The Difference Between a Rollerball, Ballpoint, Stylo, Fineliner and Fountain Pen

ON PEN IT DEPENDS | The Project Garments

A complete guide through the 4 +1 types of pens around and which one is the right for you.

Regardless of the type of person you are or your profession, the chances you won't use a pen during a typical daytime are meager. Even if you believe that you are entirely unattached and you can serve your needs solely in a digital way, think about it once more. It is going to be the second someone asks you to sign a paper at the office or the last-minute add on your grocery list, or just when doodling while in the middle of an important zoom meeting. Pens are still conquering the place. A quick look around you or inside your bag is enough to confirm, and not without reason.

Pens have been around for a while, writing humanity's history. Namely, starting from 600 A.D., when the pen was a quill made from feather, becoming the standard writing instrument through the 19th century. In 1827 Petrache Poenaru invented the first refillable fountain pen. Numerous patents, designs, and ink colors later, the fountain pen became an essential handy object and a symbol of prestige. Then Biro, in 1930, replaced the nib of fountain pens with a ball, creating the ballpoint pen, and things became disposable, with fountain pen not losing its popularity. In 1965 the Fischer's Space Pen was introduced as the pen that functioned flawlessly at no gravity space and affirmed that, traveling along with the first human-crewed Apollo mission. But it was only since 1950 that the number of pens sold was enough to draw a line to the moon and back around 320.000 times.

Nowadays, endless options and types are lying in front of you, serving various uses and scenarios, and either you are already a pen lover, or it will be your first one. We are here to walk you through pen styles and uses and make it easy for you to choose the right one. Shall we start?

Fountain Pen

Rightfully first, while dominant for several centuries before anything else was created, we couldn't do but pay our respects to the old and wise fountain pen. First, it is necessary to distinguish the fountain pen from the early nib pens. Those that one should repeatedly dip into an inkwell to renew the ink and keep writing. A fountain pen's primary function is to hold ink through an internal reservoir.

Montegrappa Ernest Hemingway Novel Fountain Pen

Fountain Pen | How It Works

It consists of the metal nib, the grip section, and the barrel in which the ink chamber is found. Two of the most common ink reservoirs are the cartridge and the converter. The main difference between them is that the cartridge is already filled with ink containers and disposable, while the converter is made to be filled with bottled ink. There are also the piston-style fountain pens, with a slightly different mechanism, refilling again right from the bottle. The ink used in fountain pens is water-based.

The fountain pen uses the metal nib to distribute the ink to paper. The ink is drawn from the reservoir through the feed that regulates the ink flow to the nib.

Fountain Pen | How to use it

If you are a novice in fountain pens, you will probably find the way of writing peculiar or tricky at first. It's a whole new world, and we believe that it won't take long until you become an expert, especially if you follow our tips below.

  • Look for the right features. When on your research, be cautious enough to consider the size and the weight of the pen depending on the owner's hand. Another question is whether you choose variety against convenience regarding the filling system. As we said before, cartridges are pre-filled with ink and thus simple to use as they are disposable, and you replace the empty with the new one. On the other hand, thousands of hues of ink are waiting for you to choose from. As far as the nib size is concerned, it should be equivalent to the size of your handwriting. One way or another, a normal-medium nib size is always welcome.
  • Find the right paper. There's no question that a high-quality paper may launch your writing experience. Yet, an improper piece of paper that bleeds with ink or feathers will soon disappoint you, not only aesthetic-wise but also in a practical way. Moreover, you need to find a paper on which your nib glides across smoothly but not uncontrollably, with a sense of feedback. It's all about balance and your personal needs to find joy in it. Two excellent examples of quality paper in refined stationery style are Smythson Panama Cross-Grain Leather The Boss Wafer Notebook and Montblanc Fine Stationery Sketchbook Blank.
  • Discover the right spot. As you write, you will realize how important it is to find the exact spot that the nib should be placed for the ink to flow evenly. Every time you rotate the fountain pen, you drag off the right spot from the paper, so it is vital to hold the pen to keep the nib's position stable. To keep the nib's position stable, the tripod grip will be of help, but also the arm writing. Writing using your arm may be tricky initially, but we promise you will thank yourself later as it is less tiring for your hand, allowing you to write continuously for a longer time, preventing wrist strains.

