What is the difference between fountain pens, rollerballs, and ballpoints?

Posted by Mackenzie Lincoln on

There are 3 main types/categories of pens: ballpoints, rollerballs, and fountain pens. Most people have a preference of which type of pen they prefer. I always say there is a time and place for each type.

1. Ballpoint pens (BP): Ballpoint is the most common type of pen. Typically if you think of writing with a pen, you'll picture a ballpoint pen. We carry 3 different ink refill styles of ballpoint pens. All 3 write very similar. The 3 ink refill styles for BP pens are Parker style, Cross style, and Mini refills.

  • Parker style refills- These are the most popular and most of our pens take this type of refill. With Parker style refills you have the option to refill your pen with standard ink or gel refills. Gel refills write smoother than standard ink and is a very popular option, but some people still prefer standard ink, it's all a matter of personal preference. You can also get black, blue, or red ink (we don't offer red). All of the Parker style refills that we carry are medium point, but fine point refills for this ink cartridge style also exist and are an option for these pens. 
  • Cross style refills- Another common refill type. This style comes in black or blue standard ink. 
  • Mini refills- Much less common, but still easily accessible refills. These cartridge styles will be found in small pens that don't have room to fit a full-size refill. These come in black, blue, and red ink.
2. Rollerball pens (RB): My personal favorite type of pen! I like to explain these as "the perfect in-between of a ballpoint and a fountain pen". I say this because it writes smoother than a BP, more like a fountain pen, but without the mess of bottled ink. There are 2 refill cartridges that fit in these pens; standard rollerball refill or Pilot G2 refills. 
3. Fountain pens (FP): Fountain pens are a whole rabbit hole you can fall down. Did you know that FP collecting is a well-followed hobby and there are clubs and conventions surrounding FPs? I could never tell you everything there is to know about FPs but here's some basic info about ink. Our FPs come with a converter which is basically a syringe for filling your pen with bottled ink. There are MANY brands of fountain pen ink and you can get any color of ink you wish. These prices can vary, but most that I have seen are very affordable and one bottle should last a an individual a while, but it all depends on how much you write. We like ink from Anderillium™ Inks, but you are not limited to this brand. If buying bottled ink isn't your thing, prefilled ink cartridges are also available. 
Fountain pens are a bit more work but can be a lot of fun for those that write or journal often. If you don't write often enough, the ink can dry out faster than BP or RB pens. This isn't the end of the world, if just means you have to clean your pen. There are a lot of Youtube videos about how to do this. 

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