One Pen to Rule Them All: Our Favorite School Supplies

It’s back to school time. You know what that means?? I will buy so many unnecessary markers, pens, and stationary shit from Target because I love school supplies! Who’s with me? Raise your hand if you will buy all the school supplies whether or not you’re actually in school at the moment.

I don’t know where this obsession with pens and paper came from, but as a kid I collected glitter pens, glow-in-the-dark pens, Tweety bird stationary, fun animal pencils and BFF notebooks. Nothing has changed except that the things I want are more grown-up and probably in a neutral color like black.

I asked the team if they were into school supplies as much as I am and yes, some of them are! Here are the Autostraddle team’s favorite pens, pencils, markers, notebooks, highlighters, and more!

What are your favorites? Tell us about your school supplies feelings in the comments.


Yvonne, Senior Editor

I use a blank extra large Moleskine notebook to scribble notes and write out my ideas and plans for the week. I don’t know how, but I’ve accumulated a lot of pens and skinny markers, in various colors, over the years and they sit in a tin can on my desk. But it was time to replace them with new writing utensils and that’s why I bought these Bullet Journal Planner Pens. Come one they’re $5.99 for 18 colors! Or you can get 36 colors for $9.99 which has a bunch of 5 star reviews! I feel like the Rainbow Sponge lady just getting excited about all the colors. I like that they’re a fine tip marker that doesn’t bleed through the page but still has a lot of pigment.

And lately I’ve been wanting a Field Notes Reporter’s Notebook because it’s so pretty! The last time I went out to report on a story, I used a writing pad meant for grocery lists so the pages tear off easily so it was not practical. This notebook is practical and kills in the design.

You might be thinking a journal stencil is useless but I’ll tell you what! They’re super helpful for drawing boxes and shapes if you’re not a freaking artist. Like I said before, I have a free-for-all notebook and it’s just blank and the possibilities are endless so sometimes I use the stencil to organize the chaos. They’re super handy, I highly recommend it!

Riese, Editor in Chief

There is only one type of pen I can use for anything ever and it’s that Pilot pen. Sometimes people try to get me to write with other pens and I’m like, how dare you? I switch the kind of notebooks I use a lot, but I’m really into the one I have now. It’s not too big, it’s not too small, it’s spiral bound (pages always come out of the other kind) and it looks cute.

Valerie Anne, Staff Writer

I used to love, love, love buying fresh, new notebooks every year. A blank book full of opportunities. And I’d always buy however many notebooks I needed for school, plus a book I intended to be my journal. Flash forward to me, many years post-school, and I now have dozens of empty or mostly-empty notebooks strewn about my apartment. So now I have turned my attention to writing implements I will totally and definitely use to write in those empty notebooks someday. I love a clean, inky black pen. I also have a ton of colors from when I tried bullet journaling for like one full minute. My favorites at the moment are these Inkjoy pens that have SHADES and are a nice, smooth time.

Heather Hogan, Senior Editor

Not too very long ago I got a fountain pen as a gift and it has changed my life! I’ve always been terrible at writing but now that I have a few fancy pens on my desk, I have turned into a prolific writer of things that require ink! I journal every day! I send letters and cards to people in the mail! My planner is legible and constantly up to date! Fountain pens really do write completely differently than other pens, and I only have entry level ones; I can’t imagine what a gold nib pen would write like. I hold the pen correctly (and not like my hand is a cartoon claw) now, I keep it clean, I change the ink every week. I treat it better than I ever treated those little Tamagotchi keychains of my youth, that’s for sure. This Lamy Safari is basically everyone’s favorite starter pen and you can get it in a variety of nib sizes and colors. Black Swan in Australian Rose is one of my favorite Noodler’s inks (is it purple? is it blue? is it black? is it pink? yes!) but you can get ink in literally any color (with different types of sheens!); Noodler’s is just the most economical brand. If you’re going to write with a fountain pen, it’s worth it to invest in some thicker, slicker paper like this Rhodia notepad, which I use for my daily journal. And finally, I have tried every planner ever made, and nothing comes close to the Passion Planner. It’s everything you need to keep your life on track in all the areas you want to improve and maintain.

