Rollerball Pens vs Ballpoint Pens

Rollerball Pens vs Ballpoint Pens

Which is better?

Our choice of pens on a day to day basis tends to be one of convenience as much as it is about personal preference. In fact, for many people, very little thought goes into the writing instruments we own. This is not a problem in and of itself but just recently I grabbed a pen to use – one from the back of the desk – and instantly realised that everything about this particular pen was wrong for me and my handwriting was almost illegible by using it. Yet, another pen produces handwriting that any school teacher would praise.

This got me thinking about everyday pens. Now, some of us will have an everyday fountain pen which we love and will happily use for even the most casual scribings. But, most of us will reach for a rollerball or ballpoint pen for our everyday correspondence. Below, we look at the differences between these two pen types and which is the better pen …spoiler alert…the answer is both, depending on the circumstance!

Ballpoint Pens

In short, the earliest example of a ballpoint pen was patented in 1888 by John Loud and they were a revelation because, unlike fountain pens, they could write on coarse  surfaces such as leather or wood. They did not however reach the mainstream as the thing that made them so unique also made them unsuitable for letter writing because of their roughness. 50 years later, a Hungarian newspaper editor, László Bíró, worked with his brother György, a chemist, to solve the issues of the ballpoint by developing a new viscous ink for the ball point pens which would make them more suited to letter writing (their primary use) and filed a patent in 1938. The rest, as they say, is history.

A ballpoint is a pen which dispenses its ink over a metal ball at its tip – the name gives it away really. Ballpoint pens are incredibly popular and are seen the world over en masse. Ballpoint pens can be found in both disposable and refillable modes and at a variety of price points.

Rollerball Pens:

Significantly younger, Rollerball pens are generally agreed to have been brought to public attention in 1963 by the Japanese company, Ohto. Rollerball pens tend to use liquid ink or, more recognisably, gel ink as opposed to the viscous inks found in ballpoint pens. This allows for a smoother writing experience in theory. Rollerball pens are more closely related to fountain pens than ballpoints in that the ink in a rollerball mimics the supply system of a fountain pen with the ease of use of a ballpoint,

Rollerball pens produce a strong line due to the ink types in use and the advent of gel inks has allowed for an almost endless range of colours and styles due to the wide variety of water-soluble dyes and capacity for heavier pigments that it allows…hence why we find glitter gel rollerball pens!

What is the Difference Between Ballpoint Pens & Rollerball Pens?

Ultimately, both pens feature a very similar ink delivery system but the pens themselves are very different to use. This is mostly down to the ink. Rollerball pens use more of a liquid or gel ink which is more runny than the paste-like ink of a ballpoint pen. Ballpoint pens’ ink is more viscous than rollerball ink and as such utilises alcohol solvent for delivery. This solvent also means that the ink dries almost instantaneously when applied to paper. Rollerball ink takes a little while longer to dry because it is water-based.

Ballpoint pens can feel a little more scratchy because of the slower delivery of ink whereas rollerballs produce more ink with each stroke than the ballpoint – meaning they often run out of ink more quickly than ballpoint pens.

Rollerball ink, being water-based, can be leaky if left uncapped and even dry out. Ballpoints on the other hand rarely have this issue as the ink is thicker so it can’t pass the ball in the nib easily.

Rollerball pens are notorious among left-handed pen users because the liquidity of the ink can mean it is prone to smudge. For this reason, ballpoints tend to be a better option for left-handed writing because it dries so quickly on paper.

There are instances where the different pens are more suited, for example; a ballpoint pen is more suitable for official forms because they don’t tend to bleed through paper and they dry quickly, rollerball pens are well suited to letter writing, scrapbooking, invitations and similar ‘formal’ or creative writing forms because they produce thicker and more vivid lines which ‘pop’. Ballpoint pens are suited to those who enjoy a scratchier hand-feel whereas rollerball pens have a smoother glide which can be favourable to those who experience hand cramps as they require less pressure.

Now that we know a little more about both Rollerball pens and Ballpoint Pens, Let’s take a look at some of the most popular pens across these ranges.

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