Whilst it may seem that the only writing instruments I use are fancy fountain or machined barreled pens, I actually use my fair share of your normal, everyday, "over-the-counter" pens for much of my general writing and note taking. And, it is nice from time to time to not worry about whether or not I leave a pen on someone else's desk in the office or simply to give it to them if they want to try it out.
And, like most pen people, my road to more expensive pens started by trying lots and lots of new pens of all different kinds that you could pick up from any local store or online retailers.
I thought I'd put together a list of what's currently on my desk at home and at work that I seem to pick up the most.
Paper Mate Flair
By far, one of my favorite go-to pens is the Paper Mate Flair. If you've never used one, it is a plastic/felt tip, porous pen that writes a bit more like a marker than a pen. I tend to print in all capital letters (more of an architect or draughtmans style) and the Flair helps a lot in making the lines look more expressive and clean. It has a sort of old-school look which I think adds to the experience as well.
I'd say it is a pretty forgiving line, particularly for writing, but I also use it when I doodle or draw up diagrams. Personally, it is best used for me on a clean sheet of white copy paper... even the cheap stuff will do. I also have a stash of an entire ream of 11 x 17 paper just to use with the Flair...
And, I buy them by the dozen...
With any porous point pen the tip starts to break down after awhile, but luckily they are pretty cheap.
Pilot Precise V7
A classic! I'm not sure when this pen came out but it has a cool, engineering, vintage sort of aesthetic to it and I'm so glad Pilot hasn't really changed it over the years. Even if you don't recognize the name, when you see one you'll probably remember having one stashed in a drawer or cup at your house somewhere.
The Precise V7 (also known as the Hi-Tecpoint V7 in places like the UK) is a needle tipped rollerball pen which means it has liquid ink sloshing around inside.
What you get are really wet and dark lines. It also comes in a V5 (0.5mm vs 0.7mm) in case you want a finer line as well as also comes in a retractable version. Although, I can't swear by this, but the retractable version ink is different which makes my experience a little "off".
Not to give it too many props, but the Pentel Energel is probably my most referred gel pen ever. Super smooth, dark lines, quick drying times... over-the-counter gel pens, in my opinion, don't get much better than this. Like the Flair, using this pen on plain old office paper works great! No specialty fountain pen friendly stuff needed.
I wouldn't say that I love the plastic barrel it comes in, but it works and the writing is worth it. The nice thing is that Pentel also has an Alloy series of the Energel which looks almost identical to the plastic version, but is metal. I've actually purchased this metal version for a few of my non-pen friends to have as a replacement for the crappy pen they were using and they've loved them. If you wanted an inexpensive spruced up barrel, the Alloy version will only run you about $6-7.
This pen comes in a standard conical tip or you can get a finer line that they make in a needle tip version.
Uniball Signo 307
Fresh out this last year from Uniball is the Signo 307. Many of us are likely familiar with the Signo 207, but not sure if the 307 is simply meant to be an addition to the lineup or an eventual replacement? The shape and feel of the pen is nearly the same as the 207, but with updated styling.
What I have found with the 307 is that the ink flows much wetter and heavier than the 207 (which was a bit skippy or light from time to time) so it makes the colors stand out a bit more on the page.
Originally the only downside to this pen for many people is that it only came in a 0.7mm while the 207 comes in a spectrum from 0.38mm up to 1.0mm. But, it appears that you can now get the 0.5mm! Might need to check those out...
What are some of your favorite over-the-counter pens? Have you tried many of these?