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Lefty Pen Test

No, not that kind of pen test. Fully exasperated with how much smudging I get with gel pens, I thought I’d try out Jetpens’ recommended pens for lefties.

A cup of pens on a desk, with more pens in the background

The basic idea is that these are faster-drying pens, which should presumably cut down on the smudging. There’s nothing special about the pens’ physical design that would tailor them to a left-handed grip.

I opted not to spring for the full sampler set. I don’t have much need for highlighters, and I generally like a slightly beefier point size than was common in the set. Here’s what I ended up buying, based off the recommendations in the sampler:

The pens laid out on top of an Olfa cutting mat. Except the first pink pen, which is a ballpoint, all are gel pens.

Please pardon all the cotton yarn dust I didn’t notice until later…

One sentence each written with each pen, with no visible smudging

What looks like a smudge on the word “dry” is due to a drop of condensation from a water glass, funnily enough 😥

After writing a test sentence with each, I was ecstatic to find that not a single pen smudged! This is a random ¥180 notebook I bought in Japan (truly random, the brand/website referenced on the sticker doesn’t appear to exist anymore).

I ended up liking the feel of the Pentel EnerGel-X best: not too thin, not too thick, not too bouncy. That’s the pen I’ve been using in my daily(ish) journal, a Midori A6 blank notebook. I’ve been really pleased at how that pen has held up and continued not to smudge. I’ve had problems in the past where some gel pens go on the fritz in the Midori (but seem fine on other paper? Weird).

Where this gets a bit disappointing is on Tomoe River Paper…

The pen names written in a Hobonichi planner, with mild to moderate smudging on all but the ballpoint.

Because I’ve decided to switch back to a Hobonichi Techo for my 2021 journal, I thought I’d test these pens in a planner with the same paper. Tomoe River Paper is very smooth and thin, so I saw smudging in the Hobonichi planner with all the gel pens. I was a bit surprised to see such a marked difference, as the other papers I’d tested on were not particularly toothy. Ah well, I’ll try to use the 0.35mm Pentel Energel for awhile and see how that goes.

Final verdict

  • The Pentel EnerGel-X was my favorite for lack of smudging, ease of flow, and ergonomics. The Pentel EnerGel Euro Needle-Point might be better for smoother paper.
  • Left-handed people should consider paper texture when fighting the smudge.
  • Being a lefty in an LTR language is still a bit of a pain.


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  • Reply from Joshua Krohn on

    This is awesome! I can’t wait to give some of these a try.
  • Reply from Eileen T on

    😳 yes. I am obsessed! I think I have 4 of the pens you have shown here. I love this share!!
  • Reply from Eileen T on

    I really like these erasable ones! And this foray pen. It’s kind of not good... but I have some odd affinity for it. 😅
  • Reply from Melanie Richards on

    Oooooh. 😍 Honestly in high school there was this “crappy” ballpoint pen that came in big packs at Walmart that I LOVED. Never quite found those again after I ran out.