Why Ballpoint Ink Fades And How To Prevent It

Ballpoint pens are the most popular in the world, bar none – they’re cheap, reliable, and perform well for writing and drawing. But with billions of people using these pens daily, that begs the question: Does ballpoint ink fade?

Ballpoint ink fades over time, but it can last for decades if stored under the right conditions. Several factors cause ballpoint ink to disappear, including time, ultraviolet (UV) light exposure, pen quality, and contact with water.

Even though ballpoint ink fades, it doesn’t do so immediately. People have journals and artwork done in ballpoint ink from decades ago – and they look almost as good as work made yesterday. In this article, we’ll explain what you must know about ballpoint ink

Why Ballpoint Ink Fades

Although the exact recipe for each pen will vary, manufacturers make ballpoint ink from dyes and pigments dissolved in an oil solvent with a few added chemical compounds. While this liquid dries quickly and is easy for the paper to absorb, it is vulnerable to UV light.

UV light oxidizes ink, destroying its compounds and fading it. Because sunlight contains UV light, that means that leaving ballpoint ink writing or drawing outside will have it disappear at a faster rate. Likewise, artificial UV light also damages the pigments and dyes.

Not only that, but ballpoint ink fades naturally over time. The chemicals lose their strength, resulting in their color fading and the dye detaching from the paper. When that occurs, the ink fades.

Water also causes the ink to fade. Even though most ballpoint ink is oil-based, not water-based, getting the ink wet can still dissolve it. That’s why it’s so challenging to write on wet paper with a ballpoint pen.

Because of that, humidity can cause ballpoint ink to fade faster. The air’s water vapor reacts with the ink’s chemicals, dissolving them and reducing their strength.

Furthermore, not all ink is equal. While all ballpoint ink will fade eventually, low-quality pens tend to have faster-fading ink. Because of that, though, even high-quality pens can have fading ink.

Likewise, the quality of the paper you write on impacts fading too. The low-quality paper contains bleach and other chemicals which can react negatively with ink. Similarly, cheap pages can oxidize, disappearing the ink.

How To Prevent Ballpoint Ink Fading

Store Your Art And Writing Correctly

UV light is the primary cause of disappearing ink. Because that’s the case, do not leave your work in direct sunlight – or near an artificial UV light source. Instead, keep ballpoint drawings and writing away from natural light.

If you’re writing in a journal or other book, then doing so is as simple as keeping the cover shut when you’re not using the book.

For art, it can get a little more complex. Consider keeping ballpoint art outside of rooms that get a lot of direct sunlight or hanging them in the darker areas of your home.

Another idea would be to frame them. Not only do frame drawings look nice, but the glass in front of the paper reflects UV light. That way, you can keep the drawings in sunnier areas, but you don’t have to worry as much about them fading.

For long-term storage, there are a few other issues to consider. The first is humidity. It’s unwise to keep any paper for an extended period in a humid area – and this is especially true for ballpoint ink. Water exposure can fade or smear ballpoint ink.

Instead, keep your drawing and writing in dry space. Keeping ballpoint work in an opaque, watertight container is an excellent idea.

If you store ballpoint media correctly, it can last for decades. That means that it is worthwhile keeping a diary with a ballpoint pen since it will stay into your old age or be an excellent gift for future generations.

Check That Your Pen Is Working Right

Often, fading ink isn’t a failing of the ink itself but, instead, it’s a problem with your pen. Although these issues are more likely to affect the low-quality designs of cheap ballpoints, all ballpoints can suffer from these issues.

First, the ball might be stuck because ballpoint tips have a tight seal and thick ink. The balls in their nibs can get stuck. If that happens, the ink won’t flow out properly and look faded.

To fix a stuck ball, tap it against a hard surface. Doing so shakes up the ink and, so, loosens the ball. Similarly, you can draw circles on glass or plastic to get the ink flowing.

If that doesn’t work, try sucking on the tip of the pen. Don’t worry – modern ballpoint ink is non-toxic. Sucking on the ballpoint tip like a straw removes any air pockets that build up in the ink cartridge and prevent it from flowing right.

Furthermore, you can heat the tip of the pen slightly. Since a ballpoint’s tip is metal, it won’t melt if you hold it over a fire or in boiling water for a few seconds.

Last, your pen can also put out fading ink if its cartridge isn’t appropriately attached. Open the ballpoint, take out the cartridge, and reinsert it until it’s firmly connected.

If you check the cartridge and see you’re running low on ink, replace it. An almost empty cartridge won’t put out a good flow of ink, so what you will get is faded. In that case, it’s better to get a new cartridge or pen.

Use High-Quality Pens And Paper

Of course, while virtually no ballpoints are lightfast or archival, there are still pens out there with ink that fades less. These pens have long-lasting ink that can endure for a while, even in direct natural light.

We recommend you use Uni-Ball Jetstream ballpoint pens. Their rapid-drying ink and ambidextrous design make them a good choice for left-handed people, as well as righties. This pen is comfortable for everyone to hold.

Not only that, but Jetstreams also have water and fade-resistant low-viscosity ink that comes in blue, red, or black. They’re perfect for writing paperwork or your journal.

Jetstreams also come in several tip sizes – from 0.28 mm to 1 mm, so they’re excellent for drawing too.

Remember to use good paper as well. As well as resulting in better quality drawings, the proper pages will prevent fading too. Likewise, if you’re writing, do so in a good journal if you want it to last a long time. Avoid cheap workbooks.


While ballpoint ink fades, it takes a while. If you store your work correctly, it can last safely for decades. Not only that, but it is simple to fix a fading pen too.

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