Do Ballpoints Smear And Smudge? 

Smeared or smudged pen ink can turn a neat, professional-looking piece of writing into an untidy, illegible mess. Ballpoint pens are popular since they are affordable and easy to write with. But will these pens leave you with a blotchy, ink-stained piece of paper when you’re writing? 

Ballpoint pens do not smear or smudge. Ballpoint pens use oil-based ink with a higher viscosity that prevents it from flowing out of the pen too quickly. Oil-based inks are quick-drying and won’t leave blotchy smears or feathering on the paper when you write. 

No one likes to see their hard work turn into something that looks like an abstract art project due to smudged ink all over the paper. Let’s see whether ballpoint pens can be trusted for keeping your paper clean and smudge-free. 

Do Ballpoint Pens Smear And Smudge?

It’s quite obvious that ink smudges because it’s wet, and therefore, an ink that dries quickly won’t smudge as easily as ink that takes some time to dry on the paper. 

Ballpoint pens use quick-drying ink that is oil-based or alcohol-based. These inks have a thicker consistency and dry much quicker than the water-based inks used in rollerball, gel, and fountain pens. 

The higher viscosity of oil-based inks prevents it from flowing out of the pen too quickly. Since less ink is deposited on the paper, it dries quickly and reduces the chances of having feathering or blotchy smears of ink when you write. 

What Factors Can Cause A Ballpoint Pen To Smear or Smudge? 

Most ballpoint pens won’t let you down when it comes to having neat, clean paper. When you’re all of a sudden seeing smudges of ink on your piece of writing, it’s easy to blame it on the pen. But it’s not always the pen – other factors can cause smearing or smudging of ink as well. 

1.   The Hand You Use To Write With

If you’re left-handed, then the chances of having smeared ink are unfortunately always there, even when using a ballpoint pen. Despite the ink being quick-drying, the sweeping action of your hand over the ink immediately after writing may cause it to smudge or smear slightly. 

If you’re a” lefty,” something else to consider is that your writing speed will also play a role. Naturally, the faster you write, the less time the ink will have to quick-dry and the higher the chances of smearing.   

However, the good news is that a ballpoint pen is the best type of pen for left-handed writers. Although smudging or smearing may still occur sometimes due to other factors, the chances are much slimmer with a ballpoint pen than with other types of pens. 

2.   The Pressure You Use When You Write

Another point to consider if the ink is smudging or smearing is how hard you press down when you write. If you use more pressure, you’re making thicker lines and laying down more ink on the paper, increasing the chances for smearing or smudging to occur. 

Lighter pressure creates lighter, thinner lines and deposits less ink on the paper, lowering the risk of smearing or smudging. 

Keep in mind that ballpoint pens require you to use more pressure when writing due to the higher viscosity of the ink. Although the ink won’t leave smudges marks and smears, your hand may get fatigued from writing quicker than gel pens or rollerball pens, where less pressure is required to release the ink onto the paper. 

3.   The Type Of Paper You Use

I think we’ve all written a birthday card or a label that ended up having the ink that was a bit smeared or smudged. Thinner paper and glossy paper are prone to smudging, as it does not absorb ink as quickly as other types of paper. Gel pens are the worst in this case, but ballpoint pens may also fall short if the paper type isn’t ideal.   

On the other hand, if you’re using a thicker, more porous type of paper, the chances of having smeared ink with a ballpoint pen are slim to none. 

4.   Humidity And Temperature

If your trusty ballpoint pen is acting up all of a sudden, it may be due to the climate. Believe it or not, high humidity can play a role if your ballpoint pen starts smudging the ink.

The moist air causes the ink to dry slower and can make even quick-drying ink vulnerable to smearing or smudging. The best way to prevent smudged ink is to ensure that the room has good airflow by allowing a breeze in or using a fan. 

High temperatures can also cause problems that may lead to smudging and smearing. When the ink inside the pen heats up, it flows out of its tip quicker and takes longer to dry. This may cause the pen to leave blotches and smears while writing.  

5.   The Quality Of The Ballpoint Pen

Not all brands of ballpoint pens are guaranteed to give you a smudge-free writing experience. It is safe to assume that a high-quality ballpoint pen will have better ink and a better tip that deposits ink evenly. These pens will have less chance of ever causing smearing or smudging. 

On the other hand, a pen of lower quality may have cheaper ink that sits thicker on the paper and a cheaper tip that doesn’t glide as smoothly as a high-quality tip, leaving more deposits of ink that may smear.   

What To Do If Your Ballpoint Pen Smudges Or Smears

If you’re getting frustrated with a pen that’s leaving you with ink smears on your hands or the paper, then consider the following factors before getting rid of the pen. 

1.   Check The Expiry Or Manufacture Date

If your ballpoint pen is giving you problems, you should check the expiry date printed on the pen. Although pens can’t technically “expire,” the ink inside the pen can dry out over time. It’s best to use a ballpoint pen within two years from the manufacture date so that you don’t end up with dried-out, clumpy ink. 

2.   Make Sure The Tip Of The Pen Is Clean 

Sometimes a little piece of fluff or a piece of hardened ink may get stuck on the tip of the pen and cause little smears and smudges as it drags along the paper when you write. To avoid this, always check that the pen’s tip is clean and make sure that you replace the cap or retract the pen when you’re finished using it. 

3.   Keep The Pen Stored In A Cool Place

As mentioned above, heat can cause the ink to leak out of the pen tip too quickly. Make sure your ballpoint pens are kept in a cool place so that the ink’s viscosity doesn’t get affected by the heat, and wait until the ink cools down before you use the pen. 


Ballpoint pens are a staple in most homes and offices because of their affordability and reliability. These pens very seldom smudge or smear and are the best type of pen to use if you want clean, neat writing pieces.

However, if you find yourself in a messy situation with smudged, blotchy ink, remember to consider the factors mentioned above before throwing your pen in the bin. Most of the time, it’s a quick fix, and your trusty ballpoint pen can be smudge-free again in no time! 

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