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If you don’t have time to read the entire review and just want to find out what the best no-smudge pen for note taking is, then we recommend Frienda Quick-Drying Extra Fine Point Liquid Ink Pen as the best choice.
For most of us, our note taking skills start to lag once our studying days are over. But taking good notes is an incredibly valuable skill, and not just for students. The act of writing down notes manually is a powerful trigger that actually improves learning, and is often recommended by professors and productivity experts alike.
In order to make note taking part of your productivity habit, you need an excellent pen. The best pens for note taking don't smear or smudge, have ink that flows freely and smoothly, and make the act of writing a pleasure rather than a pain.
Smudging can be a particular issue for lefties and people who jot down ideas quickly on the go. Boosting your memory and productivity starts with the right tools, so here are the best no-smudge pens for note taking.
A Quick Look at Our Top Picks
To quickly browse our favorite pens for taking beautiful, smudge-free notes, here's a summary of the best no smudge pens for note taking in 2023.
|Best Overall Choice: Frienda Quick-Drying Extra Fine Point Liquid Ink Pen||CLICK HERE FOR PRICE|
|Runner-Up Option: uni-ball JETSTREAM 101 Rollerball Pens||CLICK HERE FOR PRICE|
|Best Value for the Money: Pentel Libretto Roller Gel Pen||CLICK HERE FOR PRICE|
|Most Budget-Friendly: Pentel R.S.V.P. Ballpoint Stick Pen||CLICK HERE FOR PRICE|
|Best High-End Pen: Montblanc PIX Petrol Blue Ballpoint Pen||CLICK HERE FOR PRICE|
|Best Ultra-Fine Pen for Note-Taking: Pilot Razor Point II Fine Line Marker||CLICK HERE FOR PRICE|
|Best Pen for Executives: Scriveiner Black Lacquer Rollerball Pen||CLICK HERE FOR PRICE|
|Most Eco-Friendly Pen Option: Eco Pen Biodegradable Recycled Cardboard 12 Pen Set||CLICK HERE FOR PRICE|
|Best All-in-One Pen and Marker Option: Pilot Markliter Black Ballpoint Pen with Fluorescent Yellow Chisel-Tip Highlighter||CLICK HERE FOR PRICE|
Best No-Smudge Pens for Note Taking
1. Best Overall Choice: Frienda Quick-Drying Extra Fine Point Liquid Ink Pen
If you have a home, school, or office of pen thieves, you may not want to invest in something as pricey as the Scriveiner. Fortunately, the Frienda Quick-Drying Extra Fine Point Liquid Ink Pen is a great budget alternative for incredibly smooth ink.
These rollerball pens have a precision tip and a super-fast drying time so there are never smears or smudges. They have a built-in output regulator that ensures an even ink flow for incredible smoothness, and won't allow leaking. The extra-fine tip is .5mm, and the lightweight, transparent barrel lets you see exactly how much ink you have.
These pens come in sets of 12, and you can choose from black ink only, or two different multi-color packs at a great price.
2. Runner-Up Option: uni-ball JETSTREAM 101 Rollerball Pens
Uni-Ball pens are a perpetual favorite among people who love smooth-writing ballpoint pens. The company is constantly developing new pens that are more comfortable to hold, have improved ink and writing technologies, and last for a long time. The JETSTREAM is a fantastic innovation in no-smudge pens, and a great runner up choice.
The uni-ball JETSTREAM 101 Rollerball has an advanced, responsive grip for excellent comfort when writing, with light embossing that improves control. It has a twin ball mechanism that reduces ink viscosity at the top of the flow, for smooth, consistent writing without skipping or clumping. When the ink touches the paper, the second ball restores the original viscosity, to prevent feathering and bleeding on the page.
But what is really special about the JETSTREAM is the innovative hybrid Super Ink that writes with the smoothness of a gel and the quick drying of a ballpoint. Not only does Super Ink produce crisp, clear lines without smudging, but it is acid-free, archival quality ink that resists fading and water damage.
