Please note – this post has been UPDATED. Check out my latest on photo safe pens for guest books. This post is excerpted (and partially edited for readability) from an earlier post I did on my “dream guest book“. I get asked this question pretty frequently, so I thought I’d highlight it. The paper used below is from MyPublisher (more specifics are below). Regardless of the book company you use (except for paper options that are very glossy or printed on real photo paper), the results should be similar. If your guest book is printed on real photo paper, the same pen will work, but you do have to be a bit more mindful about possible smudging.
Which Pen To Use for a Guest Book
What kind of pen works best if you plan to have folks sign your photo book as a guest book? I recommend Sharpie Ultra Fine Point Permanent Markers. Other brands of permanent markers may work fine too, but I’ve only personally used Sharpies for signing photo books (and photo canvases for that matter). A permanent marker is important as you don’t want it to smudge. They dry so fast that smudging is very unlikely. For my guest book, I used black backgrounds, so I couldn’t use a black marker. I used silver, but at the time I couldn’t find that color in the ultra fine point, so I had to go with the Sharpie fine point, which in retrospect was a little too large of a nib. It made the writing look a bit messy, but lucky for you, you get the benefit of my hindsight.
Although I said this is not a permanent marker review blog, I did test out a number of different pens with the various the paper samples. When I was putting pen to paper, I was looking for two things: smudging and bleed through. Smudging is self-explanatory. Here’s the summary:
1) Sharpie Fine Point
I don’t recommend using this. There were no issues with smudging as it dried super fast (I rubbed my finger over the writing right after) but the tip is too thick which makes the writing look a little “blobby”. Also, because it’s so bold, you will see it show through on the reverse which could potentially interfere with the image on the other side. By the way when I say “bleed through” I don’t mean the ink seeped through to the other side, which would instantly eliminate the pen from consideration, but just that it shows through the page when held up to the light.
2) Sharpie Ultra Fine Point (THE WINNER)
This is the one I recommend. Like it’s thicker tipped cousin, there were no issues with smudging, but it was much more readable and no bleed through. As mentioned it comes in lots of colors too if you don’t want to use black. Black is always a classic “go to” color, but Sharpies come in a myriad of colors. So you can choose your wedding colors or whatever color you want.
3) Uni-Ball Deluxe Stick Roller Ball Pen, Black Ink, Micro Fine
I don’t recommend using this. It didn’t dry fast enough (it smudged) and it didn’t write as well on the satin finish paper. I just decided to give it a try for comparison purposes.
4) Sharpie Extra Fine Point Oil-Based Opaque Paint Marker
The tip was perfect, readability was very good and no issues with bleed through because the tip was extra fine, but this is a paint pen so it smudged. So, I wouldn’t recommend it since it doesn’t dry fast enough.
Here’s a shot of all four on the (MyPublisher) Deluxe Matte 170 lb. paper. There isn’t much difference as to how the signatures looked on the various papers.
As you can see the fine point Sharpie on the far right is the most bold, but as mentioned the tip is too thick and can make writing look a bit messy and hard to read.
Here’s a close-up. I still like the bottom one best (the ultra fine point Sharpie).
So there you have it! Besides for weddings, I love photo guest books for all sorts of events – anniversary parties, birthdays, graduation parties, baby showers etc. Unlike typical guest books that may be packed away and never opened again, photo book guest books are meant to be displayed and enjoyed. Check out my wedding guest book here!