Best Pen To Write On Photo Paper: Top 4 Pens That Dry Fast

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Writing a personal, heartfelt message on a photograph? Or are you simply categorizing and dating old photos? It’s important to be careful –⁠ you can’t just use any pen. You have to use special, quick-drying photo pens to ensure that the ink won’t smudge or bleed.

In this guide, we’ll talk about how to choose the best pen for any photo surface and share our favorite photo-safe pens. By the end, you’ll know which tool to use for your writing on your photos.

How To Choose The Best Pens For Photo Paper

If you want to write on real photo paper, you need to choose a pen that dries quickly. Here are some of the ways you can tell if a pen is suitable for writing on photographic paper:

Check The Ink's Base Material

Pens have varying drying times based on the material they are made with. When it comes to writing on glossy paper, it’s best to go for those with alcohol or oil-based ink since they dry faster.

It’s best to avoid gel pens when writing on photos. Gel pen ink, made from an oil and water emulsion, will likely smear on photographs. If you have no other alternative, wait for a long time for the ink to dry before handling the photos again.

Buy Fade-Resistant Pens

When choosing pens, it’s better to look for ones that use pigments instead of dyes. Pigments don’t dissolve easily and can resist fading.

Look For Pens With Archival Inks

If you’re planning to keep your photo for a long time, choose archival markers and pens. These archival tools are specifically designed to resist weathering and fading, so they’re ideal for making photo books, guest books, or scrapbooks.

Check If The Pens Are Acid-Free

Some types of ink can make photo paper deteriorate faster. That’s why it’s important to choose pens that say “acid-free” on the barrel. This means that it doesn’t include harmful acids that may damage your picture.

Purchase Lightfast Pens

Light can damage the chemical bonds of ink. When this happens, the colors can change or bleach over time. To ensure that your pen’s ink won’t get damaged when exposed to light, choose one that has “lightfast” on its label. A lightfast pen comes with dye or pigment that’s not prone to discoloration when exposed to light.

Try Using A Permanent Marker

When writing on glossy surfaces, you don’t have to limit yourself to a nice pen – you can also use permanent markers. Their broad tip size is ideal for labeling a photo book or making a bold statement on photographs.

Just be sure you’re picking a marker with alcohol-based ink since they cannot be erased easily. Water-based markers are more ideal for writing on whiteboards.

Test The Tool

The easiest way to tell if your tool is suitable for drawing on photographs is by testing. When you go to your local art supply shop, bring the type of paper you’re hoping to use. Then, test the pen and see if you’re satisfied with the results.

Types Of Pens For Photo Paper

Choosing the correct writing tool can make or break your work. But aside from that, you also have to check the type of surface you’re writing on. Here is a quick guide for using pens on each type of surface:

Type of pen

Matte paper

Cast-coated photo paper

Microporous photo paper

Transfer paper

Sticker paper

Ballpoint pens

Printing side only

Printing side only

Permanent markers

Printing side only

Water-based felt tips (dry wipe)

Printing side only

Printing side only

The 4 Best Pens For Photographic Prints

Writing on photos doesn’t have to be a frustrating experience. As long as you have the right tool, you can write visible messages on images without  any problems. Take your pick from the following fast-drying photo pens:

 

Type

Tip size

Water-resistant

Acid-free

Lightfast

Multiple colors available

Zig Photo Signature

Alcohol-based signature marker

2 mm

Ultra-Fine Sharpie

Alcohol-based marker

0.33 mm

Uni Pin

Oil-based fiber-tip 

0.05 mm to 0.8 mm

 

Zebra Mackee

Oil-based felt-tip

0.3 mm and 0.7 mm

  

1. Zig Photo Signature Pen

Our Recommendation

Zig 2mm Tip Photo Signature Markers

Zig Photo Signature pens come with fade-resistant and water-resistant inks, making them perfect for writing on glossy photos, CDs, and plastic. They dry completely within a reasonable time and won’t smudge easily. They’re also acid-free, so they won’t damage your photos.

The Zig photo signature pen comes with an ultra-fine tip, allowing you to write small letters legibly. Each pack of Zig photo signature pens also comes in five different colors, giving you the freedom to design your message as creatively as possible.

2. Ultra-Fine Point Sharpie

Our Recommendation

Sharpie Permanent Markers

The ultra-fine point Sharpie has been a crowd-favorite for decades. It has a quick-drying and vibrant formula that’s suitable for most surfaces, including photos.

Unlike the standard Sharpie marker, the ultra-fine Sharpie marker has a 0.33 mm tip. That way, you can write smaller letters on photos without worrying about smudging.

One advantage of choosing ultra-fine Sharpies is that you can choose from 42 different colors. Plus, while most of these ultra-fine markers come with a matte finish, you can also find some Sharpies with a metallic finish.

All in all, Sharpies are excellent for writing on any surface. They also come in a variety of colors and finishes, so you’re free to design your photo book as creatively as you’d like.

3. Uni Pin

Uni Pin pens come with an ultra-fine point, making them suitable if you want to create a drawing with fine details. You can choose from various tip sizes, with 0.8 being the largest and 0.05 mm being the smallest.

The Uni Pin pen comes with water-resistant, lightfast ink. That prevents it from smudging or fading when used on photographs.

Uni Pin fine liners are also favored by artists worldwide for their ergonomic grip. If you plan on writing with a pen for long hours, this should be one of your top choices.

Unlike other fine-point photo pens, however, you’ll be limited when it comes to color choices. These pens only come in black, so it’s best for making a small note or adding a drawing to an image.

4. Zebra Dual-Tip Extra Fine Paper Marker

The Zebra marker pen has a quick-drying and refillable formula. Each pack comes in 12 assorted colors, giving you the freedom to add vibrant drawings or messages on printed images.

You might find that the Zebra Mackee pen is quite similar to Uni Pin pens. However, keep in mind that the Zebra ones have a firmer and finer tip. That will make it easier for you to write a small note on a photo guest book or a photograph.

Since the ink flow for this pen is quite heavy, it’s not suitable for everyday use. The pen may bleed if you’re using it on a notebook or regular bond paper. You need to use it on plastic, photo paper, posters, and other heavy-duty materials.

Final Thoughts

Writing on printed images allows you to add a more personalized touch to your photos, keep track of dates and places, and remember fond memories.

When choosing the best pen for photo paper, be sure to consider the ink’s drying time and base material. It’s best to look for those with a lightfast and acid-free formula to preserve your photography or images for longer. If you want your message to last for a long time, look for a pen with archival ink.

Still not sure which pen to buy? Just pick one of our smear-free pens and you’re good to go!

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