A Definitive Guide to The Difference Between Ballpoint and Rollerball Pen

Many people wonder about the difference between a ballpoint pen and a rollerball pen. While they look almost identical, several differences make these pens better for specific purposes. Knowing how these two writing instruments differ can be helpful when you’re making your buying decision, and here’s what you need to know.

The fundamental difference between ballpoints pens and rollerball pens is their ink. A ballpoint pen uses oil-based ink, while a rollerball pen uses water-based ink. Ultimately, this affects how each type of pen writes on paper.

Are you curious to learn more about what makes a ballpoint and a rollerball pen different from one another? You’ve come to the right page. We’re going to discuss ballpoint vs. rollerball pen, so you’ll know which one is better for your writing style.

Writing with a rollerball pen generally gives you a smoother experience than writing with a ballpoint pen.

Difference between ballpoint and rollerball pen  

The key difference between ballpoint pens and rollerball pens is the ink used. Do inks make a difference in how the pens write? Of course, they do. Let’s take a look at how the two types of pens write.

Ballpoints pens use oil-based ink, which comes out smooth and thick. This type of pen is common to fill out documents and take quick notes, and the ink dries quickly and is resistant to smudging. When you need to jot something down quickly, this is likely the pen you would use.

Rollerball pens use water-based ink or gel-based ink. Many people enjoy writing with rollerball pens because the ink flows freely, allowing them to get creative with their handwriting. A rollerball is likely the type of pen someone would choose for writing a card or a handwritten note (when you are not choosing a fountain pen, this is a different story). It is also preferred for more extended periods of writing because the writer doesn’t need to apply as much pressure as with a ballpoint pen.

Ballpoint pen vs. rollerball pen- which is better?

One pen doesn’t shine over another. Both rollerball and ballpoint pens are a welcome addition to any stationery kit. If you wonder which style of pen you should have at your desk, we recommend both. This is because both types of pen serve a different purpose and has their own set of advantages.

Why are ballpoint pens better?

There will be times when you need to jot down something quickly and pass it on. In this case, you need a pen that dries instantly. Ballpoint pens are the pen you want to keep on hand for spur-of-the-moment writing. If you need to write down a phone number or fill out an application form, this is the best choice of pen to use.

Another great thing about ballpoint pens is that they don’t bleed through. When you write with one of these pens, the ink stays on the paper. You may see an indent on the page beneath, but you will not see ink leaking through the paper. 

Ballpoint pens are typically cheaper to buy. Since the ink comes out slower, the cartridge lasts longer.  

Why are rollerball pens better?

Rollerball pens write so smoothly and gracefully, making them ideal for occasions when you need to write more than a handful of words. Often people experience hand cramps when they write letters or take notes with ballpoint pens because they need to apply more pressure. The ink flows as they write with rollerball pens, which is easier on the hand.

These pens also allow the writer to try new and creative techniques with their handwriting. The writer can develop their writing style using one of these pens. Since there is a more consistent ink flow with these pens, the aesthetics of the writing always turn out the way the writer intended.

Another fun advantage of rollerball pens is that there are more color varieties, and people can find a rainbow of different ink colors to choose from. 

Spotting the difference between a ballpoint and a rollerball pen

We’ve given you a good idea of how ballpoint and rollerball pens write differently. But, if you are sitting at a desk with a few different pens in front of you, would you be able to spot which one was the rollerball and which one was the ballpoint.

One similarity between these two pens is that the tip looks the same. The tip to both pens is a ball-bearing point. This allows the ink to be spread out on the paper. However, while both pens have the same tips, the barrels are pretty different. 

What does a ballpoint pen look like?

This all stems back to the ink. Ballpoint pens use a thicker oil-based ink. While this ink dries quickly on paper, it takes a long time to dry in the cartridge. If you were to leave one of these pens on your desk with the tip exposed, the pen would still be able to write.

This is why many ballpoint pens have a click top. There is a button on the top of the pen that you can click to release the tip. When the tip is out, you can write with a pen. Once the button is clicked to bring the tip back in, you can put the pen in a case or bag and not have to worry about getting ink on anything or the ink drying in the pen.

What does a rollerball pen look like?

Since the rollerball pen uses water-based ink, the tip should only be exposed to air when the pen is in use. Rollerball pens will come with caps to keep on the tip when not in use. If the cap isn’t put back on the pen, the ink could dry up, and then the pen is no longer useable. 

Final thoughts- the difference between ballpoint and rollerball pen 

What is the difference between ballpoint and rollerball pen? The fundamental difference between these two pens is the ink used for writing. 

Ballpoint pens are better for jotting down quick notes or filling out documents. The oil-based ink dries quickly, which makes it resistant to smudging. Rollerball pens are a betting choice for smooth writing because the water-based ink flows more easily. Writers won’t experience hand cramps using this style of pen. 

Both pens can be helpful to include in a stationery kit. 


My name is Jaap, and I am a passionate collector of pens and stationery. I am excited to share my knowledge and love of this hobby with you through my website. From fountain pens to notebooks, I strive to provide in-depth reviews and information on all things stationery. Whether you're a student looking for the perfect notebook, or an artist searching for the ideal sketchpad, I am here to guide you through the process of finding the perfect items to suit your needs. Join me on my journey of exploring and documenting all things pen and stationery.

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