Ballpoint, Porous, Gel and Rollerball Pens: What’s the Difference?

pensLook at any office supply vendor website or catalogue and you’ll see thousands of options for pens.

What’s the difference between all the types? Does it matter which one you choose? Below we discuss the 4 most common types of pens: ballpoint, porous, gel and rollerballs. We outline the differences between how the pens work, the ink in the pens and their impact on the markings left on the paper.

Ballpoint Pens

In ballpoint pens, a small rotating ball dispense ink as you push the pen across the page. These are the most economical pens, which make them sell-suited to high-usage areas such as service counters.

The ink in ballpoints are generally smudge-free, oil-based and the ink won’t seep through thin pages, which makes them perfect for signing double-sided pages. Since pressure is required to write, ballpoint pens are a great choice for situations that require carbon copies.

Examples of ballpoint pens:

Porous Point Pens

In porous point pens, also known as felt-tip pens, the tip of the pen is saturated with ink and leaves it’s mark as you write. Porous pens are great for leaving bold marks with minimal effort. These pens are ideal for everyday writing and even drawing/doodling.

Examples of porous pens:


Gel Pens

Gel pens work similar as ballpoints, but the ink is water-based and more viscous which allows inks to be more pigmented. However, compared to ball point pens, gel pens are more likely to have “skips” in ink because the ball in the pen is not as evenly coated due to the thicker ink. Gel inks retain their colours well, which makes it great for legal documents or cheques.

Examples of gel pens:


Rollerball Pens

Rollerball pens use an water-based ink that lower viscosity than gel pens, but still has a ball at the tip of the pen that creates the markings. Markings from rollerball pens take longer to dry, which makes the ink prone to smudging. Since the ink is less viscous, it tends to saturate paper more deeply and can create blotches if the paper is thin. Less pressure is required to write with rollerballs compared to ballpoints.

Examples of rollerball pens:


Although any of these pens will satisfy most of writing needs, knowing the differences between each type can let you appreciate the product you’re using more and ensures you’re using the right instrument if you’re doing specific such as signing documents. Ready to browse more pens? Visit us on to see a full selection.


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