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The Bluest Ink


Prior to working a job with the understandable, yet still rather draconian “Blue ink only” rule, I displayed almost no bias for or against blue ink. I worked for a psych unit still carrying on a maddening affair with paper charts, thus there was lots of writing by hand. However, all this paper charting facilitated the need to quickly identify original documents from copies; as a result I soon grew to loathe the sight of blue ink.

I’m fairly certain it was my distaste for the job rather than the ink or the ink use policy, which created this irrational disdain for blue ink, but nevertheless when given the choice I generally opt for black or green ink. More often than not, the former rather than the latter. But while employed as a program assistant – read: secretary – I tried just about every blue ink pen Staples had to offer in hopes of finding one that was nearly black, but still visibly blue. This was not unlike my search for a similarly hued nail polish, though I had much better luck with the nail polish.

Anyway, as the writing career barrels forward I find myself with fewer opportunities to write by hand – even list making often occurs on the computer – and oddly enough I’ve found myself messing around with different blue ink pens, since for some reason I have billions of them.

When I started that job I really believe all blue ink pens – not talking about fountain pen ink – were pretty much the same, drawing on the vivid memory of unremarkable ballpoint stick pens of my high school years, featuring ink color that nearly matched the lines on notebook paper.

  1. Post-it® Flag Pen – I’ve been using these pens a lot lately since they were 75% at Kmart and I bought a couple of sets. I don’t find the ink particularly dazzling, but do prefer it to the gel ink cousin, which is kind of scratchy and disappointing. This is another example of the barrel exciting me more than the ink, which more often than not tends to happen with me.
  2. Staples® Sonix™ Gel-Ink Pen – Dark Blue – This one’s extremely dark – nearly black – but clearly a blue ink pen. I love the way it writes on thick notecards, but find it entirely too scratchy on thinner paper. It tends to skip quite a bit, which has been a pretty typical experience for me in relation to this pen.
  3. Staples® Sonix™ Gel-Ink Pens – Med Blue – This ink, more than any I tested, conjures up all those dreadful memories of Trapper Keepers and study hall.
  4. Zig Millennium Writer – I’ve reviewed this pen before and the black version is definitely one of my favorite pens. The blue ink version is boring and tend to pawn these off on unsuspecting friends and strangers.
  5. Freewriter Pen – in my review of this pen I wrote as following: “The barrel is attractive and well designed. I loved the use of contrasting shades of blue on the barrel. The grip is sturdy rubber thus ensuring a fatigue-free writing experience. The ink is a nice medium blue, which generally I don’t particularly like, but in this case I’ll make an exception because the pen is so dang fun to write with.” and I’m pretty sure I mentioned the blue pen (came in a set with a red and black pens) was the true showstopper of the set.
  6. Foray Liquid Pen – Dark Blue Ink – I love this pen and am relieved to discover they aren’t going to stop making it. I scored a couple of these for less than a dollar each and generally that’s a good indication the product will disappear off the planet and leave me heartbroken.
  7. Foray Liquid Pen – Turquoise Ink – I have a thing for turquoise/aqua ink, which I don’t really understand since it doesn’t often show well on white paper. This one reminds me of the Inc Brand “Megatank” or whatever they’re call, which I can’t seem to find anymore. It writes smoothly and lays down a pretty sweet looking line.
  8. Staedtler 1.6 MM Ballpoint Pen – Turquoise Ink – I adore this pen, though it does have the same drawbacks as most of the Turquoise ink pens I like using. I mostly enjoy its thick line, but don’t tend it use it for stuff other people have to read as it tends to make already chubby writing, even chubbier and more challenging to read. My favorite blue ink is actually this same pen but in dark blue. I would have listed it here, but the one I own dried up!
  9. Gelly Roll Metallic Blue Black – I know people go bonks for these pens, but I can never seem to make them perform consistently well for me. Sometimes I can get them to write without skipping and other times I can’t even get them to write after a several rounds of “swirly scratch scratch swirly” on scratch paper. I dig them sparkles and when I can get the pen to behave, I do really love the color.
  10. Foray® Retractable Rubber Grip Ballpoint Pen – This was the most surprising of the bunch. When I got this pen I didn’t expect much and quickly stashed it with the rest of my blue pens, but retrieved it one day when I was signing for a package. I was pretty impressed with its performance, though the ink didn’t do too much for me.
21 Comments leave one →
  1. Mike permalink
    05/17/2010 1:17 pm

    Prior to working a job with the understandable, yet still rather draconian “Blue ink only” rule, I displayed almost bias for or against blue ink.

    *Nods*. Yep. We have the same ink rule in my office. Fountain ink is strongly discouraged, so we make do with stick pens.

    The Foray pen (dark blue) puts down a crisp line. I generally haven’t been too impressed with Office Depot’s own products across the board.

  2. Adrian permalink
    05/17/2010 1:19 pm

    Nice review, Angelina. I really like the Maped Freewriter and haven’t stopped liking it since you originally reviewed it.

