Ballpoint Vs Gel Pen | Comparison & Ideas

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Ballpoint and gel pens have their own unique features. But the most basic difference between the two is the type of ink they use. Ballpoint pens use thicker inks while gel pens use water-based inks. 

We have all come across ballpoint pens our whole lives. And when we think of the best inking pens, gel pens do come to the mind. 

But do you know what makes these two everyday pens so different from each other? They can vary according to their writing style and the type of ink that is used in them. Dive in to know more about their utility.

What Are Ballpoint Pens?

What are ballpoint pens

Ballpoint pens are probably one of the most commonly used rollerball pens. They were invented by Laszlo Biro in the late 1930s. 

These pens use a thick, almost paste-like oil-based ink. A ball at the tip of the pen picks up the ink and enables the pen to write. The ink, once transferred onto the paper, dries up quickly due to it being passed through an alcohol solvent. 

Since the ink dries up quickly, it won’t smudge on your paper. This also makes the ink last a long time. However, since the ink is a lot thicker than regular ink, it may take more pressure for the ink to appear on the paper. 

Ballpoint rollerball pens are a more versatile pen when it comes to the surface they can write on and they last for a long time, making them a popular option. A typical ballpoint pen can contain the following components: 

  • Oleic Acid- the acid used to lubricate the ball and help it to run smoothly 
  • Dye- used to give color to the oil based ink
  • Alkyl Alkanolamide- helps the dye to be absorbed by the paper before the ink dries up 
  • Alcohol- added to the ink to ensure it has the right amount of liquidity for smooth strokes

What Are Gel Pens?

Gel pens, on the other hand, consist of inks that are a lot thinner in terms of consistency as compared to the ballpoint inks. They are delivered using almost the same technology as the ballpoint, through a rollerball pen technology. 

Gel pens gained popularity for their unique mechanism. They would dry up within a few seconds so that the ink doesn’t smudge on the paper and flow through the pen quickly without much pressure. However, you must ensure you don’t touch the ink in those few seconds it takes to dry up as they are more prone to being smudged then.

Get pens are made up of two main components: 

  • Pigment, which gives color to the ink
  • Water based solution, which makes the ink thin

There are various pigments available on the market that give gels many fun colors. The pigments are submerged in the water-based solution to achieve the right consistency. 

Advantages Of A Ball Pen

1. Ink Consistency

Ballpoint ink has a thicker consistency ink that is oil-based. Since they are so thick, only the slightest amount needs to be applied on the paper for them to appear clearly. They also sit on the paper rather than sink into it like normal ink would.

2. Can Write On Any Surface 

Since ballpoint rollerball pens tend to have thicker ballpoint ink, they can be used on different types of papers and slick surfaces. In short, they take the win when it comes to versatility.  

Once the rollerball pen touches a surface, the ball will grip to the material to start rolling and the ink will start flowing through the pen. This is the reason why ballpoint pens can write on any surface from leather, glossy magazines to wood and even plastic bags.

Some ballpoint rollerball pens can even write underwater, upside down and in any other unconservative conditions!

3. Does Not Smudge

No matter the surface you write on with a ballpoint rollerball pen, the chances of the ink spreading or smearing are extremely low to none. This feature makes it a popular choice among professionals and novices alike, as they don’t have to worry about their work being spoiled.

4. Variety Of Refill Sizes 

In a conventional ballpoint pen, the size of the refill can vary. Even if you opt for a smaller refill size, it can still hold enough ink (depending on the purpose of ink) so that you don’t have to change the refills very often. 

5. Long Lasting

A standard ballpoint rollerball pen can last you for a long time, with most of these pens can write up to 900 meters. They are also easily available and are more viable when it comes to a long lasting pen. They do not dry up quickly so you can own and use the same ballpoint pen a number of times.

6. Waterproof

Ballpoint inks have the added feature of being waterproof. The ink does not bleed through any surface and would not smudge even when the writing or the ink comes in contact with water or any wet surface.

Disadvantages Of A Ballpoint Pen

1. Requires Pressure 

Ballpoint rollerball pens require a lot more pressure to write as compared to gel pens. Since they have a thick ink consistency, it may take a certain amount of pressure to make the ink clearly visible on the paper, which may tire out your hand faster than usual.

This eliminates the possibilities of ballpoint rollerball pens being used for longer periods of time as they may be really painful. Overall, the whole process of writing with a ballpoint pen is more time-consuming compared to other pens.. 

2. Leaves Marks On Paper

Since you need to use a lot of pressure when writing with ballpoint pens, they usually tend to leave marks on the paper. If you are writing on a paper that is relatively thin, chances are there will be imprints of your writing and ink on the other side of the paper. 

