This article is about personalized pens.
I want to introduce and discuss the possibilities of personalized (or custom) gifts and how you can give your loved one the best gift ever. Then later on, I want to hone in on engraved pens.
Personalized gifts are fun and meaningful: they can be really goofy or really touching (sometimes both), but personalized pens are timeless gifts. They’ll be here long after that light-up fidget spinner spins its last fidget.
Personalized pens communicate something deeper than most other personalized gifts.
And that’s what I want to explore in this ultimate guide to buying personalized pens.
Let’s dive in.
Chapter 1: What Is a Personalized Gift?
A personalized gift is any gift that has been modified for a specific individual.
Personalized gifts tend to be of more symbolic and have greater personal value (just like those gas station keychains with your name on them), but there are also gifts of a finer quality and of more monetary value.
Something key to understand here is that symbolic and monetary values are not necessarily linked.
What I mean is this: a personalized gift for your loved one is not going to be more meaningful just because it's more expensive. While that can be the case, it's not always.
This will be important as we go along...
Why should I give personalized gifts to my loved ones?
Because personalized gifts are personal, they communicate a deeper value than most any other "unpersonalized" gift.
However, there's really no such thing as an "unpersonalized" gift. This is because when we give gifts, we give gifts that are relevant, unique, or fitting to the person to whom we are giving them. There's an irreducibly personal aspect to all gifts.
If we didn't do this—if we gave a gift that wasn't fitting to the person to whom we are giving it—it wouldn't be a matter of personalized vs. unpersonalized gifts; it would be a matter of a good gift vs. a bad gift.
Custom gifts just go the extra mile in emphasizing the personal and unique aspects of all gift-giving.
Where can I find personalized gifts?
There are two major ways to find personalized gifts:
- Make your own custom gift: There's a whole world out there for making personalized gifts yourself, from knitting to artwork to baked goods. My biggest suggestion for generating DIY gift ideas? Pinterest. Bless you, Pinterest.
- Buy a custom gift product: There are a ton of businesses out there that specialize in this, so your options are vast!
Unless you are one of those people who naturally thinks of amazing gifts, the place to start looking for custom gifts is Google.
When you search "personalized gifts" or "engraved gifts" in Google, you might get overloaded with options.
But there are also a ton of other places selling engraved pens, promotional items, and custom gifts for really reasonable prices.
You can also check out my complete list of 101 personalized gifts for more options.
Why should I buy personalized gifts?
While you can totally make a gift yourself for less expense, and that might also communicate a deeper personal connection to your loved one, there's a number of reasons why buying a gift from a vendor might be a better move:
- Not all of us are endowed with wildly creative skills to make a meaningful gift on our own.
- Buying a gift will usually mean that the gift will be of generally higher quality.
- There's also a ton more options online , things you might have never considered, like custom shower curtains.
- Finally, you might not have enough time to sit down and craft your gift on your own, so buying is probably going to save you a lot of time and hassle.
For these reasons, buying might be a better option over making one yourself.
That's it for Chapter 1; in Chapter 2, let's discuss custom pens and why I think they're your best option for personalized gifting.
Chapter 2: Engraved Pens: The Perfect Personalized Gift
In this chapter, I'm going to talk more about customized pens in general, what they are, where to find them, and why they might be the best option for your gift-giving this year. And then I'm going to then focus in on engraved pens.
What are personalized pens?
Like gifts more generally, personalized pens are pens that have been modified in some way to fit the person to whom you want to give them.
Why are personalized pens really the perfect gift?
The biggest reason that personalized pens make the perfect gift is because they perfectly balance symbolic value and monetary value I talked about earlier with functional value: you get the biggest bang for any amount of buck.
Giving a pen as a gift communicates trust, care, and the value of intellect. It gives the means to put these abstract ideas into concrete practice.
Pens can also represent particular aspects of your loved one's personality.
A personalized pen only amplifies the communication of one's value in another. It sends your message loud and clear.
And it's really very simple: pens are uber functional. And according to the Danish professor of design theory, Mads Nygaard Folkmann, what is "functional and [what is] symbolic in design are not easily separated."
This is especially true in regards to pen design.
And you can give all this to your loved ones without breaking the bank.
I've written elsewhere about why personalized pens make great gifts:
Let's take a quick look at just 5 of these reasons:
1.) Personalized pens fit any budget
As I said before, symbolic and monetary values aren't necessarily tied up together, and an engraved pen shows just how that's the case.
