Difference Between Ballpoint and Rollerball

Ballpoint vs Rollerball

The difference between ballpoint and rollerball is mainly in the ink each pen uses. Ballpoint and Rollerball are two very popular varieties of pens used in all parts of the world. In fact, the two of them are dominating the world of articles being used for writing on paper in such a fashion that pencils and fountain pens come a distant second and third today. Who would have thought that the ubiquitous fountain pen would one day give way to the convenience and smoothness of ball pens? And why would the world call them pens with balls? Because, both make use of a unique writing mechanism that literally has a ball of metal inside their nibs. But we are here to find out the differences between a ballpoint and a Rollerball. Read on if you think they are the same.

What is a Ballpoint Pen?

Ballpoint pen is a pen that uses a thick oil based ink where the ball in the pen nib pushes the ink on to the paper. Fountain pen was ruling the roost when ballpoint pens made their entry into the world of writing as an alternative. These pens attracted millions towards them because of ease of use and long lasting ink that was oil based. One can use it for months at a stretch. This was appealing to those who found filling in water ink every now and then in their fountain pens irritating. They also welcomed these pens because their nibs were safer than those of fountain pens. Fountain pens also left stains on fabrics whenever the user forgot to replace the cap. Since ballpoint pen has a thick ink that does not evaporate easily a cap is not necessary for such pens. Usually, to close the nib, the pen is twisted or pushed so that the nib retracts into the body of the pen.

Difference Between Ballpoint and Rollerball

What is a Rollerball Pen?

A rollerball pen is more related to the fountain pen as it uses a water based ink. See, despite all the convenience ballpoint pen offered, many loyal fountain pen users said that they missed the smooth flow of ink that was a feature of a fountain pen and the way this ink could be felt on a paper. A new pen was introduced to fulfill the demands of those loyalists; that was called Rollerball pen. This pen also used the same kind of nib that contained a ball that moved continuously leaving behind ink on paper. Since the water based ink of a rollerball pen has a higher rate of drying out, having a cap is absolutely necessary for this pen to cover the pen nib when not in use.

 Ballpoint vs Rollerball

What is the difference between Ballpoint and Rollerball?

• Ink:

The first and most notable difference between a ballpoint and a rollerball pen is the ink.

• Ballpoint pens make use of a thick, viscous oil based ink.

• Rollerball pens contain free-flowing water based ink.

• Bleeding of Ink:

• Ballpoint ink is less likely to bleed through the paper.

• Rollerball ink spreads on paper widely and goes inside the paper a little deeper than oil-based ink of a ballpoint pen.

• For Whom:

• Those who want a pen that lasts longer should go for Ballpoint pens.

• Those who want a smooth writing should go for Rollerball pens.

• Those who love fountain pens get satisfied by the writing of a ballpoint pen as it reminds them of a fountain pen.

• Cap:

Another difference lies in the push mechanism of ballpoint pens is the cap.

• Since there is no question of drying out of oil based thick ink of a ballpoint pen, in such pens, the user twists the barrel to reveal the nib of the pen.

• On the other hand, there is a removable cap just like fountain pens in the case of Rollerball pens because there is a chance of their water based ink drying out.

• Writing:

• More pressure is required to write with ballpoint pens.

• Rollerball pens are so smooth that they write smoothly with the least amount of pressure. This has played a large part in making Rollerball pens hugely popular.

• Smudging:

• Since oil based ink of the ballpoint pen dries faster, there is no problem of smudging with ballpoint pen.

• The chance of text written on a piece of paper with a Rollerball pen getting smudged is higher as it utilizes water based ink that takes longer to dry.

• Color of Inks:

• People have a wider choice of rollerball pens as far as the color of inks is concerned as there is more water based dyes available than oil-based ink of ballpoint pens.

• Duration:

• With its thick ink, ballpoint pen lasts longer.

• With its thin ink, rollerball pen lasts for a short time.


Images Courtesy:

  1. Parts of a retractable ballpoint pen by Pavel Krok~commonswiki (CC BY-SA 2.5)
  2. Rollerball pen by Memm (CC BY 3.0)