Multipens - All You Need in One Pen

Bic 4-Colour PensMultipens are great - they're often no bigger than a normal pen, but contain more than one pen! There are all sorts of different multipens, but if you usually write in black ink but sometimes need red, and occasionally need a pencil, a multipen can do it all in one. Or perhaps you want four different colours for mind-mapping or planning, or colour-coding entries in your journal. And perhaps you don't want to carry a separate stylus around to use with your phone or tablet, but it would be handy to have one around for the odd times you need it. Multipens can do all these things.

4-Colour Pens

Do you remember your first multipen experience? There's a pretty good chance it's the same as it was for many of us here: the Bic 4-Colour Pen. Black, Blue, Red and Green ballpoint refills in a barrel just a bit thicker than most pens, with those little sliders to select a colour. To retract it, pull down another of the sliders part way. Simple.

It appeared first in 1970, and back in the 70s, it seemed like a marvellous and amazing new technology. Well, it was a decade before the Nintendo Game and Watch arrived, and we didn't have much entertainment. Doodling with a pen that had four colours was pretty exciting. Technology may have moved on a lot since then - those early Game and Watch things wouldn’t look so good sitting next to a Switch - but the Bic 4-Colour is still going strong, and it's still pretty appealing.

It's even refillable, which is all good now so many of us are trying to reduce the plastic waste we produce, and of course, we have the refills as well as the pens, so if you love the Bic 4-Colour, now you can save money and help the environment while still enjoying your favourite pen. It's even available with a rubber grip, with shiny metallic barrels, and in a version where the green is replaced by a mechanical pencil.

Tombow ReporterThere are lots of other options around these days, too, with other 4-colour pens available from Pilot, Zebra, Tombow, Paper Mate and Lamy. The Pilot gives you their top-quality ballpoint refills in a 4-way body, while we're very fond of the Tombow Reporter, with its handy spring-loaded clip and the option of a short 'compact' version making it even more convenient to take everywhere.

With the exception of the Lamy 2000 4-Colour Pen, which is a rather lovely brushed Makrolon finish to match the classic fountain pen, these are generally low-cost pens, either disposable or semi-disposable. They're great value, handy and flexible.

Ballpoints and Pencils

Lamy 2000 4-Colour PenA lot of multipens also include a mechanical pencil mechanism. These mechanisms are quite tiny, which brings some compromises to them, but they're really handy for the sizeable percentage of people who use a ballpoint pen most of the time, but sometimes need a pencil. Maybe you usually write in black ink, and occasionally use red to stand out. But occasionally you need to pencil something in to your diary, which you know might change. A multipen with a pencil would be perfect.

For Bullet Journaling, you could use a different colour to really make important entries stand out, and switch to pencil for Future Log entries that you know might change.

The only downsides are that there's only space for a couple of spare leads, and the tiny mechanisms are a bit more fiddly to unblock if you get a lead jam. If you use the pencil more than the pen, a separate mechanical pencil might be better for you, but the pencil in a multipen will be just fine for most people.

Quality Multipens

We're not saying here that the ones above aren't good quality, but the type we're talking about here is usually made from metal, and made to last for years. Most of the pens in this category cost a bit more than those 4-colour pens, but they'll last a long time, though many refills, and by changing the refills you put in them, they can become what you need them to be.

One of the pioneers of this type of multipen was Rotring, with the Trio and Quattro pens - nice sturdy metal pens using standard D1 refills, along with a pencil. The Trio is still available, and at the time of writing, we're offering 20% off, making the perfect chance to grab one of the classic multipens that's not usually available in the UK these days.

We also have special offers on many other favourites, with 20% off selected multipens from Lamy and Paper Mate, and 10% off Platinum multipens.

Pentel Sliccies MultipensCustomisable Multipens

Most multipens are customisable, by their very nature. They often use standard D1 refills, and there are lots of alternatives available. So with most multipens, you could buy a pen with a pencil mechanism and a black and red ballpoint, say, and swap the refills out so you have your favourite 2B lead, a fine black hybrid ink refill and a green ballpoint refill.

There's a category of multipens that have become popular in Japan, though, where you don't get a complete pen supplied to start with - you buy the pieces you want. Choose from a range of pen bodies, then fill it with a selection of refills that match what you will use. They key thing is usually the variety available. It's quite common for these to have two or three tip sizes of refill available, and sometimes there will be a choice of ink types, and perhaps ten different colours. In some cases, there will be pencil mechanisms available too, and sometimes even those have a choice of sizes. With the Uni Style Fit, for example, there are gel refills in 0.5mm, 0.38mm and 0.28mm sizes, Jetstream hybrid ink refills in 0.5mm, and a 0.5mm pencil mechanism. And each of those sizes of gel refill is available in fifteen colours!

If you want a pen that has two different line widths in black, and three shades of pink, you could have that. If you want two pencil mechanisms for different lead grades for sketching, and three different black line widths, you could have that. If you wanted black, orange, pink, green and brown inks all in one pen, you could have that too. It's all about choosing what works for you.

As above, these are perfect for Bullet Journals, and fit in perfectly with the philosophy of modifying and customising your journal to be exactly what you need.

And if you're not bored with special offers yet, the Pentel Sliccies pen bodies and their super-smooth gel refills are also at a special price at the time of writing.

While most of these pens are low-cost plastic bodies, using their own range of refills, the Zebra Sharbo-X is an exception. It's supplied as an empty body to add the refills you want, like other customisable pens, but they have strong metal barrels, and use standard D1 refills, so while there aren't as many colours to choose from, there are lots of other brands of refill that will fit. And while one of their functions has to be a pencil (it uses a different connector to the pen refills) they offer them in 0.3mm, 0.5mm and 0.7mm, making them ideal for people who prefer thinner or thicker lead.

Platinum MultipensTo Multipen or Not to Multipen

That is the question. We think they're great tools, and if you need more than one pen, maybe you actually don't need more than one pen after all, which simplifies what you have to carry and use.

So why might you not want to use a multipen? Well, as we mentioned above, if you use pencil a lot, a separate mechanical pencil may be better, as they usually have bigger mechanisms, more space for spare leads, and erasers. If you want a refill to last a long time, the smaller refills used in most multipens may mean too much changing for you. And maybe a pen where you have to choose which tip you want to use just seems like too much complexity for something you might need to use before you've finished your first coffee!

For all sorts of other purposes, though, multipens are the most flexible option, and you can have all the mark-making you need for your day in one nice quality pen.

1 February 2019

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