How to Choose a Pen. Which Pen is Right for Me?

When selecting a pen you may wonder what is the difference between the inks each pen uses and which pen is right for me. There are so many different types of pens and the inks they use it can be tough deciding how to choose a pen. This article will cover the various types of pens as well as the inks they use. See the pros and cons for each type of pen and ink to help you know where to begin when selecting a pen.

Ballpoint Pens

Ballpoint Pens

Ballpoint Pens

One of the most common and well known pen inks types is a ballpoint pen. The ink used in ballpoint pens is oil based and was originally designed as a cleaner more reliable alternative to fountain pens. Ballpoint pens are great for everyday use as well as for artists and industrial designers because the pens allow for a wide range of shading.

Ballpoint pens come in various tip sizes. The most common ballpoint tips are a medium tip that is about 1.0 mm or a fine tip with is about 0.7 mm.

Pros to Ballpoint Pens

  • Smooth writing Ballpoint pen inks writes smoothly and evenly.
  • Less fussy or finicky Ballpoint ink handle the elements better than other types of inks.
  • Dries quickly The ink on a ballpoint pen dries faster than other types of inks.
  • Long lasting ink refill Ballpoint pen refills typically last longer than other types of ink.

Cons to Ballpoint Pens

  • Messy Ballpoint pen inks can be messy and accumulate around the writing tip of the pen. This can create an occasional blob of ink when writing or get on your hands, clothes, etc.
  • Long writing Not the best pen choice for long writing.

Rollerball Pens

Rollerball Pens

Rollerball Pens

Rollerball ink is a liquid ink and is usually water based. The ink flows fast and smooth and creates a nice dark line.

Rollerball pens use a ballpoint style writing mechanism with a water-based ink. Typical tip sizes for rollerball pens are between 0.5 mm and 0.7 mm. Because the ink flows faster and saturates the paper more than ballpoint pen ink, rollerball pens use finer tips with a smaller ball to reduce the size of the line they write.

Pros to Rollerball Pens

  • Dark line Rollerball ink soaks into the paper creating a nice dark line that is finer than ballpoint pens.
  • Quick Drying Because the ink soaks quickly into the paper it dries quicker and there is less smudging. Good for left handers and fast writers with standard paper.
  • Color selection Rollerball ink typically have a greater range of colors because there is more water soluble dyes as and pigments.
  • Less pressure required Because the ink on a rollerball pen flows easier less pressure is required to write evenly creating less hand stress and improved comfort.

Cons to Rollerball Pens

  • Bleed & Feathering Because rollerball ink soaks quickly into the paper it can bleed and soak through the page leaking onto the next page.
  • Short ink refill life Rollerball ink refills do not last as long as ballpoint refills because they use more ink when writing.
  • Uncapped pens leak When left uncapped rollerball pens can leak especially when left in a shirt pocket.
  • Not travel friendly Rollerball pens are more likely to leak when exposed to changes in pressure during airplane flights or altitude changes.

Gel Ink Pens

Gel ink is pigmented ink where the pigment is suspended in water. The ink is thick and opaque and tends to bubble on the surface before soaking in. This creates a sharper line but also a slower drying time.

Gel ink pens use the same style delivery system as ballpoint pens or rollerball pens. The tip size on gel ink pens typically range between 0.5 mm and 0.7 mm.

Pros to Gel Ink Pens

  • Bright vibrant color Gel ink comes in a wide selection of colors.
  • Writing quality Gel ink creates a nice sharp edge on the line with little bleeding or feathering.

Cons to Gel Ink Pens

  • Longer drying time Because gel ink dos not soak into the paper as quickly the drying time is delayed.
  • Short ink life Gel ink pens use more ink and so the refills must be replaced more often than standard ballpoint pens.

Fountain Pens

Fountain Pens

Fountain Pens

Fountain pens use a nib to write and come with either a built in reservoir or use cartridges or a converter to hold the ink. The pen pulls ink from this reservoir or cartridge through a feed system with the use of gravity and capillary action. The reservoir can be filled with a pipette or syringe or with an internal piston style filling mechanism. Fountain pens that use a cartridge/converter filling system accept a pre-filled ink cartridge or draw ink into a converter like an internal reservoir system.

Fountain pen nibs allow for a wider selection of tip sizes as well as varied line width over ballpoint style pens.

Pros to Fountain Pens

  • More customizable Fountain pens give the user the option to use a wide range of nib sizes to customize the pen to their own writing style. Nibs can also be exchanged on the pen.
  • Color selection Fountain pen inks come in a huge selection of color choices.
  • Line variation Fountain pens allow the user to create varied line thicknesses and variations due to the nib on the pen.
  • Eco-friendly Fountain pens are refillable and most can use bottled inks eliminating waste from disposable refills and cartridges.

Cons to Fountain Pens

  • Most difficult Fountain pens are the most difficult to use. They can be finicky and require more maintenance.

How to Choose a Pen

Each type of writing instrument has it’s own strengths and weaknesses. Which pen is right for you? That all depends on your own writing style and what you are using the pen to do. Hopefully this article helps make the decision a little easier and you have a better understanding of the various types of pens and the inks they

4.2 25 votes
Article Rating
Newest Most Voted
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
Cindy Tesler
7 years ago

I liked that you mentioned how ball point pens are one of the most common and well-known pens. You also mention that the ink in a ballpoint pen is oil based. I think it is a good idea to get your special writing pen engraved.

Tiffany Locke
6 years ago

Thanks for explaining the different types of pens and their pros and cons, such as how rollerball pens use a finer tip to reduce the size of the line. Knowing your options could help you choose one that will be easy to write with. Once you’ve figured out which kind you want, it would probably be a good idea to make sure you find a retailer that supplies the exact type you want, such as the size, tip, and other aspects, so you can get one that allows you to write smoothly and legibly.

Shubham sharma
6 years ago

Thanks for all the information you provide here

Jeff Snow
6 years ago

Nice blog! the content which is mention in this blog is really understandable and informative. I really like this blog and thanks for sharing.

6 years ago

Great post. My father sold office supplies from 1961 till 89. We would sit at the table and talk about different pencil leads, refill the refillable ones, and when he passed needless to say I have a bunch of the old ones. They all need refills in them now, and stumbled across this post.

Thanks, for a brief few minutes I was back at that kitchen table talking about things no ones thinks about, except us supply freaks! 🙂