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How Do Inkless Pens Work?

how do inkless pens work

What if your pen never runs out of ink? Even though pens are not necessarily that expensive, having a pen that could potentially last forever can be quite nice. What if I told you that there are pens that do exactly that?

You can now find inkless pens in many stationery stores and online. These seemingly magical writing tools are quite interesting, not just because they do not look like any pen that you might have seen, but also because of how they work.

If you are interested in this rather unique pen, I will be discussing it in more detail later on. Aside from learning how do inkless pens work, you will also learn other important facts that may convince you to use them.

A Closer Look at How Inkless Pens Work

When you first see an inkless pen, you might think that it works the same way as a pencil. This means that small bits of the nib are left behind as it glides over the surface of the paper. On the surface, it does seem to look that way.

Essentially, an inkless pen does look like a pencil. However, instead of wood and graphite, it is made of one single piece of metal. The nib is just one solid piece. There is no ballpoint or ink feeder.

You may think that the nib is just one solid piece of graphite or solid ink. Note, though, that no matter how many times you try to write anything on your skin, it does not leave a mark. So how do inkless pens work exactly?

The Process of Oxidation

benefits of inkless pens

The way that inkless pens work is very different compared to regular pens and pencils. Pens apply ink over the surface of the paper while pencils deposit bits of graphite. Does this mean that inkless pens work the same way as pencils? Not exactly. How these writing tools work is quite different. Unlike traditional pencils and pens, inkless pens do not leave ink on the paper.

The nib of inkless pens is made from a special kind of metal alloy. When the nib touches the surface of the paper, it deposits trace amounts of the metal onto the paper. The amount transferred is so minuscule that you would be able to tell without looking at the nib using an electron microscope.

However, it is not just the tiny bits of metal that give the writing its color. The trace amounts of metal that are on the surface of the paper will immediately start a chemical reaction. The microscopic metal shavings will immediately oxidize, which will then stain the paper.

How’s the Writing Experience?

inkless pens writing experience

Even though they are called inkless pens, the way they write is like you are using a pencil, and a particularly hard one at that. I have been using my inkless pen for quite a while, and the marks that it leaves are similar to a 4H drawing pencil.

Also, as mentioned earlier, I have been using my inkless pen for quite a while now and I still do not see any noticeable reduction in the size of the nib. I have written dozens of pages with this pen, enough to empty a regular pen. Despite that, my inkless pen still looks like new.

Benefits and Potential Downsides of Inkless Pens

downsides of inkless pens

  • If you are still on the fence about getting an inkless pen of your own, maybe the following benefits will be able to convince you to take the plunge.
  • They can virtually last forever – These pens do not use ink, and the lead alloy nib is infinitely harder than graphite, so they are essentially everlasting writing tools. If you take care of your inkless pen, and they are pretty much low-maintenance, it can last for decades.
  • They can write anywhere and at any position – Inkless pens are not just for writing on paper. You can also use them to write on wood, concrete, and even on metal surfaces. In addition, because you do not have to rely on gravity to push ink out of the pen, you can use inkless pens upside-down.
  • However, as much as I love my inkless pen, it does have a couple of downsides, namely:
  • The lines are not that dark – If you are expecting clear and bold lines, you will be disappointed. Rather than an actual pen, an inkless pen writes more like a hard drawing pencil. The marks it leaves look almost identical to those made by pencils.
  • They are almost impossible to erase – Even though the marks left by inkless pens are quite light, you will not be able to erase them that easily. The reason is you do not just need to erase the bits of metal embedded in the paper but also remove the oxidation stains. You won’t be able to lighten the lines without seriously damaging the paper.
  • They are quite fragile – Even though the nib of inkless pens is made from a lead alloy metal, it is quite brittle. If you are not careful and you let it roll off your desk and the nib hits the floor first, there is a high chance that it will shatter, or at least crack.


How do inkless pens work? Surprisingly well. The way they write is similar to how a pencil works but with the additional advantage of being permanent and very difficult to erase. Although the markings could have been a bit darker, the inkless pen does deliver on its promises. It writes well and can last almost forever.

Are inkless pens just gimmicky novelty items? Some can argue that it is. However, you should at least give it a try. Who knows? You might actually love using this as your daily driver.