Essential Teaching Supplies: A Guide to Pens and Inks for Grading

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No one has time to waste on a bad pen.

That’s especially true for teachers, who often spend over an hour a day grading assignments. Using the right tools helps teachers provide their students with thoughtful feedback without the frustration of smeared ink and blotchy paper. In this guide, we evaluate several pens on teacher-specific criteria and recommend the best pens and inks for grading.

CONSIDERATIONS

Use Bright Colors

Stand-out Colors

Although red is still the most common color for grading, negative student associations with red have spurred many teachers use alternatives. Some school districts even require teachers to use more mellow hues like green. Other teachers use nontraditional colors simply because they prefer them. Whether you prefer to stick with tradition or branch out, choose bright colors that will stand out next to your students’ writing.

Good Performance on Bad Paper

Good Performance on Bad Paper

Students usually use bad paper, so teachers need pens that can stand up to rougher, more absorbent surfaces. Look for pens and inks that resist feathering and do not bleed.

Drying Time

Drying Time

Teachers have to be able to move quickly to finish their grading on time. It’s best to choose ink that dries within a few seconds so that it doesn’t smudge when you turn the page over.

Comfort

Comfort

Working through large piles of tests and essays makes teachers vulnerable to hand strain. Use pens that write smoothly or have ergonomic designs to help combat fatigue.

Water-resistance

Water-resistance

Although it’s not common, some industrious students have been known to soak off grades written with water-soluble ink and forge new ones. Even if you’re not concerned about this, it’s best to use water-resistant ink to avoid problems from spilled drinks or rain.

SINGLE-COLOR PENS

Classic single-color pens are the simplest writing tool available – you simply pick up a pen and write. These are best for teachers who typically use one or two colors for grading, write extensive comments, and prefer being able to identify the color they want at a glance.

Ballpoint Pens

Top Choice: Uni Jetstream Ballpoint Pens

The Uni-ball Jetstream
The Jetstream is good for long grading sessions.

The Uni-ball Jetstream
The Jetstream does not feather or bleed.

Jetstream ballpoint ink is famous for a reason. It is silky-smooth and does not require a lot of pressure to write with, so it’s good for long grading sessions. We experienced no feathering or bleeding on copy paper. Uni-ball offers several pen styles and three tip sizes with this waterproof ink. It dried immediately in our tests. Most of the styles come with black, blue, and red ink options, while the Color Series and RT BLX lines offer a combined 13 colors. If you like a little extra comfort, try the Alpha Gel for its squishy grip. It comes with black ink but accommodates red and blue refills.

Check out our Guide to the Uni Jetstream for more information.

Also Consider: Zebra Surari Emulsion Ink Pen

Zebra Surari Emulsion Ink Pen
The Surari features a unique emulsion ink.

Zebra Surari Emulsion Ink Pen
The Surari is water resistant.

The Zebra Surari is also formulated to be smoother than most ballpoints, and it hits the mark. Its emulsion ink combines smooth writing with vibrant, gel-like colors in red, blue, and black. It is water-resistant and has no feathering. Like most ballpoints, it has a tendency to put down occasional globs of ink. This makes it more smear-prone than the Jetstream and can result in mild bleeding. It took three seconds to dry with a clean line, but more than 10 with an ink blot. It comes in three tip sizes.

Rollerball Pens

Top Choice: Uni-ball Vision Elite Rollerball Pens

Uni-ball Vision Elite Rollerball Pens
The Vision Elite has a textured grip.

Uni-ball Vision Elite Rollerball Pens
The Vision Elite lays down a smooth, thick line.

The Uni-ball Vision Elite lays down smooth, vibrant, consistent lines. It may feather slightly on copy paper, but we could barely see it. It dried in five seconds, did not bleed through the paper and is water-resistant. It has no special ergonomic features, but the plastic grip has a textured diamond pattern that helps prevent slipping. These pens come in 11 colors and two tip sizes.

Also Consider: Ohto Saiten Ball Rollerball Pens

Ohto Saiten Ball Rollerball Pens
The Saiten Ball is built specifically for grading.

