Buyers Guides & Videos - Pens, Pencils and Refills
They say the pen is mightier than the sword; and with such a vast range of pens available today, choosing the right one can be a difficult task. Whatever your reason for needing a new pen, be it to write a best-selling novel or jot down notes in a university lecture, it is important to choose the right one in terms of the quality of writing it can produce, and for your own comfort and enjoyment.
This guide is to help you decide which type of pen is best suited to your needs. We’ve laid out the pens available, along with their strengths and weaknesses so that you’re able to make an informed choice about your purchase.
Once you have settled on the right type of pen, your only problem will be choosing from the fantastic range available at Euroffice.
The pen we all know and love. Ballpoint pens are probably the most widely used type of pen and are known for their reliability, availability, durability and reasonable prices. The pen functions with a small rotating ball – usually made from brass, steel or tungsten carbide, which ink clings to. The ball rotates as you write, leaving the ink on the paper while at the same time cleverly preventing the ink inside the reservoir from drying out.
The ink used in a ballpoint is generally oil-based viscous ink which is quick drying, will write on most surfaces and comes in a wide range of colours. The thicker ink in these pens can sometimes dry out on the ball when not in use but a quick scribble will usually get the ink flowing again.
Ballpoints come in a range of tip sizes - fine, medium and bold to suit your needs and satisfy your personal preference whether in the office, at school or for personal use at home.
Both disposable and refillable ballpoints are available.
Rollerballs work in the same way a ballpoint does, but using thinner water-based ink so that the effect on paper is similar to that of a fountain pen. The low viscosity ink in a rollerball flows freely with little pressure required whilst writing. This helps reduce the risk of tired or aching hands after a lengthy writing session.
Ink from a rollerball tends take a little longer to dry and may bleed through some of the more absorbent types of paper so a little extra care may be needed, although that’s a small price to pay for the superb, professional looking lines that can be created with these pens. As the ink in a rollerball flows more freely than the ink in a ballpoint, the lifespan of the refill may be shorter.
Rollerballs will either be retractable or they will come with a lid. Ensure the lid is placed on the pen when not in use, to prevent the pen from drying out. Rollerballs start off at a reasonable price and many are refillable so you never need to be parted from your favourite pen. Tip sizes vary from super fine to bold. Which size you choose simply comes down to personal preference and depends on the type of work you will use your pen for.
Fineliners have a fine tip which is ideal for creating those slightly more delicate lines. Whether it’s sketching, illustrating or writing that you’re into – or anything else which requires attention to detail, for that matter. A fineliner gives handwriting a crisper, clearer look, especially small handwriting. Fineliners come in a range of different colours and the line widths tend to be under 0.7mm, with the finest being 0.3mm.
If you’re looking for that perfect finish, technical pens are available to do just that. These pens are favoured by architects, draughtsmen and engineers. They give a precise line and are ideal for use on a range of surfaces, including tracing paper, vellum drawing paper and line board. Most technical pens are refillable with replacement nibs often available. They come in a variety of line widths ranging from the superfine 0.1 mm to a much thicker 1.0mm. You could opt for one of our Rotring sets which contain the basics to get you started.
Fountain pens are viewed by many as being one of the most luxurious ways to put pen to paper. They work using gravity and capillary action to get the ink through the feed and onto the paper via the nib. Fountain pens offer a smooth continuous ink flow and very little pressure is needed when writing.
The nibs are usually made from stainless steel or gold and are available in a range of sizes: fine, medium and bold. The more expensive fountain pens come in beautiful designs which are often considered treasured items by their owners.
The methods of getting ink into a fountain pen vary, although the easiest and most convenient way is via a replaceable cartridge. Other refill methods use bottled ink which, although they offer a wider range of inks and colours, are less convenient for using on the go. When you’ve found the fountain pen you wish to purchase, it’s always a good idea to research which method it uses to ensure it is compatible with your lifestyle and requirements.
