How to Stop a Gel Pen from Leaking

As with any mass-produced product, you’re going to find some defective pens, especially if you’ve purchased a large set. Even the brands that I love most cannot deliver consistently awesome pens 100% of the time. In one such set from Tanmit, one of my favorite brands, I found the following inconsistencies:

  • Incorrect cap color
  • Brand-new pens with little or no ink
  • Pens that don’t start without scribbling or shaking
  • Pens that leave white lines or marks when trying to fill a space

In a set of 60 to 100 gel pens, a few defective pens will not cause too much of a headache. The worst problem, though, for me anyway, is a set of gel pens where the majority of them leak and smear. Perhaps you can relate, as there is little else that will more quickly disrupt your journaling, drawing or coloring than a defective gel pen that leaks all over your page. There are some tips and tricks, though, that can help. In this post, I am going to discuss how to stop a gel pen from leaking. Here are some things that you can try.

Wipe the Nib with a Paper Towel

Sometimes wiping up the excess ink a few times on a clean paper towel is all you need to do to get a gel pen to stop leaking. Once the ink stops flowing and streaking onto the paper towel, you can try to write with the gel pen again. I suggest testing it out on some scratch paper first before you return to your notebook, sketch pad or coloring book. In addition, if you’ve found that any of the ink leaked onto your fingers, make sure you wash your hands before continuing so as not to smear any more ink on your page.

Check to Make Sure the Tip Isn’t Loose

Sometimes gel pens leak because the tip is not screwed on tightly enough. If the tip is loose, it does not allow for much control when writing, drawing or coloring. After you’ve used a paper towel to wipe up any excess ink, with the tip of the pen facing you, twist the cap clockwise to ensure that its fit with the barrel is tight. Again, be sure to clean any excess ink from your hands and fingers before returning to your work.

Allow the Ink to Dry Before Continuing

If you’re working on a drawing or a coloring book page and notice that the ink is flowing too quickly, wait for the ink to dry before continuing, especially if you are filling a large area. I have speared ink on several sketchbooks and coloring book pages because I continued filling in color when I should have waited. Even if you move to a different spot on the page, you can still accidentally smear ink, especially if your fingers or the side of your hand touches the part of the page where the ink is still wet.

You can get around this issue easily enough if you’re drawing or coloring, but if you’re journaling, it’s best to switch to a different pen altogether. Once you turn your page over, it will brush up against the previous page, and if the ink is very leaky and smears, you may not be able to read what you previously write.

Store Your Pens Correctly

Many people have reported that they can store their gel pens flat without issues, but the best practice is to store your gel pens horizontally. This can be confusing, because pens from manufacturers often come in a case that requires vertical storage. Storing pens vertically, though, will put extra pressure on the tip and force the ink toward the end of the barrel, causing it to possibly flow faster than intended. Storing your pens on a flat surface will prevent this from happening and might even improve the longevity of your pens.

If All Else Fails, Ask for a Refund

Despite your best efforts to research a brand carefully, there will be times when you will get a bad set of gel pens. As I mentioned, this is an issue with any mass-produced product, which is sometimes why you see rave reviews followed by someone who had a terrible experience. If the product performs badly enough, it can be enough to swear you off a brand forever. Most vendors, though, want customers to have a great experience and will provide a refund if their product is truly defective.

If you have a set of gel pens where more than 20% of the pens don’t write or leak, then you are perfectly justified in asking for a refund. If you decide to ask for a refund, include photos if you can of the defective merchandise, such as an image taken with your iPhone showing that the pen leaked all over your blank page. I also recommend that you be as polite as possible when describing the issues. You are more likely to get a favorable outcome if you handle the problem if you are kind to the customer service staff.

Understanding Expectations

It is important to understand that it is rare to order a set of 100 gel pens and have them all perform perfectly. You should expect to have an issue with around 10% of the pens. If you find, though, that you have a set of 100 pens and more than 15 of them leak, you can start to make a case for a refund, especially if you keep finding more pens that cause problems.

I hope this post was helpful and that it gives you an idea of what to expect when purchasing a large set of gel pens. It is unlikely that your set will be perfect, but luckily there are a few things you can try to reduce the number of leaks from your gel pens.

Best Pens for Journaling

If you’ve done a lot of writing longhand, then you know the importance of having a smooth writing experience. Pens that stop writing just as you’re finding a groove just aren’t going to cut it! As much as I love the smooth writing experience of Paper Mate Profile Retractable Ballpoint Pens, they skip all too often and I found myself having to scribble with them to get them flowing again, right in the middle of a thought. I had just bought a pack in bulk, too, and grudgingly suffered through an inconsistent writing experience on pack of twelve Paper Mate pens. Once I got through the rest of them, I switched up to gel pens and have been much happier ever since.