Super Ink is specially formulated to become trapped in paper fibers, making it resistant to washing out. This combination of smooth viscosity and bonding with paper fibers make Super Ink especially resistant to smudging, making the JETSTREAM a popular pen for left-handed people and anyone who wants a clean, vivid, smudge-resistant pen.
3. Best Value for the Money: Pentel Libretto Roller Gel Pen
The Pentel Libretto is an executive pen that comes in an elegant felt-lined presentation box, perfect as a gift for yourself or for anyone who wants a beautiful, super smooth writing experience. It's a refillable pen made of sophisticated brushed metal that will last for years, making it a great value for the money.
The Pentel Libretto Roller Gel Pen has a chic design and a weighted barrel for comfort in the hand. Pentel's EnerGel liquid ink dries quickly, with no smears, smudges, or globs. Lines are clean, vivid, and incredibly smooth to write.
4. Most Budget-Friendly: Pentel R.S.V.P. Ballpoint Stick Pen
The Pentel R.S.V.P Ballpoint Stick Pen is an unassuming-looking pen that works beautifully. It has great ink flow, so you never need to scribble to get it started. The stainless steel tip produces fine, even lines with no clumping, skipping, or smudging. The long, sturdy, well balanced barrel makes this pen a favorite for people with large hands. These pens last for a long time, and the transparent barrel lets you see how much ink you have left.
The Pentel R.S.V.P. Fine has a .7mm tip, and is refillable. It comes in a pack of five black pens, but is also available in blue, red, or a multicolor pack with black, blue, red, green, and violet. This popular pen has become more difficult to find in stores, so it's a great resource to find online.
5. Best High-End Pen: Montblanc PIX Petrol Blue Ballpoint Pen
Montblanc pens are legendary for their quality and durability, with elegant designs and quality that lasts for a lifetime. Their pens are made in Hamburg, Germany, by master craftsmen who carefully complete every step of the creation by hand.
From the original technical drawings through metal working, nib manufacture, injection molding, and electro plating, every pen is built to the highest standard, worthy of being a part of your history and of Montblanc's legacy. These are simply some of the best high end pens in the world.
The Montblanc PIX Petrol Blue Ballpoint Pen has a clean, modern design inspired by the Bauhaus movement. The cap and barrel are made of blue precious resin, with platinum-coated detailing. It weighs a satisfying 16.5 grams, for comfort and substance in the hand, without heaviness. It can be refilled with dozens of beautiful, vivid Montblanc inks, and has the quality to last for a lifetime.
6. Best Ultra-Fine Pen for Note-Taking: Pilot Razor Point II Fine Line Marker
If you love ultra-fine pens, the Pilot Razor Point II Fine Line Marker has a point of just .2mm, for the finest precision lines. It has a fiber point with a metal collar that provides smooth writing and a durable tip. The ink is clean and quick-drying, so it doesn't smear or smudge. The fiber point requires no pressure to produce ink, so you can have long note-taking sessions without fatiguing your hands. It is a slender, refined looking pen with comfortable style, and Pilot makes some of the best reviewed pens in the business.
The Pilot Razor Point II comes in packs of 12, and is available in black, blue, or red ink.
7. Best Pen for Executives: Scriveiner Black Lacquer Rollerball Pen
The Scriveiner Black Lacquer Rollerball Pen is a luxury pen that comes in an attractive box, perfect for a gift or just to treat yourself. It has a German liquid ink system that provides smooth, even ink flow on any type of paper. It produces a fine, .6mm line that gives the feel of a fountain pen with the convenience of a ballpoint. The pen is made of brass with black lacquer and finished in 24-karat gold, but looks stylish and classy rather than showy. The brass and gold give it a satisfying, well-balanced weight of 35.5 grams
The Scriveiner Black Lacquer Rollerball Pen comes with a hidden compartment in the presentation box that holds an ink refill, and more refills are available. It's backed by a one-year 100% guarantee.