Ohto Saiten Ball Rollerball Pens
The Saiten Ball has a thick, bright line.

“Saiten” means “grading” in Japanese. The purpose-built Ohto Saiten Ball lays down a very bold, bright red line. Windows in the barrel show the ink level so there’s no fear of running out of ink unexpectedly. It writes smoothly, so teachers’ hands won’t get tired after lots of grading. It’s also waterproof. It is available in 1 mm and 1.5 mm tip sizes. Its thick line takes six seconds to dry and feathers slightly, but it will certainly stand out next to almost any color.

Gel Pens

Top Choice: Zebra Sarasa Push Clip Gel Pens

Zebra Sarasa Push Clip Gel Pens
The Sarasa Push Clip features a strong binder clip.

Zebra Sarasa Push Clip Gel Pens
The Sarasa Push Clip comes in 35 colors.

The Zebra Sarasa Push Clip Gel Pen is a retractable, clippable dream. It writes smoothly, although the smaller tip sizes have more feedback. It does not feather or bleed. The 1 mm tip size dried within five seconds and the 0.3 mm tip size dried immediately. Its comfortable width and rubber grip make it easy to hold. It is best known for the strong binder clip that lets it stay clipped to pockets and papers throughout the day. It is water-resistant and comes in 35 colors and five tip sizes.

To learn more, read our Guide to the Zebra Sarasa.

Also Consider: Sakura Gelly Roll Gel Pens

Sakura Gelly Roll Gel Pens
The Gelly Roll comes in many fun colors.

Sakura Gelly Roll Gel Pens
The Gelly Roll is archival and waterproof.

These classic favorites are not the most ergonomic option, but they come in a dazzling array of colors and finishes that will make you and your students smile. Gelly Rolls are archival and waterproof. They write smoothly and do not bleed, although the Classic line feathered very slightly in our tests. The 0.6 mm tip size dried within five seconds. The larger tip sizes took significantly longer to dry: 10 seconds for the 0.8 mm size and 15 seconds for the 1 mm size. For a slightly more ergonomic design with smaller tip sizes, try the Ballsign Knock”>Ballsign Knock.

Read our Guide to the Sakura Gelly Roll for detailed information about each Gelly Roll line.

Felt Tip Pens

Top Choice: Paper Mate Flair Felt Tip Pens

Paper Mate Flair Felt Tip Pens
The Paper Mate Flair comes in 16 colors.

Paper Mate Flair Felt Tip Pens
The Paper Mate Flair barely feathers.

The Paper Mate Flair comes in 16 vibrant colors and makes a bold line. It feathered very slightly in our tests, but did not bleed at all. It dried immediately and has reasonably water-resistant ink. The tip produces enough feedback to make the pen seem grippy but not scratchy. The grip section is smooth plastic and the barrel is somewhat narrow. This could make it slippery, but we found it comfortable to hold.

For more information on markers, read our Guide to Choosing a Felt Tip Marker Pen.

Also Consider: Pilot Sign Pen + Spare Nib + 4 Ink Cartridges – Red

Pilot Sign Pen + Spare Nib + 4 Ink Cartridges - Red
The Pilot Sign Pen has a handsome red body.

Pilot Sign Pen + Spare Nib + 4 Ink Cartridges - Red
The Pilot Sign Pen makes a strong line.

The Pilot Sign Pen comes with four extra cartridges to ensure that you have plenty of ink to get through your grading. It has a professional-looking red body with gold-colored trim. It features water-resistant ink and a screw-on cap to help prevent the tip from drying out. Its red is darker and bolder than the Paper Mate Flair. It took about 3 seconds to dry and feathered moderately in our tests, but it did not bleed.

Erasable Pens

Top Choice: Pilot FriXion Gel Pens

Pilot FriXion Gel Pens
FriXion ink is erasable.

Pilot FriXion Gel Pens
FriXion pens are lighter than typical gel pens.