Why use a fountain pen against a cheap, disposable one? As we already mentioned, different pens are suitable for different circumstances so weigh up the advantages and disadvantages.

Fountain Pen | Pros

  • Professional impression: A fountain pen will make you look formal, sharp, and sophisticated. Besides, it is always a bright idea for a luxurious, significant gift.
  • Proper writing: Fountain pens feature smooth flow and no writing pressure thanks to the liquid, water-based ink. Thus, they are believed to relieve physiological stress from writing compared to alternatives such as the ballpoint pen, which can deteriorate people with health problems such as arthritis. The proper writing that the fountain pen encourages is likely to impact someone's academic performance positively. In some countries, such as Germany, students of the first grades learn to write with a fountain pen, aiming to avoid common writing mistakes, such as wrong grip or unneeded pressure.
  • The unbeaten variety and classy designs: There are thousands of exceptional, sophisticated styles to choose from out there, and the same applies to the colors of the ink, which is refillable, and you can have a different color at every refill.
  • Economical for marathon writers: While fountain pens are usually pricier than others, the refilling procedure is proved to be less expensive, especially for those who write big time. This is explained because the ink-life is short, so if you don't use it on time, you will have to toss it away.
  • Eco-friendly: You will not charge the environment with all the redundant plastic coming from empty, conventional pens.
  • Lifetime object – hobby: Buying a fountain pen truly is a personal investment. It is considered an object suitable for a lifetime relationship if you commit to preserving it bright and thriving. Some pens are treated as pieces of art or collectibles made from precious metals and jewels. You may turn out to be a great pen enthusiast or even collector and contact people all over the world to exchange information about your passion.

Fountain Pen | Cons

  • Ink leakage: Some fountain pens are still prone to ink leakage, or the ink is more likely to bleed through the paper because of the ink's fluidity.
  • Requires cleaning every month: Bad news for those of you that you want to get it over with quickly, but once you become familiar with the procedure, it will not seem like such a burden. Except that, you will have excellent writing quality in return.
  • Short ink life: Unfortunately, the ink's life is short; therefore, a fountain pen matches more to a person that writes a lot in his daily routine.

Montegrappa Ernest Hemingway Novel Fountain Pen

Montegrappa Ernest Hemingway Novel Fountain Pen

It is difficult not to admire the impeccable Art Deco design of this Montegrappa Fountain Pen, inspired by the fascinating Ernest Hemingway. Its vintage spirit matches the 18k gold nib while it features both converter and cartridge as filling methods. Its sophisticated silhouette, the E.H. signature on the cap, and the fact that it is part of a 355 pieces limited edition make it the right call for a glorious gift.

Ballpoint Pen

The first attempt to create a ballpoint pen was in 1888 because John J. Loud needed a pen that could write on rougher surfaces than paper, such as wood, leather, and other articles, that fountain pen could not. Then Biro, driven by his dissatisfaction for long hours of filling up fountain pens and cleaning up gritty pages, introduced a new ground-breaking double mechanism. A small ball of steel in the place of the nib and a viscous ink formula, acting compatibly to allow controlled flow and preventing the ink from drying at the same time. Nowadays, ballpoint pens are the dominant writing instruments worldwide, while the word Biro is a synonym of the word pen until now in some countries such as Argentina.

Montegrappa Zero Ballpoint Pen Palladium

Ballpoint Pen | How it works

Ballpoint pen works under the rules of surface tension. A tiny ball fits on the pen's tip. As the pen traverses the paper, the ball rotates, receiving ink from the ink chamber and distributes it on the paper.

