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

Rollerball vs Fountain Pen: Which One Should You Pick?

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

rollerball vs fountain pen

In the world of writing tools, rollerball vs fountain pens are two of the popular options for creative writing and note-taking. While fountain pens have been used for ages, rollerball pens are a relatively new innovation.

Rollerball pens are considered among the most comfortable pens to write with due to their frictionless writing flow, whereas fountain pens are known for their traditional design and extraordinary writing experience.

What’s the difference between rollerball and fountain pens? In this article, we will compare them in several aspects to assist you in making the right choice.

A Quick Overview of Fountain Pen vs Rollerball



Features Rollerball Pen Fountain Pen
Ink Type Water-based ink; glides smoothly; may bleed through poor-quality papers Water-based ink; ink distributes smoothly and evenly but can still bleed through thin papers
Barrel Structure Frequently made of plastic; available in both capped style and capless retractable version Often made of durable materials like celluloid, silver, or gold; with various styles including capped and retractable
Refilling Method Normally uses ceramic refills Five refill options: cartridge, eyedropper, crescent, converter, and piston-fill
Tip Size 0.5 – 1.5 mm 0.3 – 0.55 mm
Writing Experience Smooth and comfortable writing experience; quick-drying ink Enhanced writing control and advanced writing experience; with slower writing for neater results
Cost Generally less expensive; a set costs around $5 to $50. High-end versions can cost more than $500 Slightly more expensive, with standard fountain pens costing around $8 to $200. High-end versions may cost up to $1,000 or more
Lifespan Around 1-4 years; depending on the ink quality and barrel maintenance May last for lifetime

What is a Rollerball Pen and How Does It Work?


The rollerball pen is considered a modern writing instrument—first appearing in Japan in the latter part of the 1960s. Unlike fountain pens, it can be used right out of the box.

A rollerball pen always features a ball-and-socket mechanism that delivers the ink from its reservoir to paper seamlessly. Its smooth ink laydown results in vibrant writing lines.

The tiny, sturdy rolling ball in the pen’s tip turns smoothly and reliably, distributing ink onto the surface. Meanwhile, the thin water-based ink provides fluid and effortless writing lines.

A rollerball pen is suitable for various rollerball pen writing and drawing techniques, and it does not involve any strict guidelines due to its versatility and ease of usage.

What is a Fountain Pen and How Does It Work?


The fountain pen has a long and renowned history that dates back to the late 1800s and has inspired numerous modern writing tools, including the rollerball version.

It has a distinctive chisel point nib,  supplied with wet ink via a capillary motion—drawing ink from the cartridge to the pen tip, while air simultaneously moving up through the nib’s slit.

This configuration enables a smooth and effortless writing experience that is adaptive to the user’s writing style.

To build a well-designed, precise writing instrument, each component of the fountain pen took years of refinement. 

In fact, fountain pens nowadays are extremely stylish and ergonomic; they are very easy on the hand. Many artists and writers believe that they are among the most comfortable writing pens. However, they require breaking in and meticulous upkeep.

In-depth Comparison of Rollerball Pens and Fountain Pens

1. Ink type and quality


Let us first compare rollerball ink vs fountain pen ink.

Water-based ink in rollerball pens may bleed through low-quality paper and spread into the underlying fibers. Hence, rollerball pens are better suited for certain writing techniques that require a softer touch and a gentler stroke.

A fountain pen, on the other hand, uses water-based ink that distributes evenly across the paper, allowing users to produce accurate and distinctive strokes. That said, fountain pen ink can still bleed on thin papers.

2. Barrel structure


Rollerball and fountain pens share a somewhat similar barrel design – with an ergonomic body for a more comfortable grip and a cap to prevent ink leakage. However, you may find both types with a capless retractable design for convenience’s sake.

Size-wise, rollerball pens are mostly similar to their fountain counterparts. The only noticeable difference is that the latter has a broader grip portion than the former, which helps reduce hand fatigue and strain.

A rollerball pen is often made of plastic, whilst a fountain pen is typically made of durable materials like celluloid, silver, or gold. Such structure makes it both robust and virtually indestructible.

3. Refilling method


Rollerballs and fountain pens can be refilled in a variety of methods. Classic rollerballs use a ceramic refill, such as the Ohto C-305P, which is formed like a cylinder with a pointy end and a flat head.

