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The Best Quick-Drying Gel Pens

The Best Quick-Drying Gel Pens

September 6, 2022 - Posted by Kristin to Guides, Gel Pens, Pens

The Best Quick-Drying Gel Pens

We love gel pens for their smooth ink and vivid colors, but they don’t always dry quickly—and there’s nothing as frustrating as unsightly smears all over your carefully written notes. To help you avoid this fate, we tested all of our gel pens to find the absolute best non-smear pens for every use.

Top Choice
Zebra Sarasa Dry Gel Pen
All tip sizes of the Zebra Sarasa Dry dry amazingly quickly.
The Zebra Sarasa Dry is unequivocally the best quick-drying gel pen. Thanks to Zebra’s special DRYJELL ink technology, all tip sizes of the Sarasa Dry become smear free in just two or three seconds on smooth Rhodia paper. This makes it the perfect fast-drying pen for left-handed writers and fast note-takers. We’re especially fond of the Japanese-made Sarasa Dry for its sturdy binder clip and cute style, but there is an American version that dries just as fast: the Zebra Sarasa Dry X20. It also is a bit cheaper than the Sarasa Dry since it does not have the binder clip. The Sarasa Dry’s one weakness is that it is not at all waterproof. If you need a quick-drying pen that can also stand up to errant spills and coffee rings, keep reading to see our other picks.
Quick-Drying Gel Pen Considerations
Gel ink dries faster on absorbent paper, like copy or filler paper.
Gel ink dries faster on absorbent paper, like copy or filler paper.
The paper you choose to write on can significantly affect dry time. Ink-resistant papers, like those for fountain pens, will also resist gel ink and cause it to dry slower. To ensure the fastest dry times, it’s best to use absorbent papers like copy or filler paper.
Tip Size
Fine-tip gel pens dry more quickly than broad-tip gel pens.
Fine-tip gel pens dry more quickly than broad-tip gel pens.
Whether a particular drying time counts as slow or fast depends on the pen’s tip size. Pens with larger tips deposit more ink on the page and are expected to dry more slowly, while fine-tip pens put down less ink and dry more quickly. We recommend sticking with fine tip sizes if you feel strongly about preventing smears.
Water Resistance
Choose waterproof gel inks if your writing may be exposed to moisture.
Choose waterproof gel inks if your writing may be exposed to moisture.
Any non-waterproof ink can smear when exposed to moisture, even if it’s been dry for days. If you have sweaty hands, live in a rainy climate, or tend to be clumsy with your drinks, choose waterproof or water-resistant options to keep your writing legible.
Quick-Drying Gel Pen Recommendations
The Best Quick-Drying Fine Tip Gel Pen: Uni-ball Signo Gel Pen
Uni-ball Signo Gel Pens
Uni-ball Signo Gel Pens offers a combination of a short drying time and smooth writing experience.
The Uni-ball Signo offers the best combination of a short drying time and smooth writing experience in the fine tip sizes. Both the 0.28 mm and the 0.38 mm tip sizes dried within five seconds—fast enough to prevent smudges during all but the most frenetic note-taking. The 0.5 mm tip size almost dried in 10 seconds, but tiny smudges bumped it into the 20-second category. As a plus, the Uni-ball Signo uses waterproof pigment ink that won’t smear even if you soak the page. Learn more about the Uni-ball Signo line in our comprehensive guide.

For an even finer tip gel pen, we recommend the Pilot Hi-Tec-C Gel Pen. While it can produce lines as thin as 0.25 mm, you do get some “feedback” on toothier papers.