8. Most Eco-Friendly Pen Option: Eco Pen Biodegradable Recycled Cardboard 12 Pen Set
If you want a great writing experience without all the disposable plastic of most pens, you will love the Eco Pen Biodegradable Recycled Cardboard 12 Pen Set. These pens have a smooth flow and quick-dry ink for consistent, even writing.
These pens are exceptionally light, so they won't make your hands sore. It has minimal bleed-through, making it great for notebooks and journaling. These pens are made from recycled plastic and cardboard, and are safe and non-toxic. In fact, Eco-Pen even donates 10% of their profits to environmental causes, so every purchase does some good. And they are backed by a 100% satisfaction guarantee.
These eco-friendly pens come in a set of 12, 16, or 20, in an attractive case that doubles as a gift box, if you want to give them to the writer in your life. They have black ink and a medium tip.
9. Best All-in-One Pen & Marker Option: Pilot Markliter Black Ballpoint Pen with Fluorescent Yellow Chisel-Tip Highlighter
An important aspect of note taking is the need to go back over your notes and ensure that you remember specific details. For that reason, we love the Pilot Markliter Black Ballpoint Pen with Fluorescent Yellow Chisel-Tip Highlighter, because it combines a black ballpoint pen with an essential yellow highlighter, so you get the best of both worlds in a single pen. The ballpoint side has smooth, black ink with a fine point, and is identical to the classic Pilot Better Ball Point pen. The highlighter side has a precision chisel tip, and is identical to the Pilot Spotliter. The pen has a quick-dry ink, so you can highlight over your writing immediately, without smearing or discoloring.
These pens are 6 inches long, and come in a pack of 12.
What to Look for in a Pen for Note Taking
Here are some of the key features you need in a great pen for note taking.
Quick-dry ink is crucial for note taking. Left-handed people, in particular, often struggle with ink smearing as their hand travels across the page. But everyone needs quick-dry ink, whether it's because your hand may smudge the writing, or if you need to quickly close a notebook or turn the page in your journal. Quickly drying ink is also important if you are going to go back over your writing with a highlighter or accent color.
No Bleed Through
Truthfully, bleed-through is as influenced as much by your paper as it is by your pens, but it's still an important feature to look for. If your writing bleeds through the paper, it makes your notebook look messy and may render pages unreadable or unusable. Most ballpoint pens are less subject to bleed through than fiber, marker-style pens.
Barrel Length, Width, and Weight
Many students are familiar with the experience of having their hand stiffen and cramp up over long writing sessions. This is heavily influenced by your own hand ergonomics, but can be made worse by using a pen that is too thin, heavy, or short for your hand. Generally speaking, people with larger hands should choose pens that have a longer barrel and have a larger circumference, to avoid pain and soreness in the hand.
Fast Start, Smooth Flow
It's distracting when a pen doesn't write immediately or consistently, and you have to scribble to keep the ink flowing. You want your pen to flow as quickly as your ideas, and avoid unsightly scribbles in the margins to keep the ink flowing.
Low Pressure Flow
One of the reasons for hand cramping is a pen that requires a lot of downward pressure to maintain ink flow. If your writing style is naturally hard on the page, try to practice writing with a lighter touch to avoid fatigue in the hand and keep your written pages flatter. Different ballpoint pens react differently to pressure on the tip, while fiber tips and marker-style pens require very little pressure to maintain ink flow.
Using different ink colors is a great way to trigger your memory and keep your notes organized. When you have a pen with the flow, weight, and ink that works best for you, it's a great idea to get that same pen in alternate colors, so you can use your favorite pen in multiple ways.
The perfect pen is a refillable pen. Not only because it's better for the environment, and more affordable than buying new pens all the time, but also because once you have found the perfect pen, you want to go on using it as long as possible. All pen-lovers know the disappointment of not being able to find their favorite, or the manufacturer changing their pens. Refillable pens let you have the best writing experience for as long as possible, and do good for the world as well.
