Guide to D1 Refills

D1 refill comparison part 2 review

Many moons ago I did a comparison of six different D1 refills and called it ‘part one‘. I was fully intending to do a ‘part two’ soon after but it didn’t happen. Here it is now, though. Better late than never!

Just to recap, D1 refills are small refills used in many Kickstarter projects and multipens. They’re mostly ballpoints but Pilot and Zebra do gel refills too.

In part one Monteverde Soft Roll Mini D13 and the Faber-Castell Ballpen came out on top. Will they stay there?

D1 refill comparison part 2 writing

Lamy M21 ballpoint

This is a lovely smooth writer that puts down a consistent line, starts well and isn’t gloopy.

Zebra 4C ballpoint

This is a pretty standard ballpoint. It works okay although does feel like it’s trying to get away from you a little. There’s nothing special about it.

Schneider Express 56 ballpoint

In common with full-sized Schneider ballpoints, this is a very smooth writer but it always feels as if it wants to escape and write more quickly than I want to.

Schmidt S 635 ballpoint

This isn’t quite as smooth as the Lamy M21 but it has a blacker ink. It’s perfectly fine but not special.

Tombow BR-VS ballpoint

Pale ink, inconsistent line, not nice at all.

Platignum Dual ballpoint

This is okay. Nothing special and I could only find it with blue ink.

Tombow Outdoor Pen BR-VMP

This is another refill I could only find in blue. It skips a lot and isn’t pleasant at all. It is pressurised so you could write horribly upside down or under water if you wanted to.

Zebra JSB 0.5mm gel ink

This is a mighty fine gel ink refill. Lovely dark crisp line. After trying out all these ballpoints it was a real treat to finally get to a gel one, I can tell you!


I’ve now tried out twelve D1 ballpoint refills and two gel ink refills.

Of the ballpoints, the two Tombows and the Platinum SBSP-120S were terrible. The Lamy M21, Faber-Castell Ballpen and Monteverde Soft Roll Mini D13 (the latter two from part one) were all pretty good. The rest are all okay but, really, why settle for okay when you have so much choice?

The best of the lot is the Lamy M21. It’s the smoothest writer but doesn’t ever try to run away from you.

Both the Pilot Hi-Tec-C and Zebra JSB are great gel ink refills. Both are expensive because they run out of ink quickly, making the cost-per-word a lot more than any of the ballpoints. I haven’t been able to test this objectively but it feels as if the Zebra runs out of ink quicker than the Pilot. I prefer how the Zebra writes but there’s not much in it.

Extra special thanks to Cult Pens who supplied most of the refills I’ve tried out in this part. They have a huge selection of D1 refills including all the ones I’ve tried here and quite a few more too.

Update (13 December 2015)

As mentioned in the comments, since writing this I have discovered the Uni-ball Jetstream D1 refill. This is wonderful and, though quite pricy, is currently my D1 refill of choice.

D1 refill comparison part 2


  1. Hi, thanks for doing this comparison. It has been really help to decide which D1 refill should i go for! I have bought pen made from brass through kickstarter and was quite confused re: D1 refills till i saw both your comparison posts 🙂



  2. Hi! I was using the Zebra 4C-0.7 as it was most commonly in stock in my country but it was too pointy and felt like it was scratching the paper. After reading your very comprehensive reviews of D1 refills, I know what I should try next. Thanks!!

  3. I stumbled into the world of D1 refills after buying the Uni Jetstream Prime, which is a wonderful (but expensive) metal multi pen and pencil imported from Japan. The inks it came with ran out pretty quickly, being D1s, and I didn’t know how in the world to get more. The refills cost about 4 dollars each and took a month to ship from japan. Little did I know there were D1 refills just about everywhere made for all sorts of pens, so I started experimenting with brands to find what I liked. So far my favorite brand is the Montvarde because it comes in so many colors and writes perfectly fine. I’m using a multipen because I love variety, and all of the colors makes it a really fun tool with the Montvarde refills. Zebra also makes several colors, and I think I like the smoothness of these a little more than Montvarde, although the latter has much more color seleection. I will say this though, if you are ever in Japan, buy some of the Uni Jetstream d1s, they are by far the smoothest most luxurious I’ve used yet. They just are way too expensive and take forever to ship. I highly recommend the Uni Jetstream Prime, which comes in black and hot pink (go for the 3+1 that twists). If you are a pen geek like me, you will be proud to equip this one, especially if it’s loaded up with all your favorite colors 🙂

    1. Thanks for taking the time to leave such an interesting comment Zach. I love the Jetstream D1 refill but didn’t discover it until after I’d written this. I’m glad you’ve written about it because I kept meaning to add it to the list. It’s my favourite, at the moment. I don’t know where in the world you are but they’re available singly from Cult Pens in the UK and Jetpens in the USA. Both have quick shipping. It’s still an expensive refill though.

  4. If you get around to running another comparison, I’d love to read your opinion of the Fisher UF4. On a side note, I have been using a Neo smartpen N2, which uses a D1 pen insert and digitizes as you write. I have tried the Pilot LHRF-20C4 and the Zebra 4C, both write very well, but the pen’s digitization is noticeably more accurate with the Pilot. I don’t know if that is due to the Pilot’s needle-point or if the zebra has some imperceptible flex that throws it off.

    1. Thanks Todd, I’ll have a look at the Fisher refill. I do plan on updating this and turning it into a page for easier reference but I doubt I’ll be able to do it until next year.

  5. I think you’re going to need a part 3 that includes the Kaweco D1 refills. I’ve been really impressed with their Parker-style ballpoints especially the Gel ones, although you do pay a premium.

    Thanks a lot for parts 1 and 2, very infomative.

    1. I think you’re right, there’s going to need to be a part 3 sometime. It’s good that there are more becoming available. I’ll get some of the Kaweco ones soon, thanks for letting me know.

      1. If you can drop me your snail mail address Ian I’ll send you a couple of Kaweco refills to try. I have blue 0.8 mm and black 1.0 mm.

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