The Best Quick-Drying Broad Tip Gel Pen: Pentel EnerGel Gel Pen
Pentel EnerGel Gel Pens
The 1.0 mm Pentel EnerGel Gel Pens dry faster than other gel pens with the same tip size.
The smooth Pentel EnerGel is your best option if you want to use bold tip sizes without compromising drying time. All of our 1.0 mm gel pens took over 30 seconds to dry in our tests, but the EnerGel smeared much less than the competition. Only minor pooling at the ends of lines kept it from drying in the 20-second time frame. Check out our comprehensive guide for more information about all of the Pentel EnerGel lines.
The Best Quick-Drying Gel Pen For Highlighting: Zebra Sarasa Mark On Gel Pen
Zebra Sarasa Mark On Gel Pens
Zebra Sarasa Mark On Gel Pen ink is formulated to better bind to paper and have greater water resistance than other gel inks.
Gel ink is notorious for smearing when highlighted, but the Sarasa Mark On is specifically formulated to beat the odds. Its waterproof ink binds to the paper to keep it from smearing under almost any highlighter. We found that the 0.4 mm tip size dried in five seconds, while the 0.5 mm tip size took just a bit longer. This makes it great for students and office workers who need to take quick notes and call attention to important information.
The Best Quick-Drying Gel Pen For Professionals: Parker Jotter Gel Pen
Parker Jotter Gel Pens
The Parker Jotter Gel Pen features a Quick-Drying ink in a sleek, stainless steel pen body.
The Parker Jotter Gel’s elegantly tapered body and classic arrow clip have made it a business icon, but it’s got a lot more going for it than just looks. Its medium-sized 0.7 mm tip puts down a smooth, pleasantly dark line that dried in a mere 10 seconds on Rhodia—much faster than most of the competition.
The Best Quick-Drying Gel Pen For Color-Coding: Uni-ball One Gel Pen
Uni-ball One Gel Pens
Uni-ball One Gel Pens feature an ink formula that produces quick-drying, vibrant lines.
Students who color-code their notes can depend on the Uni-ball One Gel Pen. Its ink is formulated with large pigment particles that stay on the surface of paper, so dark inks appear darker and bright inks are more vivid. This draws attention to your notes, headers, and bullet points, and helps you retain information better. It’s available in 0.38 mm and 0.5 mm tip sizes that dry in just three and five seconds respectively for smudge-free writing. The 0.38 mm version comes in a rainbow of 20 hues for color-coding to your heart’s content, while the 0.5 mm comes in 10.

Uni-ball also offers the One F Gel Pen which has a wider barrel and a lower center of gravity, making it comfortable for long writing sessions.

The Best Quick-Drying Waterproof Gel Pen: Pentel EnerGel Permanent Gel Pen
Pentel EnerGel Permanent Gel Pens
The Pentel EnerGel Permanent Gel Pens uses ehnanced Pentel gel ink that is waterproof and lightfast.
If you need to fortify your writing against spills and fading, go with the Pentel EnerGel Permanent. It writes just as well and dries just as fast as the regular EnerGel—within 10 seconds for both the 0.5 mm and 0.7 mm tip sizes—but with enhanced waterproof and lightfast ink that’s great for signing checks and taking important notes.
The Best Quick-Drying Erasable Gel Pen: Pilot FriXion Gel Pen
Pilot FriXion Gel Pens
The ink found in Pilot FriXion Gel Pens is fast drying and erasable.
The Pilot FriXion is an erasable wonder with lightning-fast drying times. The smallest tip size, 0.38 mm, dried in two seconds. The largest 1.0 mm tip size dried in only five. The tradeoff for these features is ink that isn’t as saturated as our other picks, but the pens are so convenient to use that it’s well worth it. The FriXion’s combination of fast drying times and erasable ink colors is especially useful for updating your planner on the go. Not only can you correct entries when your plans change, but the ink won’t smear when you close the page. Read our comprehensive guide to learn more about FriXion technology and product lines.
Gel Pen Test Results

We tested the drying times of all of our gel pens by drawing X’s on Rhodia paper and then brushing over them with a finger at 3, 5, 10, 20, and 30 seconds. For tests that showed no smearing at 3 seconds, we narrowed the drying time down to the second. The drying time recorded in the final column reflects the amount of time the samples took to dry completely, even if there was only a small amount of smudging. You can use the pictures to make more granular comparisons.

We tested all tip sizes of each pen. We did not perform separate tests for different versions of pens that use the same ink (for example, the Pentel EnerGel-X and EnerGel RTX), as their results should be identical.

Specialty and crafting gel pens, like those with metallic, glitter, or pastel inks, tend to be slow-drying and therefore were omitted from our tests.

How We Approach Research & Testing

Our writers draw on their personal expertise, consult our in-house subject matter experts, and do extensive research to make our guides as accurate and comprehensive as possible. We then test every finding that makes it through the research stage. Only the techniques and tools whose performance we personally confirm make it into our guides as recommendations.


Quick-drying gel pens let you enjoy the smooth writing and vivid hues of gel pens while keeping your paper and hands smudge-free. What do you think are the best gel pens that don’t smear? Let us know your favorites in the comments below!