If you often reconsider your comments on a student’s work, consider using a FriXion pen. These innovative erasable gel pens from Pilot feature several body styles ranging from slim and lightweight to professional-looking metal and come in 36 colors. They do not feather or bleed through copy paper. They are water-resistant and dry within three seconds. Heat erases FriXion ink, so we recommend only using them for non-essential comments and not leaving them in the car.

Check out our Guide to Pilot FriXion Erasable Pens to learn more.

MULTI PENS

Multi pens help minimize the size of your pen collection and make it easier to carry. However, they run out of ink faster than single-color pens. They are best for teachers who color-code their grading and do not write extensive comments.

Top Choice: Pilot Hi-Tec-C Coleto Color Multi Pens

Pilot Hi-Tec-C Coleto Color Multi Pens
The Coleto Color has several component options.

Pilot Hi-Tec-C Coleto Color Multi Pens
The Coleto Color uses Hi-Tec-C refills.

The Coleto Color is a customizable multi pen with 2, 3, 4, and 5 component options. It uses the popular Hi-Tec-C refills, which come in 3 tip sizes and 15 colors. The larger tip sizes are smooth. As expected, we encountered feedback with the smaller tip sizes. The 0.5 mm tip size dries in 5 seconds. The ink is sufficiently water-resistant to stay legible after a short soak. It also can accommodate a 0.3 mm or 0.5 mm mechanical pencil component. We chose the Coleto Color over other Coletos because its pen bodies feature rubber on the grip sections, which makes them easier to hold for long grading sections.

Read our Guide to Customizable Multi Pens and Guide to the Hi-Tec-C for more information about this pen system.

Also Consider: Uni Style Fit Multi Pens

Uni Style Fit Multi Pens
The Style Fit has wider body options.

Uni Style Fit Multi Pens
The Style Fit has both gel and ballpoint refills.

The Style Fit is also customizable. It has two different three and five component options that can accommodate gel, ballpoint, and mechanical pencil refills. Both the gel and ballpoint options are waterproof and very smooth. The 0.5 mm gel refill dries within 7 seconds. The ballpoint refills use Jetstream ink and dry immediately. The bodies are fatter than the Coleto and have smooth grip sections, which can make them slippery. The mechanical pencil refill uses 0.5 mm lead. The gel refills come in 16 colors and three tip sizes, while the ballpoint refills come in three colors and three tip sizes.

Read our Guide to the Uni Style Fit to learn more about each line.

FOUNTAIN PENS

Fountain pens have virtually unlimited color options and require a light touch that make them ideal for long writing sessions. However, they often write badly on poor-quality paper. To avoid this, look for smooth-writing fountain pens that can use converters. This will let you choose ink that works well on copy paper. Fine nibs are also a good choice because they deposit less ink and reduce feathering and bleeding.

Top Choice: Platinum Preppy Fountain Pens

Platinum Preppy Fountain Pens
The Platinum Preppy looks similar to an ordinary pen.

Platinum Preppy Fountain Pens
The Platinum Preppy comes in three nib sizes.

The Platinum Preppy is a fuss-free, reliable fountain pen. It has no special ergonomic features but is comfortable to hold. The grip section is smooth plastic. The Preppy looks like an ordinary pen and is available in medium, fine, and extra fine. The smaller tip sizes dry faster and have more feedback without being scratchy. The ink it comes with feathers slightly and is not waterproof, but it stayed legible after 30 seconds in water. It is converter-compatible. Precisely how much feathering and bleeding you encounter will depend on the ink you choose. The Preppy’s low price point means that it is easily replaceable if it goes missing at school. As a bonus, these pens can be converted to highlighters or markers by replacing their nibs if your needs change.

Also Consider: Pilot Kakuno Fountain Pens

Pilot Kakuno Fountain Pens
The Pilot Kakuno has an ergonomic grip.

Pilot Kakuno Fountain Pens
The Pilot Kakuno comes with a converter.

The Pilot Kakuno may have been designed for kids, but it works well for adults also. It features an ergonomic triangular grip that promotes a good grip and reduces hand strain over long grading sessions. Its hexagonal body shape keeps it from rolling away, and it features the same exceptionally smooth nib as the Pilot Metropolitan. We did not test its ink because it ships with a black cartridge. It is converter-compatible so you can fill it with your preferred ink. The nib is stamped with a smiley face that could be a big hit with younger students. It is available in fine and medium. Most of this pen’s body colors are bright and playful, but it also includes more subdued options.