Rachel, Managing Editor

Although I have a Passion Planner and do love it, especially for noting time-specific things like appointments or social plans, I need a dedicated Notebook for dumping and organizing all the other things going on in my brain — meal plans for the week, brainstorming for meetings, making lists, taking notes during calls, making other, different lists. For a while I was trying to “bullet journal,” which is I think what this notebook is in part designed for, but I’ve transitioned to a more laissez-faire and organic “writing stuff down and flipping to finding it later if I need it” approach and can vouch that this notebook is also perfect for that.

For writing in it and writing all other things, the only pen in my heart is the Pilot G2 .38 mm, which makes lines so delicate and clean that looking at my notes makes me feel like how I imagine Gwyneth Paltrow does after she’s spooned some cilantro oil that an endangered snow owl has made eye contact with onto a plate.

Carrie, Staff Writer

About a year ago I started writing down my daily to-do lists in a Moleskine Valant to try and calm my mind. And it worked! Best review I can give! Initially I chose this notebook for the job because it’s what I had around, but it’s proven a very apt selection. There’s nothing fancy about it unless you count the fun cover colors, which incidentally make it easy to find in a crowded bag (important for me). The size is ideal for my purposes: big enough to keep track of but slim enough to fit inside basically any carrier that isn’t a pants pocket. I like how the cover softens even more with time, too. I have this thing with me whenever there is work afoot. By now it provides a visual record of my achievements, which I very much enjoy.

I’m sure there are fancier highlighters out there but these Sharpie ones have lasted forever so I’m a de facto loyalist now. Whenever I really don’t want to do something that I know needs to get done, I’ll write out the steps and then make them all colorful with these, which tricks my brain into thinking we’re having fun. Any office supply that curbs my procrastination is a winner in my (note)book. (Sorry).

Al(aina), Staff Writer

I’ve been in school almost every year since I was four, and I’ve loved shopping for school supplies ever since. I’m starting to feel very old and set in my ways though because this year I didn’t buy anything new. These six things are my go-tos no matter what I’m doing in class. I exclusively write with black Pilot G2 ultra fine pens (because I, myself, am ultra fine) and love nothing more than a fresh pack of twelve shiny new clicky bois. I’ve also been using Moleskine notebooks since I started acting school — I like being able to line things up and look at years and years of the exact same thing! Familiarity is comforting. I recently downsized from the extra large notebooks to large notebooks, primarily because the way I take notes in grad school less “get all the important information from the professor” and more “journal about how what I’m reading applies to my research”. I use poster markers with my Passion Planner when I need to block out large chunks of time. They don’t bleed like Sharpies, but they’re more visible than highlighters; 10/10 would recommend. I got a refill on printer ink this year because somehow I have spent almost $200 on printing at school every year in the past, and I’d love to keep $200 for myself! I use lined Post-it notes because I’m constantly making lists and the larger size is more practical and less wasteful, I think. And finally, no school year can begin without a new fidget cube. It’s perfect for long lectures, for settling my mind during a writing activity, or for keeping me focused during a seminar class. Everyone should get one, they’re perfect.

Alexis, Staff Writer

I come from a family of teachers and also just nerdy people in general so back to school supplies? ARE. MY. SHIT. So uni-ball is my pen of choice cause my mom and I love “inky” pens but I only like those for the subjects I care about, so for the other subjects I’d use Paper Mate Write Bros cause it let’s me be messier. I didn’t add notebooks because honestly as long as there’s paper in it, I’m gonna use it. But I know you’re also looking at me like, why are pastels on this list? Especially since I cannot draw my way out of a paper bag and the answer is this: You gotta buy your serious supplies and your sanity supplies. Pens, notebooks = serious. Pastels = sanity. Because sometimes, after you do all that important work all day, you just wanna play in some chalk and have your hands come up in pretty colors and honestly if that’s not therapeutic and striking the perfect work/play balance, I don’t know what is.

Yvonne S. Marquez is a lesbian journalist and Autostraddle senior editor living in Dallas, TX. She writes about social justice, politics, activism and other things dear to her heart like Selena and tacos. She graduated from the University of Texas at Austin with a degree in journalism and has since written and edited lots of gay stuff for the internet. Yvonne calls the borderlands home, strongly identifies with her Scorpio moon sign, and really hopes to crush the patriarchy soon. Follow her on Instagram or Twitter.