Fountain pens have five refill options: cartridge, eyedropper, crescent, converter, and piston-fill, where the nib is utilized to create and supply ink.

4. Tip size


In general, rollerball pens have larger tip sizes than fountain pens, as can be seen in the comparison table below:

  Rollerball Pens Fountain Pens
Extra-fine tip <0.5 mm 0.3 mm
Fine 0.7 mm 0.35 mm
Medium 0.8 mm 0.5 mm
Broad 1–1.5 mm 0.55 mm

Note that the tip sizes above are just the general averages, as the specific figure may vary from brand to brand. In addition, a fountain pen’s tip size can be modified by changing the nib.

5. Writing experience

Fountain pens provide enhanced writing control and advanced writing style, whereas rollerball pens render effortless and comfortable writing performance.

Fountain pens may demand slower writing, but they produce better and neater writing. Relatively, rollerball pens feature faster-drying ink, allowing you to write more quickly.

6. Cost



Generally speaking, standard fountain pens are slightly more expensive than the average rollerball pens. Common rollerball pen sets normally cost around $5 to $50, while one standard fountain pen usually costs around $8 to $200.

For example, the 8-Pack Uniball rollerball pens only cost around $8, compared to a standard Dryden Designs fountain pen which costs nearly $25.

However, if you’re to look at high-end options, such as the Montblanc rollerball vs fountain pens, the price tag would both be in the hundreds. For example, the Montblanc 162 Meisterstuck rollerball pen costs $499, while the Montblanc 145 Meisterstick fountain pen costs slightly higher at $525.

That’s not the end of the story. Premium options for rollerball and fountain pens can both set you back more than $1,000, making them valuable options that are sought after by collectors and aficionados alike.

7. Lifespan

Since fountain pens are often made out of more durable materials like silver, gold, or celluloid, they can last for a lifetime, especially if well-maintained.

Rollerball pens, on the other hand, are usually made out of plastic and may only last for 1–4 years, depending on the ink quality.

Pros and Cons

1. Rollerball pen

  • Smooth writing experience due to the use of water-based ink
  • Reduced writing pressure required
  • Faster drying time than fountain pens
  • Excellent for producing more refined, vibrant lines
  • May be refillable
  • Ink can bleed through poor-quality paper

2. Fountain pen

  • Provide a very comfortable and creative writing experience
  • Enable more expressive and personalized writing styles
  • Extremely long-lasting and cost-effective in the long run
  • Customizable nibs for a wider range of writing styles
  • Environmentally beneficial as they can be refilled
  • Need occasional maintenance and cleaning

Frequently Asked Questions


How do you maintain rollerball and fountain pens?

Rollerball pens are recommended to be stored horizontally. The tip should be periodically cleaned with a soft cloth, and the cap should always be on when not in use. Clean the barrel with running water and mild soap. Just make sure to rinse them thoroughly and dry them using a soft cloth.

To take care of a fountain pen, make sure to keep it clean and dry, use high-quality ink, and always store it vertically. Avoid over-tightening the cap, leaving the pen unused for a long time, and dropping it. Flush them regularly with lukewarm water.

What is the difference between a fountain and a ballpoint pen?

When comparing a fountain vs ballpoint pen, take note that fountain pens utilize liquid ink, which provides smooth writing but takes longer to dry. Ballpoint pens use more viscous oil-based ink for longevity, although this might result in scratchy writing.

What is the difference between a ballpoint and a rollerball pen?

Here is a comparison of ballpoint vs rollerball pens: ballpoint pens utilize oil-based ink that dries rapidly and lasts much longer. Rollerball pens use water-based ink for a smoother flow and more vivid lines, although the ink may fade eventually.


Although fountain pens provide a refined writing experience and may be refilled with different ink colors, they can also be more expensive and require maintenance.

Rollerball pens, meanwhile, offer a smoother writing experience and are less expensive, but they tend to have a shorter lifespan, and the produced strokes are not as refined.

When choosing between the two, you may consider factors such as ink type, barrel structure, refilling method, tip size, writing experience, cost, and lifespan. However, the decision between rollerball vs fountain pen is mainly determined by your personal preferences and writing requirements.

Also read: Which suits you better? Rollerball pens or gel pens?

5/5 - (2 votes)