Master strokes: best pens for writing and drawing
Our pick of pens, from brilliant ballpoints to fine fountain pens and refined rollerballs
A fine fountain pen is a lifetime companion, but even a well-engineered, low-cost refillable rollerball should be desirable enough to make you want to keep it around. Here’s our guide to the best-looking and smoothest writing pens, whether it’s for jotting, sketching or your very best copperplate script.
New twist on the ballpoint: Hay Bullet Pen
Danish design specialist Hay offers a new twist on the classic ballpoint with the sleek Bullet pen. Available in metallic gold, the Bullet reveals the nib with a simple twist of the slender body, making it the perfect object to pop in a pocket or a bag without risk of unwanted marks.
Compact fountain pen: Kaweco Sport
German brand Kaweco is offering a special edition of its celebrated Sport model, an extendable fountain pen that’s truly compact when closed, but uses the lid to extend the body to a regular writing shape. Finished in a Light Lavender pastel shade, the Sport is available in five nib weights, with the company’s characteristic fluted body for an easy grip.
Slender nib: Rotring Rapidograph
Rotring can trace its heritage back to 1928 – the company cites the influence of the Bauhaus on its fusion of industrial simplicity and new technology. A pioneer in nib-less fountain pens, the company specialises in meticulous drawing instruments, selling sets of multiple-sized nibs since 1967 – the Rapidograph’s chrome nib can be as slender as 0.1mm.
Bauhaus inspired: Otto Hutt by Mark Braun
This Bauhaus-inspired fountain pen from the Berlin-based design studio of Mark Braun is produced by acclaimed German brand Otto Hutt. Industrial designer Braun pays homage to the midcentury penchant for geometric precision, with a pattern of horizontal and vertical ribs created a strong form and a comfortable hold. Ruthenium-plated finish and an 18ct gold nib complete the package. ‘I admire Otto Hutt’s quality and functions, so a contemporary and radically to-the-point writing instrument that promotes analogue writing was a strong motivation for me,’ the designer says.
Collectible set: LAMY 2000
LAMY’s special edition LAMY 2000 piston fountain pen pays homage to the Braun designer Gerd A Müller, the man responsible for the design back in 1966. Müller spent five years at Braun, working alongside Dieter Rams on many of the company’s iconic domestic products, before starting his own consultancy. The special edition of the LAMY 2000, with its distinctive hooded 14ct gold nib, is finished in dark brown polycarbonate, with matching box, notebook and designer biographer.
Modern classic: Pilot Falcon
Pilot is offering a US-only edition of its renowned Falcon fountain pen, in purple or blue. The pen is a modern classic that is great for writing or sketching, with four different options for the 14ct gold nib. The bold new colours stand out against the classically styled resin barrel and gold or gold- or rhodium-plated details.
Fine and decisive: Muji Aluminium Fountain Pen
Muji’s take on the everyday fountain pen is as meticulous and composed as all its beautiful basic stationery items. With a nib by German manufacturer Schmidt, a round aluminium body with a tactile knurled sleeve grip, it’ll write and sketch with a fine, decisive line.
No-nonsense rollerball: Karas Pen Co Bolt V2
A rugged, no-nonsense rollerball, handmade in Mesa, Arizona, by the small-scale specialist Karas, the Bolt V2 is made from aluminium, brass and copper and features a simple but secure latching mechanism and a sturdy industrial aesthetic. The pen takes standard refills from Pilot or Schmidt.
Colour coordinated: Leuchtturm1917 Drehgriffel Nr 1
Leuchtturm1917’s Drehgriffel Nr 1 refillable pen takes its inspiration from the company’s first writing implements designed back in the 1920s. With a twist mechanism to stow the nib, a variety of bold colours that match the company’s excellent range of notebooks, and a fluted form that won’t roll away, feels good in the hand and sits reassuringly snugly in the pen storage loop.
Japanese crafted: Platinum Pen Co Century
Established in 1919 by Syunchi Nakata, the Japanese company Platinum Pen Co specialises in meticulously crafted writing implements using a full range of traditional craft processes. Rhodium-plated for durability, the #3776Century is now available in two new translucent colours, Laurel Green and wine-coloured Bourgogne. Platinum prides itself on its effective seals that keep the nibs from drying out for up to two years.
Architect designed pen: Caran d’Ache Varius
Iconic Swiss manufacturer Caran d’Ache has been making premium quality pens and pencils since it was founded in Geneva in 1915. The company has commissioned architect Kengo Kuma to create a meticulous body for a limited edition of the Varius Roller Ball. Using Hinoki cypress wood in an intricate pattern, the pen reflects Kuma’s architectural approach and love of craft.
Handmade elegance: Graf von Faber-Castell Classic
The handmade Classic is one of Graf von Faber-Castell’s most celebrated fountain pens. With an iridium-tipped 18ct gold nib, these elegant pens can be finished in macassar wood, ebony, Pernambuco or grenadilla wood, or in platinum or silver. Founded in 1761, Graf von Faber-Castell is the high-end division of the famous manufacturer.
Day-to-day style: Faber-Castell Hexo
The Hexo is at the mass-produced end of the Faber-Castell business. A pen for day-to-day use, the Hexo is made from aluminium and is available in black, silver and rose. As the name suggests, the barrel has a subtle hexagonal form which is a nod to the company’s classic pencils (of which two billion are made each year). A stainless-steel nib completes the package.
Technical choice: Staedtler Mars Matic
Another long-running German firm, Staedtler can trace its roots back to the 17th century. As well as the ubiquitous pencil, the company has made technical pens since 1960. The Mars Matic 700 was originally designed for architects and engineers to work on tracing paper and drafting film. Even though computers have superseded almost all hand technical drawing, the quality of line and precision remains a firm favourite with professionals.
Discretion assured: Montblanc Meisterstück
The Meisterstück (‘masterpiece’) is one of the most exquisite rollerballs on the market. Montblanc’s Meisterstück range is nearly 100 years old – it was introduced as a fountain pen in 1924 – and features a black barrel with the symbolic snow-capped Montblanc emblem on the black resin cap. Perhaps the most discreet writing device in the German company’s range, it’s best sampled in its simplest, non-special edition form.
One-offs to order: Roots & Jones Ambassador
American brand Roots & Jones makes its pens in Louisville, Kentucky. This particular fountain pen is handmade from amboyna burl wood, with a choice of nibs. Burl wood is taken from an unusual tree growth, and typically has a highly random and elaborate grain. Like many of the pens created by founders (and grandfather and grandson) Jim Cantrell and Ryan Jones, this pen is a one-off, with new models created to order.
Pelikan Classic M215
Available as a fountain pen, ballpoint or rollerball, Pelikan’s Classic M215 features the company’s signature beak-shaped clip and a pattern of silver rings on the barrel. Finished in black lacquer and partly made of metal, the Classic is well-balanced and beautiful. The fountain pen features a stainless-steel nib and the piston-driven ink filling method originated in the 1930s. The German company worked with designers such as Wilhelm Wagenfeld on its pens and bottles, and still retains an old school modernist edge.