Do Felt Tip Pens Smear?

All lovers of art and even writing have to choose the correct tools for effectively completing any task. The difficulty is that, when it comes to pens, ink can smear on the surface we are writing on and can therefore cause a whole task to be worthless. So, is it possible to use felt tip pens for writing and creating art without them smearing on the surface?  

Although felt tip pens smear, alcohol and oil-based ink reduce the chances of smearing because the ink dries quicker than water-based ink. Felt tip pens are also known for having a specialized tip that makes the ink flow more evenly, which, in turn, also dries the ink quicker.

Therefore, when choosing a felt tip pen, the ink is more of a contributing factor to the pen smearing than the make-up of the pen itself. So, why do felt tip pens smear, and what have pen manufacturers done to reduce the possibility of smearing when writing or creating art on a surface.

Why Do Felt Tip Pens Smear?

In general, felt tip pens don’t smear as much as fountain pens or rollerball pens for various reasons, including ink and engineering. We will evaluate the different types of inks available in felt tip pens and how susceptible they are to smearing. But first, we should look at the engineering of a felt tip pen and how it reduces smearing.

The Felt tip pen’s name derives from the material used at the pen’s tip. Felt is a type of fabric material popular in the textile industry. Felt has been used in the production of tents, clothes, and shoes, but when technology is used to tightly mold the fibers together, it becomes a condensed material used to create the tips of an ink pen.

This engineering was copyrighted by Lee Newman and was a revolutionary method to distribute ink from the base ink tube to the tip. The tip is directly connected with the base, which holds the ink. Therefore, when you apply pressure to distribute the ink, it flows directly from the tube at a consistent pace without overflowing.

To summarize, the engineering of the tip only allows a certain amount of ink to pass from the tube when needed, reducing the chances of smearing. However, although this method aids in reducing unwanted ink, it does not foresee that all types of ink will dry immediately after it touches the work surface.

So, the engineering of the felt pen is an ideal solution to reduce smearing, but the ink in the felt pen will ultimately determine how quickly the ink will dry once it reaches the surface the writer or artist is working on to avoid smearing.

What Types Of Ink In Felt Tip Pens Don’t Smear?

Over the years, the ingredients used to make different kinds of ink have gone through various changes due to some substances being toxic. Ingredients like toluene and xylene have been replaced with safer alternatives such as alcohol-based ingredients.

As a result, some ink ingredients will take longer to dry than others, resulting in smearing. Therefore, various inks exist with different ingredients for various purposes.

Let’s start with the most popular types of inks that consist of various ingredients to reduce smearing:

  • Oil-based ink is one of the most popular forms of ink that is renowned for drying quickly. Due to the oil being dense and thick, the combination of ingredients is quite consistent when writing and, as a result, doesn’t smear as much. Oil-based ink is by far the most popular type of ink for effective everyday writing.
  • Alcohol-based inks are also a popular type of ink that dries quicker than its competition. Originally used as a safer alternative, alcohol-based inks are water-resistant and do not necessarily smear when applied to surfaces. Although alcohol dries quicker than water, it is a stronger substance that can bleed through some surfaces.

It’s important to note that the type of ink does have a stronger impact on the consistency of the writing, but all the factors together reduce the chances of smearing. Although felt pens that consist of water-based ink are more inconsistent than oil or alcohol, the engineering of the pen still allows for some consistency.

Felt pens only distribute the necessary amount of ink which allows the ink to dry quickly when applied to a surface.

What Affects Smearing Besides The Type Of Ink?

The engineering of felt tip pens has reduced the possibility of smearing and ink wastage by a large margin; combine that with ink that dries quickly, and you have almost succeeded in completely avoiding smearing. However, other factors still affect the ability of the ink to dry on the surface.

Firstly, the surface itself affects the ability of the ink to dry effectively. Expensive paper, which is thicker and consists of even porous, will allow the ink to dry quicker as it provides space for the ink to flow through. As a result, streaks on the surface are reduced, and smearing can be avoided.

Inexpensive paper, which is also lighter, does not allow for this process to occur and leaves the ink floating on the surface, making it susceptible to smearing.

Secondly, applying the ink to the surface also affects the chances of smearing. For example, left-handed writers often drag more than right-handed writers as they move from the right over the written parts, whereas right-handed writers move away from the written parts. Moving over writings which ink hasn’t dried yet will cause smearing.

Some writers also prefer to write over previously written parts to make them bolder, resulting in smearing and smudging as the ink will take longer to dry on previously dried ink than the surface of the paper itself.

Finally, if the environment is very humid, the ink will take unnecessarily longer to dry than usual. Various elements can be used to dry the ink quicker, but if the environment is humid, sweaty hands and damp paper will smear.


To conclude, felt pens do smear, but due to the engineering and choice of ink, smearing can be dramatically reduced. Overall, most users of felt pens have not complained about smearing due to the minimal ink distribution and quick drying of the ink, especially oil-based inks.

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