If you are in search of a great rollerball you have a lot of work ahead of you. There are many brands of rollerball pens and many styles of rollerball inks, as well as many sizes and colors.
We’ve done the testing and done the research to fine the best rollerball pens and rollerball refills available today.
What Is A Rollerball Pen?
As we noted in our rollerball vs. ballpoint guide, a rollerball is a pen that uses water-based ink where a ballpoint pen uses oil-based ink. Rollerballs use smaller writing tips — usually 0.5 mm or 0.7 mm — because their ink spreads out on the paper and forms lines that are wider than the tip of the pen. Most rollerballs use dye for color but some are pigments so they are water-resistant and semi-permanent.
Japanese pen maker Ohto is created with developing the first rollerball, then known as the “water-based ballpoint ink pen” in 1964.
Testing Rollerball Pens
In order to create this guide in a repeatable, methodical manner, we purchased a large number of rollerball pens and refills and use each across a number of different paper types. The favorite pens and refills were isolated and then used further, both for testing and real-world writing. The below rollerball pens — our top picks — are the ones we considered to be the finest rollerballs sold today.
Please note, that while the initial testing list included many rollerball pens, the list was not exhaustive and where are always pens and refills that will be missing in any test like this. Please contact us if you see anything notable missing.
Where possible all sizes of a rollerball were tested and both blue and black were testing. When options were limited the focus was on blue and 1.0 mm, which is where a rollerball can really differentiate itself from the competition.
Please note that gel pens were not part of this test. Gel pens have become their own category and will receive their own buying guide! Refillable rollerball pens are eligible for this list.
Best Mainstream Rollerball Pens
If you find yourself walking through the aisles of an office superstore and you want a great rollerball, what should you get? Or if you want a 12-pack of excellent, not-too-expensive rollerballs, what’s the best pick? These are the pens in this list.
Uni-ball Vision Elite
The Uni-ball Vision Elite has lone been a top pick among choosy rollerball fans as well as dedicated fountain pen users who want something for day-to-day writing. This pen is smooth, a bit watery in its ink, and uses Uni-ball’s Super Ink, which is chemical-, water-, and fade-resistant, plus is acid-free and of archival quality.
This pen is affordable, easy to find, quite smooth, and is reliable. The downsides are that its design is somewhat dated at this point, and it’s not really refillable (the refills are almost full pens themselves). This is the essence of a great everyday rollerball.
The Uni-ball Air is a unique, high-tech take of the everyday rollerball. It also uses Uni-ball’s everything-resistant Super Ink and it’s similarly not refillable, but it has Uni’s “Cushion Tip” writing end which is smooth and forgiving, making the pen a great choice for almost all writing scenarios.
The pen isn’t refillable and has an entirely plastic body (including the clip), but it’s still a great everyday rollerball because it’s fun to use, easy to find, and a great writer overall.
Best Rollerball Pens
If you are in the market for a great rollerball pen and are willing to upgrade past a disposable pen, here are the top picks of 2021.
Tombow Zoom 505
The Tombow Zoom 505 combines an affordable metal body with a pigmented refill that is permanent and surprisingly fun to use, even though Tombow is not typically known for their rollerballs. The build quality of this pen’s body is excellent for the price which is surprising right around $20.
The Tombow Zoom 505 also benefits from being sold as a set of instruments. So if you like the rollerball, you can also buy the 505 in a mechanical pencil and a fountain pen. The downsides of this rollerball are that it has a proprietary refill, the older models of which tend to leak, but it’s still a great writer.
The Lamy Vista (the clear version of the Lamy Safari) uses Lamy’s M63 rollerball refill. This means the pen is a combination of a good rollerball refill and a great pen body. The good news is that the refill is easy to swap out if you want to use a standard European rollerball refill, like a Waterman or even a Pilot G2 gel refill. This is just an all-round great pen that is ideal for everyday use and will last you for years of writing.l
Pilot Hi-Tecpoint V7
The Hi-Tecpoint V7 is a refillable rollerball pen that uses fountain pen-like cartridges and a liquid rollerball ink. The pen is great looking, with a flat paint job, and handsome aesthetics. The pen is like a better version of the Pilot Precise V7 — which is much more common in the US — because the Hi-Tecpoint looks better and is refillable using a cartridge.
Then pen is also sold in a very wet 1.0 mm and a smooth but precise 0.5 mm version, called the V10 and V5 respectively.
While it’s not as popular as the rest of the pens on this list, the Stabilo Worker+ is an excellent roller, as is its refillable counterpart, the Bionic. These pens have confusing conventions, where the 0.5 mm Medium version writes more like a 1.0 mm, but they are both exceptionally smooth and comfortable pens.
The Worker+ is known for its bold orange body and comfortable rubber coating, but then pen is also available in black, grey, and now other colors if you want something more muted.
This is super smooth rollerball that deserves more attention.
What is a ceramic rollerball pen?
A ceramic rollerball pen is a standard rollerball with a ceramic ball which distributes the ink. The ball sits at the end of a wick which holds the ink before its being used. Ceramic is an ideal material for the ball because is it super hard, which prevents wearing. Wearing, in rollerballs, leads to the ink leaking out from where the ball meets its surround. The Japanese pen manufacturer Ohto is known for their high quality ceramic rollerball pens and refills.
What are the strengths of a rollerball pen?
Rollerball pens are beloved by many for their superb smoothness, their wide variety of colors, how they work well on almost all types of paper, and how they offer fountain pen-like writing without the hassles of a fountain pen, like cleaning.
Who invented the rollerball pen?
Japanese pen brand Ohto invented the rollerball. The company had started in 1929, but in 1964 released the world’s first “water-based ballpoint ink” pen. This is generally considered the first rollerball, as the defining characteristic of a rollerball is its use of a water-based (instead of oil-based) ink. All pens with a rolling ball were called a “ballpoint” at that time, but the distinction has gotten more specific now that many pen types use it — ballpoint, rollerball, gel, hybrid, and so on.