You can get the same level of symbolic, meaningful care for pretty much any price (from a $2 pen to a $5,000 pen).
There’s so many engraved pen options in various ranges, so don’t think that this is just a boojie person’s gift, reserved only for the well-to-do.
2.) Personalized pens fit any gift recipient
Custom pens are a pretty gender-neutral gift, and they’re timeless, so it’s not just old people who will appreciate it.
Plus, everyone uses a pen; whether you’re a working professional, a student, or a chronic journaler, an engraved pen is a pretty ubiquitous tool that our society has everywhere.
What makes the real difference is luxury plus personalization.
3.) Personalized pens reduce stress
Studies show that using pens over a computer will reduce stress and anxiety.
That’s such an awesome, easily engaging activity to help keep the Mondays away.
4.) They are quintessential study tools
A personalized pen makes a special focal point for good studying.
5.) And they're just more meaningful
Just compare these phrases in your mind: “I gave my loved one a nice pen” vs. “I gave my loved one a nice pen with their name engraved on it.”
The difference is there in the intuition that a personalized pen communicates the value that you have in your loved one waaaaaaaay better.
How are pens customized?
Pens can be customized in a few different ways.
- Custom design
- Clip Emblems
Let's take a look at each one of these customization options.
You might be able to collaborate with a pen manufacturer or even with some small businesses on sites like Etsy or locally, to custom craft your entire pen.
Most companies (like AT Cross) will not design an entirely new pen for you, but they will add a custom color or appointments to a pen they have already designed.
Clip emblems allow you to cast an additional piece of metal or plastic and attach it to the clip.
These make pens incredibly compelling promotional items for corporate bodies.
Imprinting is one of the most affordable options for personalization, provided you get your pen in bulk.
Imprinting acts like a copier and "paints" the design onto the pen. All the pens you've snagged from that mug at your bank were probably imprinted. It's a common option if you're looking for promotional items.
Imprinting is usually super cheap in bulk, and you have a lot more color options, but it can scratch off after a while.
By far the most affordable option for personalizing gift pens is engraving.
Engraving will cut into the finish of the pen to leave a permanent design.
That's really the biggest benefit of engraving: permanence.
Because engraving is permanent, the most commonly engraved pens are luxury pens made out of metal, wood, and high-quality plastics.
This note on the engraved pen leads us to the end of Chapter 2 and into Chapter 3 where we're going to talk about luxury pens themselves.
In Chapter 4, we'll take a deep dive into the engraving process to show you more about why an engraved pen is truly an ideal and versatile gift.
Chapter 3: Luxury Pens: The Standard in Meaningful Gifts
In this chapter, we're going to explore everything there is to know about luxury pens.
Because luxury pens are the best option for personalizing—and especially for engraving.
Are luxury pens good gifts?
Luxury pens make great gifts for all the same reasons we've already talked about, minus the personalized touch, but additionally they possess all-around classiness and longevity.
Just imagine your gift recipient walking around with the golden clip of a luxury pen sticking out of their shirt pocket or them pulling it out in front of all their co-workers to take meeting notes.
They just stand out, they help get basic tasks completed, they tend to last, and they feel special.
But do people even use luxury pens anymore?
According to the Chicago Tribune, despite the dominance of digital media, the luxury pen market is up about 5% in the US and Europe largely due to the luxury pen transitioning into the gifting world.
Pen sales are also growing in emerging markets like Latin America, Asia, and the Middle East as literacy and education levels rise.
Even if you use your phone, tablet, or computer for most note-taking and letter-writing, there are still quite a few moments in life that require a pen like signing doctor's notes, contracts, etc.
In the big moments, like signing for your first house or a birth certificate for your first child, a luxury pen just has a more beautiful gravity to it than a Stick Bic.
But don't think I'm coming at Stick Bics. Those got me through college. How else can you live the universal experience of lending someone your pen only to have it returned with bite marks? (I know it was you, Mark.)
Why do people still use a fancy pen?
The simplest answer is that some people still use a fancy, metal pen because it will last longer.
Metal is a harder, more durable material compared to plastic or wood. A metal pen, like the mighty fountain pen, won't decompose or wear out the same way a pen made of more other materials might.
It tends to have a heftier weight to it which can lead to greater comfort. This is because weight and balance have as much to do with writing comfort as an ergonomic grip and pen barrel size.
