Despite an evolutionary decline in sensitivity to smells, humans can still distinguish approximately 10,000 scents -- some of which are applied by scientists, designers, and even chefs to elicit emotion and build atmosphere. Technicians at a New York hospital disperse vanilla oil into the air to make MRI testing more pleasant for anxious patients. Consumer products, such as alarm clocks that release the aroma of coffee, also utilize the primal properties of smell.
Fig 1. Zebra Pticolon Gel Ink Pens - 0.8 mm - 8 Color Set.
The same principle applies to Zebra’s Pticolon Gel Ink Pens, which take you back to the days of after-school candies and field trips to the roller rink. To get a proper sense of how these pens really smell and write, I tested them all -- and even roped in my fellow pen aficionado Liz for a blind test! In the blind test, Liz smelled each pen and described it without any prior knowledge of what the scent was supposed to be. Lastly, we gave each scent a “strength” rating.
For a thorough evaluation of Zebra’s Pticolon Pens, as well as a trip down memory lane, read on!
Reviews of Scented Pens
Blueberry Scent - Zebra Pticolon Gel Ink Pen - 0.8 mmFig 2. The blueberry scented pen has creamy pale blue ink.
- Scent: Too sweet to be blueberries. It’s more floral than fruity to me, the kind of floral that you find in between the pages of asian stationeries. It could probably be passed off as a cluster of lilacs, though there is definitely a distinct ink smell in there too. It smells exactly like a journal I acquired in China to chronicle my thirteen-year-old adventures.
- Blind test: Without knowing the scent, Liz remarked: “It smells like the blueberry Mr. Sketch markers that I coveted as a kid.” So it smells like a marker that smells like blueberry... close enough!
- Strength: 7
Orange Scent - Zebra Pticolon Gel Ink Pen - 0.8 mmFig 3. The orange scented pen has bright, nearly fluorescent orange ink.
- Scent: You have to scribble a lot of ink on paper to get the smell going, but once you do, it smells vaguely zesty -- like orange scented spray cleaner. Similar to aerosol cleaners, you get a whiff of the product, and then it settles and fades away soon afterwards. It brings to mind dry orange peels left, long forgotten, under the backseat of a car.
- Blind test: Liz helpfully offered, “Well, it smells like the color orange.”
- Strength: 3
Soap Scent - Zebra Pticolon Gel Ink Pen - 0.8 mmFig 4. The soap scented pen has sky blue ink.
- Scent: Strong. It hits you as soon as you uncap the pen, no writing needed. The scent encapsulates all the nice smells of a bubble bath... not just soap, but scented candles and shampoo, too. If I had to name a brand of soap to associate it with, I would say Dove. It reminds me of stepping into somebody else’s bathroom at a sleepover, after everyone else has already taken a hot shower. Unfortunately, my bathroom does not smell like this.
- Blind test: “It’s definitely soap scented... but an old fashioned kind of soap. Like Ivory soap, or grandma’s soap in the bathroom.”
- Strength: 9
Peach Scent - Zebra Pticolon Gel Ink Pen - 0.8 mmFig 5. The peach scented pen has ink that is more pink than peach.
- Scent: A little like peach flavored Hi-Chew, or another peach gummy candy at the asian supermarket. The scent is weak unless you scribble a good amount of it down.
- Blind test: “Doesn’t really smell like anything.”
- Strength: 2
Peppermint Scent - Zebra Pticolon Gel Ink Pen - 0.8 mmFig 6. The peppermint scented pen has medium green ink, with a slight blue tinge.
- Scent: I’m not sure how or why, but it smells like a beach house. It reminds me of the ocean -- not the saltiness or sandiness of it, but the combination of sunscreen and clean linen. I expect mint-type smells to be a bit stronger than this, though. I didn’t smell the peppermint at all.
- Blind test: “Smells kind of like Simple Green house cleaner. It’s one of those organic cleaners that I use to clean my bike, or for the cat litter box.”
- Strength: 4
Lavender Scent - Zebra Pticolon Gel Ink Pen - 0.8 mmFig 7. The lavender scented pen has purplish-pink ink.
- Scent: It's like stepping into a make-up store (like Sephora or MAC) at the mall. There’s a glossy, perfume-like element to it that the other scents lack. It’s subtly fragrant rather than overpowering, so if you’re looking to get in the shopping mood, this might be a good pen to bring along.
- Blind test: “Maybe berry? I can’t really identify the smell.”
- Strength: 4
Green Apple Scent - Zebra Pticolon Gel Ink Pen - 0.8 mmFig 8. The green apple scented pen has bright, almost neon green ink.
- Scent: Refreshingly fruity, and even a bit sour! This scent is unique compared to the others, and brings back the days of fizzy warhead candies. This is the kind of scent that smells like it tastes good, which means that you should keep it away from kids.
- Blind test: “Mmm it smells like green apple. Mmmmm. Specifically it smells like candy -- like those sour punch straws.” Seems like Liz enjoys this one.
- Strength: 6
Vanilla Scent - Zebra Pticolon Gel Ink Pen - 0.8 mmFig 9. The vanilla scented pen has warm, tan brown ink.
- Scent: Like a 10-pack of those vanilla tea light candles that are everywhere in Ikea. The scent is actually a lot stronger from the pen than it is written down. The little icon on the pen cap suggests vanilla ice cream, but seeing as how ice cream doesn’t really smell, it’s not very accurate. Since vanilla is a calming scent, I’d use this pen to study for finals. It might even help with triggering useful memories!
- Blind test: “It smells like the coconut suntan lotion people apply at the beach... that, or brown vanilla sugar.”
- Strength: 7
Although a few of the scents didn’t quite match their descriptions, we had a lot of fun discovering the various scents and reminiscing about childhood memories. If you’d like to try some scented pens but aren’t sure what to use them for, I’d recommend using them for old fashioned letters (the envelope will preserve the scents), or for doodling (which will yield interesting scent combinations).
What do these scents remind you of? Let us know in the comments!
Scented Pens Selection Guide