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The Best Pens for Back to School

🕚 Updated July 2022

School's around the corner, meaning it's time to stock up on supplies. Whether you're all about cool gel pens or practical black and blue, these are the best pens to prepare your kids for going back to school.

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  Best for Colored Paper Best Felt Tips Best Fine Tips Best Black Ballpoint Best Multicolored Choice
White Fine-Point Gel Pens
Paper Mate
Flair Felt-Tip Marker Pens
Fine-Point Colored Marker Pens
Zebra Pen
Z-Grip Retractable Black Ballpoint Pen
6-in-1 Multicolor Retractable Ballpoint Pen
Our SummaryThis pack of three pens is best for artistic activities on dark paper.Get this fun selection of felt tip pen colors that's awesome for art class or creative projects.This is a colorful set of premium fine-tipped pens for drawing and everyday note-taking.This is the workhorse pen that your child needs to make it through the school year.These are a fun classic that never fails to delight the kids.
ProsFine point, no bleeding, smooth gel texture, comes in a pack of three, ideal for dark paper.24 colors, ideal for art projects or detailed work on posters.No bleeding, 18 colors, ideal for note-taking.Medium point, comes in a pack of 18, comfort grip, retractable, ideal for everyday use.Fine point, includes black and blue, economical 22-pack.
ConsNot practical for everyday schoolwork.Not practical for note-taking, may cause bleeding through paper.Lacks comfort grip, may not be practical for everyday use.Ink has a tendency to skip.Bulky pen design.
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The Best Pens for Back to School

A close-up photo of someone writing "Back to school" in a notebook.

Buying Guide for Pens for Back to School

Kids in classroom using pens and pencils to do their work.
Ground Picture/Shutterstock.com

Why buy pens for back to school?

At some point, your child graduates from pencil-only work to being able to use pens in class. So, unless you want your child constantly asking for pens from classmates or teachers, getting them their own pens is a good idea. Available in bulk or as single items, they’re an essential must-have, especially for most middle and high school students.

What should you consider when shopping for back-to-school pens?

  • Color: Not all teachers allow students to turn in homework in anything other than black or blue ink. In most cases, red pens are reserved for teachers to grade papers, so you’ll want to steer clear of that shade. If your child wants to express themselves through color, this is generally allowed for note taking. Before you go crazy with colorful pens, ensure that your child isn’t using them for purposes that might otherwise not be permitted.
  • Texture: While you can use regular ball pen ink, some people prefer gel. It offers a smoother writing experience and can appear more vibrant on paper, making it easier to read and more resistant to fading.
  • Pen Tip: Pen tips can vary widely; depending on your child’s work, this might be a serious issue. The standard option is a medium tip. This is commonly found on everything from cheap basic pens to more expensive models. Still, fine tips are usually reserved for older grades or people using pens for artwork and general writing.
  • Design: Pens come in a wide range of designs. A popular option, especially if your child writes a lot, is picking pens with comfort grips. However, you can also upgrade to pens with built-in clips, retractable models with a click top, refillable pens with removable ink cartridges, and even whimsical options.
  • Quantity: Pens are easily lost even if your child is conscientious. So, looking for bulk purchases over single-unit options is a good idea. It’s possible to find good-quality pens in bulk without breaking the bank.

Which type of pens will keep from bleeding through paper?

It’s nice to find a pen that has the perfect tip and stroke to jot down your notes or doodle in-between classes. However, this can all halt if that pen bleeds through your paper, making a mess of your hands and assignment. Ball-point and gel pens are likely to be your best choices that don’t bleed, while some rollerball and marker-type pens are a runner-up depending on the thickness of your paper. Before making a decision, think about your writing style and if you tend to write on thin or thick paper. If you’re heavier-handed, you should opt for the most bleed-resistant pens.

Our Picks for the Best Pens for Back to School

Best for Colored Paper

Art-n-Fly White Fine-Point Gel Pens

This pack of three pens is best for artistic activities on dark paper.

Pros: Gel pens continue to be a fan favorite for students. Along with the vibrant colors they can produce, they also offer a smoother writing experience. This three-pack of white pens is great for more artistic work, highlighting, or if you like to write on darker colored paper.

Cons: As lovely as this pack is, these pens are not practical for everyday school work.

Bottom Line: If you want a cute add-on set of pens for your child, or you know they love to draw, this can be a little extra for them.


Best Felt Tips

Paper Mate Flair Felt-Tip Marker Pens

Get this fun selection of felt tip pen colors that's awesome for art class or creative projects.

Pros: Depending on your child’s grade level and course load, creative projects may be par for the course. This 24-pack of fine-tipped felt marker pens is an excellent option if you need to create book report covers or more detailed work on posters. The wide color selection ensures that you still have the essentials—black and blue.

Cons: These ride the line between being more marker than pen, so these may be a no-go for everyday use. Plus, the heavier ink means this type of pen may bleed through the paper.

Bottom Line: For more artistic endeavors, this 24-pack of felt-tipped marker pens is a great option that ensures there are plenty of colors for your child to choose from.


Best Fine Tips

iBayam Fine-Point Colored Marker Pens

This is a colorful set of premium fine-tipped pens for drawing and everyday note-taking.

Pros: If you have a child who likes to color-code their notes, this 18-pack of fine-tipped colored marker pens is a solid option. They’re designed to offer minimal bleed with a smooth ink that prevents dragging. While they’re acceptable for everyday writing, they’re also ideal for budding artists.

Cons: Unless your child only uses the black or more traditional dark blue hues, these aren’t going to cut it for turning in homework. Additionally, the lack of a comfortable grip means that these might get uncomfortable over time.

Bottom Line: Budding artists and organization fans will appreciate this 18-pack of fine-tip colorful marker pens. While most colors aren’t practical for homework or test taking, they’re still a commendable option.


Best Black Ballpoint

Zebra Pen Z-Grip Retractable Black Ballpoint Pen

This is the workhorse pen that your child needs to make it through the school year.

Pros: If you’re focused on getting a practical pen that will get your child through the academic year, then this 18-count set of medium-ballpoint pens from Zebra is where it’s at. These retractable pens have black ink and a comfortable grip for added durability. With an 18-pack, you should be able to at least get halfway through the year before it’s time to buy another pack.

Cons: After the initial use, these may not provide consistent ink flow.

Bottom Line: You can’t go wrong with black medium-tipped ballpoint pens. This is a good way to go if you need a classic option for your child.


Best Multicolored Choice

Favide 6-in-1 Multicolor Retractable Ballpoint Pen

These are a fun classic that never fails to delight the kids.

Pros: Parents feeling nostalgic might want to introduce an oldie but goodie to their kids with these six-in-one multiple retractable ballpoint pens. With a fine 0.5-millimeter point, you’ll get a set with 22 pens, each featuring six different gel ink cartridges that promise to be fadeproof. You’ll appreciate that it also includes black and blue ink for practical purposes.

Cons: These multicartridge pens were all the rage back in the day. However, these may be too thick to be comfortable for writing. While ideal for a cute variation from time to time, your child might find that this isn’t a practical option for everyday use.

Bottom Line: If you view pens as gift-able items, you might like that this 22-pack set is perfect for goodie bags or ones you can share with your peers at school.

Final Thoughts

Back to school means that your child will be writing a lot, and in most cases, your child will need a solid set of pens if they’ve reached a grade where they can use them. You’ll find some that go beyond just everyday use or note-taking. Take the stress off back-to-school shopping by perusing our top-notch selection of pens.

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