Ballpoint Pen | Pros

  • Easy to use: Ballpoint pen is handy, and that is the reason why it is preferred in most fields, including schoolwork, essay writing, business meetings, note-taking, journaling, but also as an art medium for professional artists as well as novice doodlers.
  • No maintenance: Relieving enough that there is no need for you to clean it up.
  • Long ink life: The ink is oil-based and thus tackier, while the ball on the tip contributes to its longevity.
  • Affordable: the cost of a ballpoint pen is considerably smaller than the one of a fountain pen.
  • No smudges: Ballpoint pens are designed to prevent smudging on the paper as the ink dries almost instantly, and it is waterproof at a high percentage.
  • Writing surfaces: With a ballpoint pen, you may write on several surfaces, let alone a piece of paper, namely wood or plastic.
  • Lefthanded: If you are lefthanded (or righthanded writing right-to-left script), you have at least once experienced the frustration of the accidental smudge due to wet ink. Ballpoint ink dries immediately, so there will be no unpleasant surprises.

Ballpoint Pen | Cons

  • More pressure: Ballpoint pens require more force to write than fountain pens due to the thicker ink. This means that you may end up with a tired or strained hand after a long time of writing if you are not careful enough.
  • Clumping: We all have experienced the unwanted clods of ink now and then. The viscous ink used in ballpoint pens is prone to clumping. If it is negligible enough to bear with it, it is a matter of your personal decision.
  • Limited variety: You will have no endless options for the ink color and the tip's size.

Montegrappa Zero Ballpoint Pen Palladium

Montegrappa Zero Ballpoint Pen Palladium

There is an inherent superiority in the clean, simple lines and satisfying curves of Montegrappa design that no other brand can duplicate. Perfect geometry and precision finishing signal a new chapter in the evolution of modern writing style. Heavy metal components and a muscular clip bring dominance and poise to charismatic Italian design. The writing instrument for the new decade features sapphire glass set in a miniature bezel.

Rollerball Pen

Rollerball pens, the youngest in the room, are divided into two basic categories; the liquid-ink type and the gel-ink one. The liquid-ink was first introduced in 1963, created by the Japanese company Ohto. Even later, in 1982, Sakura Color Products patented the gel-ink type rollerball pens. It is widely used in journaling, schoolwork, invitation writing but also in coloring and drawing.

Montegrappa Extra Otto Shiny Lines Rollerball Pen

Rollerball Pen | How It Works

Like a ballpoint pen, a rollerball pen uses a revolving ball into the tip that dispenses the paper's ink. The main difference lies in the way the ink is formulated. For the liquid-ink rollerball pen, the liquid ink and the ink supply mechanism is almost the same as a fountain pen, so we can safely name it a hybrid, combining the smooth writing qualities of a fountain pen and the convenience of a ballpoint pen. In most rollerball pens, the point is thinner than the average, featuring a tiny ball, usually 0.5 or 0.7 mm in diameter.

The gelled ink carries a pigmented formula, which is firmer when applied due to higher viscosity but also brighter. The addition of heavier pigments such as metallic or glitter ones is allowed, and that provides assorted options, even the sparkling ones that can be seen onto a dark surface.

Rollerball Pen | Pros and Cons

Having already analyzed the features and qualities of the two other pens individually, keep in mind that a liquid ink rollerball pen bears both the advantages of a fountain pen and the practical innovations of a ballpoint. Hence, the disadvantages as well.

Rollerball Pen | Pros

  • Liquid ink provides a smooth flow and high-performance writing, while this does not apply to gel pens.
  • Ergonomic writing and less stress on the hand lead to quicker writing speeds.
  • There is a noticeable difference between writing clarity compared to a ballpoint pen, with a rollerball to be the winner.

Rollerball Pen | Cons

  • Blotting when held right against the writing surface or scratchy feeling from time to time.
  • The ink stays wet for a more extended period, so it is likely to smear and bleed, let alone when applied to lower-quality papers.
  • Rollerball pens tend to run out of ink sooner, as the flow is heavier and there is a higher absorption of the ink towards the paper.
  • You should prevent a possible leakage when not used by always putting the cap on it.

