How Long Does Pen Ink Last?
Are expensive pens better?

Do you love working with pens but have no idea how long the ink lasts? Here's all you need to know about how ink longevity and pen shelf life works!
How Long Does Pen Ink Last? Are expensive pens better? Thumbnail
How Long Does Pen Ink Last? Are expensive pens better? Thumbnail


Drawing pens are very popular with artists for all the good reasons. And there are many disposable types available - gel pensa dn brush pens to name a few. They don’t require refilling and you can use them anytime without the fear of blotching or the ink suddenly coming out of the nib, as is the case with fountain pens. However, there’s only one concern - how long does the ink in such pens usually last?

The typical shelf life for fine liner drawing pens is around 24 months. However, the way a pen is stored, the type of pen, the chemistry of the ink are all considerable factors when it comes to the longevity of a pen. For instance, a gel pen usually lasts for around 5 to 6 months.

How long does pen ink last?

You need to consider some factors to understand how long ink in a pen lasts.

A person holding a micron pen

With fountain or refillable pens, you don’t need to keep a track of ink. However, it’s the ink in drawing pens that you should always keep a record of. Although the normal shelf life for a drawing pen is approximately 2 years, various factors can determine how long pen ink will last.

Here are a few things to consider to assume how long the ink in pen lasts.

  • The substituents or the elements used to create the ink
  • The nature of the chemicals present in the ink (organic or inorganic?)
  • The type of pen and your intensity of usage
  • How tightly the ink has been sealed inside the pen 

There are different type of pens available for all kinds of artworks. Each one uses a specific type of ink, as mentioned below:

  • Fine liners: Pigment-based ink, lasts as long as 2 years.
  • Gel pens: Uses finely ground powder pigments that is immersed in a water-based gel. Gel pens don’t last as long as fine liners, typically 6 months with heavy usage.
  • Rollerball pens: Water-based inks, but it’s better for writing rather than drawing. At most, these pens can be good for doodling rather than fully developed pen artworks.
  • Fountain pens:  The ink is available separately and you only need to fill it as per your need. However, water-soluble inks will make sure the fountain pen lasts longer. They are much easier to clean and less likely to clog too, but it’s still recommended to frequently clean the pen and get rid of the ink after every session, otherwise, it could gather and clog the pen over time. 

And there are many other sorts of pens, but the above can be combined for both writing and drawing. Typically, fine liners last the longest and they’re highly pigmented too.

For fine liners, we highly recommend getting the Sakura black micron pens. 

Sakura Pigma Fine Line Pens (6 Pack)

This set has 6 pens, with nib widths ranging from 0.20 to 0.50 mm.

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And if you want to give gel pens a try, this pack is great for beginners.

Paper Mate InkJoy Gel Pens

This set consists of 0.7 mm gel pens in assorted, vibrant colors!

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Does the ink in cheap pens last less longer than the ink in more expensive ones?

The ink in cheap pens isn't necessarily bad and it isn't good for all expensive ones either!

A man making a pen drawing

The ink and the quality with which the pens are made - varies from brand to brand.

And the ink in pens also varies according to the type of pen. Just because a brand is expensive won’t guarantee you smooth and consistent ink flow because there are many factors involved. 

Japanese products usually have less artificial substituents, which is why their ink flows better, compared to the Western brands.

Moreover, the finishing of the ink may also cause an effect on how long the ink in the pen lasts. For instance, adding glitter or attempting to make the ink look more opaque, may bring in unnecessary elements that will decrease the life of the ink pen. For this purpose, chunky things are added to make the ink thicker, which of course may cause clogging and other issues. 

Note that glitter pens or opaque ink pens are available in both cheap and expensive brands, so mostly it’s about the chemistry rather than the company itself.

Does pen ink dry out when not used?

Believe it or not, the climate can affect the ink in your pens!

A monster drawing made in pen

If you’re not using the pen frequently, how long the ink lasts will mainly depend on two factors:

  • The climate
  • How you store the pen

For instance, if you live in a very hot place, there are more chances of the ink drying out from evaporation. So you can either store the pens in an airtight container or put them in a refrigerator to make sure the ink lasts longer, regardless of the brand or type.


Pens that aren’t in use

Have you got a lot of pens you aren’t using? Put them upside-down vertically in a container and place them in the fridge. This is meant to prevent the ink from evaporating in the outside environment if it's too hot where you live.

Does pen ink dry out if not stored properly?

What is the position in which you are storing your pens?

A drawing made with pen

Whether they’re fine liners or gel pens or anything - always store the pens horizontally. If you store them vertically, the ink will flow downward and away from the tip. And if that happens, the ink will clog and you may misinterpret it as if the pen ran out of ink.


Warm the tip

If a pen doesn't work when you instantly take it out of the fridge, then give some time for the tip to warm up. Alternatively, you could take it near to the oven but be careful to maintain the distance.

What is a good quality pen?

Basically, a good quality pen should give smooth ink flow and sufficient archival quality!

A drawing with different pens

There are different types of pens, and of course, the chemistry of the ink for each differs

But mostly, it’s the fine liners that are popular among drawing artists. If you like creating intricate drawings and want flexibility in nib widths, then these are the ones for you.

Also note that for some artists, smooth ink flow is more important than archival quality. Whereas for others, it’s the opposite, and for most, both the archival quality and consistent flow matter.


So, how long the ink lasts doesn’t really depend on whether the brand is cheap or expensive. It’s more about the chemistry of the ink. If you go for a pen with organic elements and store it horizontally, the ink will definitely last much longer than that of an expensive brand that uses inorganic substituents. Moreover, the type of pen you’re using may also play a role in the ink last longer. For instance, glitter gel pens may last less long than gel pens with normal and more fluid ink.

Are you eager to learn more about drawing pens? Don’t miss this post on waterproof pens !

Are Pens Waterproof? Not really, but these work like a charm

Do you love to use pens in your artwork along with wet media? If yes, then you shouldn't miss these waterproof pens!

Jimena & Iñigo Picture

By Jimena & Iñigo

The Navarro-Rubios

My husband and I are learning how to draw and paint. We wanted to share this learning process with the world and have fun! That's why we created this blog. We'll have drawing contests every week and you'll decide who won that week! Follow along and learn with us!

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Jimena & Iñigo Picture

Jimena & Iñigo

The Navarro-Rubios

My husband and I are learning how to draw and paint. We wanted to share this learning process with the world and have fun! That's why we created this blog. We'll have drawing contests every week and you'll decide who won that week! Follow along and learn with us!



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