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Studying is rarely fun, but one way to make it more tolerable is entertain yourself with your beautiful, colorful notes—and one way to ensure that you have beautiful, colorful notes is to buy the right stationery! I’m a huge fan of various types of stationery, not just for school but also journaling and sketching, and here are the best pen recommendations I have to offer:

Muji gel pens (0.38mm, 0.5mm)

Muji offers pens in just about every type and color, but the gel ink pens are definitely the best. The tip has such a smooth feel, although you need to be careful not to put too much pressure or you’ll wear it down. The ink always goes onto paper smoothly, with no skipping to stress about. It’s a company which prioritizes eco-friendliness, which is why they sell ink refills cheaper than the pens themselves to reduce waste. My favorites are the 0.38mm and 0.5mm. They also offer their gel pens in 0.7mm, although that’s a bit too thick for my taste.

Staedtler fineliners

Fineliners are a type of pen with fine plastic or fiber tips, often used for drawing or sketching because of their consistent and smooth feel, whereas ballpoints tend to be less reliable. They can bleed a bit because the ink is heavy, so they may not be for you if you use very thin paper. Staedtler fineliners, while pricey, come in a wonderful variety of colors and make color-coding really fun. Also, the plastic cases they come in can be used as stands for the pens (see picture above), which is really convenient for your desk space!

Stabilo fineliners

Similar to Staedtler, Stabilo fineliners come without the nice plastic case, but the orange pens somewhat resemble a pencil. I prefer Staedtler in terms of aesthetics, but it’s a matter of your personal taste; however, I do think Staedtler’s ink seems to last a bit longer. I haven’t noticed much difference otherwise. Stabilo also sells some really nice highlighters!  

Zebra mildliner highlighters

I will always swear by Zebra mildliners for my choice of highlighter. They’re a bit more pastel than the standard highlighter (such as Sharpie), so they don’t bleed too heavily and are light enough you can actually see the words you highlight without squinting. They have two ends, one fine point and one thick point, which is really convenient. I don’t know how many colors there are, but I own at least ten distinct ones, which is more than what most highlighter brands have to offer. They smell pretty neutral, but I’m still waiting for the day Zebra figures out how to make them smell nice, because that’s pretty much all there is left to make it the perfect highlighter.

Pilot juice gel pens

Okay, so I have a bit of a grudge against ball points. Their ink just isn’t consistent enough for me. However, Pilot has a great grip and many different colors, and you can apply more pressure to their tips without worrying about damaging them since they aren’t that fine. The ink always looks great on paper too.

Remember, how you customize your notes is ultimately up to you. If it’s a monochromatic scribble and it works for you, that’s great! But throwing in some nice colors can take away a bit of the monotony when you really need that.

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Caroline Mao

Mt Holyoke '22

She/her or they/them, class of 2022, Mount Holyoke prospective studio art and computer science major who enjoys reading and petting dogs.
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