How do you choose between the rollerball vs fountain pen options?
That’s often a question you’re faced with, once you realize that you still need a pen even in this age of PCs and smartphones.
Grab a scratch pad and a pen, and you can quickly jot down notes and reminders, or make lists on what you have to buy in the store.
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With a pen, you have a simple way to draw designs and shapes that will be too bothersome to do quickly with a smartphone.
Besides, you’ll probably need a pen for signing various types of documents.
So, which one should you pick between rollerball vs fountain pen?
What’s a Fountain Pen?
The fountain pen design is actually quite old, as it predates the rollerball and ballpoint pen designs.
It’s been around since the late 1800s when Queen Victoria sat on the English throne.
It features a chisel point nib, and the design gives you its legendary smooth flow and gliding ease across the paper surface.
The nib slowly changes shape depending on your writing style, so eventually the fountain pen becomes your very own personal tool geared to you best.
A Classic Option
Today, it’s a classic option.
It’s elegant and sophisticated, and great for older adults and for signing important documents.
It’s also refillable with the fountain pen ink, so your pen can be with you for a very long time if you take care of it nicely.
If you’re used to ballpoint pens since you were a child, then it may take some time for you to learn how to use a fountain pen properly.
Fountain Pen Pros and Cons
So here are some of the advantages and drawbacks of fountain pens:
- Nib sizes can be customized, which means you can pick the thickness of the lines you draw and write.
- In fact, you can change the nib on a fountain pen for different purposes.
- Fountain pens can use a wide range of different ink colors.
- It can use a refillable converter, which is more eco-friendly.
- It works as a status symbol.
- You do need to learn how to use it properly.
- It may also require a bit more maintenance.
- In general, the good fountain pens can more expensive.
What’s a Rollerball?
At the other end of the historical spectrum is the rollerball pen, which is just the latest pen design.
It came out during the 1960s in Japan, and it soon became a popular option all around the globe.
It uses a ball instead of a nib, which means it’s suited for anyone to use.
You won’t have to “break it in”, and it’s not as prone to breaking down even when you use the rollerball a lot.
Qualities of Rollerball
The ink is generally water-based, so it flows smoothly and quickly.
This is in contrast with the usual ink for ball pens, which is generally oil-based.
You often have finer writing tips on rollerballs, since the water-based ink saturates the paper quickly.
It’s easy enough to use even by kids, and you can use it without trouble for many types of drawing.
The ink also dries very quickly, which is a good thing when you’re always smearing the ink.
But you need to make sure you cover the tip when you’re not using the pen, or else the ink may dry up on you.
Rollerball Pros and Cons
The rollerball offers several benefits, but it’s not exactly perfect either.
- Since more ink gets into the paper quickly, you often end up with a neat dark line that you don’t need to double over.
- The water-based ink dries quickly, reducing the smudges.
- You also get a lot of color options.
- The smooth flow of the ink reduces the effort required for writing, so you end up with less stress for your writing hand.
- Since you have more ink getting onto the paper, you’re more likely to run out of ink more quickly.
- If you forget to put the cover on the pen, you tend to end up with leaking pens that ruin shirts and bags.
- These pens don’t stand up well to airplane pressure, so they’re not great for traveling.
- If you’re not used to how quickly the ink saturates the paper, your ink may end up bleeding through the paper.
- The problem with bleeding through also gets worse when you don’t use high-quality paper with adequate thickness.
Our TOP 5 Rollerball vs Fountain Pens Reviews
Whichever you pick in the rollerball vs fountain pen showdown, we have you covered.
We list down the best options for both the rollerball and fountain pen.
“Classic Rollerball Pen”
Our Rating: 4.5
The A.T. Cross Company is one of the oldest brands in the pen industry, as it’s been around since 1846.
Keep in mind that the US Civil War lasted from 1861 to 1865, so the Cross brand is really old!
Cross has established such a fine reputation through the decades that they’ve been the official pen suppliers to the White House since the 1970s.
Presidents have been using Cross pens to sign legislation since the days of Gerald Ford.
Ordinary folks have also used lots of Cross pens, and this particular model comes from the Classic Century Collection.
This is probably the most famous of all the Cross pens designs, and its silhouette is now considered iconic.
Pen Color Options
We’re not talking about the color of the ink here.
We’re talking about the color of the pen itself.
We went with the basic brushed black PVD look, with its no-nonsense vibes.
The engraving comes with a diamond pattern, which sets it apart when you look more closely.
It’s great for both men and women, and it works nicely with casual use and for a more formal office setting.
