Fountain Pens vs Rollerball Pens: A Detailed Comparison

Written by Laura Walker / Fact checked by Leilani Carroll

fountain pens vs rollerball pens

Fountain pens and rollerball pens both use water-based ink to offer a smooth and unique writing experience. Indeed, we opt for each pen for different writing purposes. The rollerball pen is great for note-taking, meanwhile, fountainpens are ideal for more advanced and neat writing.

In this blog post, we will unravel the essentials of fountain pens vs rollerball pens, so you can decide which pen aligns best with your writing preferences and needs.

Rollerball Pen Fountain Pen
Point Tip Nib
Ink Variety Liquid ink and gel ink More extensive (dye ink, pigment ink, shimmer ink, etc)
Tip Variety Medium: 0.7 mm

Range: 0.5mm– 1.5 mm

 Medium: 0.50 mm

Range: 0.3 – 0.55 mm

Writing style Modern and neat Classic and professional
Ease Of Use Easy for daily writing Require writing techniques to create broad and thin lines
Cost Affordable Typically more expensive
Environmental Impact More negative impact Less

Fountain Pen vs. Rollerball Pen: Similarities


  • Refillable: Both fountain pens and rollerball pens are designed to be refilled, making them more environmentally friendly and cost-effective in the long run compared to disposable ballpoint pens.
  • Smooth Writing: Both pens provide a smoother writing experience compared to ballpoint pens, which require more pressure to write. Fountain pens use liquid ink, while rollerball pens use gel or liquid ink, allowing for a more effortless glide across the paper.
  • Ergonomics: Both are comfortable writing pens, often designed with ergonomic considerations that reduce hand fatigue during extended writing sessions.


1. Nibs Vs. Tips


Fountain pens use nibs, which are pointed metal tips that come in various sizes and shapes. The nib draws ink from a refillable reservoir and transfers it to the paper as you write, creating lines of different thicknesses based on the nib’s width and angle of use.

Rollerball pens, on the other hand, have a ballpoint tip, usually made of tiny ball bearings. The ball rotates as you write, picking up ink from a liquid or gel reservoir, and then deposits it on the paper as it rolls.

2. Ink Variety


Fountain pens come in a wide range of ink colors and varieties, including:

  • Dye inks (the most common type)
  • Pigmented inks (waterproof)
  • Shimmering inks
  • Iron-Gall inks (dark color pop)
  • Scented inks
  • Bulletproof Ink

However, rollerball pens have fewer options, as they only have either liquid link or gel ink. Furthermore, you can only find these pens in black, blue, red, green, and other common colors.

3. Tip Variety


Fountain pen nibs come in a variety of sizes, ranging from extra-fine to broad and beyond. These sizes determine the thickness of the line when writing. Some fountain pens even have specialty nibs, such as flex or italic nibs, that allow for different line variations and calligraphy styles.

On the other hand, rollerball pens feature nib sizes ranging from 90.2 mm to more than 1mm.

Nib size Rollerball pen


Fountain pens


Extra Fine 0.2 – 0.4 0.3
Fine 0.5-0.7 0.35
Medium 0.8 – 1 0.5
Broad >1 0.55

4. Maintenance

Maintenance Fountain Pens Vs Rollerball pens

Fountain pens require more maintenance compared to rollerball pens. Fountain pens have more parts, including the nib, feed, and ink reservoir, which need occasional cleaning and care to keep the pen in optimal condition.

On the other hand, rollerball pens are relatively low maintenance. They do not require cleaning or refilling as frequently as fountain pens. Refillable rollerball pen just need new cartridges when they run out of ink.

5. Ease of Use

Rollerball pens are often considered easier to use. They have a consistent ink flow and do not require any special technique to write effectively.

Fountain pens, especially for beginners, might have a steeper learning curve. Proper fountain pen usage involves holding the pen at a specific angle and applying the right amount of pressure to achieve a smooth and consistent writing experience.

6. Cost


Good-quality fountain pens can range from affordable to very expensive, depending on the brand, materials, and craftsmanship. Typically, you can get a good beginner fountain pen at $50 – $200. Indeed, specialty or luxury fountain pens can be quite costly, taking the price ranges to $20,000 – $100,000.

Rollerball pens are also available in a wide price range, from inexpensive disposables to mid-range and premium options. However, they are generally more affordable than high-quality fountain pens.

7. Collectability

Both fountain pens and rollerball pens can be collected and treasured, but the former is considered more “collectible” as it has a more extensive history and wider range of collectible options.

The traditional craftsmanship and association with luxury writing instruments of fountain pens also entail that they hold more value to collectors.


In terms of environmental impact, fountain pens have an advantage over rollerball pens due to their reduced plastic waste and potential for reusability. By opting for a fountain pen with a refillable ink system and using bottled ink, you can significantly reduce your plastic footprint.

Pros & Cons

1. Fountain Pens

  • Smooth Writing: Fountain pens offer an incredibly smooth writing experience due to the liquid ink flow, requiring minimal pressure to write.
  • Line Variation: They allow for line variation based on the pressure applied, making them ideal for calligraphy and creating expressive handwriting.
  • Comfortable Writing: Fountain pens’ smooth ink flow reduces hand fatigue during prolonged writing sessions.
  • Customizable Ink: Users can choose from a wide variety of ink colors and types, including waterproof and archival inks.
  • Eco-Friendly: Refillable fountain pens reduce plastic waste compared to disposable pens.
  • Maintenance: Fountain pens require regular maintenance to ensure consistent ink flow and prevent clogging.
  • Learning Curve: Some people may find it challenging to adjust to the writing technique required for fountain pens, especially if they are used to ballpoint pens.
  • Potential Mess: If not capped properly, fountain pens can leak ink, causing a mess in pockets or bags.
  • Higher Cost: Quality fountain pens can be expensive, especially those made of premium materials or with specialized nibs.

2. Rollerball Pens

  • Smooth Writing: Rollerball pens provide a smooth and consistent writing experience, with little effort required to produce clean lines.
  • Less Maintenance: Rollerball pens are generally low maintenance and do not require frequent cleaning.
  • Affordable Options: Even with higher-end models, rollerball pens are generally more budget-friendly.
  • Limited Line Variations: Rollerball pens do not provide the same level of line variation as fountain pens due to their ballpoint tip design.
  • Less Ink Variety: While there is a good selection of ink colors available, rollerball pens may not have the same variety of specialty inks as fountain pens.
  • More Waste: While some rollerball pens come with refillable options, many are disposable, contributing to plastic waste.

Which is Better for Different Situations?

  • Everyday Use: Because of their ease of use and minimal maintenance, rollerball pens are excellent for daily writing tasks, including note-taking, jotting down quick memos, and writing in your planner. They offer a smooth, consistent ink flow, making them reliable and convenient.
  • Elegant & Expressive Writing: Fountain pens offer a smooth, elegant writing experience, making them ideal for occasions when you want to elevate your handwriting or create a personalized touch. They are popular among calligraphers and those who enjoy expressive writing styles.
  • While Traveling: Non-retractable or retractable rollerball pens are usually more travel-friendly due to their convenience, lower risk of leakage, and the ease of carrying spare refills.

Additionally, rollerball pens do not require the frequent maintenance and cleaning that fountain pens do, making them a practical choice for travelers on the move.


In the world of writing instruments, the debate of fountain pens vs rollerball pens may seem never-ending, but we hope this blog post has shed light on the key differences between these two iconic pen types.

Each pen offers its own unique charm. Ultimately, the decision between these two pens lies in personal preferences and the intended use.

5/5 - (2 votes)

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