However much I like my fountain pens, I still harbour a great love for gel ink pens. I discovered gel ink pens eons ago back in school, and when I did, it was earth-shattering. Up until then, I had no idea pens could write that smoothly and in such bright and colourful shades.
This is my collection of the Uniball Signo DX UM-151 gel ink pens so far. Hands down, this could be the best gel ink pen ever produced, in my opinion.
The colours (from l to r): baby pink, not labelled (probably pure pink), pink, violet, light blue, sky blue, blue black, bordeaux blue, brown black, lime green, green, emerald
The Uniball Signo DX UM-151 comes in three nib sizes: 0.28mm (17 colours), 0.38mm (20 colours) and 0.5mm (17 colours). I have a marked preference for fine-nibbed pens, which is why my collection consists mainly of 0.38mm-s, except for one which is 0.28mm. This boils down to the fact that it is extremely difficult to find very fine-nibbed pens in Singapore stores. Even the 0,38mm used to be a rarity until recent years.
These body of these pens are mainly plastic. It consists of a plastic cap with an attached coloured clip that has the name of the pen printed on. The clip represents the colour of the pen quite accurately. The clip of the 0.38mm pens are solid-coloured, while the 0.28mm clips are translucent plastic, which is very pretty. When you cap the pen, there is a nice solid click. When you post the cap on the back, there is also a softer click which I quite appreciate. it weighs almost nothing at all and is very comfortable to write with. The length of it (13.5mm) is just nice for my (fairly small) hands. If I post the cap, I find the length just bordering on unwieldy, so I don’t bother to post i
The body of the pen is all plastic. The back of it has a non-removable plastic piece that is the same colour as the clip. Along the body, you will find a label that says Mitsubishi UM-151 and (in kanji) 極細 。 耐水性。顔料, whch translate roughly to Extra-Fine, Water-Resistant, Pigment (or Dye).
At the other end, you find a rubberised grip with slight dimples along it. Further down, you find the only metallic part of the pen, which is the nib-holder (what is the correct name anyway?).
The rubberised grip and light weight makes the pen comfortable to use for long stretches at a time. Since the pen is all plastic,
This metal nib-holder is also the part that screws away from the body, revealing the gel ink refill.
The Uniball Signo DX UM-151 writes extremely smoothly to the point where it is effortless. For people with some form of carpal tunnel syndrome (I have slight symptoms), it is a god-send, even though I don’t write for long periods. I use it primarily in my Moleskine Daily journal, and for taking notes during Korean class. There are no skips or jumps, just a consistent flow of ink. There were a couple of occasions when I held the pen uncapped and downwards, while thinking of what to write, and when I finally laid the pen on paper after several minutes, there was a slight blob of ink. This happens very rarely though.
The 0.38mm pens are really fine, as advertised, and being a lover of fine nibs, I find them a joy to write with. In the midst of the smoothness, there is the slightest scratch across the paper, which is a feeling that I LOVE, although it may not appeal to all. The scratchiness is a lot more obvious with the 0.28mm, although the ink flow and writing is still smooth,
I find the darker inks to be slightly wetter than the lighter ones. The light inks dry up almost immediately once they are laid down on paper. The darker inks take a good five to seven seconds to dry, which can cause some smudging. There was a bit of smudging of the dark green (third from bottom) in the writing sample, but I applied too much after-effects on the image (oops!) so iyou can’t see it clearly.
There is some show-through (no bleed) in the Moleskine daily journal, except the 0.28mm as indicated, as with almost all types of pens. Because the pens are fine, and the nibs so sharp (plus I press hard when I write as a force of habit from ball-point pen days), you can feel the imprint of the writing quite clearly. Again these are not features that appeal to everyone, but I happen to love the imprint of handwriting on the back of a page. There is no show-through or imprint on normal 80gsm copy paper. There is no feathering anywhere at all as far as I have observed.
I would not encourage the use of these pens on paper that is any thinner though, as the nibs are quite sharp, and you might tear the paper quite easily.
The ink colours of the collection are gorgeous! The sample above is written in a Moleskine Daily, so the pages are a slight cream ivory. You can see (even with my terrible camera and photoshop skills) that the colours really pop off the paper. On white copy paper, you can really see how bright the colours are.
My current personal favourites (starred) are Pink (an almost flourescent light pink), Sky Blue, Bordeaux Black, Brown Black (perfect for work planning, dark, but not too overwhelming or serious) and Emerald.
The colours are so gorgeous I even use them for colouring in my Moleskine daily journal sometimes (even though it is a waste of ink, hah).
With 20 colours to choose from (or even just 17), ranging every colour of the rainbow, you can find a pen colour that will suit every mood. These pens are perfect for just about anything, from journaling, doodling, scrap-booking, planning, colour-coding, to just normal note-taking.
The inks are water-resistant as advertised, to a certain degree. I usually do not use water on top of these inks, but I have seen some smudging occur where wet washes were applied to the back of the writing. The writing still remains legible. You would not need to fear your writing disappearing if you knock over some water and dab it off, but I would not recommend very wet colour washes over them.
Pros: Smooth effortless writing, consistent ink flow, extra fine nib, bright legible inks, a colour for every occasion, no bleeding, feathering or fading, water-resistant.
Cons: Rare ink blobs, occasional smudging, some colours too light for easy legibility, can take water but not recommended
As you can probably tell, I really love these pens, and I have almost nothing bad to say about them. I will highly recommend them to anybody who needs a writing instrument for any purpose at all.
In Singapore, you can find Uniball Signo DX UM-151 in any mom-and-pop stationery store and big chain stores (Popular, Kinokuniya or Tokyu Hands). Again, here in Singapore, it’s difficult to find pens stocked in nib sizes smaller than 0.5mm (or 0.4mm). The Signo DX is the only 0.38mm I regularly see, and the 0.28mm is fairly difficult to find, especially if you are looking for the full set of colours.
Online, Jetpens carries every single one of them. They even carry them in the full colour bundles, so you can get the 0.38mm 20-colour bundle, the 0.28mm 17-colour bundle and the 0.5mm 17-colour bundle. All the colours are the same, except the 17-colour bundles exclude Green Black, Bordeaux Black and Lavender Black.
With 11 out of 20 colours (0.38mm) already in my possession, it is my intention to complete the 0.38mm set, and then move on to collecting the 0.28mm. 0.5mm is a very common nib size in Singapore, you can get almost any brand of gel ink pen in that nib size, so I will probably try a couple of them out before deciding whether I want that set as well.