But you have other color options, and some of them are really eye-catching.
You may have bought cheap ballpoints before that you could’ve just plucked out of a can from any school supplies bookstore.
This one is a lot more presentable, as it arrives at your doorstep in a fancy gift box.
Your purchase also includes a Black Gel Ink Rollerball refill, already installed in the pen.
Just get the Black Gel Ink Rollerball Ink again (refill #8523) when you need more ink.
That means you won’t have to get rid of this refillable rollerball for quite a long time.
This ink flows very smoothly as well.
This doesn’t come with a cap that you might lose if you’re not careful.
Just click the rollerball point off to get it inside, so the ink doesn’t dry up.
This is 5.23 inches long, and about 0.72 inches thick.
It weighs just 0.72 ounces, or 20.4 grams.
Smooth Writing Style
Sure, the attractive look of this pen is part of the reason why it’s a classic to begin with.
But with the rollerball design, it’s really fun to use.
It doesn’t take much effort, and the results look great.
The rollerball tip glides along the paper surface smoothly, so you won’t have to press that hard on the paper.
Yes, it’s true that you don’t have to hold the pen too tightly to get it working.
But like all Cross pens, this one is designed to last for many years to come.
It won’t break easily, even if you drop it to the floor every now and then.
Some people have been using the same Cross Classic Century pen from their school days up to the workplace.
The Problem with Iconic Brands
The Cross brand does have a problem—it may be too famous.
That means it’s a favorite target of counterfeiters, like Rolex watches and Zippo lighters.
You may find sellers selling you a supposed Cross pen, and end up with a loser.
Keep in mind that you really should check out the seller first, to make sure they’re legit.
If the price is too low, then it may not be an authentic Cross pen at all.
“Pen for Play and Work”
Our Rating: 4.5
This looks more like a “fun” pen, especially when compared to the buttoned-down Classic Century from Cross.
But Cross also offers less serious pens, at least when it comes to the looks.
As to how they perform, these pens are still seriously good.
Using (Or Playing With) the Pen
This is a capless rollerball pen, which you just slide to open.
When you’re done writing, just snap the pen shut.
After a while, you may end up just relentlessly sliding and shutting the pen continuously.
This is great when you’re nervous, or when you like to fiddle with your pen as you gather your thoughts.
Unlike the sleek Classic Century, this pen looks a lot more playful.
That’s emphasized by the overall chubbier design.
The pen girth is large, and it measures 1.05 inches in diameter.
The pen itself is also 4.957 inches long.
It’s heavier at 1.05 ounces, but that’s not too bad since it’s less than 30 grams.
This comes with theBlack Gel Ink RollerballRefill.
Just get the refill #8523 to get the same ink once you run out.
Black is, of course, the standard color to use for school work and for office work.
Variety of Colors
But you can getnew refills in red for variety, with the #8013.
If you want purple, get the #8014.
There’s also a blue ink option as well.
In fact, you can even use the Jumbo Medium Ballpoint Refill (#8562-1) for this, if you want the ballpoint ink option.
Despite the “chubbier” design, there are color options for this pen that make it fit in the workplace.
This particular model we picked (AT0555-2) looks rather stylish, with its metallic fusion resin.
With the polished chrome center and appointments, it would look great in any creative company.
Again, this is a Cross pen, so be very wary about counterfeits and shady sellers.
Sure, this is more affordable than the Classic Century version, but it’s not exactly “cheap”.
If you’re offered a seemingly low price, then it may not be a real Cross pen.
This doesn’t really look formal at all, so it doesn’t look expensive either.
That’s a problem, when your “friends” have a tendency to “borrow” your Cross pen.
This means lots of high school and college kids complain about losing their pens to other students, as these pens are not cheap at all.
“Affordable and Environmental Friendly”
Our Rating: 4.5
Not looking for a serious pen investment?
Just want something affordable and useful?
If so, this is the choice you want in the whole rollerball vs fountain pen discussion.
This is so affordable that you can get a 12-count pack and spend a lot less than with a Cross pen.
The Classic Century pen is actually more than 7 times as expensive as a 12-pen pack of this Uni-ball.
If someone “borrows” it, then you won’t mind as much.
Heck, you might gift it to your buddies in the same way you’d let them take a few of your French fries.
You know how some “environmental” items are eco-friendly but not friendly for your wallet?
That’s not an issue here, as this is both eco-friendly and eminently affordable.
Each one is actually made with post-consumer recycled electronics.
