Pen Buying Guide
January 22, 2021

Discover The Perfect Pen at Ryman®

There is no denying we live in a fast-paced world of digital communication, but the good old pen is still an essential part of work, education and home life for all of us.  

From humble beginnings as a feather (quill) dipped into an inkpot to the modern-day biro that you simply can't live without; pens are still a writing instrument that many of us use quite literally every day!  Knowing what kind of pen you need though, can be tricky.  

Here at Ryman, we want to ensure that you have the information that you need to find the perfect pen.  

Whether you are writing at work or note-taking at university, creating arts and crafts projects at home or simply need a pen for shopping lists, handwriting practice after school or hand lettering your scrapbook; we have got you covered.

Nib & Ink Types

The nib of a pen is the part that comes into contact with the writing surface. Nibs vary in terms of their shape, material and size in order to create different types of line. Incredibly fine lines are needed for technical drawing so a thin metal nib would be required. Nibs designed for when you are in a rush include a small ball at the tip to prevent any smudging.

As for ink, paper options are usually washable water-based inks included within the barrel of the pen in a reservoir which then feeds the nib.  Fountain pens such as Parker feature reservoirs which are disposable or refillable in the form of an ink cartridge

There are plenty of pen inks that are oil and alcohol-based making them permanent, ideal for use on plastic, metal and glass such as POSCA markers or Sharpies.

To help you understand the differences and to make the right choice for you and your writing needs, we have included details within each pen type below.

Find Your Perfect Pen

The Fountain Pen

Perfect for signatures and famous for quality, performance and style! 

Nib Type: Made from Steel or Metal available in a variety of sizes; M (medium) being the most commonly used to give a line width of around 0.8mm

Ink Type: Permanent or washable inks available in cartridges or traditional bottles

Writing Function: Handwriting, signatures, Italic flair for thank you cards or wedding invitations, the perfect gift.

Top Brands: Parker, Lamy, Cross,


The Ballpoint Pen

Perfect for fast writing and jotting. Revolutionary in the stationery world, designed to eliminate smudges!

Nib Type: Small brass on steel ball at the tip 

Ink Type: Usually oil-based

Writing Function: Note-taking, everyday use such as list-making and doodling

Top Brands: BiC, Paper Mate, Zebra


The Rollerball Pen

Perfect for smooth comfortable writing over long periods as the ink flow is so smooth.

Nib Type: Small brass or steel ball at the tip (The same as Ballpoint pens)

Ink Type: Usually water-based

Writing Function: Long periods of writing or revision

Top Brands: Pilot, uni-ball, Parker

The Fineliner Pen

Perfect for drawing and sketching as the nib type allows for fine, controlled line work.

Nib Type: Narrow felt or plastic fibre nib

Ink Type: Ink reservoir made from polyester

Writing Function: Hand lettering, technical drawing and sketching

Top Brands: Staedtler, uni-ball, Stabilo


The Handwriting Pen

Perfect for learning how to write, the tip has a resistance to paper making letter formation easier.

Nib Type: Usually round with a 0.6mm nib point

Ink Type: Washable ink in black or blue

Writing Function: Learning to write at home or at school

Top Brands: Berol, Stabilo, uni-ball


The Brush Pen

Perfect for scriptwriting, hand lettering, adult colouring and card making as the nib is almost like a paintbrush in its design.

Nib Type: Mimics brush-like quality of a paintbrush combined with a felt tip

Ink Type: Generally water-based ink 

Writing Function: Drawing, colouring, crafts, hand lettering and getting super creative

Top Brands: Spectrum Noir, Tombow, POSCA

The Marker Pen

Perfect for crafts, art & design and colouring on all kinds of materials.  Check out our 21 Ways To Use A Sharpie Marker for inspo!

Nib Type: Hard felt tip in a variety of sizes and shapes such a bullet, chisel and fine

Ink Type: Alcohol-based permanent or semi-permanent ink

Writing Function: Various surfaces can be written on including glass, plastic, wood, metal, and stone

Top Brands: Sharpie, POSCA, Edding


The Whiteboard Pen (Dry-erase Marker Pen)

Perfect for whiteboards and glass, a teacher's best friend!

Nib Type: Hard felt tip in a variety of sizes and shapes such as a bullet, chisel and fine

Ink Type: Erasable ink, simply wipe off and write again

Writing Function: Presentations on whiteboards, overhead projectors and classroom use

Top Brands: Staedtler, Helix, Pentel


The Gel Pen

Perfect for card writing and illustration as the gel ink leaves a strong colour on paper and card.

Nib Type: Typically ballpoint or felt tip 

Ink Type: Water-based gel with a range of vibrant colours available

Writing Function: Cards, crafts, invitations, fine colouring and lettering

Top Brands: Scentos, Ryman, Paper Mate


The Highlighter Pen

Perfect for revision and making areas of text stand out from a page.

Nib Type: Felt tip with a chisel-shaped nib

Ink Type: Water-based liquid ink often fluorescent in colour, with pastels shades now on trend

Writing Function: Highlight notes, highlight keywords in the text, colour coding

Top Brands: Stabilo, Staedtler, Edding


The Calligraphy Pen

Perfect for creating precise styles of script, usually italic in design, how you hold the pen will determine the type of line created.

Nib Type: Some feature interchangeable nibs while others use a broad nib

Ink Type: Most calligraphy inks are shellac-based which is very black in colour

Writing Function: Wedding and event invitations, graphic design, art & crafts such as scrapbooking and journaling

Top Brands: Manuscript

The Colouring Pen

Perfect for colouring in and getting creative! Whether you are buying felt tip colouring pens for an adult or a child, colouring is a proven stress reliever and is great for dexterity. 

Nib Type: The felt tip is made from highly compressed synthetic fibres

Ink Type: Can be a washable water-based ink (ideal for children)  or oil and alcohol-based permanent inks

Writing Function: Add colour to all of your projects, colour in, draw or blend water-based felt tips with water for a great effect

Top Brands: Paper Mate, BiC Kids, Staedtler


The Multifunction Pen

Perfect for when you need 4 different ink colours all in one handy pen! A must-have for your school pencil case or office desk.

Nib Type: Ballpoint or rollerball nib types

Ink Type: Various ink colours all in one handy barrel

Writing Function: Access various colours quickly, ideal for note-taking and revision

Top Brands: BiC


The Left Handed

Left handed pens have been specially designed for lefties, giving a more comfortable writing experience.

Nib Type: Generally ballpoint or rollerball

Ink Type: Water-based or erasable 

Writing Function: Left handed writers

Top Brands: Stabilo