A beginner’s guide to rollerball pens

A woman stood in the countryside wearing a white shirt and writing in a book

If you’re new to rollerball pens, the chances are you’ve seen them online or on shelves in-store and may have assumed they’re the same as ballpoint pens as they look so alike.

In this blog post, we’ll dive into the world of rollerball pens — explaining what they are, how they work, and how they differ from other pen types.

What is a rollerball pen?

A rollerball pen is a writing tool that features a small revolving ball in the pen tip, smoothly dispensing ink onto paper.

Its functionality is very similar to a ballpoint pen and a gel pen, but it differs from both of these pen types in several crucial ways.

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

Only by looking at the differences can we see how unique these pen types are.

The most significant difference is the ink each pen uses, so let’s look at that in more detail.

Rollerball pen ink

Rollerball pens use water-based liquid ink.

This ink takes longer to dry on paper than ballpoint pen ink — making it less ideal for left-handed writers — but offers the considerable benefit of less pressure being required when writing.

If you do apply more pressure when using a rollerball pen, it will create a thicker line. The resulting handwriting can be reminiscent of fountain pen use, and many fountain pen enthusiasts enjoy writing with a rollerball as an occasional alternative.

Rollerball pens are the perfect choice if you are prone to hand cramps and offer users comfort when writing for both short and long periods of time.

Ballpoint pen ink

Ballpoint pens use viscous oil-based ink, which is thicker than rollerball ink and waterproof.

Ballpoint ink dries almost instantly, making this pen type a favourite with left-handed writers; however, more pressure is required when writing with a ballpoint pen, leading to potential discomfort and cramping of the hand.

Gel pen ink

Gel pens use a water-based gel ink, which is relatively slow-drying — if you’re left-handed, you may wish to try a few gel pen brands out to see which suits you best.

This type of ink results in a smooth ink flow, but it can be occasionally jumpy.

Less pressure is required to write with a gel pen than a ballpoint pen, so gel pens are another option for more extended periods of writing.

Gel pens are manufactured in a broad spectrum of colours, making them ideal for colour-coding tasks — for example, revision or bullet journaling. The selection of tip sizes is vast, too.

What is the best rollerball pen?

The ‘best’ rollerball pen is subjective as everyone has different preferences for writing tools; however, here are a few of our customer favourites to get you started.

Lamy Tipo Rollerball Pen

The Lamy Tipo rollerball pen in pearl

The Lamy Tipo is an affordable everyday rollerball pen that’s available in several attractive barrel colours and a choice of plastic or aluminium.

The black plastic clip cleverly prevents the pen from being stored in a pocket with the point out, preventing potential disaster, and each pen features a matching black grip section.

In summary: lots of style for a small price.

Caran d’Ache Léman Rollerball Pen

The Caran d’Ache Léman Rollerball Pen in Carmin Rouge

The Caran d’Ache Léman rollerball is timeless in appearance, featuring subtle curves and a glossy lacquered brass barrel with complementary rhodium or gold-plated trims.

Available in a range of colours and finishes created using luxurious materials, this rollerball comes with an articulated clip and screw-on cap.

Montegrappa Antonio Canova Rollerball Pen

The Montegrappa Antonio Canova Rollerball Pen

The Montegrappa Antonio Canova rollerball is a celebration and depiction of Canova’s “Le Tre Grazie” sculpture in marble. Many customers have used the word “breathtaking” to describe it.

This limited edition rollerball pen is crafted using marble and resin with bronze trims and is presented in a bespoke wooden presentation box.


What is your favourite rollerball pen? Let us know in the comments.

Lucy is our lead editor and has been passionate about stationery since childhood. She has a particular fondness for rollerball and calligraphy pens and is a keen advocate of snail mail.

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