Rollerball pens live in a happy middle space between ballpoint and fountain pens, but they don’t always get the credit they deserve. We reviewed some of our favorite rollerball pens and discussed whom they will benefit the most to help you find your favorite.
We don’t often give a lot of thought to what we use to write on a daily basis. For some of us it’s based on cost alone, for others, it’s a matter of how fluidly our utensil writes, and for still others what we write with is simply a matter of convenience. For those of us who journal or still write by hand regularly, the type of pen we use is important to our efficiency and style.
There are three primary types of pens on the market: Fountain, ballpoint, and rollerball. Rollerball pens don’t always get the love that ballpoint and fountain pens receive, but they fit into a happy medium between the other two types that is great for many different tasks and types of writers.
Even within these three primary pen types, there are distinguishable ink types, brands, and characteristics to consider when looking for the best pen. Our focus today will be on finding you the best rollerball pen for you. To do that, we’ll dig briefly into the history of the rollerball pen, discuss what to look for in this type of pen, and then give you details on the best rollerball pens.
History of the Rollerball Pen
Rollerball pens came into existence in the 1960s when a Japanese company by the name of Ohto introduced them as a unique writing utensil to add a middle ground between ballpoint and fountain pens. Rollerball pens used liquid ink versus the viscous ink in ballpoint pens, which makes the writing experience smoother.
In the earliest days of pens, fountain pens were about your only option. Although they wrote beautifully and created thick lines, their ink took a long time to dry, and they weren’t ideal for writing on course surfaces like leather or wood. When the ballpoint pen was invented in the 1880s, it took up the job of writing on these surfaces, but writing with it was a rough experience.
Rollerball pens take the ease of use of the ballpoint pen and mix it with the beautiful style of the fountain pen to create a smooth and simple writing experience. The liquid ink in these pens is either water or gel based, meaning you’ll be able to choose which ink you like best or which one fits best into what you’re writing at a given time.
The gel inks available in rollerball pens allow for more color and styles than water-based inks, often making them the most popular of the rollerball pen options out there. Gel-based rollerballs can even allow heavy pigments like glitter, so you’ll never be short on style with these pens.
What We Don’t Like
There are some downsides to rollerball pens that we think are worth mentioning. First, they act like fountain pens in that their ink doesn’t dry instantly. Ballpoint pens are convenient because they are the only pen type to offer instantly drying ink, which makes them a better choice for lefties or for those who write from right to left. Rollerballs can smudge and look unpleasant for lefties.
If you’re the type who uses corrective fluids often in your writing, you may also want to avoid rollerball pens. If the correctional fluid you’re trying to write on is not completely dry when you begin to write over your mistake with a rollerball pen, you could end up jamming or clogging the pen, which will make it unusable.
The final negative with rollerball pens is that they can dry out. If you don’t replace the cap before placing it in a pocket, you could end up with a nice ink stain on your favorite shirt or pair of pants and a dry pen.
Best Rollerball Pens
To find the best rollerball pen for you, we will review a few options. These options will be categorized based on who or what they would be best for, so keep an eye out for where your needs fit best in our list.
Despite their minor issues, rollerballs pens are probably our favorite type for individuals who journal, hand address envelopes or need a smooth writing experience in their everyday lives. Let’s look at some of our top picks for the best rollerball pens on the market.
Best for Travelers
uni-ball Vision Elite
- Make a statement with unique and stunning Blue/Black ink
- Airplane Safe-ink won't explode or leak due to a change in cabin pressure during flights
- Exclusive uni-flow ink system provides consistent smoothness and color intensity
- Features uni Super Ink which protects against water, fading and fraud
- Includes: 12 Blue/Black rollerball pens, 0.8mm bold point, refillable
The Vision Elite by uni-ball is an excellent option for individuals who enjoy rollerball pens but often travel by plane. Because of the type of ink in rollerball pens, some are prone to leaking due to changes in cabin pressure, but not the Vision Elite. It is specially engineered to avoid these types of leaks.
This pen uses uni-flow, uni-ball’s system of creating a smoother and more consistent color in its pens. The pen is available in eight total colors and two point sizes for either micro or bold lines. If you’d like a pen that looks as beautiful as it writes, you can upgrade to the Vision Elite Designer Series, but you will have to settle for black ink in this model.
