Rollerball vs Ballpoint Pens for Your Planner

Here at TechStarZone we are obsessed with helping you find the best pens to make your more productive with your planner and bullet journal.

Today I want to switch gears a little bit and talk about the fundamental difference of two pen types: rollerball vs ballpoint.

rollerball vs ballpoint pens

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Rollerball vs Ballpoint Pens: What’s the Difference?

Before we talk about the difference between rollerball and ballpoint pens, let’s talk about how they are the same.

Each of these pen types have the same fundamental parts.  A pen is not much more than an outer casing, a piece of plastic that holds some ink, and a metal tip that contains a rolling ball, and allows ink to flow.

Think of this metal tip as a ball and socket joint – it is ball mostly surrounded by metal, and as it rolls, it pulls the ink down with the help of gravity, and leaves it behind on your paper.

Now let’s talk about rollerball vs ballpoint pens.  The main difference is the ink inside.

What kind of ink do Rollerball Pens use?

Rollerball pens contain a very thin and watery ink, or gel ink.  These inks can be prone to running and smudging.

What kind of ink do Ballpoint Pens Use?

Ballpoint pens contain a much thicker ink that is oil based ink that doesn’t budge after it is down on paper.

Rollerball and ballpoint pens work fundamentally the same way, but use different ink types.  The good news is that no matter which type of pen you choose, all of these ink types come in many different colors.

What is a Rollerball Pen?

First, let’s talk more about rollerball pens.  Remember, these are the pens with the water based or gel based ink.

Rollerball pens do have some drawbacks.  First of all, they can be prone to bleeding through pages, especially if you write too slowly, or write very hard.  They can also smudge easy, since they do require time to drive.

These are the two things people often site as very negative for rollerball pens, and why some rollerball pens, which can also be called simply gel pens, often get a bad name.

The good news is there are new technologies out there to combat these issues.  Be sure to check out our guide to pens for thin paper, which cover some of these types of rollerball pens. 

The truth is the rollerball pen is all about the ink inside it.  Many vendors have developed fast drying ink to reduce smudging. These pens also often have a window on the side of them to show you how much ink is left, because the ink is so thin, and if it is gel or water based, it does run out faster than a ballpoint pen.

Another benefit to rollerball water based or gel ink is that because it is so much thinner than the ink in a ballpoint pen, it can be quicker and easier to write with.

What about Gel vs Rollerball pen?

A rollerball pen is a type of gel pen.  Confused yet?  I hope not!

The two pens work pretty much the same way, it you really are getting into the nitty gritty of things when talking about rollerball vs gel pens.

A rollerball pen is a type of gel pen, but the term gel pen can also be talking about a slightly different type of ink.  Often a true gel pen has a thicker ink than a rollerball pen.

What is a Ballpoint Pen?

Ballpoint Pens are the classic pens we all think of.  I’m going to show you the most classic example right here:

The Classic BIC Pen

This classic BIC pen is the one that started it all, we have all seen them used pretty much anywhere.

There really are not any draw backs to the classic ballpoint pen, other than the fact it cannot write upside down, or without gravity.  

You may be laughing to yourself, but this became a real problem when astronauts began to leave the earth!  Be sure to check out our guide to pens that write upside down, which feature the famous space pen.

One of the main benefits of the oil based ink it uses is that it will not smear or run if it gets wet, like a water based or gel ink of a rollerball pen.

Ballpoint Pens and Rollerball Pens Compared

Remember, ballpoint pens and rollerball pens operate fundamentally the same way.  They have some sort of casing, something that holds their ink, and a metal tip that is a ball mostly encased in metal that can roll easily.

The difference comes in the ink inside the pen.

Ballpoint pens use an oil based ink, while rollerball pens use waterbased or gel ink.

Each pen has their benefits and drawbacks.

When trying to chose the pen that is best for you, it really comes down to what you are using it for.  

Here are a couple things to think about:

  • What kind of paper are you writing on?
  • How fast do you need to write?
  • What kind of writer are you?  Do you press hard with the pen?

Finally, the most important think when comparing rollerball vs ballpoint pens is do you like writing with the pen!  At the end of the day, the best pen for you is the one you enjoy writing with the most.

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