The 6 Best Pens For Note-Taking That Don't Bleed

There’ll be no smudges in sight.

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There are several popular types of pens, but when it comes to the best pens for note-taking, your best bets are ballpoint, rollerball, or gel pens that distribute ink evenly and don't easily bleed through paper. Contrary to popular belief, ballpoint, rollerball, and gel pens all utilize a tiny ball at the tip of the pen to dispense ink. The ink itself is where they differ:

  • Ballpoint pens use oil-based ink, which is quick-drying and waterproof. Since the ink is thicker, the pen requires more pressure to write, but some people prefer the added control.
  • Rollerball pens are the best option for people who often experience hand fatigue while writing. Because the liquid ink is water-based, it typically flows more easily than other types — but note that it can bleed through thin paper more easily.
  • Gel pens use pigment that's suspended in a water-based gel, which means they're usually easy to write with and come in a wide range of vivid colors. That said, gel pens can take longer to dry than other types, so they're not ideal if you're left-handed or always on the go.

Once you've made your ink selection, take a look at the pen's extra features to make sure it fits your needs: Can you refill it when you've run out of ink? What's the point size? Does it have a clip and a retractable tip for convenience? How's the grip? What colors does it come in? All of these features are a matter of personal preference, but they can help inform your final choice.

As you're shopping for note-taking pens, you may also come across popular felt-tip and fountain options, but these types of pens aren't ideal for note-taking. Felt-tip pens can dry out and will often bleed through paper, and fountain pens often don't come with ink, are much more expensive, and have a free-flowing design that takes a little more of a learning curve.

Shop The Best Pens For Note-Taking

In a hurry? These are the best pens for note-taking on Amazon:

1. The Overall Best Pens For Note-Taking: PILOT Precise V5 RT Ball Pens

2. The Most Budget-Conscious Pick: Zebra Z-Grip Retractable Ballpoint Pens

3. The Best Gel Pens: Sharpie S-Gel Pens

4. A Multicolored Mini Pack Of Ballpoint Pens: Mr. Pen No-Bleed Pens

5. The Best Left-Handed Pens: Maped Visio Left-Handed Ballpoint Pens

6. The Best Pen For Writing Outdoors: Fisher Space Bullet Space Pen

No matter your budget or the specific features you're looking for, these six pens can get the ball rolling and help you effectively and comfortably take notes.

1. The Overall Best Pens For Note-Taking

The PILOT Precise V5 pen has more than 13,000 Amazon ratings and an overall average of 4.8 stars. Why? Well, for one, this rollerball pen features an extra-fine precision tip that writes smoothly and resists skipping. It also has a sturdy, sleek design, a retractable tip, a rubber grip, and a metal clip. When your ink runs dry, you can reuse the pen with additional ink refills. Last but not least, you can get it in a wide range of colors and pack options.

One reviewer wrote: "This pen actually made me want to finish my lab report. It was fun to write with. The ink doesn't smudge and it flows nicely. The nib is has a very fine point that makes writing notes on college ruled paper easy. I’d recommend this pen. The price isn’t bad either.”

Pen Type: Rollerball with a 0.5-millimeter tip | Colors: Black (featured), blue, green, red, and assorted colors

2. The Most Budget-Conscious Pick

If your pens are always breaking, disappearing, and running out of ink, it's probably best that you don't invest in expensive, refillable ones. Luckily, these Zebra pens break down to about 58 cents per pen, and they still have an overall rating of 4.6 stars. That's because they write smoothly, allow for additional control thanks to their ballpoint design, and have a latex-free rubberized grip for comfort — plus, they're retractable and have a metal pocket clip. These Zebra pens aren't refillable, but if you're looking to stock up, you can also snag a 24-pack.

One reviewer wrote: "Good pens, I use them for taking notes for school. Ink lasts a while and it’s comfortable to hold for long periods of time.”

Pen Type: Ballpoint with a 1-millimeter tip | Colors: Blue (featured), black, red, and assorted colors

3. The Best Gel Pens

Gel pens offer a bold, smooth writing experience — but since the ink can be a bit messier, some note-takers steer clear of them. Luckily, Sharpie's S-Gel pens, which (despite the thicker, slower-drying gel ink) have a smear-proof, bleed-resistant design. They aren't refillable, but they are retractable and have a contoured rubber grip for comfort and a plastic clip.

One reviewer wrote: "As I work from home now, I need to have good quality office supplies to keep me organized and engaged. [...] These gel pens are my go-to pens to use for notes. They are reliable and never fade out, so I never have to scribble in order to get the ink to work like with other pens. Highly recommend these pens for those who still take notes at home and who need a pen with dark ink to fill out official forms, etc that require a high contrast for scanned documents.”

Pen Type: Gel with a 0.7-millimeter tip | Colors: Assorted colors (featured), black, blue, green, and red

4. A Multicolored Mini Pack Of Ballpoint Pens

Whether you're color-coding your notes for fun or for practicality, the Mr. Pen assorted color pack is the way to go. These pens are smooth, smear-resistant, skip-proof, and fast-drying. The retractable design ensures that the vivid colors get on the page and not your bag's interior. Though they aren't refillable, they each feature a ribbed grip that makes them "easy to hold," according to reviewers, and a handy clip. Looking for more color selection? Opt for Mr. Pen's 16-pack of pens.

One reviewer wrote: "These pens are great. Light weight, colors are vibrant and don't bleed through paper as claimed. Perfect for color coding lecture notes!”

Pen Type: Ballpoint with a 0.7-millimeter tip | Colors: Assorted colors (featured) and black

5. The Best Left-Handed Pens

If you're left-handed, you know all too well that smearing and the inability to see what you're writing are common issues with a standard pen. Fortunately, these Maped Visio pens are specifically made for left-handed writers. They have an ergonomic curved shape that allows you to better see what you're doing and write more comfortably. Each pen also has a ribbed triangular-shaped grip for extra traction, and the ballpoint design and quick-drying ink prevent any smudging. Despite the specialized style, they clock in at just $3 per pen. While the pens aren't refillable, this assorted pack includes pens with three different ink colors: black, blue, and red.

One reviewer wrote: "I am lefthanded. It was awkward at first using the pen, but once your hand adapts to the shape — you won’t want to go back to a regular pen! It has also completely diminished that bump on my finger and I no longer have smudge marks going across the paper.”

Pen Type: Ballpoint with a 0.7-millimeter tip | Colors: Assorted colors (featured) and black

6. The Best Pen For Writing Outdoors

Finally, if you're taking notes outside, in extreme conditions, or just want a more elevated writing experience, there's the Fisher Space Bullet pen. It's the best option for field notes because it writes in any weather, at any angle, no matter the temperature — all thanks to its pressurized cartridge, which pushes the ink out with nitrogen gas. It's also evenly balanced and ergonomic when you're writing, despite its travel-friendly shape and size. You'll have to spend a bit more to get this all-weather pen — fortunately, though, the Space Pen cartridge refills are significantly cheaper than the pen itself.

One reviewer wrote: "Was smaller than expected but once assembled is a full size pen. When closed and put in pocket it’s unnoticeable but ready to go at a moment’s notice. Writes very smoothly however this type of ink will smear when using a field notes explorer pocket notebook or write in rain notebook so give it a moment to dry a bit before you close your notebook. Other then that this little pen has a nice feel to it almost textured and easy to hold and looks really nice.”

Pen Type: Ballpoint with a 1.1-millimeter tip | Colors: Black

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