Difference between roller ball and gel pens?
March 7, 2006 6:22 PM   Subscribe

Is the ink in a roller ball the same or pretty much like that in pens using gel? If not, what is the difference. If yes, what advantage if any to a roller ball pen?
posted by Postroad to Writing & Language (7 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite

apparently gel pens are a type of roller ball pen.
posted by jjoye at 7:31 PM on March 7, 2006

or maybe not (necessarily); the link to gel pens says they can be ball point pens as well. anyway, the linked article outlines the advantages + disadvantages of each.
posted by jjoye at 7:40 PM on March 7, 2006

Gel pens are apparently less prone to cheque-washing tactics.

I can't remember the last time I wrote a cheque.
posted by five fresh fish at 7:43 PM on March 7, 2006

That wikipedia article is fascinating and explains why I've always hated ballpoint pens. Stupid hand position and oil based ink grumble grumble grumble.
posted by MadamM at 9:58 PM on March 7, 2006

Usually based on labelling at least, "roller ball" means liquid ink and "gel" means gel ink.

I would have told you a few years ago that liquid ink "roller ball" pens have a looser and smoother writing feel, and are less likely to skip. But gel pens are getting very good lately, and I have trouble telling them from liquid ink pens sometimes.

Some nice gel pens are Zebra Sarasas, Uniball 207, Pilot G2. Those are my favorites lately and I was a liquid pen exclusivist until recently.
posted by mmoncur at 2:02 AM on March 8, 2006

Interesting. I've always preferred ball-point over gel pens. Pilot BP-S Fine and Dr. Grip Medium. That's my preference (though Pilot's product page has newer and fancier ball-points. Hmm...).

For some reason, ballpoint pens seem to grab the paper better, while gel pens seem to catch and slide more. YMMV, since most people seem to prefer gel pens. I think they suffer from some form of mass hysteria or monkey flu or something.

From Papermate's FAQ:
Ball point ink ­ Non water based, high viscosity paste ink (like molasses), which does not thin down when you write with it. Ink transfers from a rotating ball like on a printing press.

Rollerball ink ­ Water based, low viscosity ink (like water), which takes very little effort to get it to flow ­ hence smooth writing. Ink floods the ball point and in effect you just drag a pool of ink around the paper as you write. Typically, rollerball ink is not permanent and will run when exposed to water.

Gel ink ­ Water based ink which has a viscosity which can change. The ink typically has a high viscosity when the pen is not being used, but when the ball starts to rotate, the ink thins down to have a low viscosity similar to rollerball ink. Ink transfers from the ball similar to both ballpen and rollerball ­ a cross between a puddle of ink and printing press transfer to paper.
Kevin Kelly's Cool Tools has some recommendations on Gel pens.
posted by mumeishi at 7:07 AM on March 8, 2006

I write about 4 to 5 pages a day for note-taking and studying. I go through pens fast. I now swear by the Pilot G2 series of gel pen. They are absolutely fantastic. (I use the .05mm version because I sometimes have to write really small (equations, chemical structures etc), but I have the .07mm too and they write smoother). I would strongly recommend them. There is a new Pilot G6 out which is supposed to be the next-gen G2, but I have not tried that yet.
posted by ruwan at 10:43 AM on March 8, 2006

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