We are a reader-supported education publication. When you buy through links on our site, we may earn an affiliate commission to help us keep providing content.
No matter your major, you can guarantee one thing — taking lots and lots of notes. You may have the urge to rely on your laptop for note-taking, but the research shows better coding and retention with handwritten notes. Digital devices are known for distractions, and your brain doesn’t need to synthesize the information as deeply when typing versus handwriting.
Yet, the trouble becomes how to take the best notes possible while still keeping up with the lecture. Even if you can write incredibly fast, you need the best tools to help you out. That’s why finding the perfect pens for note-taking is so important.
Things to Consider
The office supplies aisle has an overwhelming assortment of options for every writing need. Most will work decently, depending on your needs, but not all of them are great pens for note-taking. What should you be looking for? We’re glad you asked.
The perfect pen will meet a couple of different requirements. First, it should be bold — you don’t want to have to squint to read your notes later. You’ll also ideally have at least a few different color options. Writing in one solid color can make your eyes glaze over, losing essential details in the mix.
Ease of Use
In class, you need pens for note-taking that can keep up with your writing speed. They should flow nicely without leaking or scribbling madly in a corner to get them started again.
The last thing you want is for your precise notes to get all smudged as you flip a page or run your hand across. Left-handed writers especially need quick-drying ink, so they don’t wear it like a new fashion statement.
When you spend most of your class time writing, your pen should at least be comfortable. Otherwise, your hand will cramp up or get sore. You need something with a good grip and nice weight.
Best Pens for Note-Taking
Keeping in mind the specific qualities of good pens for note-taking, we’ve rounded up some proven winners to give you confidence in your school supply purchases.
1. Uni-ball Jetstream Ballpoint
First up is a ballpoint pen with super dark ink. We love it because it dries incredibly fast but still has a smooth writing flow. You can grab it in one of an assortment of black-based colors like red-black and blue-black. It’s also water-resistant and comes in a few different tip widths.
2. Sharpie S-Gel
While gel pens write wonderfully smooth, they’re sometimes known for their slow dry times, leading to smudges. However, this offering from Sharpie has a unique formula designed to be smear-proof. You can grab these in packs of just black or with an assortment of black, red, blue, and green.
3. Maped Visio Left-Handed Ballpoint Pens
These next pens are a left-handed notetaker’s dream. The ink dries almost instantly for smudge-free writing. It also has a unique curved design to help you see what you’re writing. A triangular grip and an assortment of three colors round out this great option.
4. Pilot FriXion Clicker Erasable, Refillable & Retractable Gel Ink Pens
The FriXion Clicker is such a cool pen! If you like tricked-out functionality, this is the one for you. Just as the name suggests, you can erase it and buy refills whenever you need. This pen will last you a long time, and the refills help you save the planet by keeping some plastic out of landfills. You can also get them in a broad range of colors.
5. Paper Mate Ink Joy Pens
These might just have the widest variety of colors we’ve ever seen. They’re perfect pens for note-taking since you’ll be able to draw attention to important details by switching inks. The gel ink doesn’t dry as quickly as some of the other options on the list, but still far and beyond other colored gel pens. If you don’t prefer to write in color, you can purchase a pack with just black or basic colors like blue and red.
6. Pilot Acroball Spotliter 3 Color Ballpoint Multi-Pen + Highlighter
Pilot’s Acroball Spotliter has it all. With one pen, you get three different colors and a highlighter. You can quickly switch between black, blue, and red ink, and when you purchase, you get to choose between a yellow or pink highlighter on the end. Also, you can replace any ink cartridges or even the highlighter, so you don’t have to keep buying new pens.
Use the Right Pens for Note-Taking
Picking up any old pack of pens is like trusting the cart you choose won’t have a wonky wheel — wishful thinking with a rather frustrating result. Instead, next time you head to the office supply aisle, try one of these tried and tested favorites.