For more suggestions, read our post on Great Beginner Fountain Pens that Won’t Break the Bank.

FOUNTAIN PEN INKS

Bottled fountain pen inks have more color options than virtually any other writing medium. Some disappear in water and need high-quality paper to perform well. Others are formulated to be nearly indestructible. As with all of the testing for this article, we performed our fountain pen ink tests on copy paper to simulate student materials. For the water tests, we allowed the ink to dry and then soaked them in water for 30 seconds. We tested the inks with both a Japanese fine nib and a European medium nib to mimic the different kinds of pens teachers might use.

Red

Top Choice: Noodler’s Nikita Ink

Noodler’s Nikita Ink
Noodler’s Nikita performs well on bad paper.

Noodler’s Nikita Ink
Noodler’s Nikita dries to a dark red hue.

This dark red ink is a good choice for teachers who use red but want to seem less harsh. It performs well on bad paper, with only mild feathering with the medium nib and no feathering with the fine. Neither tip size bled through the paper, although both showed through clearly. The fine took two seconds to dry, while the medium took five seconds. Nikita is not waterproof, but enough of the ink remained to allow it to stay legible.

Also Consider: Noodler’s Fox Red Ink

Noodler’s Fox Red Ink
Noodler’s Fox Red is bright but not harsh.

Noodler’s Fox Red Ink
Noodler’s Fox Red dries quickly but feathers slightly.

Fox Red is bright enough to stand out well but won’t hurt your eyes. It doesn’t behave as well on copy paper as Nikita, but it dries faster. We experienced mild feathering with the fine nib and moderate feathering with the medium. Fox Red with the medium nib was the only ink we recommend that bled through the paper at all, although its bleeding was minor. It dried within two seconds when used with the fine nib and the medium took just one second longer to dry. This ink is part of Noodler’s Bulletproof line, which is waterproof.

Orange

Top Choice: Pilot Iroshizuku Yu-Yake Ink

Pilot Iroshizuku Yu-Yake Ink
Pilot Iroshizuku Yu-Yake is a subtle alternative to red.

Pilot Iroshizuku Yu-Yake Ink
Pilot Iroshizuku Yu-Yake did not bleed through copy paper.

This autumnal orange color is not bright but is sufficiently different from anything a student is likely to use to stand out, especially with its lovely shading. The medium feathered slightly and took six seconds to dry, but the fine dried within three seconds and did not feather at all. Neither size bled through the paper. Like most orange inks, Yu-Yake did not perform well against water.

Also Consider: Diamine Orange Ink

Diamine Orange Ink
Diamine Orange dried within three seconds when used with a fine nib.

Diamine Orange Ink
Diamine Orange is shockingly bright.

Diamine Orange is the orange of traffic cones and hunting vests. If you want to call your students’ attention to a particularly egregious error, this will do it. It performed similarly to Yu-Yake on our tests, but the medium nib took eight seconds to dry and feathered a little bit more.

Green

Top Choice: Pilot Iroshizuku Shin-ryoku Ink

Pilot Iroshizuku Shin-ryoku Ink
Pilot Iroshizuku Shin-ryoku barely feathered.

Pilot Iroshizuku Shin-ryoku Ink
Pilot Iroshizuku Shin-ryoku displays significant shading.

Shin-ryoku is a beautiful blue-green that varies from the pale color of shallow water to the deep green of a pine forest. We could see light feathering with both nibs, but we had to look very hard to do so. The fine nib took three seconds to dry and the medium nib dried in six seconds. Neither bled at all. This ink is not waterproof, but it should remain legible after soaking.

Also Consider: Noodler’s Green Marine Ink

Noodler's Green Marine Ink
Noodler’s Green Marine is a true green.

Noodler's Green Marine Ink
Noodler’s Green Marine always retains a waterproof core.

