Partly it will depend on the book. Some books have really thick pages, and others less so. Here are my thoughts and preferences based on my own books.
While a regular ballpoint pen is fine, depending on the ink formula, it may fade, or stain the pages with a kind of oil over time. Alternatively, ballpoint pens are really inexpensive and easy to get your hands on. Plus they come in a few different colors. And honestly, people on Etsy are doing some pretty cute things with ballpoint pens to make them beautiful for use with guest books. You can also get some fancy plumed ballpoints like these pictured.
|The left two are nib dip pens from Nostalgic Impressions, |
but they also sell ballpoint versions. The ballpoint pen on the right
was found at Pier1 Imports several years ago.
Sharpies are a bad idea. I know it's super tempting to go with Sharpies. With 39 colors, they seem so fun! However, Sharpies are not archival or Ph Neutral / acid free. This means they seep through most guest book paper to the other side, and over time their acidic chemicals will do unattractive things to your pages, shortening their life. With artwork I've done several years ago I've noticed a "halo" around the inks. I think it's a kind of oil that has spread into other fibers from the ink.
Instead, I recommend an archival / pH neutral pen. You can find many color choices at your local crafts or art supply store, or online if you have time to order. I'll tell you about two brands I use.
I really like Sakura's Pigma Graphic 1 pens (1 means 1mm, don't accidentally get 01, those are super thin). The tip is a bullet shape which makes for super smooth and easy writing. These come in Black, Sepia, as well as a bright blue and red.
|Pigma Graphic 1 in black and sepia|
You could probably get away with a Pigma Micron 08 pen if you found a color or two you like, but these are technical pens with a squared tip, making a thin line. I find them a little less easy to write with compared to the Graphic 1. Steer clear of the Graphic 2 and 3 - they are chisels and make a chunky line that is difficult to write with.
I also love Faber-Castell PITT Artist Pens, which now come in a huge variety of colors intended for scrapbooking and journaling. Green and blue set, orange and red set, and as well as metalic and metalic color. In other sets, the sizes offered for these colorful ones are B (brush) or XS (extra fine). XS makes a pretty thin mark, while B has a tip similar to a thin paint brush or a marker. You can also buy the black (and usually sepia) individually at art stores in XS, S, F, M, B. I prefer size M (0.7mm) in black or sepia for signing or writing in guest books. Sometimes you can find the other colors in the range of sizes, but it's more challenging.
|Faber-Castell PITT artist pen set from Michael's|
Similar to Sakura, Faber-Castell inks tend to be waterproof, lightfast and acid free. The waterproof part isn't a huge deal because you'll hopefully not be using your guest book as a drink coaster, but the other two are great.
Lightfast means the ink resists fading when exposed to light. This might not be an issue if you're book is put away. But if you like to have it sitting out, or if you've decided to frame the pages, or have guests sign something that is wall-mounted, this might be important to you.
|Look for words like "archival ink" or "acid-free" and "lightfast".|
Ink that is not Acid-free or pH neutral will damage your paper over time (remember my warning about Sharpies?) If you intend to keep your book forever or hand it down to your grandchildren, this may be important to you.
For your entertainment, I've included a sample of paper with various pens (mostly those I've discussed.) The only one that bled through or left any kind of mark on the backside was the Sharpie. This paper is 70 lb text weight, but it would also bleed through on 80 lb, and often on 100 lb if you leave the pen "idle" for too long.
|Example of pens, ink, sizes.|
|The Sharpie bled through 70 lb text weight paper.|
I always include a few extra sheets of paper with guest books so folks can experiment with pens before choosing. Ask your guest book maker to add in a couple sheets for you. You can take them with you to the store and make sure your ink doesn't seep through!
This isn't an exhaustive review of pens. But hopefully this gives you an idea of where to start if you want something special that will last a long time. And of course, a ballpoint is okay, too!
Other blog articles in the Guest Book Series April 2017:
Choosing A Size
All About Pages
Managing Blank Space