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Tiffany Matthé

In Defense of Multi-Colored Pens

Productivity1 min read

In high school, I fell in love with stationary. Opening my pencil case triggered an explosion of colors, one of pastel highlighters and rainbow gel pens. It seemed frivolous at the time, but I realize now that they have a small, yet important, impact on my studies.

The most obvious perk of having an assortment of different colored pens is stimulation. A study at UBC found that red ink is 30% more effective than blue for detail-oriented tasks, while blue helped participants produce twice as many creative outputs than red. Naturally, color plays a big role in learned associations. Detail-oriented tasks require attention, and red, the color of stop signs and danger, makes you pay attention. For creative tasks, blue creates a world of open skies and peaceful water, a safe space for people to explore their creativity.

Color also increases visuals. While taking notes, color-coding effectively breaks information into modules, which makes it easier to identify different pieces of information and visualize them later on.

The other, less objective, perk is the effect of stationary's organizational aspect on emotions. Color transforms a drab sheet of black lines into enjoyable learning, one that makes us feel organized. In turn, organization translates into less stress and sparks Marie Kondo joy1.

How does a good mood translate into learning better? It has been found that emotions have a substantial effect on learning and memory. Being happier boosts the creation of certain chemicals in our brains, ones that increase the amount and rate of neuron connections being made.

Although it takes a bit more time and effort to use multi-colored pens in my studies, it's always worth it. Colors matter.


  1. Having non-distinguishable scribbles on a page creates excess stimuli, which makes you overwhelmed and stressed.

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