Yvonne has written 203 articles for us.

38 Comments

  1. I was looking forward to this post so much! I don’t really need more school supplies, but that doesn’t stop me from ogling them! I like fountain pens too, and I keep admiring new colors of ink and nice papers.

  2. THIS IS THE CONTENT I AM HERE FOR!! I’m what I would call a Nerd Lesbian (as opposed to a Sports Lesbian or Building Things Lesbian). I like knowing things for fun and writing them down. I too turn into the rainbow sponge lady when pens and markers are a foot.

    when i started my new job, my reward to myself was a set of 36 Stabilo fine liners and a set of 15 Zebra mildliners (and i’ve subsequently bought additions and replacements). I really like moleskin, specifically the valant set but i also like all the prints and designs from Cognitive Surplus.

  3. Sharpie Pens are the only pen I use. I probably have 6 of them on my person at this very moment. I used to use the ones with the grip, but I switched to the skinner ones because they can slide neatly into the spiral part of a spiral bound notebook. On that note, I’ve fallen for the Action Publishing Scrapbook line of notebooks. The Idea Book size is perfect for me. I use it for all my to-dos and meeting notes. The notebooks are made from upcycled materials, and the pages are card stock so I don’t have to worry about them getting all wrinkled from being knocked around in my bag or car. Also, the front is clear plastic, so you can make your own cover on the first blank page. 🙂

  4. PASSION PLANNER! HEATHER, YES! I also tried every planner in existence, including bullet journaling and creating my own printouts on my computer and nothing worked for me. The Passion Planner is/was perfect! The layout is perfect to have space to write while also fitting pretty much everything I need to fit in a planner and still looks nice and organized. The “passion roadmap” exercises are just fantastic. I love the end of the month reflection. The classic size was the perfect size for me (it fit perfectly in my binder so I could easily take it to school with me), until they got rid of it and replaced their size variants with just the “pro” size which still has my feathers ruffled. But, the size debacle aside, I cannot praise this planner enough!

  5. I haven’t stopped using Stabilo pens for all of my planning and journaling since I first went to Germany and discovered them. I also like the Zebra mildliners, especially the gray.

    I think I’m ready to take the passion planner plunge! I downloaded and printed the new size 3 month sample from the site, but I have to trim it and figure out how to not let it get all crumpled until I next year when I will invariably love it and buy the whole thing to start in january. Anyone have ideas?

  6. This makes me think of You’ve Got Mail, when Meg Ryan fondly smells a roll of scotch tape and Tom Hanks says, “If I knew your name and address, I would send you a bouquet of freshly sharpened pencils.” I blame that movie for my love of school supplies. (I’m personally fond of Leuchtturm1917 medium-sized notebooks, myself.)

  7. I’ve been yelling about pilot’s frixion erasable pens to basically everyone for the past year. Erasable pens that actually work!! And don’t tear up your paper!! Plus they have erasable highlighters and markers and gel pens too and just so many colors. I have a schedule that changes a lot, but pencil is too light, so being able to write in pen on my calendar and then erase it as things change has been a total lifesaver.

  8. AHH this is my third start of the school year that I am actually not a student, and it still feels like I need to go shop for clothes and stationary. Now I just spend too much money on stickers for my Passion Planner. Staedtler Fineliner markers are my jam, and I have to stop myself from buying the smaller packs *just* because they have one new color. At work I satisfy the need for school supplies by “shopping” in our supplies room and grabbing fun colored post its and page tabs.
    I find it hilarious that we all have a certain pen and we refuse to use a different one. Pentel RSVP Fine Point- originally fun purple when I was in school and now blue in my sucky corporate cubicle life 😛

  9. PASSION PLANNER
    SPIRAL-BOUND NOTEBOOKS

    Lately I am very into these pens/markers/highlighters by Zebra called Mildliners; they’re double-ended (heh heh), so the chisel tip is perfect for color-coding things in my Passion Planner and the…marker-y? tip is perfect for writing things down.

