What's the difference between a Rollerball Pen and a Ball Pen?

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Aren't they essentially the same pen?
Confused?? Well, now there's no need to be!

A question that we often get asked at Europens, is “What's the difference between a rollerball pen and a ballpoint pen? Aren't they essentially the same type of pen??”

Actually, these two types of pens couldn't be more different if they tried! In fact, the only similarity that these pens have in common is that they both employ the same ball writing mechanism which, we admit, can add to the confusion of choosing between the two.

So, what are these differences you ask? Well, it's all about the ink...
Rollerball Pens:
A Roller ball uses liquid ink, the refill technology is a cross between a fountain pen and Ball pen and the ink literally glides across the paper with very little resistance. The general construction of a roller ball is a small metal ball floating in the tip of the refill. As you write the ball rotates picking up the ink. A new generation of a traditional Roller Ball refill is the Gel refill. This uses a similar ink feed system but uses a Gel type ink which is quicker drying and richer in colour.

As a general rule Roller Ball and Gel refills tend to be a larger refill due to larger ink capacity. Roller Balls and Gel pens have grown in demand due to their writing style and ease of use compared to fountain pens. Most Roller ball pens must have a cap to prevent the ink from drying, but some manufacturers have produced a “cap-less” roller ball that is usually a click action or twist pen, such as the Lamy Swift Rollerball pen. The Average life of a Roller ball tends to be 3-4 months and Gel around 3 months of normal use.
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Ballpoint Pens:
Ball pens use a oil-based paste which requires pressure to activate ink flow, these are the most common pens used as they don't lose ink if not used and have a longer life. The refills come in many styles and often one brand of refill can fit many different pens. Ball pen refills can come in very small refills as the ink can be compacted into a very small space. Fisher space pens took the technology to new heights when Paul fisher invented a ball that writes in space. The advantage to this gas filled refill is that it can write upside down and underwater. Parker pens have also improved the standard ball pen refill with the New Quink flow launched in 2010 which has improved ink flow and smoothness.
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"It's all in the ink..."
Ok, so now you know the geeky stuff about rollerball and ballpoint pens, but how does that help you choose which pen is right for you? Well, making the choice between a ballpoint pen and a rollerball pen is all down to the type of ink that will suit your writing needs best. Here's a simple, easy-to-read list of the pros and cons of each pen.
Rollerball Pens (Water-Based Ink):
  • Writes extremely smoothly like a fountain pen
  • Distributes ink more evenly
  • Will not blob or skip allowing a constant writing line

  • Slower to dry and so more prone to smudging
  • Shorter refill life span as ink flows faster
  • Ink bleeding through the paper can sometimes happen
Ballpoint Pens (Oil-Based Ink):
  • Dries quickly avoiding smudging
  • Unlikely to run or bleed through the paper
  • As the ink is dispensed in small amounts, the ink lasts longer
  • Suitable for carbon copying

  • Can leave blobs on paper
  • Scratchy feel when writing
  • Less comfortable to write with as more pressure is required
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Contact us:
 If you're still not sure which is the right pen for you, then give us a call on  020 8676 1746 and speak to Andrew, Steve or Jeff. We're more than happy to have a chat with you. 

Alternatively, send us an email: customerservice@europens.co.uk
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