Cheap pens should not be given as gifts just as blank as they are-they wouldn't mean much, even if you hide behind the 'it's the thought that counts' adage. More so, if the thought is really what matters, then what would your gift's recipient feel about what you gave them? A cheap, dime-a-dozen pen? What, you didn't even bother giving the something that would at least reflect your intentions and good will?
At the very least, you should take the pens to a specialty shop and have them printed with some designs. A colorful, cheap pen is much better than a drab, cheap pen. Then again, you're already paying to have the pen designed, why not take it to the next level? Have them custom designed for specific people. You could also have the pens personalized or custom printed for an extra special touch. Many promotional products companys offer this service at a very low price.
Customize and Personalize
If you're opting to give cheap pens as gifts to loved ones, then you should at least have them personalized and customized to suit the preferences and tastes of the persons you'll be giving them to. Just printing on them and sprucing them up with designs to add aesthetic value to an otherwise stereotypically lame item won't be enough. Sure, a pen's core functionality makes it a practical gift, and sure, printing custom designs on it would make it look pretty, but since it won't cost you a lot and it's for your loved ones anyway, why not utterly personalize the designs you intend to print on the pens, right?
You know the special people in you life enough to know what colors they fancy and what designs they'd appreciate, so don't hesitate and make the most of your little gift. Just because the pen is cheap doesn't mean the gift should be just as cheap.
Go with a Motif or Theme
If you're giving pens as Christmas gifts, then try to make their designs related to the season. If you're giving one to an office worker, then make it look stylishly professional, perhaps also indicate the recipient's initials to add a personal touch. For a high ranking executive, make the pen exude an executive feel, and print the recipient's position alongside his initials.
It's simple really, like wrapping gifts in Christmas wrappers or birthday wrappers depending on the occasion. The only difference is that you have more freedom and thus more options when it comes to pens, much to your benefit of course. You can mix and match designs based on the occasion, the motif of the celebration, the personality of the recipient, and more.