Are Gel Pens Waterproof – A Full Breakdown!

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With gel pens becoming more and more popular for both general writing and drawing, we have noticed more and more people reaching out and asking are gel pens waterproof? Due to more and more people specifically asking about gel pens being waterproof, we have decided to publish this article dedicated to the topic as well as some related sub-questions.

Our hope is that we will be able to help any of our readers who are looking to use gel pens for writing or drawing in situations where there is a high chance of water being involved and potentially causing issues with your work. We also recently published our article on how to fix a gel pen that skips which may be helpful when using your gel pens in situations involving water too.

Due to covering a number of different sub-questions about using gel pens in situations where water will be involved, we have added a table of contents below to make it easier for our readers to navigate the article. The table of contents allows you to quickly and easily skip to the relevant section of the article that you require without having to skim through the whole thing.

Are Gel Pens Waterproof?

Due to there being so many different variants of gel pens on the market right now from various brands with many brands having multiple gel pen models within their range, it is impossible to give a blanket yes or no answer when it comes to if gel pens are waterproof. That said though, there are definitely high-quality waterproof gel pens available on the market that are ideal for any tasks that involve water when using gel pens.

One of the main drawbacks of using gel pens is that many of the lower quality options on the market as well as the majority of the counterfeit options for the better pens use low quality ink. This means that a large number of the gel pens in circulation will not be able to hold up to water and will bleed, feather, and ghost as soon as water is added to the paper. There has been a huge surge in counterfeit options of the better gel pens on the market over the last three to five years too.

Thankfully though, your local stationary store, especially the larger chain stores as well as the lager online stores usually buy in bulk direct from the manufacturer. This ensures that you are getting a genuine waterproof gel pen that is often only a few dollars more than the lower quality or counterfeit options on the market anyway.

What Makes A Gel Pen Waterproof?

We have seen a number of theories from people as to why some gel pens are waterproof and others are not with some theories being as far fetches as it is down to the color of the ink in the gel pen and this is not correct. The higher-quality gel pens have waterproof priorities due to the formulation of the gel ink used in the pen and that is why real waterproof gel pens cost a little more than the non-waterproof verions.

You have to pay extra attention with some brands too as they will offer the exact same gel pen model in both waterproof and non-waterproof variants to offer different price points for their users. Always be sure that the packaging of the gel pen states that it is a waterproof pen prior to purchasing, even if you have used that exact same model before as this is something some people do forget to do.

A waterproof gel pen ink is usually based on a pigment-based ink rather than a dye-based ink and is also alcohol-based rather than water-based where as non-waterproof gel pen ink is usually water-based. Please note though, unlike most ballpoints that use an oil-based suspension system for the dye or pigments in their ink, the gel formula in gel pens still usually use water as its suspension system for the gel.

This is why you have to wait for gel pen ink to dry on the paper before its waterproof properties take hold as the pigments in the gel are held in the water used for suspension for a few seconds until the paper absorbs the water and the pigments actually connect with the paper. This is the reason that a waterproof gel pen may still have issues if used in heavy rain as the rain prevents the gel from actually connecting with the paper and setting.

Are Gel Pens Water Resistant?

We often see people make the mistake of thinking that water proof and water resistant is the same clarification when it comes to pens but they are actually slightly different. gel pens marked as waterproof will not run once they have set onto the paper even in heavy rain and other conditions involving large amounts of water.

Although water-resistant gel pens are rare as it is easier to simply make them waterproof, some other pen types may be marked as water resistant rather than waterproof. This simply means that the ink is graded to hold to the paper for a certain amount of water before it will start to run. This is usually the case with intermediate-priced point marker pens to help keep their price tags lower than the markers that are actually waterproof but as the price difference for gel pens is minimal, most brands will skip water-resistant and just go direct to waterproof.

Are Gel Pens Safe For Watercolors?

When it comes to use with actual watercolors, a standard waterproof gel pen may be able to cut it but we would usually recommend that our readers go with the Uni-Ball Signo range. In addition to being ideal for use with watercolors, the ink is also fade proof and the pens are available in different nib sizes to allow you to get exactly what you want.

We would not recommend that you use any random gel pens with your watercolors that you have not tested for waterproof or water resistant properties on some spare paper. Many of the cheaper, lower quality gel pens and the counterfeit options on the market often end up having a large number of problems when used with watercolors so it simply is not worth the risk.

Are Gel Pens Washable?

We often see people reaching our and asking if gel pens are washable or not due to them specifically looking for gel pens for their children to play with. As we have touched on throughout the article, it will depend on the specific type of gel pen you purchase but the Crayola gel pen range tends to be the best option when looking for washable gel pens. Not only is their ink easy to wash out of clothes but they are cheap, perform well, and should be perfect for your children to draw and color with.


That brings our article on if gel pens are waterproof to an end. We hope that you have found our article helpful and we have tried to link out to relevant gel pen options for each section of the article to help our readers ensure that they are getting gel pens that meet their needs. As we have mentioned above, there are some excellent quality waterproof gel pens on the market that are usually easy to source online or at your local photography store without you having to break the bank to add them to your collection.