The Best Pens for Everyday Use: A Comparison of Ballpoint, Rollerball, and Gel Pens


As much as we love technology, there's just something so special about handwritten notes that none of it can match. Whether it's taking notes in a meeting, writing a grocery list, or journaling, a good pen can make all the difference to your writing experience. But which one do you choose for your everyday needs? In this blog, we'll compare ballpoint, gel, and rollerball pens to help you find the best one!

The Basics: How Do They Work?

First, let's talk about what these pens have in common. Ballpoint, gel, and rollerball pens all use a small revolving ball in the tip to dispense ink. As you write, the surface of the ball is exposed to the ink reservoir, thus coating the ball and continuing the flow of ink. Where they differ is how the ink is formulated.

Ballpoint Pens

Ballpoint pens use viscous, oil-based inks made by dissolving dyes in a mixture of alcohols and fatty acids. The alcohols promote smooth ink flow, while the fatty acids lubricate the tip of the pen. Because the ink is so thick, ballpoints work well on low-quality papers with little to no bleedthrough. However, they do require more pressure to write, which can be tiring over long periods. On the bright side, ballpoint inks are usually smudge-resistant, dry quickly, and are waterproof, making them great for writing on slick surfaces like receipts or other thermal papers.

Hybrid Ink

Some ballpoints use hybrid or low-viscosity ink. This refers to an ink formulation that is enhanced with lubricants, making the ball at the tip rotate smoothly. Hybrid ballpoints combine the best of the gel and ballpoint pen worlds as they have the smooth flow and vibrance of a gel pen and the quick-drying ability and waterproofness of a ballpoint.

Gel Pens

Gel ink consists of pigment suspended in a water-based gel. This particular formulation makes gel pens precise and vibrant as very few other pens come in tip sizes as small as 0.28 mm--or as many colors. The smooth ink flow makes it much easier to write for long periods with less pressure, so you won’t get hand cramps as easily. However, gel pens tend to skip more than ballpoints or rollerballs as their tips are not as evenly coated with the thinner, water-based ink. They also have longer dry times and can smudge if you’re not careful.

Rollerball Pens

Rollerball pens use liquid ink consisting of dyes dissolved in water--similar to fountain pens. The ink flows freely in comparison to ballpoint and gel pens, hence requiring less pressure to write. This reduces hand strain and keeps you comfortable for long missives or note-taking sessions. However, using liquid ink does mean that paper choice is important, as it will bleed through lower-quality papers. Rollerball pens often have more feedback - a tactile sensation where you “feel” the paper through the pen’s tip - due to the thin ink.

When to Use Each Pen?

Now that we know the basics of each pen, let's talk about when they should ideally be used.

Ballpoint Pens

Ballpoints are uniquely suited to writing on slick surfaces (like receipts or other thermal papers) that might smudge water-based inks. Their dependability also makes them excellent everyday carry additions. Moreover, because ballpoints require some pressure to write, they work well to ensure dark marks on carbonless copy paper, making them useful for filling out forms or documents with multiple copies.

Gel Pens

Gel pens are excellent for everyday note-taking, journaling, and creative writing. Their smooth ink flow makes it easy to write for long periods, and the vibrant colors make them ideal for color-coding or adding a pop of personality to your writing. However, because they take longer to dry, gel pens are not the best choice for left-handed writers, as they may smudge.

Rollerball Pens

Rollerball pens are great for those who suffer from hand cramps, as they require less pressure to write. They are also great for use on high-quality paper, such as journals or notebooks, as they allow for a fluid writing experience. However, because the ink is liquid, it is important to choose a paper that can absorb it without bleeding through.

In conclusion, when choosing the right pen for your everyday needs, it's important to consider what type of writing you'll be doing, the type of paper you'll be using, and how much pressure you want to exert while writing. With these tips in mind, you'll be sure to find the perfect pen to fit your needs. And while you’re at it, be sure to check out Linc’s wide range of expertly-crafted and affordable ballpoint and gel pens to make up your mind!