The Best Pens for Gifting and Everyday Use, According to Pen Enthusiasts

We tested dozens of pens in search of the all-time best. Whether for beginners or pen enthusiasts, these are our absolute favorite pens at every budget.

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May 16, 2019

If you're the kind of person who regularly loses pens, it's likely you just haven't found the perfect one yet. I used to be this person, and then I fell in love with a $20 Pilot Metropolitan pen. It was my first-ever fountain pen, and I grew to love the ability to swap out the ink for literally any color under the sun. One pen and one bottle of J. Herbin's Emerald of Chivor ink quickly turned out to be gateway writing materials: Two years later, I have a growing collection of pens and glass-bottled inks in more than a dozen shimmery colors.

Earlier this spring, I set out with a small team of testers to find a handful of the best pens for every type of writer: the budget-conscious, the fountain pen curious and enthusiast, those wanting the sleekest, most attractive pens, and those wanting to gift the art of writing to friends and family getting married or graduating from high school, college or grad programs.

We spent weeks testing dozens of pens in every price range. These are our favorites.

We collectively tried quite a few budget-priced fountain pens, and the Platinum Preppy is both one of the cheapest and one of the best. It may not look like much, but the Preppy is both a great entry-level fountain pen and a fun gift for lovers of ink: sliding a simple O-ring over the threads of the body of the pen allows you to make a waterproof seal so that you can fill the entire body of the pen with any color of ink you'd like. Even for prolific writers, it can take weeks or even months to write the pen completely dry. Since it's affordably priced, it's a great pen to have multiples of simply to be able to have lots of your favorite inks ready to write at any given time. The Preppy comes in a variety of nib sizes and Platinum sells ink cartridges in lots of different colors.

BUY IT: iPentore, $4.49

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Even if you've never tried writing with a fountain pen, odds are you will love Pilot's Varsity disposable fountain pens. I fell in love with fountain pens a few years ago after trying the Pilot Metropolitan and have been eager to get other friends into this hobby so we can trade samples of ink. In general, folks have been a bit hesitant; most people think of fountain pens as old school, complicated or too expensive. But I got a pack of Varsity pens and handed them out to friends who tried to refuse them. Weeks later, I noticed them carrying their Varsity along with them and reaching for it over any other pen on their desk or in their purse.

The major downside with the Varsity is that you can't refill it; it's just like any old gel or ballpoint pen in that way. But for everyday use (and, as one friend noted, for feeling fancier than you really are), the Varsity is my go-to over any other disposable pen. Beware, though, that once you fall in love with writing with these, you might find it hard to resist upgrading to a real, refillable fountain pen - and that's a hobby that gets expensive quick.

BUY IT: Amazon, $12.17 (Originally $23.49), Pack of 7

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MUJI's Gel Ink Ball Point Pens are a great bargain buy. They write much more smoothly than you'd expect for pens costing under $1.50 each; they're a huge upgrade over most cheap plastic pens you can buy in bulk at office supply stores. What's more, these pens are great for lefties: Both of my lefty testers said they're comfortable to hold and write smoothly.

BUY IT: Amazon, $14.55

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Rifle Paper Co. is known for its beautiful products, and its pens are no exception. This weighty pen, which comes in quite a few patterns, looks as expensive as it feels, and makes a great gift, even though it's remarkably affordable for its quality. This is the kind of pen you'll want to keep around forever and that you'll hesitate to lend for fear of it walking away. When you run out of ink, simply replace the cartridge.

BUY IT: Paper Source, $15.95

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Of all the pens on this list, and all the pens we tested, the Studio Neat Mark One is by far the sleekest. Perhaps too sleek, in fact; our only complaint about this pen was that with no clip or cap, we noticed it loves to roll away, and its body can get scratched. But it writes so well, has a perfect weight and is delightfully compact, so we were able to forgive its relatively minor flaws. Unlike other retractable pens, this one is made entirely of metal. There's zero plastic in it, and it even ships in a gorgeous cork package. It takes Parker-style refill cartridges and is exceptionally strong and durable, so you can pretty much plan to write with this pen forever.

BUY IT: Studio Neat, $65

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If you're willing to spend a bit more, the Kaweco Special FP is a great gift for bold writers, new fountain pen enthusiasts and recent graduates eager to write their next chapter. It comes in a variety of nib widths to suit any kind of writer and the cap screws on to the end of the pen so there's no chance of losing it. The pen feels weighty in your hand without feeling too heavy. Kaweco sells cartridges in a wide variety of colors and there's space in the barrel to store an extra. I've enjoyed refilling my disposable cartridges with my favorite ink and an industrial syringe.

BUY IT: Amazon, $89.40

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The Pilot Vanishing Point makes an excellent gift for the fountain pen connoisseur. Unlike most fountain pens that have large caps (many of which don't fit well on the end of the pen), the Vanishing Point has a retractable nib. It's delicate and extraordinarily flexible, and writing with it is a dream. Frequent snail mailers and journalers will love this pen.

The Vanishing Point comes with a converter so you can use your own ink or Pilot-compatible cartridges in a wide variety of colors.

BUY IT: Amazon, $148

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