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Rollerball Pens

Updated on August 1, 2011


Rollerball VS Ballpoint

The ball point pen was the main writing instrument for nearly 89 years after its invention. A great track record for sure. The reason was simple. The pens were cheap to produce and most had the ability to write continuously for great lengths of times. They were ink efficient and could write and any number of surfaces including leather. As ball point pens continued to gain in popularity their construction became the stuff of mass production, which gave way to the disposable pen that we’ve come to disregard today.

But, after nearly 90 years on top, the ball point pen finally found competition in 1977 with the invention of the rollerball pen. But, what the heck is the difference between the two? Who cares about the difference between one disposable pen and the next. Well, it turns out a ton of people care. And for that reason I’ve decided to outline the main differences between the two pen types so that you can start to care as well. So sit back and unclip your pen, because we are about to get all mundane up in here.

Ballpoint Pens

First, the ballpoint pen. The feeble, oft disregarded writing instrument that none, but the most die-hard pen collectors respect. And for good reason. Now-a-days a ballpoint pen is nothing more than a tiny amount of injection-molded plastic with a iota of ink. Much like the growing culture around the world –its disposable. So, we treat it as such. The facts are that ballpoint pens started out as metal encased works of art that had style and flair, much like today’s fountain pens.

Ballpoint’s use an oil-based ink. They get their name from the mechanism that releases the ink from the tip. It is a ball in a cavity that when pressed releases ink as the ball rolls across the writing surface. This leaves a varied trail of ink on the page in the form of writing. The pen is ingenious, because the tight ball tip keep the pen from leaking – a common problem with ink based writing instruments in the old days.

Rollerball Pens

In 1977, the rollerball pen came to life. These great pens have a number of unique characteristics that set them apart from ballpoints. Rollerballs use a thicker ink that allows the pens to write more like a fountain pen. This thicker ink also gives it a smoother writing feel and allows expressive penmanship and detail. A lighter touch can be used with a rollerball, because you do not have to press down hard to get the ink to come out. Many rollerballs also use a gel based ink that can come in many different colors.


Both the rollerball and the ballpoint are great writing instruments. Both have come to a point in their form and function where they are affordable and easy to use. The rollerball will always have a much nicer stroke and a smoother, wetter look and feel. The ballpoint however, will always be handy at any check-out counter no matter where you go. The choice is yours which to use, but either is fine.


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