smooth and is a nice pen to use. The slightly thicker barrel and handgrip make it more comfortable to use compared to the Muji gel pen. Though the nib on the Frixion Ball is slightly thicker, at 5mm.
If you prefer a thinner nib you might have to choose between this and another gel pen. There is another downside that the ink isn’t a true black compared to the other gel pens I’ve mentioned in this post. The ink in the Frixion Ball comes out more grey than black. This is something to consider if you prefer a true black ink when you’re writing.
MARKER PENS FOR BULLET JOURNALING
Before I got onto the Muji bandwagon my go-to pen was the Staedtler Fineliner. I honestly can’t tell you how many of these pens I’ve bought over the years. If you like having lots of colour in your bullet journal these are the pens to use.
The Staedtler Fineliners come in 33 different colours. You have the standard black, red and blue but there is also a huge range of other colours to choose from. The Staedtler Fineliners have a marker style nib.
This is great because it makes the pen feel nice to write with. But one of the things I found over time using these fineliners was that the nib would wear down as I was writing. I usually found that the nib of the pen wore out before the ink ran out.
An impressive aspect of these pens is the ink. I’ve never had any problems with the ink drying out. You could leave these pens lying for years and they would still work fine. The ink won’t dry out even if you’ve forgotten to put the cap back on a pen.
If you’re looking for a marker style pen I would highly recommend giving these a try. I once bought a full set of 33 pens and it lasted me for years. The only downside now is that the barrel of the pen is quite thin. I think I would start getting pains in my hands from writing with these pens now. But they got me through high school and I still think they are a great pen.
PENTEL STUDIO SET
If you do a lot of art journaling in your bullet journal you might want to look at something like the Pentel Studio set. This is a set of 40 fiber tipped markers in a variety of colours. It also comes with 5 highlighter pens so they could be used for taking notes too.
These pens are great. I love using them when I’m practising my hand lettering. The marker tips don’t pull on the fibers of the paper which can be a problem with these sorts of pens. They are also quite reasonable considering the number of pens you get. The pack retails for around £11 however I found this particular set for £6.
The only real difference between the Pentel marker pens and the Staedtler fineliners is the thickness of the nib. The Staedtler pens have a 0.3mm nib. While the Pentel markers have a 1mm nib. The Fineliners are more suited to writing while these pens are more for illustrations.
If you want to get into art journaling another great alternative is Posca pens. This is a range of paint pens made by Uni-Ball. The Poscas come in a wide variety of sizes and nib thickness.
The Posca pens use water-based paint as ink. This means you have a very opaque ink that can even be used on black paper. When it comes to using Poscas you do have to be slightly careful. This is a craft pen. Meaning the pens were made to be used on surfaces like wood, plastic and glass. But it is entirely possible to use them on paper if you take care.
The Poscas are a great alternative if you don’t want to use actual paint in your bullet journal. I’ve had no problems using watercolours in my Leuchtturm1917 and gouache in my MD Paper Notebook. However, you may not want to do this and can use Poscas instead.
Poscas can be bought in packs from places like Amazon. Usually, you can get a set of 8 pens for around £20. But if you head into places like Cass Art or certain Paperchase shops you can find a wide variety of Poscas sold individually. This means you can try out all sorts of different colours and thicknesses without having to buy a full set.
The Derwent Graphic line painter pen is very similar to the Posca. These pens come in packs of 5. Each pack has a different colour scheme. The pens themselves are very similar to the Muji pen with a plastic barrel and 0.5mm fiber nib.
The Derwent Graphic pens also use water-based ink which is easy to work with. The ink isn’t quite as opaque compared to the Poscas. They do have a nicer range of colours compared to the Poscas. With a set of blacks and sepias as well as all sorts of rainbow shades.
It is important to note that you can’t buy the Derwent Graphik pens individually. You can only get them in sets of 5. So if you want more options you may be better off buying the Posca pens.
BRUSH PENS FOR BULLET JOURNALING
TOMBOW BRUSH PENS
The Tombow Dual Brush Pens are one of the best brush pens for bullet journaling. You don’t have to have a set of Tombow Brush Pens to start a bullet journal but they are a good choice if you want to add some colour to your notebook.