This vibrant green also displays a range of shades from light to dark and is a truer green than Shin-ryoku, but it took longer to dry. It displayed almost imperceptible feathering when used with both nibs. The fine dried within five seconds, but the medium took a full 10 seconds to dry. Neither size bled through the paper. Noodler’s classifies Green Marine Ink as partially Bulletproof, meaning that while it does run when soaked in water, a core color will always remain legible.

Blue

Top Choice: J. Herbin Bleu Pervenche Ink

J. Herbin Bleu Pervenche Ink
J. Herbin Bleu Pervenche is a cheerfully bright blue.

J. Herbin Bleu Pervenche Ink
J. Herbin Bleu Pervenche barely feathered on copy paper.

Bleu Pervenche, named for the periwinkle flower, progresses from a delicate, sky blue to bright azure as you write. Like most of our recommendations, it did not feather when used with a fine nib but the medium did feather slightly. The nib fine dried within three seconds and the medium dried in eight seconds with no bleeding. This ink was one of our favorites, but is unfortunately not waterproof.

Also Consider: Waterman Serenity Blue Ink

Waterman Serenity Blue Ink
Waterman Serenity Blue does not feather or bleed.

Waterman Serenity Blue Ink
Waterman Serenity Blue’s mild color lives up to its name.

This calming, mild blue will help your students focus on your words rather than their mistakes. We experienced slight feathering with the medium, which dried within eight seconds. The fine dried within three seconds and did not feather. This ink did not bleed. Despite its name, Waterman Serenity Blue did not perform well against water.

Purple

Top Choice: Noodler’s V-Mail North African Violet Ink

Noodler's V-Mail North African Violet Ink
Noodler’s V-Mail North African Violet is a treat to write with.

Noodler's V-Mail North African Violet Ink
Noodler’s V-Mail North African Violet is highly water resistant.

For purple-lovers like us, writing with North African Violet is a treat. It’s a true, deep purple with subtle shading that appears to highlight your writing. It took four seconds to dry with the fine nib but did not feather. The medium dried in a respectable six seconds and only feathered slightly with no bleeding. It is highly water resistant, so there’s no need to fear spilled drinks or sneaky students when you use this ink.

Also Consider: Diamine Majestic Purple Ink

Staedtler Triplus Jumbo Pencils
Diamine Majestic Purple is not water resistant.

Staedtler Triplus Jumbo Pencils
Diamine Majestic Purple has a royal, reddish tone.

If you’d like a more royal color, Majestic Purple has a reddish tone that is reminiscent of historic imperial purple. It dried within three seconds when we used the fine nib, but took a full 10 seconds to dry with the medium. It feathered a little more than North African Violet but did not bleed. We do not recommend exposing it to water – it almost disappeared when we tried it.

For more information about fountain pen inks and their properties, check out our Fountain Pen Ink Comparisons.

CONCLUSION

Whether you use a red ballpoint or purple fountain pen ink, choosing an instrument that works well on student paper, dries quickly, and is comfortable to hold can make your grading time significantly more efficient and enjoyable. What is your favorite grading pen or ink? Let us know in the comments!

