So you’ve finally discovered the colorful world of gel pens, congratulations! But now that you’ve stocked up on every gel pen color imaginable, how are you supposed to store them all?
The best way to store gel pens is horizontally or tip-up with the caps on in a place that’s away from bright light and extreme temperatures. This can be a simple box or desk drawer, or a store-bought organizer made especially for gel pens.
You’ve already discovered how differently gel pens act than other pens, so it makes sense that they might have different storage needs as well. Below are the most important things to keep in mind when storing your gel pen collection, as well as what to do if your gel pens haven’t been stored properly and need some TLC.
Gel Pen Storage Guide
Properly storing your gel pens is an important part of making sure they last as long as possible. The last thing you want is to keep having to replace your gel pens because you didn’t take care of them. Let’s get into the fundamentals of gel pen care.
Store Gel Pens Horizontally
The majority of gel pen colorists recommend storing gel pens horizontally, as this keeps the ink evenly distributed. The argument for storing gel pens horizontally is that if you store them vertically, all the ink will pool at one end of the pen, resulting in uneven distribution and clumping. Horizontal storage is a no-brainer for colorists who take their pens on the go since most travel cases store pens and pencils horizontally by default.
Alternately: Store Gel Pens Tip-Up
Some colorists prefer to save valuable desk real estate and store their pens vertically to save space. They argue that a quick scribble to get the ink flowing redistributes it evenly, so ink pooling doesn’t pose that much of a problem. Generally, it’s accepted that it’s better to store the pens tip up if you’re going to store them vertically, to avoid putting unnecessary pressure on the nib, which can lead to leakage.
Occasionally, you’ll find someone recommending storing gel pens tip down since this keeps the ink pooled in the right area of the pen, but most colorists agree that this is just asking for busted nibs and leaks.
Keep the Caps On
Whether you decide to store your gel pens vertically or horizontally, make sure to keep the caps on (or keep retractable pens retracted). This keeps air from reaching the ink, preventing drying. This is especially crucial if you live in an arid climate, where the dry air will suck the moisture out of the ink in no time at all.
Avoid Extreme Temperatures
Extreme heat or cold can cause the ink’s composition to change, resulting in the separation of pigment from the binder, as well as clumping. It’s best to keep gel pens at room temperature – ideally in the area of 23℃ (72℉). Of course, it’s not reasonable or necessary to keep gel pens at an exact constant temperature, but avoid leaving them, say, in the car in the middle of summer, or next to an open window in the winter, for example.
Keep Gel Pens Out of Bright Light
Just about any art supply, you can think of (or any pigmented item, really) will fade when exposed to bright light for an extended period. Gel pens are no different, so it’s important to keep them out of direct light as much as possible. This is one reason why closed organizers or boxes are good choices for gel pen (and other art supplies) storage, rather than out in the open in a desktop organizer.
Check out our gel pen tips HERE!
How to Fix Improperly Stored Gel Pens
Just Add Water
Once your gel pen dries up, it’s easy to give it up for dead and toss it out. But what many people don’t realize is that it’s often possible to revive a dried-up gel pen.
- Unscrew the pen and remove the ink reservoir
- Pour warm water into the reservoir
- Reassemble the pen
- Shake gently and see if it writes
It’s not a completely foolproof method, and sometimes the ink’s just too far gone, but it works more times than you’d expect and is worth a shot.
Wipe the Nib
If you’ve stored your pen nib down and it’s developed a leak, sometimes fixing the issues is as simple as:
- Wiping off the excess ink from the nib
- Alternating scribbling and wiping a few times
Sometimes, this gets the ink back on track and resolves the issue. Like the water trick, it’s not a guarantee, but easy enough to try just in case.
Clean the Grip
If you tend to keep your gel pens loose in your bag or a drawer, they can get pretty gross after a while. Pens with rubber grips are especially prone to picking up dirt and fuzz. All you need to do to fix this is take some sticky tape and dab at the grip until the dirt and fuzz come off, and it will be as good as new.
Some of Our Favorite Gel Pen Storage Options
The choices for gel pen storage are endless and are completely a matter of preference. Below, we’ve rounded up some of our favorites to give you an idea of just how much is out there.
Marbrasse Wooden Desk Organizer
If you’re on the fence about the horizontal versus vertical storage debate, why not try the Marbrasse Wooden Desk Organizer? With this storage option, you get the best of both worlds, since it stores gel pens diagonally. That means you get some of the space-saving features of vertical storage, with less of the ink pooling problem, since the pens aren’t completely up and down. Available in black, cherry, and white maple, this robust organizer will fit in with any office or art studio decor.
Homecube Pencil Bag
One of the simpler options on the list, the Homecube Pencil Bag is a sleek, portable carrying case made of easy-to-clean Oxford material.
The interior contains:
- zippable mesh pocket
- Velcro pocket for credit cards
- Center flap with 5 pen holders
- Generous storage area
This case is perfect for keeping your gel pens ready to take with you wherever you go.
iScholar iQ BOLD Multipurpose Pencil and Accessory Case
iScholar’s iQ BOLD Multipurpose Pencil and Accessory Case is another basic option that keeps your gel pens safe and organized when you’re on the go.
The hardshell exterior protects against drops, while the soft interior keeps the pens nice and cushioned. This case has:
- Double mesh pockets
- Vegan leather lining
- Double bungee loops
- Multiple size options: slim, large, and jumbo
The main thing that this case has going for it is the fact that it keeps all the pens from rolling around, due to the pockets and straps. Its size options are also handy. But you’re unable to choose your color, so if aesthetics are important to you, you might be better off with the Homecube Pencil Bag listed above.
San-X Sumikko Gurasi Tin Pen Case
It doesn’t get much cuter than the San-X Sumikko Gurasi Tin Pen Case, imported from Japan. This is a no-frills case, with a removable lid and open storage area inside. Because the pens aren’t held in place or protected by interior cushioning, you might want to keep this case more for home use than long treks out and about. But it does keep them together and protected from the elements, including bright light.
U.S. Art Supply 4 Drawer Wood Artist Supply Storage Box
The 4-drawer Wood Artist Supply Storage Box from U.S. Art Supply is a mega gel pen holding unit. Perfect for colorists with enormous gel pen collections, or who want to store their entire collection of coloring tools all in one spot, this box contains sectioned drawers that store gel pens and other tools horizontally. The sections can be adjusted according to your needs, making this box super customizable. The drawers are removable, too, so you can organize them by color or type of tool, and then just pull out whatever drawer you need to take with you to your work area.
Take care of your gel pens and they’ll take care of you, providing you with hours of relaxation and creative expression. Proper gel pen storage will go a long way towards getting the most out of these versatile coloring tools.
Frequently Asked Questions
How long do gel pens usually last?
Gel pens will usually last until their ink runs out, which depends on the specific pen and how much it’s used. Gel pens with thicker ink tend to run out more slowly than those with more watery ink.
How can I make my gel pens last longer?
Storing your gel pens properly is the best way to make them last as long as possible. This includes keeping the caps on tightly and keeping them away from extreme temperatures.
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