  10. I am HERE for this.

    I have a pen that I got from the UM-Minneapolis school of journalism when I toured there one time. It is the best damn pen I’ve ever owned and I am going to sob when it runs out of ink and I won’t know where to replace it.

  11. UGH I LOVE SCHOOL/OFFICE SUPPLIES, ESPECIALLY FOUNTAIN PENS AND NOTEBOOKS

    Noodler’s Ink is the best, you can get so many colors for a reasonable price. I actually have too many inks, it’s terrible. Bad habits, bad habits. School supply time is the worst, because it’s always so tempting to buy MORE notebooks and MORE inks before I’ve even used any up!

  12. I still get excited and fondle the school supplies every year, wanting to get a whole cartful, but selecting only a few necessities. I prefer Bic atlantis pens, but since I haven’t found the black/blue/red/green pack lately, I tried the Pilot fine-line multi-pack, but I don’t like the way it feels when I write.

    Sharpies, Moleskines, Post-it flags, notebooks with cute designs on the cover make me happy.

    I also have four types of tape, just in case.

  13. I’ve noticed lately lots of stores are carrying really cute and quirky school and office supplies, like shark staplers, Eiffle Tower scissors, dog tape dispensers. Oh and of all places Dollar Tree has some really fun notebooks and even a pink flamingo tape dispenser!

  14. Guys, Rachel and Al(aina), maybe you can help me. I have so many Pilot G2 pens that have run out of ink, and I would love to buy 0.38 refills, but I only ever find 0.5 and 0.7 refills and honestly, those big thick lines are so gauche after the extra fine lines of the 0.38. Do you know where to get them? When I’m in the US I specifically hunt for them but can never find them 🙁

  15. I’ve been resisting the lure of school supplies this year, but I’ll probably give in and buy some pens. Lately I like Rhodia notebooks, and I think Pilot pens are my current favorite. I’ve also gotten some good pens from Dollar stores, and Jet Pens has some sampler packs if you want to treat yourself to a variety of pens.

  16. I’m surprised no one prefers pencils! I am a big writer/planner and use any mechanical pencil and am very loyal to the Slingshot planner. Even though it’s not actually as neat/organized as I would like, I’ve grown to love the blank pages at the back and of course I’m in it for the historical notes they have for each day.

  17. It is uncanny how seen I feel right now, y’all.

    I am trying very hard not to let myself buy any new notebooks, because I have so so many. I am pretty sure that the unicorn notebooks I got as a small schoolgirl are still around somewhere, mostly unused because you can’t just use THOSE for everyday school stuff, THOSE are the fancy beautiful notebooks that must remain perfect and unsullied forever, or else get used for really important things! And there are loads of abstract-art ones from later on that I used, or told myself I would use, for dream journals, and I have decided that if I get a research job all my lab notebooks must be beautiful because that’s an excellent excuse to buy more beautiful notebooks.

    Also, graph paper. Graph paper notebooks. And I have a pack of pale green graph paper that has the lines really visible on one side and then they just barely show through on the other side and I love the barely-showing side, I got that paper freshman year of undergrad for my physics class and have used it for every math/science/stats course since. And also for drawing maps for world-building for roleplay games and story-writing.

    Mechanical pencils for any math or map-drawing or graphing. Gel pens/uniballs for writing – the more colors, the better. Had a fountain pen once, loved it, ran out of ink. Am trying not to let myself buy any more pens until I have used up more of the truly enormous stash I already have.

    Ooooh also we have an art store that has gorgeous papers, like all these different colors in a sort of marbled pattern, I bought a piece of the turquoise/gold/black because how could I not, but sadly that stuff is way too expensive to use as wallpaper. Also colored pencils are fun.

    Man now I wanna go to Staples or the art store but that could get…dangerous.

    It’s nice not to be alone in my weirdness. 🙂

  18. Speaking of fountain pens, if you decided to buy one because you want to make your writing look better I recommend a pen with italic nib instead of regular one with iridium tip.

