What Is a Rollerball Pen? (2023)

Rollerball pen on notebook with cappuccino

What Is a Rollerball Pen? (2023)

Rollerball pen on journal with cappuccino

A rollerball pen combines aspects of both the fountain pen and ballpoint pen in one simple design. You'll get that silky smooth writing experience of a fountain pen with the convenience of a ballpoint.

Parker Premier Rollerball Pen in black and gold finishParker Premier Rollerball Pen

But why exactly are rollerball pens the perfect middle ground?

Let's get into the details and find out.

How Does a Rollerball Pen Work?

Similar to a ballpoint pen, a rollerball uses a small rotating ball in the tip of the pen to dispense ink onto your paper when you’re writing.

The ball is usually made of steel or Tungsten carbide. It’s secured within a socket that is, in turn, connected to the ink reservoir within your pen’s barrel.

Rollerball pens use water-based ink. Because of its low viscosity, the ink flows directly into the pens rollerball when you hold it upright.

As the pens rollerball rotates, the ink is transferred onto your paper surface.

This mechanism is very similar to that of a ballpoint pen. However, ballpoints use thick oil-based ink, whereas rollerball pens use light water-based ink. Fountain pens also use water-based ink, and that's why the rollerball makes a sort of middle ground between them. 

So, What Are the Best Features That Rollerball Pens Borrow From Fountain Pens?

Water-Based Ink

Rollerball pens use water-based or gel-based ink. Both types of liquid ink have different effects on your overall writing experience. The main advantages of water-based liquid ink include:

  • More ink flows onto the paper. This allows for more defined colors and, in turn, better contrast.
  • Smooth writing experience. Because of the ease of flow, less pressure is required when writing. (We’ll dive deeper into the benefits of this later on).
  • Water-based inks come in a wide range of colors. This is made possible by the huge variety of water-soluble pigments.
  • The smooth flow of water-based inks makes them ideal for writing fine and tight-knit lines. Do you have small handwriting? If so, you'll find rollerball pens quite fitting for your everyday use.

Different Size Tip Points

You can get rollerball pens with different tip sizes for different handwriting styles. You can also switch up the tips for different use cases.

They come in tip sizes ranging from 0.2mm to 1.5mm.

However, nibs are usually categorized as either fine, medium, or thick. It’s easier to figure out your preferred choice this way. This categorization is more descriptive than numerical.

Having said that, the best way to find out what works best for you is to actually write using the different nibs.

To help you figure the different dimensions, remember this:

  • Fine indicates a tip size in the province of 0.5mm to 0.7mm.
  • Medium tips are around 0.8mm to 1mm.
  • Broad or thick tips are anything more than 1mm.

A fine tip is great if:

  • you have small handwriting
  • your project requires you to include tiny details
  • your writing symbolic scripts. Examples include hanzi (Chinese), kanji (Japanese), or hanja (Korean).

A medium or fine tip is more useful where:

  • no intricate details are required in your writing
  • you have a big handwriting.

Wider Variety of Inks

You can refill your rollerball pen with different colors and types of ink. Ink manufacturers provide a wide variety to choose from.

Rollerball pen blue ink and orange ink in waterImage Source: Unsplash

Some rollerball pens take cartridge refills. Others take advantage of converters that enable you to refill your pen with bottled ink. That last part - bottled ink - is your best bet when it comes to variety. Make sure you get the right refill mechanism according to your needs.

Smooth Writing Experience

Ever heard of ‘writer’s cramp’?

It’s the tension or pain you feel in the hand and fingers after writing for an extended period.

This can be especially pronounced if you use a lot of pressure when writing.

Water-based inks used in rollerball pens have very low viscosity. Ink flows generously from pen to paper. You seldom need to press down on your tip to force the ink out. Just hold your pen upright and glide it gently across your paper.

If your hands generally get tired fast, a rollerball pen will be more comfortable for you.

The Best Features That Rollerball Pens Borrow From Ballpoint Pens


You can get a rollerball pen that is either refillable or disposable.

If you choose to go with a refillable model, the steps to take once your ink is finished are very straightforward. This is especially so if your pen uses cartridges. You only need to swap the spent cartridge with a new one, and voila! You’re good to go.

Convenience doesn’t get better than a disposable pen. When your ink is spent, you only need to replace your old pen with a fresh new one.

There are no extra complicated steps you need to take to refill your pen.

Tip Consistency

Like a ballpoint pen, the fixed ball at the tip of a rollerball pen always remains round. This means the width stays the same when you write.

Macro shot of a stationary rollerball fixed within its socket in a penImage from: pixabay.com on eaarsand

The chances of you damaging your nib when writing are slim compared to when using a fountain pen.

Golden fountain pen nib bent inwards from pressing down too hard on the tipImage from: Pinterest

We Have the Perfect Custom Rollerball Pen for You!

At Dayspring Pens, we understand the importance of using a great pen. One that serves its purpose and looks fantastic while at it.

You deserve the best rollerball pen, whichever the occasion and use.

Take this Cross Bailey Medalist Selectip Rollerball Pen, for instance.

Cross Bailey Medalist Selectip Rollerball Pen with a lustrous chrome barrel and brilliant 23 karat gold appointmentsCross Bailey Medalist Selectip Rollerball Pen

This is what David S. had to say about this pen:

“This was a gift to a friend who graduated from the FBI academy. He was very delighted with the pen, it was the first real nice pen he had ever gotten. The Cross pen in the gold and chrome was great and very attractive, the engraving was perfect. Thanks and I'll be back again.”

That's why we offer you a wide range of elegant, professional, and customized pens.

Every year, we help over 30,000 gift-givers worldwide find the right engraved pen. They gift them to their graduates, groomsmen, their employees, and their bosses.

With over 25 years of experience, we know how to deliver our craft with excellence.

Visit our user-friendly site and buy your best rollerball pen today!

Featured image: flickr.com

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