What Color Pen is Best for Memory?

Written by Laura Walker / Fact checked by Leilani Carroll

what color pen is best for memory

If you walk by a shop with a large poster that reads “SALE” in a bold red font at the storefront, you’ll likely go in to see what’s on sale. Colors can elicit emotional, physical, and mental responses.

So, what color pen is best for memory?

As stated in the example above, experts say a red color pen helps you remember as it stands out. A 2009 University of British Columbia (UBC) found that it improves memory retrieval by 30% compared to blue!

What Ink Promotes Better Recall?


Juliet Zhu, the co-author of the UBC study, reveals that we associate red with warning signs and mistakes.

Essentially, red makes you focus and become more careful. For instance, if you see the traffic light go red, you stop your car.

Another example that we can all relate to is our exams. Our teachers use red ink to mark our papers. When we see our mistakes, we also remember not to repeat them. Logically, using this color can increase our attention on the task. This, in turn, promotes learning as it boosts memory retention.

Memory-enhancing Pen Colors

To better understand the concept of the memory color effect, let’s talk about the different pen colors that students can use for studying:

1. Black


Most websites platforms, books, newspapers, and other forms of media use white backgrounds and black text. The reason is simple: This format is easier on the eyes, especially if you have astigmatism or other kinds of eye problems.

Even for notes, black ink makes our penmanship more readable. Plus, it is the only acceptable color for filling out forms and signing documents.

However, our eyes are so used to seeing black text that it no longer stimulates a response. Therefore, we need another hue to use as a highlighter color or to write important text we want to remember the most.

2. Blue


Based on the color theory, blue represents trust and is often associated with cool temperatures. But beyond the ink color meaning, the aforementioned UBC study reports that it can boost cognitive abilities, specifically in brainstorming and other creative tasks.

However, writing in blue ink does have the same effect on memory retention as in red.

3. Green


The color green means different things depending on the context. You probably heard of the phrase “green with envy.” At the same time, most eco-friendly products use this color in their branding as it is the color of nature.

Whereas red is “stimulating,” green is relaxing. As such, it is appropriate for classroom applications as it enhances your concentration and helps you study.

4. Yellow


When we’re drawing landscapes, we often color the sun with yellow crayons. But apart from that, it also symbolizes positivity in color psychology.

Some safety vests and road signs are in yellow because they are highly visible when worn in gray urbanized areas, as well as green landscapes. Hence, psychologists suggest yellow is one of the colors associated with memory recall.

5. Orange


Besides evoking enthusiasm, orange is a fun color that signifies adventure and success. Marketers and web developers use it as an alternative to red for call-to-action buttons.

Likewise, using orange ink to highlight or underline a passage in a dull black-and-white textbook can make long paragraphs eye-catching. It’s an excellent pen color for memorization.

How to Use Color in Notes?

Tip #1: Test the Inks First


If you bought a set of 12 or more colored pens, it’s best to swatch each one on your notebook to see which ones have deeper, bolder hues and which ones appear lighter.

For note-taking, we recommend selecting the boldest and darkest colors, such as black or dark blue.

Meanwhile, lighter hues like yellow and orange are apt for underlining words. If the set includes a red pen, write reminders or memorize facts and figures.

Tip #2: Use Highlighters


Highlighters not only help you find specific information quickly but also force you to think critically when deciding which part of the text to mark. You can use them in your textbooks or your writing as their fluorescent inks stand out against black ink.

For best results, choose highlighters with smudge-free inks.

Tip #3: Categorie Information by Assigning a Color


A color-coding system for your dark color pen helps you remember better. For instance, you can use red to memorize key information from specific lessons, black for general notes, and blue for your ideas.

Of course, you are free to come up with your own. Just don’t go overboard and use 12 colors in your set. You should select up to four pens and stick with those.

Tip #4: Use Complementary Colors

In the color wheel, complementary colors are the ones that sit on opposite sides, creating high contrast. For instance, the opposite of green is red. Choosing two contrasting colors allows you to spot key points quickly.

If you choose light-, mid-, and dark-tones of blue to organize information, however, you will not see important facts in your notes right away because they all blend together.


There is no one answer to the question, “What color pen is best for memory?” Just because you want to memorize everything doesn’t mean you’ll stick with red pens throughout your school life!

Here’s the thing: The more you use a single color to write all your notes, the more likely you are to get desensitized. On the flip side, using way too many colors will make your notebooks and textbooks look messy and confusing. Black, blue, green, orange, and yellow can help in studying when used strategically.

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