Best for Bulk Buying
Pilot G2 Premium Gel Roller
- G2 writes longer than the average of the top branded gel ink pens.**
- Independent third party ISO testing. Average of G2 write out (all point sizes) compared to the average of the top branded gel ink pens tested (all point sizes). Data on file with Pilot Corporation of America.
- Contoured rubber grip for writing comfort
- Pack of 6 bold point pens with black ink
- Dynamic Gel Ink Formula that's smooth writing and smear-proof - Retractable and refillable - Pilot G2 refill model #77289 6 Each in set
Probably the best “cheap” rollerball pen is the Pilot G2. It’s readily available in your local big box store or online, comes in a wide variety of colors and points, and is inexpensive to buy in bulk. If you are a chronic pen loser, this might be the right choice for you. It’s also a good stepping-stone into rollerballs if you’ve used only ballpoints in the past.
The G2 does have its disadvantages. It isn’t as reliable as some of the other pens on our list regarding smoothness or line thickness. It also runs out of ink quickly. It is refillable, but because it’s so inexpensive to bulk buy, you may find the temptation to just grab another pen is strong. We like this pen for those experimenting with rollerballs for the first time.
Best for Environmental Consciousness
Pilot Precise V5 Rolling Ball Pen
- Unique liquid ink formula maintains consistent flowing strokesIncredibly smooth skip-free writingVisible ink supply lets you see how much ink is left
- Extra fine point (0.5mm) for precise writing
- 6 pens with black ink and matching color barrels
Another Pilot pen, the Precise V5 is a great addition to your desk if you’re looking to add environmental consciousness to your daily routine. This pen is made from 89.2% recycled content, but without giving up any of your smooth writing experience. It comes in only an extra fine point but is available in three colors: red, blue, and black.
The upgrade from the G2 to the V5 is one that you can see in the look of this pen, but you don’t have to worry about too much of a jump in price. Although these pens are slightly more than their siblings, they are well worth the additional dollars. This .5mm precision point pen is perfect for both professional writing or bullet journaling.
Best for Bullet Journaling
Paper Mate InkJoy Gel Pen
- Dries 3 times faster for reduced smearing
- Smooth ink keeps the ideas flowing across the page
- Colorful gel ink brightens your writing
- 0.5 millimeter fine point keeps notes extra neat
- Includes: Pink Pop, Red Rush, Luscious Green, Teal Zeal, Bright Blue Bliss, Pure Blue Joy, Charming Purple and Jet Black gel pens
If you’re looking for a solid rollerball pen that comes in a variety of colors and multiple sizes to make your bullet journal look like the best around, you should definitely check out InkJoy. It’s a beautifully designed pen made for both comfort and precision, but with the variety, you’ll want for creating a masterpiece all your own.
The pen comes in both .5mm or .7mm point sizes and a total of 14 colors, including classic black. InkJoy is readily available at your local retailer too, so that you won’t have a tough time finding it. Its fast drying ink technology is another benefit to this pen, so you can be less concerned about smudges in your art.
Best for Those Without a Budget
Parker Sonnet Lacquered Black Rollerball Pen
- Glossy black lacquer barrel
- Gold finished trim
- Stainless steel fine nib with an 18K solid gold finish
- Capped; gold clip with iconic arrowhead design
- Fountain pen with black ink
If you’re looking for a customizable, beautiful, and undeniably excellent rollerball pen, you should look at the Parker brand. These pens are made for pen people. Not only can you customize the Sonnet down to writing type, nib size, and finish, you’ll get a specialized gift box and gold finishes to add elegance to your writing experience.
Parker is known for high-quality pens, and the Sonnet is symbolic of their quality and sophistication. This pen comes with a two-year warranty against defects, not something most pens can offer you. This is a pen for someone who takes their writing utensils seriously, but the quality you get with the Parker brand shouldn’t be taken for granted.
We have talked about a wide array of pens today, from those available at your local convenience store to those you’ll have to special order and customize, your perfect rollerball is sure to exist somewhere here. We love these pens for their ability to mate smooth and precise writing with user-friendliness and durability.
As technology advances, some rollerball pens have started to keep left-handed writers in mind with quick drying ink. Although these pens are still not perfect for lefties, they are far better than fountain pens for those folks and have many advantages over ballpoint pens for individuals who spend a good chunk of time writing or journaling.