Fun with Gel Pens

From left to right: Pilot Hi-tec-C Maica, Zebra Sarasa, Pilot G-Tec-C4, Ohto Rays, Stabilo Bionic Worker, Pentel Energel, Pilot G2, Uni One, Pilot Juice up, Pentel Energel

Sometimes, you may feel like using a pen that isn’t a fountain pen. Situations may arise where you just want to take a note with a retractable pen. You may want a low maintenance change of pace. Sometimes, you just want the pleasant sensation of feeling a tiny gel coated ball rolling against your paper. There are times when you need:

Gel Pens

In grade school, I used Ticonderoga #2 pencils and would come home with the side of my hand a graphite blob. In middle school I discovered the Bic 4 color ballpoint, which I still cherish for its simplicity and design. In high school I started using erasable ballpoint pens. When I was in college the Paper Mate Inkjoy pens came out, and I fell in love with the blue and green ones. They were great for long stretches of note taking, and I didn’t smear. These were the first gel pens that I really enjoyed using consistently. I had some of the Uniball Vision pens, but they didn’t dry fast and tended to bleed on cheap notebook paper. The first non-disposable pen I purchased was a Fisher Space Pen, but I didn’t like how inconsistent the lines were. So, the Inkjoy got me through all 4 years of college.

When I met my partner, they sent me a Pilot Hi-tec C Maica gel pen in blue-black with a 0.4 mm point. I wasn’t used to any point finer than 0.5, so it was nice to be able to write small block letters. The second non-disposable pen I bought was the Ohto Rays. This pen has the vintage look of the space pen, but writes a nice and consistent line.

After using fountain pens almost exclusively, I recently started getting into gel pens again. I made a writing sample of some gel pens that are either recommended for lefties, or are ones that I’ve found work very well for overwriting.

I crossed out the jetstream edge because I remembered while writing that it’s an oil-based ballpoint.

About half of these pens were purchased on Jetpens, and some were found on Yoseka Stationary and St. Louis Art Supply. Jetpens even has a section of different office supplies for lefties, as well as a comprehensive guide. I’ve found this guide to be very helpful while figuring out what you want in a pen. I highly encourage anyone reading this from the United States to purchase from Yoseka Stationary and STL Art Supply, they both offer really warm customer service, and you’d be supporting a small business during a difficult time. Thank you for reading my non-affiliated ad segment.

The first writing sample is a Pentel Energel in navy blue. The Energel feels the most like a fountain pen out of all these samples. The ink is very smooth and consistent. The navy blue refill is in a retractable body with a ribbed silicone grip while the blue refill is in a slim ivory body with a matte grip and snap cap. The snap cap is very robust and satisfying. I recommend the Pentel Energel as a lefty-friendly pen.

Next is the Pilot G-Tec-C4. This is apparently the international version of the Hi-Tec-C gel pen, and unscrews at the tip to refill. If you like the design of the Bic Cristal but want a nicer writing experience, this is the pen for you. The tip writes a very fine and precise line, there’s some feedback but this pen hasn’t felt scratchy for me. The ink dries fast with no smudging or bleeding.

The Zebra Sarasa is on Jetpen’s list of lefty friendly office products, but was my least favorite out of these samples. The clip on these pens is spring loaded, which is neat, but this pen just didn’t write very smoothly for me.

The Pilot G-2 really is as nice as people say. With a 0.7 mm point, it’s the thickest line width in this sampling. This pen gives a smooth, consistent, vibrant line that stands out among the other turquoise gels in this list.

Next is the Uni One. This is a clean and sleek pen with a spring loaded wire clip. With a 0.38 mm tip the One has a slightly thinner point than the Hi-tec-C, but the gel is slightly wetter so the line appears broader and more vibrant. I enjoy writing with this pen and want to try other colors eventually.

The Pilot Juice Up is an upgrade to the regular Juice, which I have not tried. The ink in this pen is water-based pigment ink, which makes it water-resistant. The Juice Up tip is a hybrid between a needlepoint and a conical point, making it a bit more forgiving to use while holding vertically or nearly vertically. A nit-picky drawback of this pen for me is that when the tip is retracted, the clip and push button are one piece, so it tends to jiggle while writing. The grip section is slightly translucent when held up to light, which is neat. I recommend the Pilot Juice Up as a lefty-friendly pen.

The Ohto Rays writes similarly to the Energel, and is on Jetpens lefty-friendly page. The gel is named Flash Dry, and I’ve never smudged with this pen. The body has a classic design similar to a Parker Jotter, making the Rays nice for a professional setting. Personally, I like to use this pen for checks and writing on envelopes. I also carry it in my purse with a Field Notes memo book if I need to write anything down while I’m out. My Mother, who is also left handed, also enjoys using this pen.

The Pilot Hi-tec-C Maica is pretty much the same pen as the G-tec, but the body has a clip less cap and the grip section is bumped rather than ribbed. This particular pen is one that I’ve had a while, so the line starts to fade if I hold the pen a certain way. The same thing happened with the other Maica I used to have, and I wonder if this has something to do with my level of writing pressure.

The last sample in this post is the Stabilo Bionic Worker. This is my most recent gel pen acquisition, and it’s quite nice to write with. The body is covered in grippy orange rubber, and the clip is stiff and wide. The gel is liquid gel and it writes a smooth, wet line. This pen is less precise than an Energel with the same point width, but just as smooth. If you’re a lefty who works in any business requiring a sturdy pen, I recommend it.

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One response to “Fun with Gel Pens”

  1. […] Ballpoints, they’re everywhere. They’re in banks, grocery stores, restaurants, under your car seat, there might even be one wedged in between your couch cushions. Ballpoints were invented as a cheaper, cleaner, maintenance-free alternative to fountain pens with patents dating back to 1888. For more on the history of the ballpoint, please click here. Ironically, people today are switching (entirely, if not partially) to fountain pens because they’re not ballpoints. The pressure required to get many ballpoints to write a legible line leads to hand fatigue, which is problematic if you’ve started to write on paper more. It’s also problematic for lefties who already are contorting their hands. Last year, I made a post about gel pens and how they’re a faster-drying and more convenient fountain pen alternative, which you can read here. […]


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