Ideally, you want a pen that fits nicely in your hand with the weight evenly distributed so you don't need to force the ink flow onto the page by pressing down too hard.
A luxury pen usually provide this for users with ease.
Are high quality pens really worth the price?
I think so! High quality pens are worth the price when you consider a couple of points:
- the quality of your writing experience
- how long you'll keep the pen
- the environmental impact of production waste
- the personal impact of gifting them
- and how appropriate they are as gifts
Luckily, the price of high quality pens varies widely, so the real question is: what's your budget?
Sure, when you can purchase a 50 pack of pens at Sam's Club for $6.99, $20 seems like a waste of money, but let's look at it from this perspective:
A Ford Pinto, a Honda Civic, a Range Rover, and a McLaren P1 are all cars that are going to get you from point a to point b. But not every one needs a McLaren, and not everybody wants a Pinto.
The key is finding the right pen for your needs. How are you going to use this pen? What do you need to write? What kind of feeling do you tactilely enjoy in a pen?
Going with the middle ground (the Civic) or slightly higher than the middle ground (the Range Rover) is actually a smarter purchase in the long run.
What's the best luxury pen to get as a gift?
Based on what I've said so far, there is no objective "Best Luxury Pen," but there are a lot of incredible luxury pens that could be the best for you.
You check out my article on How to Choose a Luxury Pen for an in-depth dive to finding the perfect pen for you or your loved one. But let's take a look here at some of what I say there.
Essentially, when you're looking to buy a nice pen, you want to consider the following points:
Let's take a look at each of these points one-by-one.
Writing style is one of the first questions you'll face looking for a nice pen. You want to get the right style to get the most fitting writing experience for you or your loved one.
Check out an Ultimate Guide to Pen Writing Styles in order to completely break down all the aspect of the three major pen styles.
The three basic styles are:
- ballpoint pens
- rollerball pens
- and fountain pens
Ballpoint pens are the most common pen type. They have a little ball in the tip and use an oil-based ink that sticks to pretty much any surface.
Rollerball pens are the perfect middle ground between ballpoint pens and fountain pens. Like ballpoint pens, they have a rolling ball in the tip, but like fountain pens they tend to use water-based ink instead of oil-based ink.
Fountain pens—those fancy, fancy pens with the wing-like tip (called a nib). The mechanics of the nib are pretty wild; they sort of use air pressure the release water-based ink from the nib. It's really cool.
There are a bunch of other styles like gel ink, felt tip, multifunctional, and stylus pens that are also worth considering.
You just need to find the style that best fits your needs or the needs of your gift recipient.
A luxury pen can come in a number of different construction materials.
Material has a lot to do with the tactile feel, weight, balance, and overall writing experience of a quality writing instrument.
The major ones are made of precious metal, chrome, wood, and high-quality plastics.
Obviously, certain materials (like precious metal) are going to cost more, but you can definitely find some sweet deals on high quality materials.
Buying a luxury pen might seem like a waste of money, but it's not.
As stated before, you can find luxury pens in any budget range.
There's luxury pens in the $12-$30 range that will last you forever, but on the other extreme end of prices there's also one-of-a-kind special edition pens in the $1,000-$5,000 range.
You just need to be clear about what you're looking for and why.
Almost every luxury pen is going to stand out from mass-produced pens in some way.
Unlike symbolic value, uniqueness is predominately tied up with monetary value. The more unique your pen, the more likely it is that you'll pay more for it.
This tends to be warranties, gift boxes, extra ink refills, free engraving of pens...that kind of a company offers with the purchase.
A note that's relevant to uniqueness, the additional service of engraving really is the most affordable way to set your pen apart from others.
But be sure to check with the vendor or manufacturer to see if they offer little extras onto their products (like monogramming, marking, logo rendering, or custom pieces) that you can make your purchase way more impactful.
What are the best options for buying a luxury gift pen?
But there's a thousand others to choose from and lots of great brands!
Again, this is about finding the right pen for you or your loved one, so take some time to comb through different options based on what I've said above.
If you need extra help, I've written a few of articles specifically to help you choose the perfect pen: for shopping strategies, check out my guided steps to choose the right gift pen; to weigh your options, check out my comparative guide to luxury pens.
That's it for Chapter 2. In Chapter 3, we'll take a deep dive into the engraving process.
Chapter 3: Engraving: What it is and why it's awesome.
