Rollerball vs. Ballpoint Pens: A comparison

The writing mechanisms of ballpoint pens are similar to rollerball pens but there are several differences. While a ballpoint pen uses a thick oil-based ink, the rollerball pen uses liquid ink.  This key difference makes the rollerball feel smother and more liquid, giving it a more fluid action which is comparable to a fountain pen. This fluidity also translates to a rollerball pen generally having a finer writing line. On the other hand, a ballpoint pen does have a more controlled action and lasts longer.  A rollerball pen may cause slight to negligible bleeding onto the back of the paper depending on the quality of the paper and the pressure at which one writes.

We’ve provided scans exemplifying the stroke of each type of pen as well as the bleed onto the back of the paper. The paper which we’ve used is standard 80GSM computer printer paper.


rollerball-vs-ballpoint-frontPicture 1: Note that the rollerball pen writes a darker, finer line.


Rollerball vs Ballpoint back bleedPicture 2: Note that the roller pen causes negligible bleed onto the back of the paper while the ballpoint pen causes no bleed. (Click to enlarge)


It’s also worth noting that most rollerball pens need a cap to prevent the ink from drying out and that it’s very important to remember to cap your rollerball pen when it’s not in use.  Ballpoint pens retract with a twist or a push which makes the cap unnecessary.

To summarise: the advantages of a rollerball pen

  • Less pressure needs to be applied when writing.
  • Smoother writing
  • Writes finer lines

Our customers' favourite rollerball pens:



 Parker IM Gun Metal Chrome Trim Rollerball Pen - £13.99



Cross Century II Medalist Rollerball Pen - £58.00

1904600_hmsphr_imgps_20 copy

Waterman Hemisphere Blue Obsession Rollerball Pen - £41.50

14 thoughts on “Rollerball vs. Ballpoint Pens: A comparison”

  • Kevin B
    Written by Kevin B on November 27, 2014


    Are rollerball pens the same as gel pens?

    • Paul Tomlinson

      Hi Kevin - they're very similar. A rollerball pen is filled with liquid ink whereas gel ink is more viscous. There's very little difference in the feel though and the two systems are mechanically identical, so practically speaking they're more or less the same.

  • Elmo
    Written by Elmo on November 11, 2014

    Hi, evry time i used to check weblog posts herre in thee
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  • Juan Carlos Calderon
    Written by Juan Carlos Calderon on November 6, 2014

    According to your experience, which model result better to use. ? Roller ball or Ball point pen?

    • Paul Tomlinson

      Hi Juan, it's purely down to personal preferance. We'd probably recommend trying a friend's pen and seeing what you prefer.

  • Lola
    Written by Lola on November 4, 2014

    is a ballpoint pen the same thing as a 'Biro' as called in Nigeria?

    • Paul Tomlinson

      Hi Lola, a Biro is a form of ballpoint pen, with a metal ball writing tip and filled with oil-based ink - so yes, they function in the same way. Hope that answers your question!

  • Lee
    Written by Lee on November 3, 2014

    In that case can I assume that a rollerball does not suit a left hander since it is easier to smudge?

    • Paul Tomlinson

      Possibly - however some left-handers have trained themselves to avoid smudging by writing above or below the line, so it really depends on the user. Many left-handed people will be fine with a rollerball.

  • Jack
    Written by Jack on October 27, 2014

    So is the rollerball pen more liquidy and easier to smudge with?

    • Paul Tomlinson

      Hi Jack, yes rollerballs contain liquid ink so they do smudge more easily, but they also produce a darker line and glide more easily across the page.

  • ray sia
    Written by ray sia on October 19, 2014

    That is not what i want!!!

    • Paul Tomlinson

      Sorry to hear that, do you mean the article doesn't contain the advice you were looking for? If so please let us know and we'll see if we can update it when we have time

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