Pens and Pencils | Reviews and Data

Choosing a Rollerball: Which is the Smoothest?

If you are in the market for a new rollerball pen or refill, you are probably looking to highlight the single most desirable feature of rollerball pens: their smoothness. If you want smoothness approaching that of a fountain with the practicality of a ballpoint, then a rollerball is for you. Might as well choose the right one!

Which rollerball ink is the smoothest? After extensive testing, we finally have some answers…

Some top contenders for the smoothest rollerball are:

  • Pentel LR refill (found in the Pentel Alloy pen in the video)
  • Zebra Gel refills, like the JF-1.0
  • Zebra Z-mulsion hybrid ink, like the EQ-1.0
  • Ohto Ceramic refill (the winner)
  • Pilot G2 1.0mm refill
  • Montblanc rollerball refill

Initial testing in May 2018 led me to believe that the Ohto Ceramic Rollerball refill as the smoothest available. And that’s a fine choice, one that I don’t at all feel bad about at the time. That noted, lately I’ve been a huge fan of the Zebra EQ-1.0. This refill really transformed my Zebra Blen from a fine pen into a extraordinary one.

A Technical Note

I’ve never been one to split hairs about rollerball versus gel ink because the differences between the two ink types are never as clear as they seem. For me, “rollerball” is an umbrella term that covers full-sized refills — they can include water-based and gel inks, but the point is that they are not oil-based (which would make it a ballpoint).

The Z-mulsion ink mentioned above is a hybrid ink, which does contain some oil but sells in a large rollerball-like size. If you want to call that a rollerball refill, might get a few complaints from some people but I wouldn’t argue too much. Generally speaking hybrids are closer to ballpoints in their materials, but closer to a rollerball in how they write.