    A pen with iridium tip gives no line variation, since the tip is round, just like in common ballpoint pen. Meanwhile italic nib looks like its tip was cut and that gives line variation depending on the position of the nib. And in addition to that, broad line allows the ink to show its shading (but that depends on the ink). You can google the images of writing to see the difference.

    I think that Pilot Plumix is the cheapest good quality pen with italic nib, but if I’m not mistaken Americans can only buy it with Medium nib, while Europeans have access to versions from Fine to Broad.

    BTW, Heather spoke of gold nibs. The difference with them is that most of them are flexible (AKA flex nibs). So they also give line variation, but it depends on the pressure on the nib (and if you put too much pressure you can destroy it). Noodler’s produces the cheapest fountain pens with flex nibs, like Noodler’s Ahab, but they’re made from stainless steel instead of gold – so the good and bad side is, they’re a lot harder than gold. You can’t really destroy it accidentally, but also you need to put a lot more pressure to write with flex.

  19. Uniball Eye Micro are by far the best pens on Earth.

    In my case, they were a great discovery for College because the thing is that here in Argentina, in my Alma Mater, we have some starting courses that are common for every student no matter the career you’ve chosen.
    So this means a bunch of students in a, sometimes, very small classroom where you usually don’t have a place to seat so you have to take notes in very uncomfortable positions: standing, seatting on the floor. Well, with this pen you can be standing on your head and perfectly write whatever you want.

  20. Ohhhh this post, it GETS me. There’s a reason my profile pic is the gay rainbow-themed portion of my fountain pen collection, which is also the same reason I should never be left unsupervised in an office supplies store. Or in an arts/crafts supplies store. Or the school supplies aisle at Target. Or alone at home with a tab open on Jetpens.

    I mostly have beginner/inexpensive fountain pens like Heather, though I’m not really a fan of Noodler’s ink ever since I found out the guy behind the brand is kinda one of Those Libertarians, plus the inks sometimes misbehaved in a couple of my pens. (Which I admit could just have been my tendency to sort of neglect them sometimes? Mine get cleaned…maybe once a month, usually after I forget to write with one for a while and all the ink dries out I KNOW I KNOW I’m a terrible pen parent.) But at the same time, I haven’t had any similar problems with Diamine, so I dunno! It all worked out in the end; a relative is enjoying all the bottles of Noodler’s I had and the calligraphy fountain pen I gifted him, and it gave me an excuse to replace them with way too many bottles of Diamine, J. Herbin, and Monteverde, plus a bottle of Platinum Carbon Black for refilling my brush pen’s ink cartridges.

    Also my planner of choice is a Hobonichi A6, but I can’t say that I bought it because I knew it fit with my particular planning style–which is just “write literally everything down because ADHD will cause me to forget in 0.0542 seconds”–or because I did any sort of research or anything. Nope, I impulse-bought it because it came with an Earthbound/Mother 2 cover, and “decorated with my favorite childhood video game” automatically vetoed all other possible criteria I may have had. But it works for me, and the little quotes at the bottom of all the daily pages make me smile even when I have a ton of assignments/projects/appointment reminders to write down, and that’s like a little bit of self-care every day, in a way!

  21. Feeling so seen with the pilot g2 .38s – how do people write with anything thicker?? School supplies are so dangerous for me and now as a teacher I definitely find myself indulging in all the markers! Pens! Grid notebooks!

  22. Just a heads up, the guy who owns and operates Noodler’s is a hard-core right-winger of the Tea Party variety. I don’t know whether or not he’s a trumper, but the political editorializing he’s included on other bottles of his ink got to be bad enough that I stopped buying Noodler’s entirely, and I had probably bought more than twenty bottles of the stuff prior.

  23. Heather, I would 100% recommend getting a TWSBI Eco if you like your Lamy. They are so much smoother, but also so much fun because they are piston filled. They hold a ton of ink. I have three and I love them dearly. I also have a gold nibbed Pilot Vanishing Point and it does feel nice. It’s just so soft feeling to write with.

    On a gay note, my wife thinks it is exceedingly funny that someone who works on pen nibs is called a nib meister. She REALLY wanted to go to a pen show so she could hear me ask a nib meister to grind my nib- into a different shape. The jokes are endless. She also occasionally calls herself a nib meister now.

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