Rollerball vs Ballpoint Pens: A Guide

Rollerball vs Ballpoint Pens - Main Image

What’s the difference between rollerball vs ballpoint pens? Is there really such a difference that you might want to stick with one over the other, or are they virtually interchangeable?

Some people will simply grab a pen from a free pile or go for an expensive elite pen as a status symbol. But for writers, you probably care deeply about your writing utensils, right?

If you’re anything like me, when your parents said you could go buy something as a child, you skipped the rows of toys and went for a pile of new pencils, erasers or some kind of writing utensil.

When you’re putting pen to paper, it needs to feel right. But we all have different preferences. Let’s compare these different types of pens, so you can decide which one might give you a better writing experience.

What Is a Rollerball Pen?

Many people consider rollerball pens higher quality than ballpoint pens because of their water or gel-based ink, which is similar to fountain pens without the price tag. Of course, whether rollerball pens are better than ballpoint pens is a matter of opinion. The ink of a rollerball takes longer to dry on the page, yet it can dry up quickly in the cartridge. You might find it too much for thin paper, while it adds richness to cards and thick paper.

How Does a Rollerball Pen Work?

The rollerball pen may seem similar to a fountain pen, but its inner workings are closer to that of the ballpoint pen. Each rollerball pen has an ink reservoir to hold precious ink. In the end, it has a ball in a socket. As you hold the pen upright and write, the ink moves down onto the ball, which rolls over the paper while releasing ink along the way.

When and Where Was the Rollerball Pen Invented?

The rollerball pen includes only slight alterations to the invention of the ballpoint pen. The rollerball features the same ball and socket design as the ballpoint, which was first designed by John J. Loud in 1888, and then Laszlo Biro patented a modern version in 1938.

The rollerball pen’s development is credited to Ohto, a Japanese company that manufactures writing utensils. Ohto founder Nakata Touzaburo first developed a Japanese version of the ballpoint pen in 1949 after the American Army brought ballpoint pens to the country after World War II. Then, the company created the rollerball pen, which it introduced in 1964, to provide a smoother writing experience more similar to a fountain pen.

What Is a Ballpoint Pen?

Ballpoint pens are common, standard pens that are often inexpensive. Many of the pens that are given away as promotional items are ballpoint pens. These pens use an oil-based ink that tends to dry quickly after you write, yet it doesn’t dry up quickly in the ink cartridge of the pen.

How Does a Ballpoint Pen Work?

Have you ever been curious about the mechanism of a ballpoint pen? It uses the same actions as a rollerball pen (or, more accurately, the rollerball uses the same mechanisms as a ballpoint pen, which was around first).

The ballpoint pen features the same ball in a socket at the end, which gets covered in ink coming down the ink reservoir as you hold the pen up. As the ball rolls, the ink slides onto the paper.

When Was the Ballpoint Pen Invented?

John J. Loud came up with the first design for a ballpoint pen with a ball in a socket, which he patented in 1888. He only intended the pen to write on rough surfaces, but it was not useful for writing letters. It didn’t become commercialised, and the patent lapsed.

Later, a man named Laszlo Biro invented the modern ballpoint pen in the 1930s. This Jewish-Hungarian journalist and artist was inspired by the method of the printing press, which had ink that dried faster than a fountain pen. He patented his design with the ball tip and a faster-drying ink in 1938.

What are the Differences Between Rollerball vs Ballpoint Pens?

While they have similar mechanisms, the different ink creates notable differences between these pens. Rollerballs provide a smoother writing experience that requires you to use less pressure compared to a ballpoint. However, a rollerball has the tendency to bleed through paper, unlike a ballpoint.

It’s easy for a rollerball’s ink to smudge, while ballpoint ink dries almost instantly. A rollerball’s ink can dry up in the pen. While this doesn’t happen as easily with a ballpoint pen, the oil-based ink can get sticky and thick, which can lead to ink blobs or trouble getting the ink to start writing again. On this point, they both have their challenges.

Rollerball vs Ballpoint Pen for Lefties

The topic of rollerball vs ballpoint pen for lefties is important for many of you. The hand you write with can impact which pen is best. When you write with your left hand, your hand slides over the words you just wrote as you move from left to right on the page.

This process can be problematic with rollerball pens because the ink takes longer to dry and is highly likely to smear as you write. Because of this, ballpoints are generally the better choice for lefties (unless you’re someone who writes with your fingers lifted so they don’t touch the page as you write).

The Best Rollerball Pens

I chose these rollerball pens based on smoothness, colour and tip size variety, and affordability. These are some of the best rollerball pens at an affordable price point.

Uni-ball Vision Elite Rollerball Pen

uni-ball Vision Elite Rollerball Pens, Bold Point (0.8mm), Black

The Uni-ball Vision Elite Rollerball is a great pen to have in your arsenal. It’s a best-selling pen, so you know it’s popular with others. You’ll probably like it because of its smoothness when writing and because it is long-lasting. Also, it’s ideal for signing important documents and checks because of its fraud-resistant design.