  3. Peter permalink
    05/17/2010 1:22 pm

    I prefer blue ink pens most of the time, but sometimes I get nostalgic for old school ballpoints. I even love that ballpoint ink smell! My job is not prescriptive regarding the color of ink we are to use.

  4. recorder noise permalink
    05/17/2010 1:27 pm

    i havent bought a blue ink pen for a long time now..i always lose the ones i like…it breaks my heart to lose
    a favorite pen..i like the ones reviewed here…and they aren’t super pricey, worth the try

  5. katie permalink
    05/17/2010 1:29 pm

    Your experience with the Foray liquid pen (turquoise) is interesting, because mine flows terribly and is very dry, even when seeing frequent use. It’s not from just sitting in the pen cup that mine is bad. It’s scratchy on the paper and the ink is very pale – not like the colors you seem to be showing here. I’ll chalk it up to bad quality control. These reviews were really cool.

  6. Crissy permalink
    05/17/2010 1:30 pm

    Snarky, love the celebration of blue ink. I am a fan of really dark blue ink and sometimes can find a really great dark blue ink without a lot of effort. Thanks for roadtesting a few.

  7. 05/17/2010 1:38 pm

    The Foray pen (dark blue) puts down a crisp line. I generally haven’t been too impressed with Office Depot’s own products across the board.

    What problems have you experienced with their products? I definitely find them to occasionally have some real issues with skipping and sometimes there have quality control concerns too. Namely, purchasing a pack of identical pens and discovering they give vastly different performances.

  8. 05/17/2010 1:39 pm

    Sometimes I get nostalgic about the smell of certain pens too! Thanks for stopping by. I haven’t seen you around these parts before. Welcome.

  9. 05/17/2010 1:41 pm

    Yeah, like I said in my response to Mike, I have observed my share of quality control issues with Foray products. I would say overall my experiences with the products have been good, so any issues I’ve experienced hasn’t deterred me from purchasing more of their products. That said, there are a couple I tend to shun – the gel stick pens.

  10. 05/17/2010 1:41 pm

    Recorder Noise – most of these are less than two bucks a piece.

  11. 05/17/2010 1:43 pm

    Thanks, Adrian! I definitely wanted to examine all these blue pens in my stash. Also wanted to break out the pens you recommended to me. 🙂

  12. 05/17/2010 1:44 pm

    Yes, I remember bonding over our love of dark blue inks. You’ve tried the Staedtler blue pen right?

  13. Lucy permalink
    05/17/2010 1:54 pm

    I really like that Foray (Dark Blue) liquid pen. I have never seen those before. Really has nice looking ink. Also, your handwriting is really freaking nice.

  14. Sugarcookies permalink
    05/17/2010 1:55 pm

    Gelly Roll pens aren’t really useful for anything except craft projects. It’s a shame because I would love to use them for everyday writing, but I do find they skip on certain kinds of paper and do not consistently write. It’s very tedious.

  15. Sugarcookies permalink
    05/17/2010 1:55 pm

    Great blog, too!

  16. 05/17/2010 2:15 pm

    I was recently gifted with a color set of Sharpie pens, which I really like — the precise, smooth line reminds a bit of the Pilot razor point, back when that was the cool geek pen to use. But the blue is a bit too pale for me, better suited for coloring or drawing than writing, for which I prefer a blue that I think used to be referred to as “blue-black.”

  17. 05/17/2010 3:58 pm

    Ooh. What did you think about the orange pen? I have been curious about that one.

  18. 05/17/2010 5:46 pm

    The orange is actually quite lovely, in the same family as the Rhodia notebook orange, just a bit darker. But again I can’t really see using it to write with. I’m really liking the purple though.

  19. SaraKate permalink
    05/20/2010 11:59 pm

    Hmm, I might have another pen for you to try. My work pen of choice is the Zebra Sarasa, medium point in blue. I’d say it’s darker than everything but #2 and #9 in your list (there’s also a navy, but I’ve only seen it as part of the color set, which is not good for a workhorse choice). The standard blue is actually a little dark for my taste, but I find it to be a lovely pen in all other respects — smooth flow, reliable on pretty much every paper (it’s even decent on glossy, which is challenging for all gel pens, if you don’t move too fast), and very quick-drying ink*. The clip is sturdy, the grip is comfortable, and the click action is entertainingly crisp (I am a pen fidgeter). Staples carries them, and they’re about middle-of-the-line for gel pens on price; I’d say they’re a good value and a would-recommend.

    *This was our major driver in switching to these, as the person responsible for ordering pens is also responsible for the copy machines and had had her fill of cleaning streaks left by impatient copiers of documents signed with our previously most-popular pen, the Uni-Ball Gel Impact, which has a lovely flow and is the bright shade that I prefer, but is indeed smeary as heck.

  20. ozma permalink
    05/21/2010 5:49 am

    I developed a weird pen thing. It has to be black Bic gel or nothing. Blue ink gives me the heebie geebies.

    I always hated Bic until those gel pens came out.


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