In this chapter, I’ll give you an overview of the entire engraving process, and you'll see you why it’s so awesome.
You can find out everything there is to know about engraving process by reading my other article on it.
I am going to primarily focus on laser engraving because its 2021 and lasers are super IN.
Laser engraving is a really fun, science-y service in which laser light is put to a practical task.
It’s like turning light into a really precise, semi-dangerous paintbrush.
To understand what I mean, let’s take a look at lasers first, and then we’ll talk about how they work as tools for custom engraving.
What's a laser?
Because I'm not actually a scientific expert on lasers, I’m going to let Neil Degrasse Tyson tell you about them first; he might, just might know more about them.
So basically, LASERs (Light Amplification by Stimulated Emission of Radiation) are a really focused beam of light shot through particular materials (like a ruby) and conducted by mirrors.
While most everyday lasers can’t hurt you too bad (unless you're staring right into them), the amplification process can make lasers EXTREMELY powerful and potentially dangerous.
Just think: lightsabers.
How does a laser engrave stuff?
Check out this overview from Trotec about how simple laser engraving really is.
A laser engraving machine is basically just a really powerful laser connected to a computer that moves the laser over a pre-established grid.
Put an object, within that grid and the computer will move the laser over the object and engrave it.
So, say you have a set of ballpoint pens and you want to engrave them. You put it within a fixed position within the grid, tell the computer where they are, and then you basically just hit “the big red button.”
Voila! It engraves, focusing all that powerful light into the specified domain on the grid. And it looks like this:
What's so special about laser engraving?
Laser engraving makes a gift special for a number of reasons.
First, the engraving is permanent; it’s not going to come off eventually like paint or a sticker.
It is mechanically done so everything will look neat and uniform. Engraving by hand can be a really awesome method, but it requires years of training and skill to execute properly. Laser Engraving will give you the same solid result every time.
It also looks aesthetically pleasing: it’s not gaudy, kitschy, or loud. It just sort of speaks for itself.
Engraving, like any personalization, takes something relatively ordinary or mundane (like a pen) and makes it something memorable and cherished. It's one thing to have a pen. Its another to have a pen with "I love you" engraved in your Grandmother's handwriting.
In a practical business sense, it can also remind people of your brand and your relationship to them. Think of a promotional pen engraved with the name or logo of the law firm that helped with the contracts for your first house. Maybe you use it when you are thinking about building an addition and it reminds of the experience you had with that company.
What can I get engraved on my pens?
Within certain parameters, pretty much whatever you want!
But words are the most common custom aspect to get engraved on pens.
A popular choice is just getting the name of the recipient engraved on the pen.
Other options include short, meaningful phrases. I've compiled a pretty extensive list of phrase suggestions to help you with this.
The size of pens can make it difficult to engrave a long, detailed message (about 25 characters is standard for most engravings), but actually trying to communicate within seemingly tight constraints can expand the sense of resonant meaning that your gift has.
You can get 2 lines of engraving and even a double-sided engraving if you so choose, and that will expand you options.
A logo, design, symbols (I've seen a lot of emojis out there Gen Zers), and signatures are all options for engraving as well!
You can have almost anything engraved on a pen. Just be aware, many companies, including Dayspring Pens, have a "no profanity" policy that prevents them from putting anything potentially offensive on the pen in order to protect others from bullying and also to protect the good name of the brands sold.
What else can I choose for personalizing my gift pens?
An engraving business will often have a selection of fonts they have the rights to use that the customer may choose from. You will often see a Script like font, a Block font, and something in between like Times.
If you have your own proprietary font you would like to use, you will need to make sure you have the rights to use the font, communicate that to the engraving company, and send them the font file.
There are two major distinctions in engraving styles: standard and deep cut color filled engraving.
Standard will simply cut into the finish of the pen to reveal the colors of the barrel underneath.
Deep cut color fill applies a lacquered paint to the engraving to create contrasting colors. This comes in handy if you want a blue or silver engraving on a pen who's barrel color underneath the lacquer is brass.
If you have a particular shape, pattern, or drawing that you want engraved, logo engraving will be the best way to do it.
You can even engrave handwriting in this process! We'll talk more about signatures in the Pro Tips Chapter.
That's the basics on everything engraving!
In the next chapter, let's talk about the best way to give an engraved pen as a gift.
Chapter 4: Unwrapping Meaningful Giving with Meaningful Pens
In this chapter, I’m going to give an overview of gifting an engraved pen—that is, how to give and how to make giving extra special.
