12 Frequently Asked Gel Pen Questions Answered!

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Over the last four or five years, the popularity of gel pens has increased exponentially due to a number of improvements in the gel ink formulas making the pens perform better than they used to. This has opened up gel pens to a number of different art and writing niches that they had previously been excluded from resulting in a surge in their popularity.

Due to gel pens becoming more and more popular in recent years, the number of questions that we have noticed being asked by penthusiasts has also increased exponentially. We have gathered a number of the more commonly asked questions that we see about using gel pens and answered them in this article.

We hope that this article will be able to help as many of our readers as possible who are looking to add some gel pens to their stationary collection as it can be difficult to find answers to some of these questions online. As usual, due to covering so many questions in our article, we have our table of contents below so you are able to easily navigate the article and save time rather than skimming over questions that you may already know the answers to.

Is Gel Ink Waterproof?

A large number of modern gel pens do use a waterproof ink formula with the Pentel EnerGel Gel Pen being one of the most popular, budget friendly waterproof gel pens currently available on the market right now. Although there are a number of competing gel pens that also have waterproof properties, the low price tag, great build quality, and excellent performance of the Pentel EnerGel Gel Pen ensure that it dominates the niche.

Please take note that due to the nature of gel pen ink and its water-based delivery system, the ink needs to dry before its waterproof properties will take hold. Although this process only takes a couple of seconds, if you are writing outdoors in the rain on a construction site for example, the rain drops can cause issues even with gel pens that are marked as waterproof.

Is Gel Pen Ink Permanent?

Although most gel pen ink is not permanent or of archival quality, the Pentel EnerGel Pro Permanent Gel Pen range are permanent and their ink will not fade overtime. This makes it the perfect pen for anyone who is working in an area where they need their gel pen ink to last for many years to come without having any issues with ink fade.

Are Gel Pens Erasable?

Most gel pens are not erasable due to the nature of the gel ink that are used but the Pilot Frixion gel pen range have a unique gel ink formula that is erasable if required. Due to the unique ink formulation, they doe have a slightly higher price tag than a standard gel pen but if you do require your gel pen to be erasable then they are definitely the best option on the market.

The Pilot Frixion range is very versatile too making them a suitable option for a large number of writing and drawing situations. Due to this, they have grown a huge user base with a reputation amongst the community that just keeps on getting better. Although they are slightly more expensive than a regular gel pen, they are still very budget-friendly when compared to some of the competing products on the market that offer erasable functionality ensuring that they have a bright future ahead.

Do Gel Pens Bleed Or Ghost?

The vast majority of gel pens should not have issues with bleeding or ghosting when writing with them but there are some issues that may cause either issue to occur in some circumstances. The first and most common reason that a gel pen may bleed or ghost is due to the pen being damaged allowing more ink than normal to hit the nib from the ink cylinder and then transfer to the paper.

The second issue and still a common cause for any type of pen to have issues with bleeding, ghosting, and feathering during use is due to writing on low GSM paper. Thankfully, this is a quick and easy fix as you are able to switch over to using some cheap, high GSM paper that is thicker meaning that your pen will not ghost or bleed.

Can You Get Refills For Gel Pens?

Many of the popular gel pens on the market do have cheap ink refills available that allow you to swap out empty ink cartridges when needed to keep using your existing pen barrels. Please keep in mind that you do have to ensure that you get the correct ink refill for your gel pen though as the majority of them do use proprietary designs that will only fit inside of their intended pen barrels.

Thankfully, the more popular gel pen models have refills that are available both online and in many local photography stores making it very easy and simple to find them. If you are using one of the less popular gel pen models then you may have a harder time finding the correct gel pen refill that you actually need in a local store but you will probably be able to find it online.

We also have an article going over how you are able to make your own gel pen ink at home that maybe helpful to you. Depending on your situation as well as what you actually need to do with your gel pens as well as your budget, you can sometimes save a large amount of money on your gel pen ink refills.

Do Gel Pens Smudge?

The majority of gel pens will smudge when writing with them until their ink has dried. Thankfully, it tends to only take a few seconds for modern gel pen ink to dry and drastically reduce their smudge potential. Although the smudge risk of gel pens should be minimal for most of our readers, any of our readers who are left handed and drag their hand wile they write may be better off going with a ballpoint pen as the smudge risk is lower for any one who is left handed.

How Do You Get Gel Pens To Work Smoothly?

Some gel pens quit working pretty fast but rather than this being due to an issue with the actual gel pen, this is often down to user error. We have a dedicated article on how you are able to fix a gel pen that skips and ensure that it works smoothly that goes into detail for a number of different common causes that can stop your pen working smoothly.

Due to some of the common issues needing a more in-depth explanation, we will not be covering them in this article as it will simply take too long. The article link above is well worth readying though if your gel pen is not working smoothly as it has a high chance of being able to fix it.

Are Gel Pens Washable?

Not all gel pens are washable due to different brands using different ink formulas, in addition to that, different gel pens are designed for slightly different jobs with some specifically requiring a long lasting ink formula. As most people who ask if gel pens are washable are asking due to their children getting ink on their cloths, we would recommend that you use something like the Crayola Washable Gel pen range.

They have been specifically designed for use by children for coloring in and have a unique, easily washable gel ink formula, if the ink does end up getting on cloths or furniture then it is quick and easy to wash out with minimal effort. On top of that, they are very budget-friendly and also have a huge user base with a great reputation too.

Why Are Gel Pens Not Allowed In Exams?

Gel pens are not allowed in exams due to the majority of exam marking being electronic now. The majority of these electronic systems struggle with the lighter water-based ink that gel pens use and often require an oil-based ink that a ballpoint pen will use to ensure that it is able to accurately scan the exam paper.

Please note that this will depend on the specific exam that you are sitting and you should always seek advice from the exam quordinator on the stationary that you should be using on the exam paper. That said though, the majority usually do require a black ballpoint point to be used for your exam and a small number of exam boards may invalidate your entry if you use any other type of pen.

Why Do Gel Pens Leak?

Although there are a number of reasons that a gel pen may leak, the most common reason is due to the pen actually sustaining damage causing it to leak. The majority of the time, you will easily be able to see the damage on the pen making it simple to check if this is the problem.

There are a number of less common reasons that your gel pen may leak but this usually comes down to the pen being cheap or being too warm. Depending on the exact ink formula that is used for the gel pen, it may end up leaking the warmer it gets.

Do Gel Pens Dry Out?

Gel pens that dry quickly are very common due to gel pen ink being water-based. The majority of gel pens come with a warning on their packaging recommending that you reapply the cap of the pen when not in use to help prevent them from drying out soon after purchasing them.

Although some gel pens can last you for a very long time without drying out, this is when you take care of your pens, ensure they have the cap on them when not in use, and store them correctly. There are some cheap gel pens on the market that tend to dry out fast but the majority of them should not provided you go through the steps above.

Do Gel Pens Last Long?

The average gel pen will usually last between four and eight weeks with regular use. That said though, different people use their pens at different rates and for different lengths of time per use making it difficult to give a specific estimation of how long your gel pen will last.


That brings our article going over the more commonly asked questions that we see about gel pens to a close. We hope that we have been able to answer your question and help you find the correct gel pen for your needs. As we touched on at the start of the article, although gel pens never used to be anywhere near as popular as they are now, over the last few years the have seen a huge spike in sales that just keeps getting stronger amongst the community. Due to this, we feel that gel pens are only going to be going from strength to strength and keep growing their marketshare.