What Is a Gel Pen & What Are Gel Pens Best Used For?

From 80’s Trend to Elegant Tool: Gel Pens Have Come into Their Own

Gel ink is made of powder pigments suspended in a water-based gel. Ballpoint ink is made of dye that’s fully dissolved and suspended in an oil-based paste. Gel ink is smoother, more vivid, plus more water- and age-resistant than ballpoint ink. So what’s not to love? Who wouldn’t embrace the elegant gel ink pen over the old-world ballpoint? Well, for one, lefties. And bank robbers. Plus teachers. Let’s discuss:

Can Lefties Love a Gel Ink Pen?

Lefties have long been forgotten in the world of writing instruments, and gel ink is no exception. When first introduced in 1984, and for a while thereafter, gel ink was prone to smudging and smearing willy-nilly before drying—which took noticeably longer than ballpoint ink. This made gel pens a no-go for lefties, whose palm often drags across what they’ve just written or drawn.

Though it’s true that at the advent of the gel pen, lefties were indeed left out, that’s no longer the case. In fact, gel ink technology has come so far in recent years that it’s now safe to swan dive into the gel ink waters even if you’re a south paw. In fact, many gel ink pens dry as quickly as ballpoint ink.

Another gel ink upside for lefties: The easy ink flow, especially with medium and fine tip gel pens. While right-handers pull the pen across the page to move left to right, left-handers have to push it, so a smooth ride is important. And gel ink delivers.

Bottom line: With their quick dry and smooth flow, the right gel pen is a shoe-in for the south paw. Both of these options have super quick drying ink that dries in under a second (that’s quicker than most ballpoint inks):

  • Translucent Iris Quick Dry Gel Pen
  • Zebra Sarasa Gel Retractable

Bankers, Yes on Gel. Bank Robbers, Still a No-Go

If you’re trying to get on the inside track with the fraudulent set, the gel pen is decidedly NOT the promotional tool for you. Slap your logo on a mechanical pencil or erasable ink pen and you’re cooking with gas on the front burner, speaking the bad guy language, hitting a homerun. On the other hand, gel ink becomes trapped in the paper it’s written on, so it’s virtually impossible to wash (as in “check washing”), erase, or otherwise alter. Ergo….

Bankers are straight-up good to go when it comes to gel ink pens! As are those signing checks and other signature-driven documents. Our recommendations follow. Take your pick and distribute generously.

  • Soft Touch Cozy Gel Pen – Full Color Inkjet
  • Newport Gel Pen

Teachers and Gel Ink Pens: It’s Complicated

Most of us have committed some sort of childhood transgression, wittingly or not. For some among us, that may have been completing a homework assignment in light blue, sparkly pink, or light green gel ink—driving a hapless teacher to near distraction (and surely to delivery of a lower mark). In times of yore (well, a few years ago), gel ink was the bane of any self-respecting teacher. But times have changed, and gel ink is not what it was.

Nowadays, ink colors tend toward basic black and business-friendly blue, and point sizes range from medium to microscopic, for a line that’s clear and crisp. Today’s gel pens deliver all the rich, vivid color you’d expect from gel, but in hues that are friendly to the mature, work-oriented eye.

So go ahead and give your educator clients a break with a smooth-flowing gel pen that’s easy on the eye and flows so smoothly that grading papers until the wee hours no longer ends in hand cramps. Here are two winners. These bring all the pizzazz a teacher deserves but with smooth-flowing blue or black ink that’s nothing but legible all day long:

  • Soft Touch Ami Gel Pen – Colored Grip & Stylus Top
  • Full Color Inkjet Bright Newport Gel Pen

Gel Ink Just Makes Good Sense

As you can see, gel pens have come a long way and have achieved rock star status in the writing instrument world. In fact, apart from the aforementioned check forgers, there’s a gel pen to thrill every customer, from kid, to artist to entrepreneur. Check out these situation-specific offerings:

All-terrain Gel that Writes on Whatever: The uni-ball® Power Tank Pen writes on wet surfaces.

Gift Sets with the Gel Ink Advantage: The Athos Gel Pen Gift Set and the Full Color Inkjet Cozy Gel Pen & Flashlight Gift Set make impressive promotional gifts.

Artists and Adult Coloring Book Aficionados: The Gel Writers™ Gel Pens – Extra Fine Point (12 Pack) has everything your creative customer needs to make a masterpiece.

Gel Brights for the Fun and Young at Heart: The EnerGel-X® Pastel Barrel Gel Ink Pen offers gel ink in all the colors folks turn to for signing a birthday card, sketching a scene, or annoying a bleary-eyed, paper-grading teacher (ill-advised in our humble opinion).

Gel Ink Takes a Seat at the Table

Given its smooth flow, vivid lines, and durability, it’s time to say yes to gel-ness! Pick the custom gel ink pen that speaks to your brand and to your target audience. Then, distribute with the confidence that the gel ink deserves. (Check washers, beware!)

Karleen Wise Andersen

From marketing tips to product recommendations, I’m here to help small businesses be their best.

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