How Long Do Gel Pens Last – Gel Pen Life Expectancy!

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Although oil based ballpoint pens do still tend to be the more popular entry level pen option all around the world, gel pens are becoming more and more popular with each passing year. This tends to be due to more and more cheap, high-quality gel pen sets being released onto the market with different pen brands being in fierce competition with each other to deliver the best possible product for the lowest possible price.

This is a win win situation for the consumer as it provides you with better gel pens at a lower cost helping you add them to your stationery collection without having to spend much. Due to this though, we have noticed more and more people reaching out with questions about gel pens as their popularity increases with a common question being how long do gel pens last.

As we have noticed so many people asking this, we have decided to publish this dedicated article in the hope of helping as many of our readers as possible. To be clear, we are fully aware that some people do prefer to use homemade gel pen ink in their gel pens but due to there being so many homemade recipes for gel pen ink, we will only be focusing on commercially available gel pens for our article.

How Long Do Gel Pens Last

There tends to be three main variants of this question asked that both have a slightly different answer to each other so we will address both of them below. This should ensure that no matter what specific variant of the question you have, our article will be able to help you.

How Long Does The Ink In Gel Pens Last Until Empty

There are a number of variables involved in this but a modern, high-quality gel pen should be able to last you for a few hours of constant coloring or drawing with it. Although this may not sound like much, this is actually above average and can beat out competing ballpoint and rollerball pens due to the gel pen ink formula tending to get more ink inside of the ink cylinder without it needing more space.

Different brands of gel pen also tend to have slightly different sized ink cylinders too so some will last longer than others due to having a larger ink capacity in the pen. As you would expect though, if you only use your gel pen for writing or sketching, it will last you considerably longer than if you use your gel pens for shading or coloring.

How Long Can Gel Pen Ink Last Before It Fades

Although most gel pen ink will start to show minimal signs of fading after around a year, there are some archival quality gel pens on the market that have a permanent ink formula. This helps to prevent them from fading and can ensure that your gel pen ink will last you for decades without issue making an archival quality gel pen a valuable tool for some uses.

Please keep in mind though, archival quality gel pen ink does tend to be more expensive than normal gel pen ink so you may need a slightly higher budget. That said though, regular gel pens will be able to get the job done for many people and although their ink may start to fade after a year or so, it can still remain visible for decades if the paper is kept in ideal conditions and out of direct sunlight.

How Long Will It Take For A Gel Pen To Dry Out

Due to gel pen ink being a water-based formula, the ink in your gel pen can dry out extremely fast when compared to the oil based ink in a modern ballpoint pen. This is one of the few downsides of using a gel pen over a ballpoint pen so if you are going to be using gel pens for your writing or art work, be sure to cap them as soon as you are done with them.

Although this may seem like a simple task, it can help to ensure that your gel pens will last you considerably longer than if you don’t re-cap them after use. It can also help to prevent your gel pens from expiring early but we will cover this in more detail in the next section of the article.

Do Gel Pens Expire?

Although modern gel pen ink does not technically “expire” there are some situations where the lifespan of your gel pen can be cut short. This is almost always down to user error when it comes to pen storage and as we mentioned earlier in the article, gel pens used a water-based ink that can be prone to drying out.

The two most common cases of this that are both easily avoidable for the majority of our readers are leaving your gel pens uncapped after use and leaving your gel pens in direct sunlight for extended periods of time. Both of these can drastically reduce the usability time of your gel pen by drying the ink out and although the ink did not technically expire, the pen will become unusable when enough of its ink has dried up or have issues with inconsistent ink flow.

How Do You Take Care Of Gel Pens To Make Them Last Longer?

Thankfully though, there are a number of different steps that you are able to take to help prevent your gel pen ink from drying out and ensure that the gel pens in your stationary collection will be able to last you for as long as possible. All of these methods are relatively easy too and take seconds to implement but can ensure that your gel pens last until their ink has ran our and needs to be refilled rather than drying out early.

The first one is to always cap your gel pens when not in use or to draw the nib back into the barrel if you are using a pen like the Pilot G2 that uses a clicker system. Although this is simple, it is often overlooked but can be a quick and easy win when it comes to ensuring that your gel pens last for as long as possible as it can help to prevent their ink from drying out.

The second thing that you can implement to ensure that your gel pens are lasting you as long as possible is to store them vertically with their nibs down in vertical stationary storage. This keeps the writing mechanism of the pen in contact with the gel ink at all times and will prevent you from having any issues with skipping when you come to use your gel pens again.

On top of this, if you store your gel pens vertically with the nib up, the gel in the ink cylinder can start to migrate downwards away from the writing mechanism making it a pain to get the pen working when needed. Many people make this mistake, presume that the pen has dried out and then throw the pen away. If you do realise that you have accidentally store your gel pen vertically with the nib up then you can often put it back into your storage with the nib down for a few days to fix the issue.

The final thing that you can implement to help make sure that your gel pens will last longer is to store them out of direct sunlight. We know that many people like to write or draw out in the sun during summer and this will not cause issues for your pen as it is only for short periods of time. When your gel pens are not in use though, be sure to store them out of direct sunlight if possible as it will prevent the water in the gel from evaporating and causing the pen to dry out fast.


That brings our article going over how long gel pens last to a close. We have covered the three main variants of the question in our article as well as three steps that you are able to implement to help ensure that your gel pens will last you for as long as possible too. We hope that you have found the article helpful and that we have been able to increase the lifespan and improve the performance of your gel pens for your writing or art work.