The Tombow pens are probably one of the most popular brush pens around and there is a good reason for that. The pens feature two different types of nibs. On one end you have the classic brush nib. The other is a 1mm marker nib.
I’ve seen some people say that the Tombows are a good place to start if you want to get into brush lettering. The brush nibs are quite flexible which makes it easy to control the thickness of your stroke. I don’t agree with this. I think if you’re just getting started with brush lettering you’re better off with something like the Tombow Fudenosuke.
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However, the Tombow Brush pens are still an ideal choice for bullet journaling. You can buy the pens in sets of 8 or if you’re in Cass Art you can buy them individually. If you’ve never bought Tombow pens before it’s a good idea to buy one or two to try before spending your money on a full set.
The pens come in a huge variety of colours and will blend to create some interesting effects. The Tombow pens use water-based ink and you do need to be careful with this. You can use water to blend the ink but you could ruin a page if you accidentally get water on the ink. I’m telling you this because I’ve already made this exact mistake.
The only downside of the Tombow Brush markers is the nibs. Moreso the brush nib than regular marker tip. The fibers in the nib tend to wear down over time. This means you will lose the fine point of the nib. Making it harder to use the marker for lettering.
The Tombow Fudenosuke is possibly my favourite brush pen. I like hand-lettering quotes in my bullet journal as decoration and this is my go-to pen for that purpose. The Fudenosuke pens can be bought in packs or individually in certain stores. I’ve found them in Cass Art and London Graphics for around £2 per pen.
This pen feels nice to write with. It has a solid black ink. The brush tip is quite a bit smaller compared to the Tombow Pens but it gives a nice line. If you’re just getting into brush lettering this is a good place to start.
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The brush nib is quite firm but this makes it easier to learn how to control the amount of pressure you’re placing on the pen. This is what gives brush calligraphy its unique look.
The Tombow Fudenosuke pens come in black and are now available in a select range of other colours. You can also buy a dual-tipped version of the Fudenosuke pen which has grey as well as black ink.
If you want to try out calligraphy in your bullet journal and don’t want to get into dip pens the Tombow Fudenosuke is a great alternative.
ECOLINE LIQUID WATERCOLOUR BRUSH PEN
The Ecoline brush pens are very similar to the Tombows but better. The Ecoline Brush pen come in 29 different colours. Including a colourless blender. You can buy the pens in multipacks or individually.
The pens have a brush nib similar to the Tombow Dual Brush Pens. But the nib on the Ecoline pen is much softer. This means it’s slightly harder to create variation in line thickness. You get a very different style of brush calligraphy using the Ecoline pen compared to the Tombow.
The real advantage of the Ecoline Brush pen is the ink. Ecoline uses a liquid watercolour ink in their brush pens. This means when you are writing with the pens the ink appears more like watercolour than an opaque ink. It also means you can blend the ink using water or the colourless blender.
However, Ecoline also sells the same range of liquid watercolour inks in jars. These jars of ink can be used in combination with the Ecoline brush pens. So you can dip a pen into a jar of ink then write on the page. If you choose the right colour this will create a gradient effect on the page. This could create some really interesting effects if you use the brush pens to create quotes in your bullet journal.
I love the Ecoline liquid watercolour range. The pots of ink work great with modern calligraphy. And the brush pens feel nice to write with. If you’re wanting to try something slightly different in your bullet journal the Ecoline Brush Pens are a good place to start.
I hope that was a helpful overview if you’re just starting a bullet journal. Or wanting to try some new pens for bullet journaling. I tried to look at a wide variety of different pens. I’ve used all of these pens at some point in the past. Not always in my bullet journal but I do love all of them in different ways.
I realise that some of these pens are slightly more specialised than others. You may not be interested in adding calligraphy to your bullet journal. Just remember that your bullet journal is personal to you and you don’t need to copy what you see online. Maybe you like having a minimal bullet journal with no colour. That is also a perfectly valid way to bullet journal.
This post went on so long I didn’t even get the chance to mention pencils and highlighters. This is something else I use all the time in my bullet journal. Let me know in the comments if you would be interested in learning more about that.