They may make you feel like Gulliver on his travels, but don’t be fooled by their size, price, or cute styling - the Pilot Petit Pens are known for their surprising quality. Far from tying you down, these Lilliputian writing instruments will set you free to roam, with a reliable pen in every pocket, bag, and desk drawer.
All three styles of the Pilot Petit Pen Series share the same rounded shape, like a bullet or a tiny submarine. They are only 4.3 inches long when capped, which makes them perfect for slipping in a pocket or giving out as small gifts.
The pens are made of a durable, clear plastic that is tinted to match the eight available ink colors. This makes it easy to see how much ink is left in each pen. The cap fits over the nib with a tight seal and a confidence-inspiring “click.” This helps explain the reputation these pens have for starting easily even after being unused for months. We can attest to their reliability - when we took our testing set out of storage, only one pen out of 24 needed to be held tip down for about five minutes to start. None of them needed priming with water.
The cap has a colored plastic clip, and posts securely with the aid of four small bumps that snap it into place. When posted, they range from 5 to 5.2 inches long due to differences between the three tip varieties.
The pens also share proprietary, line-specific ink cartridges, which come in eight rich colors. Each pen comes with one cartridge that matches the color of the pen. Refills are available in packs of three. Although the proprietary water-based ink cartridges may seem somewhat limiting, all of the Pilot Petit Pen Series can be converted into eyedropper pens, which opens up many other color options as well as the opportunity to select ink with specific properties.
Another notable feature of these pens is their clear feed, which displays how the ink makes its way to the nib. The feed also uses a wick to help the ink travel to the nib, which is unusual for a fountain pen like the Petit1. This helps keep the nib moist and ready to go, but also means that if you want to change colors you will need to flush it out several times in order to clear the previous color out of the wick. The Petit1 features a clear underbelly to the nib that allows the user to see the ink color in the pen just as easily as with the Petit2 and 3.
The Petit1 comes with a fine steel nib with a rounded tip that is good for handwriting. In our experience, it runs between a medium and a fine as compared with other Japanese nibs, which makes it suitable for a wide range of writing sizes. It is a remarkably smooth nib for a pen of this size and price, without any scratchiness. It can also be relied on to lay down a consistently smooth line, with no skipping or drying out overnight.
Read more about fountain pens in general in our Guide to Choosing a Fountain Pen.
The Petit2 is what is referred to in Japan as a sign pen, which is a pen that is intended for writing signatures. They most frequently have a firm fiber tip and can often be categorized as markers or marker pens. Celebrities frequently use markers for signing autographs, since their fiber tips allow for clear, flowing, consistent signatures time after time. The Petit2 features a medium-sized felt tip, which is good for jotting quick, bold notes, marking up documents, scrapbooking, lettering, and yes - signing your John Hancock with a spunky flourish.
See our Guide to Choosing a Felt-Tipped Marker Pen for more information on this type of pen.
Fude (pronounced foo-day) brush pens have soft, porous, flexible tips that are designed to mimic the brushes used in Japanese and Chinese calligraphy. They often have felt tips, like the Petit3, but can also have foam or fiber tips. The Petit3 has a hard, yet flexible tip that allows for significant line variation. It is quite juicy, dispensing a gratifying amount of ink with little effort. The Petit3 would be good for sketching, calligraphy, lettering, crafting, and other art, especially on the go.
We tested all three of the pens on six points: bleeding and showthrough, flexibility, feathering, water and copic resistance, smudging, and comfort. In addition, we tested the Petit1 on writing smoothness and its ability to perform at various writing speeds. All of the tests were done on regular printer paper and Kokuyo Campus High Grade MIO paper, plus receipt paper for the Petit1’s smudging test.
Please note that all of the tests used ink from the Pilot Petit cartridges.
The type of paper used makes a significant difference in the performance of all kinds of pens. We have several paper guides to help you choose the best paper for your purposes, but two good places to start are Fountain Pen Paper Recommendations and Memo Pads and Other Pocket Picks.
All three pens did better than we expected. They showed through both types of paper, but did not bleed through either of them.
|Printer Paper||Kokuyo Campus Paper|
|Petit1||No Bleeding; Light Showthrough||No Bleeding; Light Showthrough|
|Petit2||No Bleeding; Some Showthrough||No Bleeding; Some Showthrough|
|Petit3||No Bleeding; Moderate Showthrough||No Bleeding; Some Showthrough|
The nib on the Petit1 is quite stiff. We were only able to achieve minor line variation with very firm pressure. The Petit2 is likewise very firm, permitting a small amount of line variation. In contrast, the Petit3 is quite flexible, despite its relatively hard tip for a brush pen. It facilitates a good deal of line variation, which could be used to produce a variety of expressive effects.
All three pens suffered from light feathering on the printer paper, which is not surprising given that it is easier for ink to spread out along the threads of more absorbent paper. Even so, we felt that the feathering was not severe enough to significantly detract from our writing. Interestingly, the Petit1 was the only pen to have even light feathering on the Kokuyo Campus paper, even though it dispenses less ink.
|Printer Paper||Kokuyo Campus Paper|
|Petit1||Very Light Feathering||Very Light Feathering|
|Petit2||Very Light Feathering||No Feathering|
|Petit3||Very Light Feathering||No Feathering|
We were delighted to find that the Petit Pens’ ink is Copic resistant, so it can be used with alcohol-based markers. It is not at all water resistant, so you will want to be careful not to expose it to moisture unless you deliberately use it with a water brush to explore its watercoloring applications.
Writing from all three pens dried within five seconds on the printer paper. The Petit1 and 2 were almost completely dry after 30 seconds on the Kokuyo Campus paper, while the Petit3 took slightly longer. We also tested the Petit1 on receipt paper, since it is just the sort of pen we’re likely to keep handy in a bag or pocket. It also took a full 30 seconds to dry, but we could easily see ourselves whipping it out to sign a receipt if the waiter wasn’t hovering right next to the table.
Although these pens can be used unposted, we recommend posting them for anything beyond a quick note. The added length of the cap makes the pens just as comfortable as typical full-sized pens, and we did not find them tiring to use even after writing multiple paragraphs. The grip is the same plastic as the rest of the pen, but it is a good size.
Smoothness: We could clearly feel the friction between the paper and the nib on both the printer paper and the Kokuyo Campus paper. Even with this feedback, we did not find the Petit1 scratchy at all. It wrote easily and evenly on both papers.
The Pilot Petit Pen Series is appreciated by people who want reliable, high-quality writing and artistic tools on hand wherever they go. That they also come in fun colors for a sweetheart deal makes them beloved. There are other options for Mini Pens and Everyday Carry, but you’d be hard pressed to beat the the affordability, versatility, dependability, convenience, and quirky design of these quick-starting pocket pens from Pilot.
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