Ballpoint vs Rollerball Pens

Ballpoint vs Rollerball Pens: The Comparison

Ballpoint vs Rollerball Pens

Ballpoint vs Rollerball Pens: Which is better?

Ballpoint and Rollerball pens — seems similar to each other right? But actually, these two common types of pens serve different purposes. If you’re very particular with what type of pen to use from these two, then you’re on the right page.

But first, what is a ballpoint pen? According to The Journal Shop, a ballpoint pen is “a pen that dispenses ink over a metal ball at its point, hence the name. It is also called “biro” or “ball pen”. It is the world’s most used writing instrument. It was patented in 1888 by John J. Loud and developed by Laszlo Biro and his brother Gyorgy in 1938. How and why is it invented? Read through and it will be answered on the succeeding paragraphs.

The Gentleman’s Gazette divided ballpoint pens into two categories: The basic and more refined and elegant. The first category is, of course, the basic, inexpensive ballpoint pens that you can find at any grocery store or gas station. The second category is much more refined and elegant fine writing instrument made of precious metals and other rare materials.

Within these two categories, the two types of ballpoints you’ll find are disposable and refillable. Refillable pens allow the entire ink reservoir to be replaced when empty. Unlike the ink cartridges/converters for fountain pens, these reservoirs also contain the ballpoint itself and the socket. Generally, you won’t find the refillable option in the cheapest, bargain pen ballpoints, but more-so in the mid-range and fine writing range of pens (The Gentlemans Gazette).

On the other hand, a rollerball pen is a pen that writes with its tip which is a ball gliding on a surface. According to the Journal Shop, rollerball pens were introduced in 1936 by the Japanese Company, Ohto.

There are two main types of rollerball pens: liquid ink pens and gel ink pens (Wikipedia).

The ‘liquid-ink’ mechanism uses an ink supply system similar to a fountain pen, and they are designed to combine the convenience of a ballpoint pen with the smooth “wet ink” effect of a fountain pen. The ink of the rollerball pens flow consistently and skip less than gel ink pens do.

The thickness and suspending the ability of gel ink pens allow the use of pigments in gelled ink, which yields a greater variety of brighter colors than is possible in liquid ink. Gels also allow for the use of heavier pigments with metallic or glitter effects, or opaque pastel pigments that can be seen on dark surfaces (Source: Wikipedia).

So, are you now familiar with ballpoint and rollerball pens?

If yes, here, we will be giving you tips on which of these two types is more suitable for your purpose and what will perfectly match your style.

The Ink 

The ballpoint pen uses “thick oil-based ink” (Pen Heaven). As you notice in its barrel, there is oil on top of the ink. On the other hand, the rollerball pen “uses liquid or gel ink, so it is water-based” (Pen Heaven).


Because of the ink formula of the ballpoint, it dries instantly on paper and avoids smudging. This what makes ballpoint pens popular in the market (Source: Blog Milligram). While in the rollerball’s ink formula, you may smudge the ink if you quickly run your hand over it.

In addition, the rollerball pen’s tip is more likely to clog and jam when writing over correction fluid that has not yet completely dried (Source: Wikipedia).

Also, the rollerball pen’s liquid ink makes it more likely to “bleed” through the paper. If you applied great pressure to the pen, then you might end up having a paper having a blotch at the back of the paper.


Rollerball pens use liquid ink making its ink run out three times faster than a ballpoint which makes ballpoint more economical to purchase and popular in the market. (Source: Blog Milligram).

Furthermore, the rollerball pen’s tip is sensitive so it has a tendency to leak or to lose its consistency or the ink itself when it falls to the ground. The worst part is, if you left your rollerball open, then you might have a mini heart attack thinking that it might dry out. So, if you’re a bit absent-minded, you most likely end up having leaked pants or bags or buying another one.

On the other hand, the ballpoint pen’s tip controls the ink making it retain its consistency and quality, most up to the last tint of ink. Also, it makes your pen not easy to dry out making you feel still at ease when you left your ballpoint pen in your desk without a cap.

The way they write

First, ballpoint writes with a thinner, less vivid line. It’s because of the metal ball tip. The rollerball pen, on the other hand, writes with a thick, vivid line. It’s because of the rolling ball tip. So if you want to have subtle writing in your notebook, then ballpoint is for you. But if you want to have clear and more vivid writing, then rollerball is for you.

Secondly, the ballpoint pen writes roughly which means it’s more difficult to glide than the rollerball. Rollerball pen becomes famous for its smooth gliding capacity when being used for writing. It’s again, because of their tips.


As mentioned above, ballpoint pen writes roughly while rollerball writes smoothly making it ideal for writing literary pieces such as the letter for your loved one, diary, or a draft for your essay. Less pressure needs to be applied to the pen making you write cleanly, comfortably, and efficiently.

On the other hand, Schneider (2015) suggests that ballpoint pens are useful to artists and people wanting to achieve interesting effects one wouldn’t normally associate with a ballpoint pen. The ability to stipple and cross-hatch can be used with a ballpoint to create half-tones. Artists especially love ballpoint pens for the ability to create the illusion of form and volume.

The pen can be used to create very sharp lines that can’t easily be achieved with a brush, and when finally applied to the paper or canvas, an artist can even create airbrush-styled artwork or even art that has been mistaken for photography. Many famous artists have used ballpoint pens in their work, most notably Andy Warhol and Lennie Mace.

Ballpoint pens are “ideal for people who are left-handed” (Schneider, 2015).   Left-handed people usually get irritated and upset when they end up getting their palms’ stained with black ink caused by the smeared ink. When they use ballpoint pens, it will be beneficial because the ink on it dries very quickly when being used causing no trouble of getting their palms’ disgustingly messed up.

Ballpoints also could write on coarse surfaces, such as wood and feather (The Journal Shop).  Not only could these ballpoint pens also write on leather. This is the answer to the question in the second paragraph. It was actually the purpose of the American inventor, John J. Loud. It is because the tip controls the flow of the ink and avoids its inconsistency.  Unlike the rollerball pen which could only write on smooth surfaces like paper because the tip which is the ball is sensitive when it is being glided.


Wikipedia mentioned that rollerball pens usually have a greater range of colors due to a wider choice of suitable water-soluble dyes and/or to the use of pigments.

So, that’s it! To sum up, ballpoint and rollerball pens differ in their characteristics: in composition (tip and ink), the way they write effectiveness, efficiency, purposes, and variants; unlike to what most originally know that they’re just similar to each other.

Ballpoint and rollerball pens both have their advantages and disadvantages that would either encourage or discourage you to buy either of the two. This guide might have complicated things about ball pens, particularly the ballpoint and rollerball types, but you can simplify it. How? It’s by determining what’s suited for your purpose and style.

As the Journal Shop has mentioned, you have the option of whether “to glide like a rollerball or stay classic with the ballpoint.”

Now that you have enough background information with these two types, you can now easily choose what’s best to purchase depending on what purpose you will use it.

Having the consolidated facts and information we have mentioned above, it’s now up to you what pen to choose. Whichever you choose, make sure that it is what you really want.

This is what you need to note and remember, having the satisfaction and having no regrets means that your choice is absolutely correct!

So which to go for: ballpoint or rollerball pen?

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