Artltdmag is reader-supported. When you buy through links on our site, we may earn an affiliate commission. Learn more

Rollerball Pens vs Ballpoint Pens: Advantage & Disadvantages

Written by Robert S. Brown / Fact checked by Helen B. Harris

rollerball pens vs ballpoint pens

The types of pens and their quality can have a big impact on your handwriting. As such, anyone trying to improve their penmanship certainly needs to keep an eye on what sort of pen they’re using.

At the first glance, rollerball pens and ballpoint pens may seem to be one and the same. However, did you know that there are several differences between them?

In this article, we will learn about the unique features of each pen type, including the advantages and disadvantages of rollerball pens vs ballpoint pens.

Before we go to that, let us first discover what they are and their origin to get to know them better.

What’s a Ballpoint Pen?


A ballpoint pen is one of the pioneering writing instruments that was first discovered in 1888. By that time, it was not yet perfect and impractical to use.

Like other inventions, it went through a lot of patent hurdles and design revisions before the first ballpoint pen were commercialized in 1945.

To date, modern ballpoint pen designs basically consist of a barrel made of metal or plastic. Inside the barrel is a slender plastic tube that holds the ink. On the tip of the tube is a small metal ball, which is either made with tungsten carbide, steel, or brass.

This ball can revolve freely in place, picking up the ink from the tube and continuously supplying ink as you write.

What Are Rollerball Pens?


These pens are an upgrade for a ballpoint pen. It was premiered in 1964 by a Japanese company in its attempt to create an ergonomic pen that could compare to a fountain pen.

The rollerball pen works in the same manner as the ballpoint pen, while its ink is more delicate and closer to a fountain pen.

The barrel design usually comes with a cap to protect the ink, and the revolving ball is not only limited to metallic material, but could also be made with ceramics.

Rollerball vs Ballpoint Pen: Learn the Differences

1. Ink formulation


The real difference between rollerball and ballpoint is hidden in its ink, which is evident in the writing that each pen produces.

Rollerball pens’ ink is water-based, whereas ballpoint pens’ ink is oil-based. This difference in ink leads to several disparities between the two pen types:

  • The thick oil-based ink does not bleed and dry much faster. In contrast, the water-based ink from rollerball pens feels smoother and juicier, but it’s also prone to bleeding, especially on thin papers. And as rollerball pens dry considerably slower, they’re more prone to smudging as well.
  • Ballpoint pens’ ink can coagulate over time and get stacked on the tip, impeding the ink flow as a result. While you can heat the tip of the pen to make it work again, it can be rather annoying. Rollerball pens are less susceptible to this problem.
  • Due to their oil-based ink, ballpoint pens can be used on many surfaces, including leather, woods, glossy magazine papers, etc. Unfortunately, the same can’t be said about rollerball pens.

2. Packaging


Rollerball pens are normally designed with a cap to protect their tips from drying, while the ballpoint pen can either come in a twistable, retractable, or more common stick/capped design.

Each pen type can be refilled in a unique manner. Rollerballs use RB refills, while ballpoint pens require G2 ones.

These pens differ in tip size as well. The thickest pen would be the ballpoint pen, whose tip size ranges from 0.8-1.4mm, while the finer rollerball pen’s tip size ranges from 0.5 to 0.8 mm.

3. User experience


When you compare ballpoint versus rollerball, this is where rollerball pens shine the most. Because their ink flows smoother, they require less effort to write. With how smooth these writing tools feel, they’re excellent for signature.

In comparison, ballpoint pens need to be pressed down with a solid grip, which ultimately tires you out faster.

That said, between rollerball and ballpoint pens, the latter give you more control over the pen strokes for better precision.

4. Stability


Under normal circumstances, these two pen types are both stable. That said, you’ll notice a clear disparity when they’re exposed to harsh environments or sudden pressure changes. In such cases, ballpoint pens excel—you can carry these onto the plane, where rollerball and other non-ballpoint pens tend to be leaky.

There are even ballpoint pens specifically engineered to write in almost any conditions, including

underwater and in a gravity-free zone.

5. Longevityroller-pen-vs-ball-pen

Rollerball pens dispense more ink than their ballpoint counterparts while writing. To be more specific, a rollerball pen can deliver almost 4 times more ink than a ballpoint pen does. Therefore, it comes as no surprise that ballpoint pens dry out much faster than ballpoint ones.

6. Pros and cons (advantages and disadvantages)

Rollerball Pens


  • Need less effort to write
  • Produces more vivid writings
  • Minimizes hand strain
  • Less susceptible to coagulated pen tip
  • May bleed through thin paper
  • Longer drying time and more likely to smudge
  • Can run out of ink faster

Ballpoint Pens


  • Dry quickly
  • Bleedproof
  • Easier to control
  • Can last longer
  • More affordable
  • Needs more effort to write
  • More likely to get clogged at the tip
  • Writing looks dry and dull

7. Cost


The price difference between roller pen vs ball pen is profound. You can have a ballpoint pen for more or less $0.1, you cannot find a rollerball pen in that price range.

Rollerball pens are generally more expensive than ballpoint ones. Price can start at not less than $0.5. Some of the luxury rollerball pens like the limited edition Grayson Tighe can go as high as $24,000.

A pilot rollerball pen, which can cost around $2 or more, is a good middle ground. If you are looking for a more sophisticated rollerball writing tool, you can go for the Parker rollerball pen or the Cross rollerball pen, both of which have a starting price at $12 and cap at $300.

Nevertheless, you can also find luxury ballpoint writing tool, such as the glamorous Visconti ball pen, which can cost you a fortune with its jaw-dropping price of $57,000.

Which Pen is Better: Rollerball or ballpoint?

This would depend on your application, handwriting position, and of course your preference.

If you are left-handed, a ballpoint pen would be better for you because the water-based ink will not dry fast enough as you write, resulting in smudges. However, if you often get hand cramps, then a rollerball pen is better recommended for you.

Frequently Asked Questions


Are rollerball pens good?

Yes. They may have some disadvantages, but they are considered more ergonomic than ballpoint pens. Rollerball pens are known for their fluidity and for having more vivid writing.

These pens are good for individuals who write for a longer period. They are also for the elderly and people with different hand problems, such as arthritis.

They can be a great alternative for people who want the slick feel of a fountain pen without having to pay hefty prices.

Is ballpoint better than rollerball for left-handed?

Yes. Lefties will most likely go over their writings, which is why they need a pen with fast-drying ink like ballpoint pens to prevent smudging.


Each pen type has its own advantages and disadvantages. Rollerball pens provide more comfort and vivid writing, but they can get pricey, bleed through, and needs to be refilled more often.

On the other hand, ballpoint pens are cheaper, last longer, and are more stable, but they can make your hand sore over a long period of use.

Some of you may have different views on who is superior between rollerball pens vs ballpoint pens but you don’t have to choose. Have them both instead.

Related comparison:

5/5 - (2 votes)