Pens and Ink: What's the Difference?

If you are one of the people who go to the office supply store to buy pens and stare in amazement at all the different types wondering, "What's the difference?" this article is for you. There are numerous varieties - ballpoint, gel, advanced ink, etc. - how do you know which one to choose?  Well, let me help you.

Today I'll give you a rundown on the five major types of ink pens and their qualities to help you decide which one is best for you.

Ballpoint Pens

These are the original ink pen.  The ink is non-water based and, unlike some of the other types,  does not smudge or smear on paper, which makes a ballpoint pen great for left-handed people.  The ink is also permanent and will not fade, so it is perfect for record keeping and check writing. Ballpoint pens use a small metal ball to deliver the ink to the paper and requires the most pressure of all the types of pens, but the point won't tear thin pages, so it works well for multi-part forms.  They are the most economical and least expensive (no, those are not the same thing).  According to Bic's website, their ballpoint pens can produce an average of two miles of writing before they're empty.  You can browse ballpoint pens here.


Advanced Ink Pens

Advanced ink pens are a fairly recent entry into the pen market and use a delivery system that reduces friction between the tip and the paper when writing.  Unique ink viscosities allow an even flow on the paper, which results in smooth writing and improved color vibrancy. This type of ink dries more quickly than gel ink, so there is minimal smearing and, because it requires very little pressure from your hand, it is good for any type or length or writing.


Porous Point Pens

Commonly referred to as felt tip pens, porous point pens use a water based ink that dries quickly, doesn't smear easily, and doesn't bleed through to the other side of the paper.  The tip is made of felt or ceramic and writes more smoothly than a ballpoint.  They are good for everyday writing and drawing and are a favorite of draftsmen.  Because they can dry out quickly, they need to be kept capped at all times.


Gel Ink Pens

Gel ink is water based, pigmented ink that is acid free and archival safe.  It comes in a large assortment of bright, bold colors and writes very smoothly.  It does, however, smear and bleed into the paper.  Gel ink tends to leak easily and blob on the paper, which is one of the reasons I dislike them so much, but I seem to be in the minority with that opinion - at least around my office.


Rollerball Pens

Rollerball pens are arguably the smoothest writing of all the types of pens.  They use water based ink which is skip-free and easy to use.  Rollerballs use a ballpoint mechanism, but the type of ink reduces the amount of pressure needed to write.  Like gel pens, rollerballs come in lots of colors.  I'm also not a fan of this type because I find that it smears easily and feathers and bleeds on the paper, creating a fuzzy look, but many people like them because of the smoothness and the rich colors.  They are fun to write with, but they're not good for things that require permanency because the inks will fade over time.


Well, there you have it.  Probably more than you wanted to know, but you know me - always trying to be helpful.  Still have questions?  Give us a call and we'd be happy to help you!