Disposable fountain pens are also available and are suitable for everyday use. These pens are not refillable but still provide you with a smooth, enjoyable writing experience. They come with an iridium ball nib and sizes range from 0.7mm to 0.3mm. The Pentel JM20 has a duel sided nib in sizes from 0.3mm to 0.4mm, allowing you to adjust it to suit your own personal preference and style.
Gel pens & Erasable Gel Pens
Gel pens are perfect if you want a quick drying ink similar to that found in a ballpoint, but want a pen that feels as smooth on paper as a rollerball. Quick drying times mean less smudging. The high viscosity ink is contained in a water-based gel and will show clearly on dark, and even glossy, surfaces. These factors make this style of pen not only great to write with but an excellent choice for art and craft projects where a range of materials are used to write or draw on. A selection of different tip sizes and colours are available.
The erasable gel pen, such as the Pilot Frixion, is perfect for those who like to hide their mistakes. When you rub the ink with the special tip, friction generated heat causes the ink to disappear right before your eyes – without damaging the paper. Should you accidentally erase something, simply pop the paper in the freezer for a few minutes and the ink will reappear like magic!
If you're looking for something extra special you could opt for one of our Executive pens. The Parker and Waterman pens from our Fine Writing range offer a pen that not only writes well but is likely to create a little pen envy in the workplace (and on that note – keep it well hidden from the office pen thief!). These pens come in various stylish designs and are made from stainless steel with chrome or gold trims. They are available as a ballpoint, rollerball or a fountain pen so there is no need for compromise.
These pens are used for highlighting text and come in bright fluorescent colours, bringing text to the attention of the reader with ease. Most highlighters have a chiselled tip which produces a broad line through the text but can be used to achieve a finer line when underlining. Line widths range from 1mm to 5mm, making highlighting text of any size an easy task.
Red, Blue, Pink, Yellow, Orange and Green are the typical colours found in the highlighter range. Yellow tends to be a popular choice in the office, as it doesn't show up on photocopies.
Over-head projector (OHP) pens are designed to write on OHP film but are also suitable to use on most other glossy surfaces.
OHP pens offer both a permanent and non-permanent option. If you’re looking to make your presentation colourful and eye-catching you could opt for one of our assorted colour packs which include some, or all, of the following colours: black, blue, red, orange, green, brown, purple and yellow. You can choose from a wide range of line widths, including: 0.4mm, 0.6mm, 0.8mm, 1mm and 3mm.
Marker pens are available in a variety of colours including black, blue, red and green. The tip of a marker pen will either be a bullet tip or a chisel tip. A bullet tip helps give you a more consistent line width which is great for labelling or writing on flip charts, CDs and more. A chisel tip conveniently gives you the option to produce both thick and thin lines. Tip sizes range from 0.4mm right up to 14.8mm, to ensure your every need is catered for.
Permanent markers will write on almost any surface including wood, plastic, metal, glass and paper. They are waterproof and cannot be removed once applied.
Non-permanent markers are excellent for use on whiteboards, OHP film and similar non-porous surfaces as well as being suitable for use on paper. A damp cloth can be used to remove the marker ink.
NB: This buyer guide was written by one of our guest Euroffice Experts - Janine Atkin
Pencils are made from a mixture of graphite and clay which is then placed into a protective casing, most commonly wood, or in the case of a mechanical pencil – plastic or metal.
However, a pencil is not just a pencil. Any artist who uses pencils regularly will be interested in the hardness of the lead, which ranges from hard (2H, 3H, 4H, 5H, 6H, 7H, 8H, 9H,) to black (B, 2B, 3B, 4B, 5B, 6B, 7B, 8B, 9B). HB is the most common type of pencil, used for most everyday writing tasks. 9H is the hardest and will leave the lightest mark on paper, while 9B is the softest and will leave the darkest mark on paper.
A mechanical pencil is a good choice if you are looking for convenience. It doesn’t require sharpening, so the balance of it won't be affected as it would with a wooden pencil with the length decreasing after sharpening.
