Ballpoint Vs. Rollerball: Which Is Better For Me?

Ballpoint pens and rollerball pens are the two most commonly used pen types internationally. Both of these pens are convenient to use, reliable, available in various colors, styles, sizes, and shapes, and both are available in a wide price range, but which type of pen is better for you and your writing style?

Ballpoint pens are better for larger, connected handwriting. Rollerball pens are better for smaller, staggered handwriting. Rollerballs flow easily and have smaller nibs, but ballpoints are cheaper and last much longer. The best pen for you depends on your handwriting and your pen requirements.

The ballpoint and rollerball pen have been fierce competitors for years, and many people struggle to determine which pe type is better for their needs, preferences, and writing style. Let’s take the time to compare both pen types to help you determine which is best for you and to highlight some of the strengths and weaknesses of both pen types.

Ballpoint Pens: An Overview

The ballpoint pen is typically the most commonly seen and used pen in most situations. These pens have the widest price range of any pen, which means there are exceedingly cheap ballpoint pen options out there, which is why this pen is so commonly used.

There are very expensive versions of this pen type as well, which brings the ballpoint pen up into a higher level of class and status. The more you send on a ballpoint pen, the more pen you get, but regardless of the price, the ballpoint is widely regarded to be the most reliable of all pen types.

This type of pen is sturdy, reliable, not easy to break, typically work very well, and lasts for a very long time. Ballpoint pens are made from various materials and made into various barrel shapes, but the distinctive feature of these pens is the ballpoint ink delivery mechanism.

Ballpoint pens are so-called because the nib of the pen contains a ball that is in contact with the ink within the ink cartridge internally. Dragging the pen along a page rolls the ball in the ink and transfers the ink to the page as it rolls. 

The truth is, this same mechanism is used in rollerball pens, but the system is slightly more refined, which allows for differences in nip sizes.

However, the feature of ballpoint pens that distinguishes them from rollerball pens is the ink used within the pen. Ballpoint pens use oil-based ink that works well with the ball mechanism, as the ink sticks to the ball well to be more effectively transferred to paper.

Now that we are more well acquainted with the ballpoint pen, let’s go a little deeper into the details of what makes this pen so popular and why this pen is so highly regarded.

Defining Characteristics

The ballpoint pen is defined by three main characteristics: the rolling ball ink transfer mechanism, the ink used in the pen, and the fact that this pen type does not require a cap.

The ballpoint mechanism gives the pen its name, but it is a very efficient and effective ink transfer mechanism that is a product of the type of ink used within this type of pen.

If the pen was equipped with a nib that required ink to flow from it by gravity or by a feed such as the nibs used in fountain pens, the pen would not work at all. The ballpoint mechanism literally picks up ink from within the ink cartridge as it rolls along the page and rubs it onto the page as it rolls.

The ink used within these pens is oil-based rather than water-based inks found in almost all other types of pens.

This nib-ink combination makes the ballpoint very effective and highly reliable. This mechanism is also very cheap to produce, which means that ballpoint pens can be made very cheaply.

Ink Type

The ink used in ballpoint pens is an oil with pigment suspended in it. This is a product of the rolling ball mechanism used to transfer ink to the page.

This ink has some advantages that include the fact that it does not dry very quickly, which means that this pen type does not require a cap or lid to keep the ink useable. 

This is a very robust ink that lasts very well, does not tarnish, is not heavily affected by sunlight, and is available in a very wide range of colors. 

More expensive ballpoint pens use better quality ink that is less likely to blotch or stop running through the pen. 

Writing Ability

Ballpoint pens are very reliable pens, but they tend to not be the best or most comfortable pens to write with. Ballpoint mechanisms are not very smooth for writing, and they require significant pressure from the hand of the writer to transfer ink effectively to the page. This means that ballpoint pens result in hand fatigue much more quickly than other pen types.

Cheaper ballpoint pens tend to stop working if they are not used for a very long time, and the type of ink used in these pens tends to blotch and blot quite easily due to the oil base.

Most ballpoint pens are designed to be as comfortable as possible, and the fact that ballpoint pens do not need a cap means that they can be made with clicking mechanisms and other larger body types that are typically more comfortable in the hand.

High-quality ballpoint pens tend to be very nice to write with, but the cheaper versions of this pen type are often unreliable and uncomfortable to use.

Rollerball Pens: An Overview

Rollerball pens have many characteristics that are similar to ballpoint pens, but there are some important distinctions between these two types of pens that make them very different to use day-to-day.

The rollerball pen type is unique in that it is a commonly available pen with a very fluid ink type that allows the pen to be made into various types, shapes, and styles that use a wide range of nib sizes that are well suited to every writing style and handwriting.

Rollerball pens use a similar rolling-ball ink transfer mechanism, but these pens are filled with water-based ink that is similar to fountain pen ink. This means that the ink is much more liquid, and it requires much less effort to transfer to the page.

The use of a more fluid ink in this style of pen means that rollerball pens can be equipped with much finer nibs than ballpoint pens, which makes them better suited for a wider range of writing styles and handwriting types.