I like that this pen comes in various styles, so everyone can find their preference. You can choose between 0.8mm and 0.5mm tips based on whether you prefer smoother or more controlled writing. Also, you get a choice of colours, including black, red, blue, purple or an assortment.

The Vision Elite has a fancy look that could fit the business world and a sturdy feel to it, as it’s a fairly large pen. Based on your own writing preferences, you’ll need to decide whether you mind its heaviness and that it doesn’t have a finger grip.

Pilot Precise V5

PILOT Precise V5 Stick Liquid Ink Rolling Ball Stick Pens, Extra Fine Point, Black Ink, 12 Count (35334)

The Pilot Precise V5 gives great value, with an affordable price for a box of disposable pens. It comes in a wide variety of colours, so you can pick how simple or full-of-flair you want your writing to be.

The V5 has an extra-fine tip that gives you endless control of your writing, plus you get a smooth writing experience from the rollerball style. But you could choose a different Precise version with a slightly larger tip instead if that’s what you’d prefer.

A nice feature is that the company gives you the option of a capped or retractable top to fit your preference. If you’re the type who loses your cap all the time, you may prefer the retractable option.

Tips for Buying a Rollerball Pen

When choosing a rollerball pen, consider the tip size and the feel of the pen itself for an idea of how your writing experience will be. This type of pen often comes with ink in a variety of colours, so you may want to pick standard blue or black for certain items or bright hues to have a little fun.

When deciding which pen to buy, you may be looking for a lower price and simplicity, or you might prefer a pen with a fancy or executive look or feel. Some types even offer a compromise in price and style. Also, consider the pen design to see if it contains the ink in a way that keeps it from drying for as long as possible.

Depending on how you’ll be using the pen, consider your specialised needs. For instance, some rollerball pens are fraud-resistant for signing legal and financial items, and some have airplane-safe ink that doesn’t leak with pressure changes.

In summary:

  • Consider how the tip size and feel of the pen will impact your writing experience.
  • Choose from ink colours to fit in different situations.
  • Decide whether you care more about good value for money or a fancy/executive style.
  • See if the pen design contains the ink to keep it from drying up.
  • Determine whether you have special requirements such as fraud-resistance, airplane-safe ink, or other features.

The Best Ballpoint Pens

These ballpoint pens made the cut based on look and feel, writing experience and price. These are some of the best ballpoint pens at an affordable price. 

Parker Jotter Ballpoint Pen

Parker Jotter Kensington Red CT Ballpoint Pen, Blister pack

The Parker Jotter has a great balance of different factors, which makes it a great pen overall. It gives you a medium size and weight that feel nice to hold and write with, and you get good value for money with an affordable price for a luxury design.

This stainless steel pen offers a sleek, professional look, and you get to choose the colour of the bottom half from blue, red, black, purple and other options. This is the type you refill with ink cartridges, which adds the benefit that you can choose the tip size and ink colour of your preference.

You click this pen to open or close the tip, and you’ll find that you can write easily without the ink drying quickly. It offers a smooth writing experience with ink that comes out dark on the page, and provides a lot of writing control.

Schneider Slider Memo XB Medium

Schneider Slider Memo XB Ballpoint Pen, Blue, Box of 10 Pens (150203)

The Schneider Slider Memo XB is a nice option for disposable ballpoint pens. This is the type that involves paying a reasonable amount for a whole box of pens.

This pen’s gliding smoothness stands out as you write, and you won’t have to hold it with much pressure. It gives you waterproof, quick-drying ink, so you can move along on the page without worrying about smudging.

Based on your preferences, it’s worth considering that this pen has a fairly large design and writes a thick line of ink. The company considers the design ergonomic, so you may find it comfortable in your hand during long writing sessions.

Tips for Buying a Ballpoint Pen

I can’t definitively decide on the best ballpoint pen in the world because I know everyone has individual preferences. That’s why it’s better for you to see the options and choose your own ballpoint pen.

With a ballpoint pen, you can choose between differing tip sizes and a few colour choices. Consider whether you’d rather have a disposable type or the type that you refill with ink cartridges.

Do you prefer a heavy or light feel, or something in between? Also, consider whether you care about the outer look of the pen or whether you are indifferent about the design.

In summary:

  • Decide on your favourite tip size.
  • Choose from different ink colours to fit your style of writing.
  • Consider whether your preference is disposable pens or refillable pens.
  • Determine whether the size, weight, and style of the pen matter to you.

Final Thoughts on Rollerball vs Ballpoint Pens

Hopefully, you now have a better idea of whether you would prefer rollerball vs ballpoint pens, with some ideas on pens you might like in each category. Overall, buying a pen is a personal choice based on smoothness, writing control, the feel of the pen and other factors.

That said, these different types of pens are not the only types in existence. Sure, one of these might work for you, but it’s possible that none of these choices would be your ultimate favourite. Feel free to consider all the best pens for writing before deciding on rollerball, ballpoint or something else.

When comparing pens, you may even decide you like one type of pen for writing in your journal, another type for signing contracts and so on. There’s no right or wrong way. It’s all about what works for you.

Do you prefer ballpoint or rollerball pens? What’s your favourite pen? Let me know in the comments.

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