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. 

Rollerball Pens at The Hamilton Pen Company

Pilot G-TEC-C4 Rollerball Pen 



Featuring a tip of unprecedented precision, Pilot's G-TEC-C4 allows you to draw an incredibly thin 0.2mm line from its 0.4mm rollerball, making it perfect for those who need to write lots in small spaces. The smooth gel ink gives vivid and dense colour, and is available in 10 different colours, so whether you are drawing for an art project or making notes on a ledger sheet there is always a G-TEC-C4 for you! To make things even better the G-TEC-C4 is refillable, saving you money and reducing waste.

Available in colours Black, Blue, Brown, Green, Light Blue, Orange, Pink, Red, Violet and Yellow.


Kaweco Classic Sport Rollerball Pen 

The Kaweco Sport range is one of those products that is so great, it has barely changed since it was first introduced in 1935! The octagonal design has certainly stood the test of time and the Kaweco Sport now has a worldwide cult following.
The Classic Sport Rollerball Pen from Kaweco is manufactured from tough ABS/macrolon plastic and is a respectable 133mm long with the cap posted, but just 105mm long when closed making it the ideal choice for either pocket or handbag. Refillable and supplied with 1 black Kaweco G2 ceramic gel rollerball refill.
This rollerball pen is available in colours Black, Bordeaux, Green, Red, Transparent and White.

Faber-Castell Ondoro Rollerball Pen - Smoked Oak

The Faber-Castell Ondoro rollerball pen in Smoked Oak has an elegant hexagonal barrel complemented by highly polished chrome appointments. The warmth and softness of real wood make this pen extremely comfortable to hold and write with.

The Ondoro rollerball pen has a removable cap, comes with a black ceramic tipped refill, a spring loaded metal pocket clip and is presented in a Faber-Castell gift box.


Sakura Gelly Roll Moonlight Universe 12 Mix Pack Rollerball Pens

Sakura Gelly Roll Moonlight Universe pens are perfect for fine lines (0.35mm). The Sakura Gelly Roll contains special water-based pigment gel ink to give bright, intense colours which never fade. Thanks to the unique gel ink technology, the ink flow from the pen is always constant, without exerting any pressure. Moonlight writes well on white, but really comes to life on black paper. Surprisingly beautiful writing, drawing and decorating can be achieved using this set of Gelly Rolls!

  • Suitable on coloured, white, black, matt and glossy paper.
  • Waterproof and chemical resistant.
  • Consistent inkflow throughout the life of the pen.
  • Convenient blister to store the pens and keep them in good condition.

This pack contains one pen each of colours Blue Gray 440, Blue Green 431, Bordeaux 422, Cool Gray 444, Fresh Green 432, Lavender 423, Leaf Green 428, Pale Brown 412, Sky Blue 425, Ultramarine 438, Vandyke Brown 417, Yellow Ochre 415.

Ballpoint Pens at The Hamilton Pen Company

Caran d'Ache 849 Classic line Ballpoint Pen

The Caran d'Ache 849 Classicline Ballpoint Pen has the traditional hexagonal shape of the famed Swiss ballpoint and comes in a range of colours making this a great everyday pen.

Fitted with the legendary Caran d'Ache Goliath refill in colour blue with a medium tip.


Parker Jotter Ballpoint Pen - Stainless Steel

The modernisation of Parker's iconic Jotter ballpoint pen is the ideal combination of classic style and functionality to deliver the best writing experience. With heritage evident in every detail, Jotter's distinctive barrel patterns are now imprinted in stainless steel for standout style in Parker's most reliable pen. Fitted with a medium blue Quinkflow refill that allows for a smoother, cleaner and more consistent writing performance.

The Stainless Steel Parker Jotter has a linished stainless steel body complemented with chromium finish trims and is presented in a premium gift box.

Fisher Bullet Space Pen - Black Titanium

The Bullet Space Pen became the flag ship of the Fisher Space Pen Co soon after its introduction in 1948 and has continued to become an icon of American writing equipment and 20th Century design, having featured in exhibitions at the Museum of Modern Art in New York.

Manufactured in Nevada, USA, this pen is produced to exacting standards and utilises Fisher's tungsten carbide ballpoint and patented visco-elastic ink in a pressurised cartridge. As a result, the Fisher Space Pen can write in the most demanding environments:

  • In the zero gravity vacuum of space
  • In extreme heat up to 200°C
  • In extreme cold to -20°C
  • Underwater
  • Upside down
  • On grease

This pen is fitted with an SPR4 black medium point refill

Graf von Faber-Castell Tamitio Ballpoint Pen

The Graf von Faber-Castell Tamitio series shows how the culture of writing can be enriched with extraordinary nuances. Each of the slender writing instruments is the expression of pure elegance and therefore both an eye-catcher and stylish accessory. The finely fluted barrel made of metal is lacquered in several elaborate working steps using an innovative lacquer that ensures a long lasting matt surface.

  • Particularly soft writing experience.
  • Comes fitted with black refill with large capacity.


Regardless of whether you prefer a ballpoint or a rollerball pen, The Hamilton Pen Company has a huge variety of both, with styles and designs to suit every taste.


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