Best Pens for Lab Notebooks

Choosing the right pen is just as important as choosing the right lab notebook for your work. Ultimately, the decision should come down to personal preference and the nature of your work. We tested some of the most popular brands to help take the guesswork out of the process. 

All the following tests were done using COPIC, Prismacolor, TwoHands, and Micron brands of black inking liner pens. 

Feel Test

For the feel test, 05 tip pens were used. TwoHands ended up having the smoothest feel. However, all of the brands felt very similar overall.

Bleed Test

The bleed test was done using the 08 tip. Prismacolor seemed to spread and bleed the most. It wasn’t a huge spread, but in comparison to the others, it spread the most. Similar to the feel test, the rest performed similarly, not bleeding at all. 

Show-Through Test

For the show-through test, all the pens were used to draw and fill in various shapes so the ink would be clearly visible if it were to bleed. None of the options fully showed through to the other side. The only one you can really see is the Prismacolor, which was still subtle.

Best for Writing Test

For this test, the 08 and 05 tips proved the best for writing. The 08 is very bold and prominent, but the 05 is slightly thinner. So for bulk writing—paragraphs, lab reports, etc.—we recommend using a 05. However, for labeling or numbering, 08 would be ideal. 

Smear Test

Smearing for all pens was tested in 1-second, 3-second and 15-second intervals. Prismacolor smeared the least overall, with COPIC as a close second option. 

Purchasing Options

Micron pens are sold both individually and in packs. They’re popular and therefore, some of the easiest options to purchase. They’re primarily sold on Amazon.

COPIC has individually-sold pens, but they are very expensive compared to the price for a pack. Individual options, only sold on Amazon, are about half the price of a whole pack (packs are also available on COPIC’s website). 

Prismacolor pens are fairly inexpensive when sold individually and overall, it is the cheapest option of the four brands. Their cheapness doesn’t negatively affect the product too much—they still hold up pretty well in use.

TwoHands pens can only be bought in packs, but are a very good price and have great reviews. They cost about half as much as the COPIC pack, but based on recent tests, they are equal in quality. Unfortunately, they don’t seem to be very accessible anywhere other than Amazon.

Tips and Replacing

The only one of the four brands offer tip replacements: COPIC. It would be best to instead buy new pens once your pen is used up. Inking pens are more apt to run out of ink before the tip would be “used up.” Based on experience with inking pens, 05 or 08 pens don’t often break their tips. If you were dealing with the 005 tip, we recommend investing in replacements, but it’s not necessary with sturdier thicker sizes.

How Long Will These Pens Last?

Obviously, this will vary based on what users primarily use the pens for and how often they use the pen.

Micron claims that its pens have a two-year lifespan. These pens are mainly used in art classes because of its inexpensiveness and lengthy lifespan. 

COPIC doesn’t have a listed lifespan on their website or anywhere I could find. The product reviews don’t mention many compliments or the complaints having to do with lifespan. Based on personal experience, they last about a year and even then, most of them were still usable. 

Prismacolor has this as a question in Amazon Questions and listed that they last about two years.

TwoHands doesn’t have a lifespan marked anywhere.

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