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The Difference Between Ballpoint Pens and Rollerball Pens

  • September 23, 2020
  • Yugo

Ballpoint Pens and Rollerball Pens – What’s the Difference?

Ballpoint Pens and Rollerball Pens are two of the most common pen-types on the market. While they may look and function similarly, there is a noticeable difference. This blog post will outline ballpoint pens, rollerball pens, and the similarities and differences between the two.

Ballpoint Pen Ink

Leuchtturm1917 Drehgriffel Ballpoint Pen

Ballpoint pens use thick oil-based ink. This works well on low-quality papers with little to no bleedthrough. While they do require more pressure to write, ballpoint pens are considered easier to control. As a result, ballpoint pens dry quickly and are usually smudge resistant, and waterproof.

Rollerball Pen Ink

Lamy Swift Rollerball Pen

Rollerball pens use water-based ink, similar to that used in fountain pens. The ink flows much freely compared to ballpoint pens; therefore, they require less pressure to write. With water-based ink, the choice of paper is important as rollerball pens tend to bleed through low-quality papers. Rollerball pens have more feedback due to the thinness of the ink and offer a smooth writing experience.

Pen Bodies

Due to both pens using different styles of ink, their barrel styles must differ. As oil-based ink from ballpoint pens is less prone to drying, they do not require caps. As a result, ballpoint pens have a twist or click mechanisms to conceal and display the writing tip. Since rollerball pens use water-based ink, they require caps to enclose the tip. It’s important to remember to cap rollerball pens when not in use to ensure that the refill does not dry out. The presence of caps in rollerball pens may deter some pen users who prefer using capless pens for convenience; however, some rollerball pens such as the Lamy Swift are capless, allowing for convenient use of rollerball pens.

Writing Styles

The fluidity of ink for rollerball pens translates to having a finer, darker, writing line, which is helpful for people with smaller handwriting or detailed drawers. On the contrary, ballpoint pens have more controlled writing, which is suitable for documents and forms. While rollerball pens may cause slight bleeding onto the back of the paper, this is mostly attributed to paper-quality and pressure.

When Each Pen is Used

The oil-based ink in ballpoint pens is best equipped to slick surface writing that would usually smudge water-based inks. Because of their reliability, ballpoint pens are great for everyday use. Rollerball pens are great for notetaking; furthermore, they are fantastic for those who suffer from hand cramps. The smooth free-flowing water-based ink writes lightly and seamlessly, which lessens the load on your hands.

Ballpoint Pen Pros

  • The pen is suitable for everyday use
  • Ballpoint Ink does not bleed
  • Ink dries quickly

Rollerball Pen Pros

  • Less pressure needs to be used when writing
  • Smoother writing
  • Writes more vivid lines

Ballpoint Pen Cons

  • Ink is thicker and can be stickier
  • Ballpoint pens can be messier
  • Not designed for writing for a long time

Rollerball Pen Cons

  • Ink can bleed through paper
  • Ink refills do not last very long
  • When left uncapped, the pen can leak

Ballpoint Pen Recommendation: Leuchtturm1917 Drehgriffel

The Leuchtturm1917 Drehgriffel is one of my favorite ballpoint pens out there. Retailing at less than $30 CAD, it checks all of the boxes you want for an everyday ballpoint pen. The wide variety of vibrant colors makes the pen visually appealing, and it functions as a classic, quality ballpoint pen without you needing to break the bank. Drehgriffel refills are also universal, and you can buy refills from different brands, such as Parker to put into the pen.

Rollerball Pen Recommendation: Lamy Swift

The Lamy Swift is my favorite rollerball pen out there. Everything about this pen makes sense. It has a push-top mechanism, which does a great job capping the writing tip, and is user-friendly without the need for a cap. The writing is extremely smooth, and the pen rests really nicely in your hand; furthermore, the Swift’s push mechanism stops the pen from drying up easily, which is an important aspect for capless rollerball pens. Lamy does a fantastic job with the Swift, retailing at a little less than $80 CAD. While rollerball pens are more expensive than ballpoint pens, Lamy creates an affordable option with a seamless pen.


In this blog post, you learned about ballpoint pen and rollerball pen differences and similarities, pros and cons, and some pens that we recommend. Now you are all set to know which style of pen is for you! As always, shop a wide variety of ballpoint pens and rollerball pens online or in-store at Buchan’s Kerrisdale Stationery in Vancouver, Canada.

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