Calligraphers Say These Are the 12 Best Pens for Writing Snail Mail
Gels, ballpoints, rollerballs, felt-tips, and fountain pens—our experts recommend all of their favorites.
A handwritten letter can leave a lasting impression. Whether it's a quick thank you note or a detailed letter, a thoughtful message in writing is a simple gesture that can instantly brighten someone's day. "Handwritten letters can be a beautiful expression of creativity that sparks joy, and simple embellishments, such as calligraphy, can make the recipient feel even more special," says Nancy Moy, founder of Nancy Moy Calligraphy. Not surprisingly, the type of pen you use can make a huge difference when you're writing a letter to someone. "A nice pen that feels comfortable in your hand and flows smoothly across the paper will encourage you to keep writing," says Sam Teich, a modern calligrapher in New York City. "A pen that scratches and bleeds can interrupt your thoughts, and cut your sentiments short."
However, with the wide assortment of writing pens on the market, find a high-quality pen that you'll enjoy using can be tricky. First and foremost, you'll want to decide what you're looking for. Do you like a rollerball or a felt-tip? Do you have other preferences, like water-resistance? "I like to make sure that any pen I'm using is waterproof or at least water-resistant, since you never know if your letter will see a little rain, and what a shame it would be if the address got smeared!" says Alyssa Lowe of Fawn Lettering. That being said, it's important to know that you don't need to super specialized tools to pick up this hobby. "You don't need to buy a fancy fountain or dip pen to write a beautiful, meaningful letter—no matter what type of pen you choose, just make sure you're comfortable using it, because that will give you the best looking results."
Curious which pens calligraphers prefer to use when writing snail mail to loved ones? From brush tip styles to pigmented gel pens and more, Lowe, Moy, and Teich share their favorites ahead.
Classic Retractable Pen
For a smooth-writing pen with a retractable tip, Lowe recommends the Pilot G2 Retractable Gel Pen. "This is my go-to gel pen for letter-writing," she says. "It's affordable and super reliable—writes like butter and never skips. This classic also comes in a handful of good colors, for those who like to express their words vibrantly."
Shop Now: Pilot G2 Premium Refillable & Retractable Rolling Ball Gel Pen, $15.06 for 10, amazon.com.
Brush Tip Pen
A pen with a brush-style tip is an easy and affordable way to embellish your handwritten letters. "Add some calligraphy to your letters with this flexible tip brush pen," advises Moy. "This smaller tip brush pen is also the perfect size for calligraphy on envelopes, and comes in a variety of colors."
Shop Now: Pentel Arts Brush Tip Sign Pen, $12.90 for six, dickblick.com.
Sleek Yet Substantial Pen
For a sophisticated writing pen that only looks expensive, Teich says to consider the Ohto Horizon Gel Pen 0.5. "Ohto is one of the oldest Japanese pen manufacturers, and they're one of my favorites," she explains. "The aluminum body of this pen makes it feel more substantial than a regular ballpoint pen you snagged from a restaurant, but it's still lightweight enough to use all day, and the gel ink it uses is super dark and flows nicely."
Shop Now: Ohto Gel Horizon Ballpoint Pen 0.5mm, $11, omoionline.com.
Nothing ruins a gorgeous handwritten letter faster than a bunch of unsightly smears and smudges, which is why Lowe recommends the Sakura Pigma 30062 Micron Pen. "I always use this pen for addressing personal letters," she explains. "It's available in various tip sizes, and the ink is nice and dense. Plus, you can write on various envelope finishes (even vellum, which doesn't take gel ink so well), and its water resistance gives you peace of mind that there will be no smears in transit."
Shop Now: Sakura Pigma 30062 Micron Blister Card Ink Pen, $10.69 for six, amazon.com.
Archival Quality Pen
For an artisanal-grade fine line pen that won't bleed through paper, Moy says you can't go wrong with The Pigeon Letters Monoline Studio Archival Pen Set. "The ink dries quickly and is waterproof, so it will not bleed or fade," she explains. "The last thing you want is to write a thoughtful letter and find out that the ink has smeared in transit or faded over time."
Shop Now: The Pigeon Letters Monoline Studio Archival Pen, $12 for three sizes, thepigeonletters.myshopify.com.
Cult Favorite Pen
Stylish and inexpensive, Teich says the Muji Gel Ink Ballpoint Cap Pen has earned a major cult following with good reason. "They come in a variety of point sizes, but my favorite is the 0.5, because the skinnier .38 tends to skip a bit," she says. "The frosted design of the body also makes it easy to grip."
Shop Now: Muji Gel Ink Ballpoint Point Cap Type 0.5mm, in Black, $1.50, muji.us/store.
Glitter Gel Pen
A little glitter can go a long way, especially in a handwritten letter. "Uni-ball Signo Sparkling Glitter Gel Pens write smoothly and have a consistent ink flow," Moy says. "The glitter ink is so beautiful!"
Shop Now: Uni-ball Signo Sparkling Glitter UM-120SP Gel Pen, 1.0 mm, $18 for eight, jetpens.com.
Script Savvy Pen
Whether you're new to letter-writing or a seasoned pro, Lowe says the Tombow Fudenosuke Brush Pen is a great way to practice calligraphy. "This is my standby water-resistant brush pen for quick address calligraphy," she explains. "It takes a little practice to get used to brush tips, but once you do, it's a great, easy way to add a little script lettering."
Shop Now: Tombow Fudenosuke Brush Pen, $5.96 for two, amazon.com.
Precision Point Pen
For a great pen that you can find at most office-supply stores, Teich says the Pilot Precise V5 Rollerball Pen is a solid choice. "It has the 0.5mm extra-fine needle-point tip, which I love for the crispness," she explains. "The body on it is a nice diameter also, I find a lot of generic office-supply pens too clunky to write with comfortably."
Shop Now: Pilot Precise V5 Rollerball Pen, in Extra Fine Point, $18.29 for seven, staples.com.
If you're looking for a pen with ink that makes a bold statement on any piece of paper, Moy says to look no further than a Pentel Hybrid Dual Metallic Liquid Gel Roller Pen. "They're the most beautiful and vibrant glitter pens out there," she explains.
Shop Now: Pentel Hybrid Dual Metallic Liquid Gel Roller Pen YK110/8-M, $15.80 for eight, amazon.com.
Quick Dry Gel Pen
For a fast-drying gel pen that will only set you back four bucks, Teich recommends the Ohto Rays Flash Dry Gel Pen in 0.5 mm. "The flash drying name is accurate, as the ink is very quick-drying," she explains. "The style of this one also has a very thin and lightweight body, making it a good choice for someone with small hands!"
Shop Now: Ohto Rays Flash Dry Gel Pen in 0.5 mm, $3.90, jetpens.com.
For a luxe-looking letter writing pen that also makes a great gift, Teich swears by the Ateleia Brass Pen. "These pens are beautiful, handmade, and you choose which brand of ink cartridge insert you'd like them to fit," she explains.
Shop Now: ATELEIA Brass Pen, $75, ateleia.com.