Montegrappa Extra Otto Shiny Lines Rollerball Pen

Montegrappa Extra Otto Shiny Lines Rollerball Pen

Only 888 among us will have the privilege of owning this pen. It only takes seconds for a quick look to acknowledge that it lies beyond the usual, crafted of imposing deluxe celluloid in an iconic octagonal motive. Sterling silver 925 is the material picked for the trim, while the impressive embossed cap band with the emblem finishes this outstanding piece of admiration. Suppose you want to make a lifetime present to you or your beloved ones. In that case, the type that will gain added value and pass from one generation to another, the Montegrappa Extra Otto Shiny Lines Rollerball Pen, will pay the bill.

Fineliner Pen

Alternatively, you may have heard of it as a felt-tip or marker pen, depending on the tip's size and writing width. From the thickest marker that a toddler uses to shape a tree to the finest one, there is no ball at the tip anymore that applies the ink but plastic or fine fiber needle-point tips. Markers can be permanent, waterproof, dry-erase, or wet-erase.

When it comes to fineliners, they are relatively thin, from 0.03mm to 1mm. It makes sense, considering that they were created for the world of detail. You will at some point find a fineliner necessary if you belong to the fields below.

  • Sketching and drawing (artists, architects, civil engineers) Graphic design.
  • Journaling (layouts, color-coding, illustrations, etc.).
  • Clean handwriting.

You don't have to be one of the professionals above to use a fineliner. Millions worldwide choose the fineliner to write mainly because of a high-performing, clean, and crisp writing line with a satisfactory feeling away from smudges. It also contributes to enhancing messy writing to a more eligible one.

The tip is long and covered in metal so that it stays unharmed by the frequent use of a template or a ruler. The majority of them are disposable, with some premium ones to be the exception to the rule and refillable, just like the luxury pen below.

Montblanc StarWalker Precious Resin Fineliner

Montblanc StarWalker Precious Resin Fineliner

Montblanc's pens imply top-notch craftsmanship and superior design for over a century now. This significant fineliner pays tribute to our eternal home, earth, featuring a semi-transparent dome in a piercing-blue color, symbolizing our floating planet's emergence above the lunar horizon as seen from space. The main body is crafted with precious black resin. Simultaneously, the fittings and the clip are platinum-coated shiny, giving the finishing touches to a pen that carries a meaning, liberating enough to write history.

Stylus Pen

It is funny that the most tech-related object on this list is also the most ancient originated one. According to historical references, stylus comes from the Latin stilus, which means a stake, so the first styli were iron or bone made. They first appeared around 1300 B.C. and helped people imprint their drawings or writings on wax tablets! Back to the future, nowadays stylus, are primarily used on digital tablet screens and feature a rubber point. Unlike other pens, they don't work with ink at all. Other occupations, such as pottery and sculpting, may require styli made from wire or ceramic materials.

Beyond Object Dueto Dual Pen Gun Metal

Fineliner + Stylus Pen

Innovation spirit is perpetual, so right below lies a bright example of a multipurpose instrument, created to be an ally towards a sophisticated, complex, ever-changing business environment.

Beyond Object Dueto Dual Pen Gun Metal

Beyond Object Dueto Dual Pen Gun Metal

Congruent to what the name implies, Dueto Dual Pen is performing a double power function. From one side, you have in your hand a credible, smooth Schmidt Fineliner 6040 refill of high precision and from the other side an integrated stylus that works just fine with iOS and Android. The stylus tip is hidden inside the main body, and all you do to make it appear is to twist the bottom section. Beyond Object dueto is made in premium aluminum, CNC machined. It features a minimal, slim design, making it suitable for all occasions.

Bottom line

We gathered all the knowledge needed for you to make the right decision. Now, with all the aspects disclosed, we hope we demystified the world of pens deeply enough for you to be one step closer to choose the type of pen that will best serve as a medium between your thoughts and reality. Enjoy the ride!

"Writing, to me, is simply thinking through my fingers." Isaac Asimov.