Mechanical pencils are refillable and store extra leads, perfect for artists on the go. Many are also equipped with a replaceable eraser. You can choose mechanical pencils in a range of lead sizes including 0.5mm, 0.7mm and 0.9mm, and some have a rubber grip for added comfort.
Mechanical pencils, also known as propelling pencils, allow users to draw with ultra thin writing tips. Usually encased in hard plastic, mechanical pencils use graphite inserts which a ratchet-based system holds and propels forward when needed so there’s no need to sharpen the lead. These pencils give a consistent performance with a precise line width and are perfect for design and technical uses.
Colouring pens and pencils
A popular drawing tool for both children and adults, colouring pencils are available in either round or hexagonal barrels. You can choose from the standard colouring pencil or the blendable colouring pencil which helps you create those softer edges, and water colour pencils which give your creations a stunning water colour paint effect when brush strokes of water are added.
We also stock long lasting felt tip pens that come in both broad and fine tips, available in a vast range of colours. These are washable, making them the ideal choice for school children, whether in the classroom or at home.
Crayons are particularly suitable for children as they are hard wearing, cover large areas and will not create any unwanted mess. They can be sharpened so you can keep them in tip top condition and are also erasable. They are available in a range of bright, eye catching colours …. Let those imaginations run wild.
Everyone has their one special pen – their first choice when they dip into the pen pot. Once you’ve found yours, you’ll want to know how to refill it so that you can use it for ever and ever and ever….
We stock a selection of refills including Parker, Waterman, Cross and Rotring. Refills are available for ballpoints, rollerballs and technical pens. Fountain pen refills are available in the form of both cartridges and bottled ink.
Either check the packaging, or look at the refill inside your pen to find out which type your pen requires. Most ballpoints, rollerballs and gel pens simply need to be unscrewed for refill purposes. Take care when refilling so you don’t lose any springs or other small parts that the pen may contain.
Refilling a fountain pen which uses a disposable cartridge is straight forward. The cartridge is simply pushed on, piercing the top and allowing the ink to escape. Check the packaging to find out which cartridges are compatible with your pen.
The refill process can sometimes be a little more complicated (or more fun, depending on how you look at it) with a fountain pen which uses bottled ink. These fountain pens may need to be filled via the piston mechanism, which uses suction, or manually via a syringe.
Choosing the line width
The line width you choose for your pen will depend on personal preference and the type of work you intend to use your pen for. Line widths range from a very thin 0.1mm on fineliners, all the way up to a 14.8mm on pens such as markers. The average size of a medium point pen is around 0.7mm or 0.8mm, so that’s a good starting point when deciding how thick or thin you’d like your lines to be.
How do I replenish my executive pen or fountain pen?
Executive pens and fountain pens use replacement ink cartridges so when the ink runs out in your pen you’ll need a pen refill. To find the right ink refill we recommend you check the instructions that originally came with your pen. Alternatively check the existing refill in your pen. We stock pen refills from Parker, Waterman, Pilot, Cross and Rotring so you’ll be able to find the right one for your pen.
Replacing an ink cartridge will depend on the type of pen you have. Again we recommend you check the pen’s original instructions before replacing a cartridge but usually you’ll be able to unscrew the pen’s barrel to allow you to remove the existing cartridge and replace it with a new refill. Be careful when you’re unscrewing the pen as small items from the mechanism may fall out making it harder to put the pen back together once the new ink refill has been added.
What is pen line width?
Pens are available in a range of line widths so you can choose how much ink is used while writing or drawing. A large line width will create a thicker line while a small line width will create a thinner line. Pen line width is mostly up to personal preference with line widths available from 0.1mm to 10mm.
Finding the right line width will depend on how you’re going to use a pen. A standard line width of between 0.4mm to 0.8mm is suitable for everyday use in the office or at school. Ballpoint, rollerball, gel and fountain pens are available in these sizes of line widths.
As their name suggests, fineliners have smaller line widths starting from 0.3mm which allow users to create detailed illustrations or drawings. Technical drawing pens have even smaller line widths from 0.18mm to 0.35mm that are used in engineering and architectural drawings.
