Do Felt Tip Pens Bleed Through?

If you’ve ever bought a new journal, textbook, or Bible, you’ll know how disappointing it is when your pen bleeds through the paper and ruins your new book. Of course, there are plenty of no-bleed pens available, but what about felt tips? Do felt tip pens bleed through?

Most felt tip pens could bleed through paper. However, you can reduce bleeding by using water-based ink, thicker paper, and less pressure when you draw or write. Felt tip pens can also smear unless used correctly but are nevertheless a smooth, consistent, and eye-catching medium.

Even though many felt tips can bleed through paper, this isn’t absolute. In this post, we’ll look at why bleeding happens and how you can avoid it. Not only that, but we’ll recommend some advice to use them properly.

Why Do Felt Tip Pens Bleed Through Paper?

Felt tips bleed through the paper because of the quantity of ink that passes through their nibs. Unlike a ballpoint or rollerball pen, which only lets a small amount of ink through, felt tips have thicker tips.

These nibs aren’t metal or plastic but are fiber (either cotton or a synthetic felt). Because that fiber is non-absorbent, there’s very little in the way of ink coming out when you press the nib onto the paper.

So, while the paper can absorb some of this ink, it can’t collect it all. Because of that, we see feathering, smearing, and – yes – bleeding with specific felt tip pens.

Of course, the ink used also has an impact. Felt tip pens have three types of ink: oil-based, water-based, and alcohol-based ink. The different chemicals that make up these inks will also affect the paper.

Alcohol-based ink bleeds the most because it seeps fastest through the paper. On the other hand, though, this quality means that it dries quickly and won’t smear as much.

How To Prevent Felt Tip Pen From Bleeding

The best way to stop a pen from bleeding through paper is to lower the amount of ink that flows out from the nib. This way, there will be less ink to seep into the form. It won’t come out onto the other side of the page.

You can also stop a felt tip pen from bleeding by using it on the right paper. Not all paper is the same, and thicker paper will experience much less bleeding.

Last, the type of felt tip pen you use also affects bleeding. Cheap, low-quality felt tips are prone to bleeding.

Press Lightly

First, the easiest way to stop bleeding is to use less pressure when writing or drawing. The harder you press with a felt tip pen, the more ink will come out. So, less pressure will mean less ink, which means a lower chance of bleeding.

Pressing lightly with a felt tip pen will make it last longer. Not only will you run out of ink more slowly, but there will be less stress on the nib. That way, it’s less likely to break or wear out.

Likewise, you can also layer felt tips. Instead of filling an area with flat color by pressing hard, try adding multiple, thinner layers. You can also layer different colors too.

Depending on the felt tip pen style, you can also use them like watercolors. Draw lightly on the page, then wet a brush and paint the water over your drawing. The ink will smear like it was watercolor paint.

Not only does that technique look beautiful, but it also reduces bleeding by spreading the ink out on the page. Remember that you can’t do this on thin paper, though, since the page needs to be wet. You are painting by that point, after all.

Use The Correct Paper

That brings us to our second tip: use the correct paper. Because felt tip pins put out large amounts of ink, they can quickly seep through thinner page types.

So, while it might look nice, think twice about using your felt tip pen on standard A4 paper. Unless you specifically have a no-bleed pen, please don’t use it on anything thinner at all. That rules out Bibles and most journals, unfortunately. But it also keeps them safe.

Instead, use your felt tip pen on thick paper. You don’t need something like cardboard or an artist’s canvas for that – a sheet of card or a higher GSM paper will work fine. GSM means grams per square meter, measuring how thick paper is. High GSM paper (rated at 100 plus) is available at most stationery and art supply stores.

You can also put a sheet of paper below whatever you write and draw on. That way, if you do have bleed through, the ink will seep onto the second sheet, not onto the other pages of the book.

Pick A Quality Pen

The quality of the pen you’re using matters too. Like with anything else, cheap felt tips won’t last as long or perform as well. That’s especially true for bleeding – they have several characteristics that make them prone to bleeding through pages.

Low-quality pens have pull caps with poor seals. They stay on too tightly, so a vacuum occurs when you pull them off. This vacuum draws extra ink into the nib, making the pen feather and bleed when it touches the paper.

Similarly, cheap felt tips also have bad nibs. They often let too much or too little ink through. If the flow of ink is unreliable, bleeding is likely.

For these reasons, we recommend buying felt tip pens that have twist caps or ones that have a hole in their pull cap. That way, no vacuum is made.

Next, buy a felt tip with water-based ink. That ink is the least likely to bleed through paper, and it’s typically non-toxic and doesn’t leave stains. Although it can smear when wet, that isn’t always an issue with the right paper.

Many water-based felt tips are advertised as no-bleed pens as well. Unfortunately, there isn’t a standard or regulation for that. If you’re interested in this option, look at the customer reviews for the pen to see if it is genuinely a no-bleed pen.

If the reviews check out, getting one of those pens is an excellent way to avoid bleeding entirely. No-bleed felt tip pens prevent their ink from seeping through paper.

Last, get a pen with a medium-size nib. Unless you specifically plan to draw on thin GSM paper, a medium nib is a good balance between line thickness and ink flow.


To conclude, felt tip pens bleed through the paper because of the level of ink they put out. If there’s too much ink on the page, it’ll seep through it onto the pages beneath it.

You can control if a felt tip bleeds through, however. If you use a high-quality pen on thick paper, the chances it’ll bleed through are far lower.

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