There is a very wide variety of rollerball pens available today that include very large nib pens and extremely small nibs, far less than one millimeter thin. These various nib sizes have led to various barrel and body sizes as well, which in turn means that there is usually a rollerball pen to fit every hand size, regardless of how you write.

Rollerball pens are versatile, they are reliable, they do not blot, they very rarely blotch, they write smoothly and cleanly, and the ink from these pens dries very quickly, which significantly reduces smudging.

This pen type is becoming more popular around the world because of these features, but there are some drawbacks to rollerball pens that make them less desirable for some writers.

These pens must always be used with a cap, or they must be built with a sophisticated click system that keeps air away from the ink. If the ink is exposed to air for too long, it will dry up and stop the pen from writing altogether. 

Using a cap is frustrating for some people, and the sophisticated click mechanism used on some rollerball pens makes them much more expensive than more basic pens. Rollerballs are ideal for most people, but some people want something a little more rugged and sturdy, which leads them to lean toward the ballpoint pen.

With all of this in mind, let’s explore some of the more important features of the rollerball pen a little deeper to better compare it to the ballpoint pen.

Defining Characteristics

Rollerball pens are refined by their rolling ink transfer system that is similar to that of a ballpoint pen but can be made to a much smaller size due to the more fluid ink used in this pen type. 

Very small nib sizes characterize the rollerball pen, as well as very smooth writing ability, rich and deeply colored ink that is thick and goes down well on all types of paper, and the liquid ink itself is a major defining feature of this type of pen.

Rollerballs are very widely used because they are durable, versatile, consistent, quick-drying, and they often have very small nip sizes that are useful for many various writing styles.

Ink Types

Rollerball pens feature ink that is specially formulated to be an improvement on the ink used in ballpoint pens, which allows the rolling ball ink transfer mechanism to be made significantly smaller than those on ballpoint pens.

This ink is usually water-based ink with rich pigment suspended in it. This means that the ink is very fluid and flows very easily. The water-based nature of this ink means that it dries very quickly, which makes it ideal for writing quickly and for left-handed writers.

Rollerball pen ink is very deep and rich colored with plenty of pigment, allowing these pens to write smoothly and consistently, and allowing the ink to be seen clearly even when the tiniest nip sizes are used.

This ink is stable, reliable, and never really blotches or clogs unless the pen is not stored properly or if the ink is exposed to air for long periods of time.

Writing Ability

Rollerball pens are a joy to write with. These pens write smoothly consistently and are well suited for every handwriting type and overall writing style. 

This type of pen can be made into any body shape, which makes them highly comfortable to hold and use, and the sharp nibs that these pens are equipped with make them smooth to write with.

The liquid ink within rollerball pens transfers easily to paper, which means that these pens require very little pressure to write clearly. This reduces hand fatigue and allows the writer to write consistently for much longer periods without slowing down or experiencing any hand cramps or tiredness.

Ballpoint Vs. Rollerball: A Comparison

Now that we understand these pens on a deeper level let’s directly compare them to identify their strengths and weaknesses.

Ballpoint pens are cheap and simple to use. These pens can be exposed to air, do not require a cap, last for a very long time, and are readily available everywhere.

Expensive ballpoint pens are significantly better than cheap ballpoint pens, but the affordability of cheap ballpoints makes them worthwhile buying.

Ballpoints blot and clog easily because they use oil-based ink and are not always very reliable, but the high-end versions are very good pens and some of the best available.

Rollerball pens are defined by their tiny nib sizes and liquid, water-based ink. These pens write smoothly and consistently, the ink dries quickly, they require no pressure for writing, and they reduce hand fatigue.

This pen type is reliable, but it must be capped to prevent drying out, and they are more likely to smudge and run because the ink is liquid. Feathering and bleed-through also happen with these pens when used on lower-quality paper.

Overall, the ballpoint is more reliable and solid, but the rollerball is more pleasing and easier to write with and is better suited to more handwriting styles.

Is Ballpoint Or Rollerball Better For You?

Deciding which pen is best for between ballpoints and rollerball pens is simple. The pen that you use should be based on your handwriting. If your handwriting is smooth, flowing, and connected, then a high-quality ballpoint pen is better for you as there will be fewer inconsistencies.

If you write with separate letters, then a rollerball is better because the ink never stops flowing. However, if you have very small handwriting, a rollerball is better because of the smaller possible nib sizes.

Larger handwriting is better suited for ballpoint pens because they have larger nibs, but those that write with short, disconnected strokes have trouble with ink consistency when using ballpoint pens.

The best thing to do is to buy a version of each pen and try them out for yourself. Give each pen some real time, use them for a month, and then make your decisions rather than spending a day with each and deciding based solely on the writing of that day.


Ballpoints and rollerballs are the most commonly used pens in the world. Both pen types are useful and reliable, and they are very good to use for various purposes.

Which pen is best for you should be based on your handwriting style and your preferences. Pens are very personal things, and which type you prefer should be determined by experiencing the pen varieties out there.

Take the time to experiment and explore, try various types of both pens, and you will greatly enjoy the journey to finding your perfect pen!

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