You can also apply a lot of what I'm going to say to other sorts of gifts as well. It's just good general advice.
I’ll show you how Santa Claus does his freaky, annual, Yuletide magic—figuratively. (I don’t know how he does it really, but it was either him or my dog that ate those cookies, and one of them owes me a PS5.)
When do I give an engraved pen as a gift?
Pens are usually given during occasions of transition or landmark moments, at the accomplishment of worthy endeavors or the undertaking of new ones. Practical examples include graduations, job promotions, anniversaries, Christmas, and birthdays.
They're often great for people who step into new responsibilities, like young people starting or graduating from college.
How do I give an engraved pen as a gift?
That's easy: focus on wrapping and leaving a really well-thought-out gift note.
Wrap your pen appropriately, either in a bag or in wrapping paper.
I like goofy wrapping paper (my favorite has pepperoni pizza all over it), but maybe go for something more elegant.
For my eco-friendly readers, these reusable wrapping fabrics are so cool.
The gift note is what really seals the deal on a good engraved pen.
What you write in it is important, so maybe consider these 3 points:
- Write about what you value in your loved one
- Write about why you got them an engraved pen
- and write about why the engraved pen represents what you value in your loved one.
If all goes well, I think writing about this will make your engraved pens an even more memorable gift.
Why you should write your gift notes by hand
Here's the kicker: write your note by hand (and yes, even if you have terrible, chicken-scratch-looking handwriting.)
And here's why:
- Writing your note by hand shows you took time to spell out (literally) what you think about your gift recipient.
- Say you gave your loved one a set of engraved ballpoint pens, a handwritten note makes a great compliment to a gift like that.
It's that simple.
That's it for giving, but we still need to talk about other gift options besides engraved pens for those of you who are not totally set on the idea.
Chapter 5: Pro Tips for Shopping for an Engraved Pen (And Other Gifts)
Here's a shortlist of pro tips for shopping for an engraved pen:
I can wax poetic all day about signature engraving.
Why? BECAUSE ITS SO FREAKING AWESOME.
Signature engraving takes a sample of handwriting and engraves it on a pen. It's the ultimate, uniquely personal form of engraving!!
Just a couple of true stories to show you how great it is.
Example 1: A mother's signature
I had a customer call to order 6 pens for his siblings with his mother's signature engraved on the cap.
Turns out, she had just passed away and he wanted to give them to the family at the funeral.
If that isn't the height of a thoughtful, beautiful gift to honor the memory of that woman, I don't know what is.
Example 2: New papa!
In 2019, Sam (one of our staff) had her first child.
For Father's Day, she gave her husband a Waterman Hemisphere rollerball pen with a handwritten "Happy Father's Day" and a little stick figure drawing of a baby engraved on it.
In 2021, they had their second child, and she added another little engraved stick figure to the pen cap.
The plan is to continue the tradition with every child they have!
If that isn't just adorable...
Example 3: Bring out your Historical Figures!
If a signature or sample of handwriting has entered the public domain, places like Dayspring Pens can get them engraved on a pen.
With an engraved pen , you can save a lot of cash and get an extra matching pen to boot.
Often times, sets come as pairs of ballpoint pens and a pencils, but you can also mix and match with a combination of ballpoint, rollerball, fountain, or gel pens.
Promotional pens are those used to promote a business or product.
What you will generally find online if you are searching for a promotional pen will generally be the bulk pens produced with the logo or business information of a company, often handed out at a register or a conference.
Really, promotional pens can be on a spectrum from the cheap plastic throw-aways to luxury writing instruments specially engraved for a corporate client you might be courting.
If you need your customized gift quick, rush production and expedited shipping are going to be your best friends.
Prices will vary on these services from business to business.
Make sure your desired order meets the following criteria:
- Your order is available for rushed production - some things just can't be done quick no matter the amount you are willing to pay.
- Shipping can be expedited if you need that extra oomph to get it in your timeframe
- The business offers wrapping, gift notes, etc. if you know you won't be able to add those special touches yourself.
A personalized gift is designed to be uniquely modified to fit your gift recipient.
Whether you are looking for a super cool shower curtain or personally engraved ballpoint pens, there are a myriad of options and creative ways you can celebrate the people in your life.
But with an engraved pen, you can give something functional, symbolic, and one-of-a-kind that doesn't break the bank.
But now it's your turn!