Project Life Tuesday: The Write Stuff – Pens to Use to Write on Photos

Project Life TuesdayAs a follow-up to last week’s post about pens, today I’m answering, “What pens can be used to write on photos?

Pens to use to Write on PhotosFor this post, I used photos printed on glossy photo paper (Canon Photo Paper Plus Glossy II). I did not test on Canon Selphy Photo Paper which to me is the most glossy.

If you have photos printed at a photo lab and choose matte or satin printing (not glossy), your photos will have a slight texture on it. The pens tested on glossy photo paper should work on these matte or satin prints, too.

Photos printed on matte photo paper which has a texture that is almost like regular paper will always be easy to write on, no matter what pen you use. If you print photos at home, and just buy photo paper from the book store, you may come across this type of paper.

Most of these pens, unless otherwise noted may be found at National Book Store (NBS), although stocks may vary per branch. (I’m not sure if these reach provincial stores, so if you’re not from Metro Manila, please do leave a comment if you find any of these or at stores in your area)

A note about archival and acid-free materials: when buying writing materials, and scrapbook materials such as patterned paper, you may notice markings on the product such as “ARCHIVAL QUALITY,” and “ACID-FREE.” In scrapbooking and photography, it’s encouraged to use archival and acid-free products, because acid in products may discolor or fade your work over time. At times, such products cost a bit more, and may not be readily available. If it’s not easy to get such materials, I would suggest using what is available. I think what’s also equally important is getting your stories told no matter the materials used.

On to the pens! I made a short video. I set it on fast forward so you wouldn’t have to sit through 2-3 minutes of writing.

You may also watch the video HERE.


A closer look at the results may be found below.

1. Sharpie Fine Point marker (Php 50+), Sharpie Ultra Fine Point marker (usually Php42.75+), Sharpie Pen (not available locally)

Pens 2 - SharpieWhat I like: Sharpie markers because they’re the easiest to find, and there are lots of colors available.  While the markers do not have acid-free ink, they write well on photos and do not smudge.

What I don’t like: Nothing, really.

 * On the Sharpie website, the Fine Point markers and Ultra Fine Point markers ink are described as “fade and water resistant,” and “quick-drying ink AP certified non-toxic formula.”

2. Precision Pens / Project Life Pens

Pens - AC/PLPrecision Pens and Project Life pens are the same pen with different brands printed on the body. both are manufactured by american crafts.

What I like: The ink doesn’t smudge on glossy photos! The pens are available with three tip sizes, (0.1, 0.3., 0.5) so you can choose which one best suits your writing style.

What I don’t like: The pen barrel/body doesn’t have any grip and can be slippery to hold. It may also roll off the table easily. It’s also not readily available at most local stores. (Hey, maybe we’ll make this available in the Shop soon!)


3. American Crafts – SLICK WRITER

Pens 2 - Slick WriterThe Slick Writers from American Crafts are described as having “Quick dry ink and a durable acrylic tip make this the ideal marker for writing on any surface including both sides of photos, stickers, ribbon, vellum, metal, glass, and transparencies.” The ink is also “photo safe, acid-free, waterproof, non-toxic, and permanent.”

What I like: These markers may be purchased individually or in a set, with three tips available: fine, medium, broad. There are different colors available, and may be used to write on different surfaces.

What I don’t like: Aside from the fact that it’s not readily available at local stores, these pens tend to dry up easily 🙁 I’ve gone through several pens that dried up before I had the chance to maximize usage.

4. ZIG Pens: Zig Photo Signature, Zig Millennium Pen (for drawing and scrapbooking)

Pens 2 - ZigThe Zig Millennium Pen (Zig Memory System) is available with different sized tips ranging from 0.2-mm up to 0.65-mm. Until I pulled out pens for this post, I actually forgot I had it! This range of pens is recommended for drawing or scrapbooking because the “ink is photo-safe, acid-free, lightfast and smear-proof once dry.”

The Zig Photo Signature Pen is described as “photo signature marker with 2mm fine tip, ideal for writing on photo greeting cards, photos, and transparencies. Ink is waterproof, photo-safe, permanent, acid free, and lightfast.”

What I like: I chanced upon this pen (Photo Signature) while abroad, and I’ve made it a staple in my stash. I like that the ink doesn’t smudge at all whether I use it to write on glossy or matte photo paper.

What I don’t like: This doesn’t glide as smooth as Sharpie markers, so I tend to write a bit slower with this pen. It’s also not readily available at most local stores. (We’re working on making this available in the Shop.Soon!)

5. For the love of GOLD

Pens 2 - GoldWho doesn’t like a touch of metallic ink once in a while? I tested two gold markers I have. The Sharpie metallic gold marker (right) did not fare so well and it smeared right away. I didn’t test it anymore by letting it dry before attempting to smear.

The American Crafts Metallic Marker (left) did better, although the shade of gold is different. The marker i had also has a broad tip so my writing looked thicker.

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One reply on “ Project Life Tuesday: The Write Stuff – Pens to Use to Write on Photos ”
  1. Was just wondering what type of pen writes on a selphy print? I’m having a hard time finding one that wont smudge. Thanks!

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