On the other end of the scale, marker pens will have line widths of between 1mm to 5mm so writing appears larger and can be seen easily on whiteboards, chalkboards or flipcharts.
Which pen brands do you stock?
We stock all major pen manufacturers from Bic, Paper Mate and Pentel to Pilot, Staedler and Uni-ball. These brands, as well as 5 Star, Invo, Zebra and Berol, offer a large range of pens from ballpoint and rollerball pens to fineliners, disposable fountain pens and gel pens.
Parker and Waterman specialise in producing high quality executive pens and fountain pens that use replacement ink cartridges while we also have specialist technical drawing pens from Rotring.
What type of pencil should I get?
Traditional wood cased, hexagonal -shaped pencils use a graphite core and are available in a range of grades from hard, light-marking pencils to soft, black-marking pencils. Using the European grading system, hard pencils are marked with the letter H with pencils available in grades from 9H to H while soft pencils have the letter B and pencils are available in grades from B to 9B.
Engineers or draftsmen tend to use the hard grade pencils from 9H to B will artists typically use soft grade pencils from HB to 9B. HB and F grade pencils sit in the middle of the grading system with HB pencils the standard writing pencils most commonly used within offices and schools.
High quality brands include Staedler and Derwent with pencils usually available in packs of individual pencils or as pencil sets for specific uses. Some pencils also include an eraser tip which allows users to correct mistakes quickly and easily.
How do I keep my pencils sharp?
Traditional pencils need sharpening and there are three main types of pencil sharpeners available. The standard pocket-sized pencil sharpener is usually wedge-shaped and made from metal. These sharpeners come with single or double holes that are suitable for pencils up to 8mm in diameter. While easy to store in a pencil case or bag, the downside of these sharpeners is the fact you need to stand over a bin to stop the pencil shavings from littering your desk or floor.
Canister pencil sharpeners incorporate a standard sharpener within a hard plastic compartment that is designed to collect pencil shavings. These sharpeners are again suitable for 8mm pencils and are ideal if you need to sharpen your pencils while away from the office, classroom or home.
For professional or educational environments where pencils are used regularly, electrically powered sharpeners can be a real timesaver. Mains powered or battery powered sharpeners from Swordfish will sharpen pencils in seconds and will provide a consistent and precise performance. Shavings are collected into integrated canisters that can be emptied easily and many of these sharpeners include safety features to help prevent fingers getting caught in the mechanism.
How do I correct pen or pencil mistakes?
Pen marks may be permanent but you can still correct mistakes on paper using correction fluid or correction tape. Correction fluid is available in 20ml bottles or in specially designed pens. The bottles come with a simple brush applicator that allows correction fluid to be easily applied to areas on the paper. Once the fluid has dried you can then start to re-write over the corrected area.
Correction pens have fine metal tips and are better at applying correction fluid to smaller areas of text as they deliver a very smooth and accurate fluid application. Fluids are dispensed by squeezing the pen body and the fluid is usually quick drying so you can begin re-writing text faster.
Correction tape rollers are an alternative to correction fluid and will apply a white, opaque layer to paper. Rollers are easier to use and provide great coverage so none of the text underneath the tape can be seen. As tape is dry on application, rollers create less mess than traditional correction fluid and allow re-writes to be undertaken instantly.
Correcting pencil mistakes is a lot easier than correcting pen mistakes. Standard erasers are made from plastic, usually come wrapped in a paper sleeve and allow you to easily correct mistakes by rubbing out pencil marks. Staedtler offer a range of self-cleaning erasers to help reduce smudging and there are also erasers that are designed specifically for rubbing out softer grades of pencil.
For an eraser that will fit into a pencil case or clip onto a drawing pad, Pentel offers a pen-shaped eraser that uses a ratchet system to advance and retract an eraser. The hard plastic protective casing also incorporates a pocket clip and rubber finger grip for easy transportation and ease of use.