We got the 12-pack for the black pens, but you can go for blue or red too.
That color refers both to the color of the pen and the ink.
Then you can pick either a fine point or a micro point.
The micro point option gives you a 0.5mm metal tip, which is great for small handwriting or for really finely detailed drawings.
The fine point option offers a 0.7mm metal tip, which is more readable for some people.
Just because it’s a cheap pen doesn’t mean you have to deal with a lot of bad things with the pen.
In fact, it’s much better than a ballpoint, even if that ballpoint is more expensive.
It glides so smoothly over the paper that you might even think it’s a fountain pen.
Just learn to keep the rollerball moving so you can avoid smudges.
The “Super Ink” technology also protects the ink from fading and water damage.
So, if you use this for your journal, years from now you can unearth the journal and read your thoughts.
Picky for Paper
The ink flow is very consistent, but you need the paper to match.
If you use this, do try to make sure you use it on good-quality paper.
Try to go with higher-quality paper that is whiter and less glossy.
This has 12 pens in a pack, so it’ll be a long while before you’ll need to buy pens again.
Give some to your friends—they’ll appreciate it, and won’t realize just how affordable these pens really are.
Just tell them that they shouldn’t press too hard on the paper, and that it’s best with thicker paper.
“A Perfect Gift for Graduates”
Our Rating: 4.5
Now we’re back to our favorite Cross brand (if you couldn’t yet tell at this point).
This time, we got a nice complete fountain pen gift set.
That’s the thing when you opt for the rollerball pick in the rollerball vs fountain pen.
Fountain pens look more impressive, so they’re better suited as gifts.
When the fountain pen comes complete with the other accessories, it’s a great gift that anyone can appreciate.
Of course, you can always gift this to yourself, especially if you’re new to fountain pens in general, as it’s a starter kit for newbies to enjoy.
What’s in the Set?
The set contains:
- The black lacquer fountain pen from the Bailey Collection with a click-off cap
- 6 black ink cartridges
- 2 black refill cartridges (refill #8921)
- A bottled-in converter
- A 62.5ml bottle of Cross ink in black
Strangely enough, the price of this set is extremely affordable.
In fact, you can just add a dollar or so to the price of the Bailey pen and you can get this Bailey set.
You may want to get it quickly, as it may not be available forever.
The Look of the Pen
The pen is predominantly black, or more precisely it sports a black lacquer finish.
The black works as a nice background for the chrome appointments.
This looks very classy, and it doesn’t look out of place in the office of a lawyer or a CEO.
The Bailey Design features a traditional but well-balanced vibe.
The cap-over barrel styling is quite distinctive, plus you have the multi-grooved center ring with the deep-cut engraving accents.
This comes with a comfortable and traditional set of measurements.
It’s only 0.79 inches in diameter, with a length of 5.375 inches.
That means it’s a bit thicker than the other slim pens from Cross, but it’s not as thick as a Mont Blanc pen.
It weighs only 0.79 ounces, or 22.4 grams.
“Use It then Throw It”
Our Rating: 4.5
Now if you want a fountain pen with the utter simplicity of disposable ballpoints, you may want to go with this Pilot pen set.
Pilot may be famous for its disposable pens, but they also a fountain pen variant that’s disposable as well.
We went with the 7-pen pack, with assorted liquid inks.
Inks of Different Colors
Each pen in the pack comes in a different color.
Here you have the basics (black, blue, and red) along with more unusual colors (pink, green, purple, and turquoise).
Each one is color-coded, with the color on both ends of the pens.
That way, you can find the right pen color if you stick this into a can container.
This is great for artists and designers, and for those who like to color-code their notes.
The pen is also transparent, so you can see for yourself how much ink is left for each pen.
Cool Writing Experience
The barrel comes in a retro-style, but it comes with a stainless-steel nib.
It’s been shaped and cut by precise lasers to give you a medium point that works nicely with both drawing and writing.
Just get one out and start writing.
The pens have all been prefilled, and they don’t need any sort of maintenance at all.
Conclusion: Rollerball vs Fountain Pen
Most people assume that the choice between Rollerball vs Fountain Pen is quite clear-cut, depending on the circumstances.
You opt for a rollerball for more casual notes, and go with a fountain pen for more serious work.
Rollerball is great for kids, and you can graduate to a fountain pen when you’re a bit older and more experienced.
That’s not exactly true these days, with disposable and easy to use fountain pens.
It’s mostly about your own personal preferences.
There are no wrong answers to the question of Rollerball vs Fountain Pen—especially with the answers on our list!