3. Clumping 

The thicker inks used by ballpoint pens increase the chances of ink clumping, especially when writing for longer periods of time. Besides, the ink clump is more prone to smearing and can be quite a menace when you write.

4. Lack Of Color Pigments

Since ballpoint pens use thick oil- based inks, adding pigments to the ink would be a tough task. This is the reason ballpoint pens only come in two or three colors. If you are someone wanting to try out colored pens, then a ballpoint is not the right choice for you. However, if lack of ink colors doesn’t bother you, ballpoint pens should work just fine.

Advantages Of Gel Pens

1. Easy Writing

Given the fact that a gel pen uses a thinner ink consistency (almost to that of water), it writes smoothly, no matter your level of expertise in using these pens. In hindsight, the ink consistency ensures that the ink flows nicely through the fountain pen. 

2. Less Pressure Needed

Gel ink pens write smoothly and effortlessly without requiring too much pressure. This is a big advantage for people who may have a weaker writing hand. 

Since the ballpoint pen uses much less pressure when writing, it can be used to write with for longer periods of time as compared to a ballpoint pen. The smooth ink flow guarantees that you won’t experience writing cramps when you use a gel fountain pen. 

As a result, you can write a lot faster with a gel ink pen than a ballpoint pen. This is also the reason why it is a popular choice among students. 

3. Water And Fade Proof

Although gel ink pen appears quite watery and isn’t the most quick drying ink out there, it dries to become waterproof and fade proof. This ensures that your writing will stay fresh and vivid even after years. 

4. Creates Sharp Lines 

Gel ink pens tend to have very fine tips, which enable you to be able to create sharp, vivid lines. You also get more control over the pen as very little pressure is required to write with a gel fountain pen. 

5. Color Options 

Gel ink pens are made with water-based gel inks, which are also known as pigment inks. Since pigment inks are available in various colors and pigments, they are a better choice if you want to experiment with colors. Ballpoint pens, on the other hand, cannot have this feature as their oil-based dye cannot be made available in many colors.

Disadvantages Of Gel Pen 

1. Prone To Smudging 

Since the ink used for gel pens are much watery, they can be prone to smudging. They are waterproof once they dry down, but until they do, you must be careful with your writing so as to avoid smearing the ink. 

2. Longer Drying Time 

Gel fountain pen ink might take relatively longer to dry as compared to ballpoint pen ink that doesn’t need any sort of drying time. You will have to give the ink a few minutes after writing for it to be able to dry completely.

3. Shorter Ink Life 

Although gel pen inks generally come with larger refill sizes, they run out pretty soon. This can be a major drawback, as they are more expensive than a ballpoint pen and last only half the amount of time. 

4. Limited Writing 

The watery consistency of gel pen inks means they won’t stick to any surface like ballpoint pen inks. Hence, you cannot use a gel pen to write on surfaces like glossy paper or wood. Even really thin paper can be a no-go for a gel fountain pen, as the ink can bleed through the paper quite easily. 

5. Inconsistent Writing

As smoothly as gel pens may write, they can also end up with inconsistent writing. This happens when the ink flows improperly to the rollerball at the tip of the pen. So, when writing, chances are you might find that your writing ends up being streaky and patchy.

When To Use These Pens?

Now that you know the pros and cons of both the pens, let’s see when these pens are commonly used. 

Starting with a ballpoint pen, it has a pretty wide-ranging use. Since these pens write on many surfaces, they can be an excellent everyday addition to your stationery. They also work well paired with a carbon copy paper and make for some of the best ink pens for business purposes. 

But remember that ball point pens use a lot of pressure to write with due to the thick ink, so they can leave imprints on thin surfaces. 

Gel pens, on the other hand, are what can be called “students’ pens,” and are perfect for everyday writing. Moreover, they come in different colors, which make them suitable for artwork and experimental writing. 

They are also faster when it comes to writing so you can take your notes efficiently without having to miss out on anything. 

Ballpoint vs gel pen conclusion

Ballpoint Vs Gel Pen Conclusion 

Both the pens are a great choice when it comes to efficient writing. The only thing that sets them apart are subjective requirements. 

If you’re an everyday writer and would like a pen that is affordable and long lasting, a ballpoint pen will get the job done. You won’t have to bother refilling your pen or buying a new refill every now and then to fill up the refillable ink reservoir.

However, if you take notes everyday and need something that can help you write faster, then a gel pen can be the ideal choice. These pens can write smoothly and effortlessly and won’t give you any writing cramps. So, a gel pen might be the way to go for long writing sessions . 

And with that, it’s time for us to wrap up today’s guide. Do check out our other read on “how to use a calligraphy pen with ink?” to learn more about pens and their uses. See you next time!