Reasons to Develop a Note Taking Habit
Every student knows that taking notes is essential for good performance in school. Taking notes by hand has been shown to be a more effective way of learning, because the act of writing engages the mind and body more than the act of typing. Hand writing your notes promotes a deeper level of cognition of the material, creating improved understanding and retention. But taking notes is a valuable skill to practice throughout life, even after our school years are over.
Productivity expert Tim Ferriss has a detailed note taking system that allows him to stay more productive by staying organized, sharpening his memory, and saving time searching for needed information. Taking notes helps you capture the most relevant information from a lecture, meeting, or train of thought, and turn it into action items that make you more effective in every area of life.
And, let's face it, taking notes in a class, lecture, meeting, or discussion simply looks better; it makes a good impression on those around you, by demonstrating attention and respect for the material.
But writing out your thoughts isn't just about boosting memory and productivity, or making a good impression on others. There are many deeper, more personal benefits for documenting your days and ideas, and many ways to use note taking techniques to improve your life. Some of these include:
Keeping a Gratitude Journal
Keeping a gratitude journal helps you reduce negative thoughts and refocus your thoughts on the positive aspects of life. A gratitude journal can help aid your personal development, keep track of your thoughts, document your inspiration, and grow creatively.
Start a Bullet Journal
A bullet journal is a very efficient way to start a journaling habit you will keep. It transforms the act of long-form journaling into a simpler, note-taking format that keeps you focused on what matters, helps you stay organized, and can even be a great form of artistic and creative expression. Bullet journals can be as elaborate or simple as you need, with a huge range of formats and all you need to get started is a pen and a notebook.
Develop a Daily Writing Habit
Keeping a daily journal has been shown to help reduce stress and promote emotional clarity in your life. It helps put your life and feelings into perspective, preserves important memories, and can even serve as the starting point for creative writing, paid writing, or sharing your legacy in a memoir.
How to Use Note Taking to Boost Your Productivity
In order to use your notes to improve your performance and productivity, manage stress, and move you toward your goals, you only need a few things.
A Great Pen
You can see our top picks for great pens above, but any pen will do as long as it works well and helps you feel good about the act of writing. Feel free to try as many as you need until you find your personal favorite.
A Notebook or Journal
The choice of notebooks and journals is a deeply personal one. Some people have strong preferences about lines, paper quality, and cover properties. A notebook should be the size that makes it easy and comfortable to keep with you throughout the day, while a journal may be larger and only used at specific times of the day. For our top picks of the best notebooks for journaling, writing, and note-taking, check out this article:
A Productivity System
If all your notes are taken randomly and captured differently, you may not get the full benefit of the habit. There are a huge range of different productivity systems out there, and you may need to try several of them before you find an organizational habit that works best for you.
You may find that you need a notepad at the bedside or in the shower, to capture your most creative and inspired thoughts the moment they strike. You may discover that you stay better organized if you capture your top tasks and priorities in an app.
On the other hand, you may need to create quiet time and silence all your devices so you can work in a distraction-free environment. Experiment until you find a system (or invent one yourself) that moves you toward your goals.
Because the act of taking notes can mean so many different things to different people, and everyone's writing style is a little different, there may not be one single best no-smudge pen for note taking.
However, our personal favorite is the Frienda Quick-Drying Extra Fine Point Liquid Ink Pen, because it combines two incredibly popular pens into a single barrel. We love the smooth-flowing, quick-drying ink of the ballpoint pen side.
We love the usefulness and fast availability of the highlighter side. And we love that a single pen can help capture and organize your notes and thoughts at the same time, without hunting for different pens for different purposes. We do wish the caps on the Pilot Markliter were easier to manage, and wish that it were refillable, but it's a great pen for what it does.
Taking good, actionable notes and keeping a journal can be life-changing habits, and it's never too late or too early to start. Find the pens and notebooks that you love, and use them to start habits that will improve your productivity, memory, and emotional health today.
Finally, if you don’t know the “right” way to journal, then check out this seven-step process for building a journaling habit that sticks.