The History of the 4-Colour Pen

Though it is not quite frequently used these days, the 4-colour pen was introduced by BIC in 1970 and was quite famous back then. BIC pens were French inventions and became quite popular worldwide with it’s products. Not everyone understands the concept behind using the four colours, because it generally seems like these are just different coloured refills accommodated in one pen for convenience.

The idea of having four refills in one pen was quite a concept and those who found them useful were grateful for the invention. For people who work with multiple colours at work, this pen makes a lot of sense. The four colours in a pen was rather a great time saver for them.

Back in the late 50s and early 60s, unlike the fountain pens that allowed you to replace the ink whenever you wanted, ball point pens didn’t give that convenience. You either needed to have a bunch of colourful refills or pens handy.

If you are wondering why four colours, let us explain how these colours were usually segregated for different use.

  • Reds were generally used in accounting for financial mark-ups. It also worked great for editors and proof-readers. However, red is a strong color and represents either danger or aggressive nature of remark, it is most dreaded by students in school, therefore, a lot of schools have banned the use of Red for checking papers.
  • Green is mostly used by managers especially in civil services, for signatures or audits. Green seemed to give a sense of authority and was also used for writing comments or requirements in such professions.
  • Blue or Black, both are used commonly. However, blue is often considered mandatory for signatures to make sure they are not duplicates or photocopies. Even authors, for that matter, use blue to sign their books so that it stands out in a black and white book.
  • Black is again another general color, but specifically used for autographs on objects. Blue ink is proven to fade with the passing of years, therefore, using black is much preferred in documents as well.

There are many ways of utilizing these four colours, but irrespective of the initial designated purpose, these colours can be used however one wants. By far, having four colours in one pen has been the best invention for people who still love to put pen to paper.




7 comments on “The History of the 4-Colour Pen”

  1. I first got one of these pens in the 1970’s and have loved them ever since. One good use I have found is to write my shopping list in black, then I cross the things off in red as I go round the shop. If the item is out of stock I cross it off with blue.
    A point about fountain pens: although you *could* change the ink it was a messy job to get the old ink back in the bottle, and then you would have to flush the pen to remove all traces of the old ink before filling with the new colour. In practice this was very rarely done as it was such a hassle, two or more pens would be used if you needed to change colours often.

  2. I recall having a few of those four-color pens, first in the 1970s and then afterward, probably into the late 1980 or early 1990s, in fact ones just like the blue and white one shown in the photograph on this webpage. The pens were manufactured by BIC, just as indicated by the logo in the photo here.

    But my very first multi-color pen, given me as a Christmas gift, was a big thick one with chambers for holding many ballpoint cartridges, must have been a 10 or 15-color pen. Does anyone remember having and/or seeing those types of multicolor ballpoint pens? My recollection of that one is its casing was half orange-colored.

    I still have a fondness for multi-color pens, just as I also do for those LifeSavers books of candies one usually received as stocking stuffers at Christmastime. These are the types of items one doesn’t usually purchase for oneself, but is sure appreciative to receive as a gift.

    Thanks for the memory,

    • I’ve owned a few of these 10 color pens. They seemed to be more of novelty then a practical use thing. I saw some being sold in 4-packs at Walmart in the party-favors section a few years back. They are also not same build quality as the Bic 4 color…


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