Ballpoint Pens
Product Feathering/Bleeding Drying Time (Sec.) Ink Color Range Water Resistance Size
Uni Jetstream Ballpoint Pens None 0 13 Waterproof 0.38 mm, 0.5 mm, 0.7 mm, 1.0 mm
Zebra Surari Emulsion Ink Pen Very mild bleeding 3 3 Water-resistant 0.5 mm, 0.7 mm, 1.0 mm
Rollerball Pens
Product Feathering/Bleeding Drying Time (Sec.) Ink Color Range Water Resistance Size
Uni-ball Vision Elite Rollerball Pens Slight feathering
No bleeding
5 11 Water-resistant 0.5 mm, 0.8 mm
Ohto Saiten Ball Rollerball Pens Slight feathering
No bleeding
6 1 Waterproof 1.0 mm, 1.5 mm
Gel Pens
Product Feathering/Bleeding Drying Time (Sec.) Ink Color Range Water Resistance Size
Zebra Sarasa Push Clip Gel Pens None 0-5 35 Water-resistant 0.3 mm, 0.4 mm, 0.5 mm, 0.7 mm, 1.0 mm
Sakura Gelly Roll Gel Pens Slight feathering
No bleeding
5-15 96 Waterproof 0.6 mm, 0.8 mm, 1.0 mm
Felt Tip Pens
Product Feathering/Bleeding Drying Time (Sec.) Ink Color Range Water Resistance Size
Paper Mate Flair Felt Tip Pens Slight feathering
No bleeding
0 16 Water-resistant Ultra Fine, Medium
Pilot Sign Pen + Spare Nib + 4 Ink Cartridges – Red Moderate feathering
No bleeding
3 1 Water-resistant Medium
Erasable Pens
Product Feathering/Bleeding Drying Time (Sec.) Ink Color Range Water Resistance Size
Pilot FriXion Gel Pens None 3 36 Somewhat water-resistant 0.38 mm, 0.4 mm, 0.5 mm, 0.7 mm
Multi Pens
Product Feathering/Bleeding Drying Time (Sec.) Ink Color Range Water Resistance Size
Pilot Hi-Tec-C Coleto Color Multi Pens None 5 15 Somewhat water-resistant 0.3 mm, 0.4 mm, 0.5 mm
Uni Style Fit Multi Pens None 7 16 Waterproof Gel: 0.28 mm, 0.38 mm, 0.5 mm; Ballpoint: 0.5 mm, 0.7 mm, 1.0 mm
Fountain Pens
Product Feathering/Bleeding Drying Time (Sec.) Ink Color Range Water Resistance Size
Platinum Preppy Fountain Pens Slight feathering
No bleeding
7 7 Somewhat water-resistant Extra Fine, Fine, Medium
Pilot Kakuno Fountain Pens N/A N/A N/A N/A Fine, Medium
Red Fountain Pen Inks
Product Feathering/Bleeding Drying Time (Sec.) Ink Color Range Water Resistance Size
Noodler’s Nikita Ink Slight feathering
No bleeding
F: 2
M: 5
1 Somewhat water-resistant 4.5 oz
Noodler’s Fox Red Ink Moderate feathering
Mild bleeding
F:2
M: 3
1 Waterproof 1 oz
Orange Fountain Pen Inks
Product Feathering/Bleeding Drying Time (Sec.) Ink Color Range Water Resistance Size
Pilot Iroshizuku Yu-Yake Ink Slight feathering
No bleeding
F: 3
M: 6
1 No 15 ml, 50 ml
Diamine Orange Ink Slight feathering
No bleeding
F: 3
M: 8
1 No 80 m
Green Fountain Pen Inks
Product Feathering/Bleeding Drying Time (Sec.) Ink Color Range Water Resistance Size
Pilot Iroshizuku Shin-ryoku Ink Slight feathering
No bleeding
F: 3
M: 6
1 Somewhat water-resistant 15 ml, 50 ml
Noodler’s Green Marine Ink Slight feathering
No bleeding
F: 5
M: 5
1 Water-resistant 3 oz
Blue Fountain Pen Inks
Product Feathering/Bleeding Drying Time (Sec.) Ink Color Range Water Resistance Size
J. Herbin Bleu Pervenche Ink Slight feathering
No bleeding
F: 3
M: 8
1 No 10 ml, 30 ml
Waterman Serenity Blue Ink Slight feathering
No bleeding
F: 3
M: 8
1 No 50 ml
Purple Fountain Pen Inks
Product Feathering/Bleeding Drying Time (Sec.) Ink Color Range Water Resistance Size
Noodler’s V-Mail North African Violet Ink Slight feathering
No bleeding
F: 4
M: 6
1 Water-resistant 3 oz
Diamine Majestic Purple Ink Slight feathering
No bleeding
F: 3
M: 10
1 No 30 ml, 80 ml

SOURCE:http://www.jetpens.com/blog/essential-teaching-supplies-a-guide-to-pens-and-inks-for-grading/pt/894

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