Criteria for Evaluating Pens for Journaling

Shortly after my experience with the faulty Paper Mate pens, I decided to try out some other options and figure out the best pens for journaling. Doing that is not as simple as it sounds because different pens offer different writing experiences. Much of this depends on the paper you choose; however, the most important criteria to consider when choosing pens for journaling include how much pens bleed through the page, if the writing experience and pen grip are smooth and how quickly the pens run out of ink.

Based on these criteria, I will be reviewing pens for journaling by Tanmit, Sakura and Pilot.

Do They Bleed Through the Page?

Five Star Spiral NotebooksIf your notebook or journal has thin pages, then there is nothing more frustrating than discovering that your pen bleeds through your pages. This is especially problematic if you need to go back and review something that you wrote. Ink that bleeds through makes it exceedingly difficult to re-read your writing.

If you tend to use Five Star Spiral Notebooks or something similar when you’re journaling, then you’ll want to pay special attention to picking pens that do not bleed. This is nearly always a challenge with rollerball pens, but many gel pens that bleed through pages as well. The table below outlines my favorite pens for journaling that do not bleed through paper, with Pilot Retractable Gel Rollerball Pens as my top choice. They do not make them with glitter, but they are my favorite pens for writing in notebooks, so I had to include them!

Sakura Micron Pens on Thick Paper
Sakura Micron Pens on Thick Paper – Note Thick Lines and Bleed

If you journal in notebooks that have then pages, then the Sakura Micron pens are wonderful. There is very little bleed with them on thin pages, whether you’re using a notebook or making notes in a calendar. I will note, though, that they give a much less consistent performance if you switch up and use them on thicker paper. As you can see from this photos, they bleed through thicker paper and lose the fineness of their lines.

Do They Offer a Smooth Writing Experience?

If pens that stop writing annoy you as much as they do me, then consider trying out these Tanmit pens. The ink flow from these pens is incredibly good. The Sakura Micron pens also allow for a smooth writing experience with a strong flow of ink, especially for a fine-tip pen. They provide an experience similar to writing with a thin marker or Sharpie pen.

Is the Grip Comfortable?

The grip becomes more important, depending on how long you’re writing. As I mentioned on the About page, I wrote the rough draft of my entire graduate thesis with gel pens, so as you can imagine, the grip was incredibly important during that project! It should also weigh heavily if you’re planning on writing more than five notebook-sized pages at a given stretch. For a comfortable grip, the Pilot pens are my top pick.

How Quickly Do They Run Out of Ink?

One common problem with gel pens is that they run out of ink quickly. The shortest amount of time a pen has lasted me was five pages. I bought those particular pens in bulk from Costco. Even though I enjoyed the writing experience, a pen that lasts only five notebook pages doesn’t work for me because I do too much writing. I had to keep extra pens handy at all times so that I could easily switch! Out of the three brands under review, the Tanmit pens run out the most quickly, but the writing experience is so smooth that you might not mind.

Here is how the Tanmit, Sakura and Pilot pens compare:

Comparison of the Best Pens for Journaling

  • Tanmit Color Gel Pens
  • Set of 60 Tanmit Gel Glitter Pens
  • Bleed: Moderate
  • Writing Experience:
    Very Smooth
  • Grip: Comfortable
  • Ink Supply: Low
  • Include Sparkle Inks: Yes
  • Quantity: 60/Pack
  • $10.99
  • Sakura Pigma Micron Pens
  • Sakura Micron Pens Set of 8
  • Bleed: Low on Thin Paper
  • Writing Experience:
  • Grip: None
  • Ink Supply: Generous
  • Includes Sparkle Inks: No
  • Quantity: 8/Pack
  • $14.78
  • Pilot G2 Premium Gel Rollers
  • Sakura Micron Pens Set of 8
  • Bleed: Low
  • Writing Experience:
    Very Smooth
  • Grip: Comfortable
  • Ink Supply: Generous
  • Includes Sparkle Inks: No
  • Quantity: 20/Pack
  • $24.40

Other Considerations

Each of these brands offers something a little unique. The Pilot pens offer vibrant colors are great for extended writing sprints. Between the smooth writing experience they offer and the comfortable grip, they are my top pick for extended writing sprints. When I really want to let my writing rip and I’m journaling in a sketchbook, then the Tanmit pens are my pick. The pack of 60 includes pens that have a “watercolor effect”, so they are very fun to use while journaling, sketching or coloring. They bleed a little more than the Pilot pens, but they flow incredibly well and double well for coloring and notebook sketches. And finally, when I prefer a more precise writing experience, I’ll choose the Sakura Micron pens. And that is the nice thing about having multiple types of pens around: you’re bound to find the right one that will suit your mood and writing purpose.

I hope you found this article helpful. If you have any feedback to share about these pens, I’d love to hear your thoughts!