Ballpoint vs Rollerball Pens

ballpoint rollerball

Unlike fountain pens, which have very distinct characteristics, it can sometimes be difficult to tell whether you would prefer a ballpoint or rollerball pen without being able to test it out for yourself. Both have a ball-bearing tip that rolls the ink onto the paper during the writing process, but the feel of each type can be very different.

Here are some quick points on the main differences between ballpoint pens and rollerball pens, and how you can decide which you would prefer.


Ballpoint Pens (oil-based ink)


  • Ink dries fast (almost instantly), therefore can use click or twist mechanisms to reveal the tip
  • Doesn't smudge or bleed
  • Ink typically lasts longer
  • Less expensive
  • More suitable for official documents


  • Needs more pressure to write, meaning hand fatigue and slower writing
  • Ink is less smooth


Rollerball Pens (water-based ink)


  • Consistent, smooth ink flow
  • Creates a bold, dark line
  • Less pressure needed to write, less hand fatigue and faster writing
  • Wider range of colour options and finer tip points available


  • Ink takes a bit of time to dry, therefore the pen must have a cap to keep the tip from drying out
  • Can smudge or bleed through paper
  • Can be a bit more expensive


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